Tuesday, September 25, 2012


From the Featured Devotional "Perfect Pieces"

   There was a time when the mark of a well-heeled gentleman or lady was seeing them pull out a fine, linen handkerchief. The dinner table hosted by that same elegant couple would be covered in a beautiful linen tablecloth. And when they retired at night, they would cover themselves with the softest and coolest of linen sheets. (It’ why today, “sheets” are called “bed linens.”)

   Linen is one of the oldest and most prized of textiles. Linen cloth has been discovered in caves in Europe, in the Qumran caves near the Dead Sea, and in the tombs of Egyptian royalty. The Egyptians wrapped their wealthy and royal dead in linen cloth because of what it represented to the dead: lightness and comfort---not to mention prestige and wealth.

   And guess who else made abundant use of linen cloth---and guess where they learned its value? The Israelites brought with them from Egypt the knowledge of how to create linen and an appreciation for its comfort and hard-wearing quality. And they must have brought more than knowledge with them---they must have brought bolts of linen itself, “fine woven linen” (Exodus 26:1, 31).

   Fresh out of Egypt, Moses was incorporating linen into the curtains of the tabernacle and the robes of the high priest. “Linen” is mentioned nearly 90 times in the Old Testament and almost 20 more times in the New Testament. It was clearly the fabric of choice in the ancient world. And it is becoming increasingly a fabric of choice today, experiencing something of a revival. Besides being cool in hot temperatures, linen is extremely durable and long lasting---and a man or woman in a linen suit today still carries a cachet of sophistication.


   I discovered a whole new lexicon of words associated with the processing of linen fibers. The words even sound like the process—harsh!—as you will see. Linen fabric is woven from linen fibers that grow inside the stalk of the flax plant. So the process is one of breaking down the rough, outer stalk to reveal the beautiful fibers within. (Keep that image in mind—I’ll come back to it in a moment.)

   Here’s a summary of the steps need to produce linen fabric:

   • HARVEST: the flax plant needs to be pulled up, roots and all. Taking a shortcut by cutting the stalk above the roots releases the plant’s sap and harms the quality of the fibers. Total commitment to the correct procedure is required.

   • RIPPLING: the stalks are run through a machine that rips off the leaves and seeds.

   • RETTING: soaking the stalks to soften them prior to removal. This was originally accomplished by soaking the stalks in water for several weeks. Today the stalks are soaked in an acid bath, then pressurized and boiled.

   • BREAKING” the softened stalks are then crushed between heavy rollers to break up the outer stalk into pieces.

   • SCUTCHING: the crushed and splintered stalks are then hit with rotating paddles to release the linen fibers from the splintered stalk.

   • HECKLING: the fibers are combed with heckling combs to separate the short (undesirable) fibers from the long (desirable) fibers. Only the long fibers are woven into thread.

   • SPINNING: twisting the long linen fibers into thread.

   • WEAVING: weaving the linen threads into fabric.

   • FINISHING: the finished, natural color fabric can be bleached, dyed, or printed according to need.

   I’ll never look at another piece of linen the same way! I would not enjoy being jerked up by the roots, then rippled, retted, broken, scotched, heckled, spun, and bleached or dyed. And then after all that be measured, cut, pinned, and stitched! But that process proves and important point: transformation can be a painful process. Whether its linen, wool, cotton, or any other fabric that we take for granted, a price is paid to get it to its place of beauty and usefulness.

   And (I told you to keep the image of processing linen in mind) the same is true in the spiritual life. Going from the image of the fallen first Adam to the image of the loving last Adam, Jesus Christ, involves the spiritual equivalent of retting, breaking, scotching…well, you get the idea.


   Plant and animal fibers take a painful path to arrive at their destination, and sometimes it feels that we do as well. But just as with fibers, there is an advantage to adversity, a plan for pain, a reason for roughness. Simply put, we couldn’t get where God intends us to go without adversity.

   What is God’s destination for us? His plan is for us “to be conformed to the image of His Son that [Christ] might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29).

   And what does God use to conform us to the image of Christ? The “all things” Paul wrote about in verse 28—the hard things that we don’t think are for our good in any way (Romans 8:28). Paul says they are for our good! They are the events and circumstances, painful as they sometimes are, that---if we allow them to do their work---will transform us into the image of Christ.

   We learn the way Christ learned so we can gain the advantage of adversity: “…though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). If Christ, the son of God, was obedient to the Father… if the Father wants us to be like Christ… and if Christ experienced adversity to learn obedience…then we will learn obedience, and become like Him, the same way.

   It should go without saying---but it always helps to refresh our memories (2 Peter 1:12)---that Christians are not immune to adversity. Christ alone is a sufficient example, but we have many more besides. The apostles and missionaries described in the Book of Acts continually faced opposition for the sake of Christ. Paul actually lists the kinds of adversity he endured in 2 Corinthians 6:3-10 and 11:22-33. And because he rarely traveled alone, those with him were subject to the same kinds of trials.

   The advantage of adversity is this: It is a refining process that results in purity. Like the Old Testament images used by the prophets, we are refined in the fire of adversity to purge the dross from our lives (Isaiah 1:25; Ezekiel 22:19-22; Malachi 3:3). Once you “take away the dross from silver…it will go to the silversmith for jewelry” (Proverbs 25:4).

   When flax stalks submit to the adversity of the refining process, the linen within becomes fit for the hands of a master weaver and tailor. Likewise, when we submit to the adversity of refining in our lives, we become like silver in the hands of the Master Jeweler who continues to shape us into the image of His Son.


   If we agree that there is an advantage to adversity, what do we do to gain that advantage? What should we do---not just to endure adversity but to prosper under it?

   First, begin with the end in mind. Be like a flax stalk that sees itself as a fine linen handkerchief in the hand of an appreciative owner. If you don’t believe there is an ultimate purpose in adversity, you’ll neither endure nor prosper. Embrace the promise of Philippians 1:6: “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

   Second, expect adversity. Too many Christians make the mistake of thinking God has promised to keep them free of trouble. You won’t find that promise in the Bible. In fact, the apostles taught “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22b). You are less likely to resist that which you expect.

   Third, be thankful in adversity. You don’t have to praise the Lord for your troubles, but you should give thanks to God in the mist of trouble. Why? Because you know that God is going to use the adversity to make you more like Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

   Fourth, be anxious for nothing. Even though you know God’s “purity plan” involves adversity, don’t be anxious about the future, Trust God through prayer and thanksgiving for every event in life, and then rest in His peace (Philippians 4:6-7).

   Let the fabric of your life be tested! The garment God is making is one that will last forever.

From: Turning Points Magazine & Devotional
Turning Points