I recently went to a church conference and one of the speakers, Kevin Queen, brought up oil. He talked about having the oil of the Lord in your heart and being ready for revival. One of his points was that olives are crushed in order to get the oil. He said something that stuck with me, “the Lord has never used someone greatly that He hasn’t first crushed deeply.” In this equation, our hearts are the olive and our brokenness is the oil that the Lord uses to bring new life and healing to others.
Now wait a minute, we don’t usually like to think of God as one to hurt us on purpose. The general sermon arch is Satan hurts and destroys – God heals and saves. But here, in Mr. Queen’s statement, God hurts in order to save.
I’m not trying to say that God will smite us with fire and brimstone. I’m trying to say that God allows pain to happen. Like with Job. Satan asks God to let him test Job and God allows it. Job loses everything and his children and his health, but God allowed that loss. In the end, Job was proven faithful and Job praises God despite such devastation. God restores what was lost tenfold.
Sometimes the enemy tries to destroy us and that is painful, but God takes what the enemy meant for destruction and uses it for good in our lives and often in the lives of those around us. Like Joseph, he was called by God to be a great leader. He shared this revelation with his family and was thrown in a pit until he was sold into slavery by his brothers. He went to Egypt and lived in bondage either through servitude or imprisonment. He did finally end up in leadership managing the 7 year famine under pharaoh and reuniting with his family, but only after some crushing years. When Joseph reunites with his brothers he says, “Do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. … But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.” (Gen. 37-50 quoted Gen. 45:5-8 NIV)
Either way we find painful things happening in our lives. God has His hand in the pain, He doesn’t let that pain happen for nothing. God works all things out for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Consider some of the metaphors found in the bible to describe God: God the refiner, refining our hearts like silver (Psalm 66:10); God the potter shaping our lives as a pot is shaped (Isaiah 64:8, Jeremiah 18:1-6). So God is the master craftsman and we are the craft. Let’s stop and think about what happens to the material during these processes.
In order for silver to be refined it is melted, that is burned and undone. Clay is undone, pressed on every side, and bits are cut away while the pot is on the potter’s wheel –So far we are burned, undone, pressed, and cut by God as He refines and shapes us as His chosen people who will be used to further the kingdom of God. When God uses us in ministry, we are the healing oil of the Lord. There is a good chance we might be crushed in order to draw that healing oil out.
We like the chosen part and we like the post-refinement/final product part. We talk a lot about these beginning and end parts, but what about the in-between part? No one likes to think a loving God would burn and undo His chosen people so we ignore it and put it in the category of, “That’s not love. The bible didn’t mean that.”
I think this sort of filtering of the Word is a subtle slap in the face to God. Look at it this way, when the bible is taught and half the message from the text is left out that teaching doesn’t match the real life experience of being a Christ follower. Which in turn makes God seem like a liar. As if He didn’t warn us how hard it would be to follow Him. However, God did warn us. It’s right there in the bible time and again: it is not easy to be set apart for God or to spread the gospel. It is not easy to be a Christ follower, but it is good and it is rewarding.
We can’t be afraid of the whole truth. We have to embrace the awesome parts and the uncomfortable parts. We need both to know how to best serve the Lord and others. God told us the whole truth out of love. When we accept the whole truth, we accept His love.
While we’re all filtering the bible through a comfort-filter, God is choosing and calling His people and they are going through a crushing/refining process without warning, guidance, or support. They were told through the lie of omission that this undoing is not love and not of the Lord. So their silver seizes up, their clay can’t hold its shape, and their oil is hidden out of shame. In other words, they get caught up in confusion, heartbreak and shame.
It is not a shame to be broken hearted for the Lord. The refining process is love because it removes the dross – that which weakens and undermines the silver. “Take away the dross from the silver, and the smith has material for a vessel; take away the wicked from the presence of the king, and his throne will be established in righteousness.” (Proverbs 25:4-5 RSV) In other words removing the dross from silver is like trading in wickedness for righteousness in life. What is the dross that weakens and undermines our hearts? Doubt, fear, apathy, and sin in general. How do you remove doubt? Test that which you are doubting. Fear? Face that fear head on. Apathy? A wakeup call. Sin? Repentance and the blood of Christ.
To be chosen by God and brought into His secret counsel is an honor (Proverbs 3:32). Yes there is a price to pay, but it is a price that ultimately saves your life when it is paid. God cuts, but He cuts away the parts that are killing us. He cuts away sin through the cross. God asks us to give up our death in order to receive His life. It’s a price worth paying. The old man is crucified with Christ, the new man is resurrected with Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 6:6-11).
Another reason for the refining process is to test our strength. Not like a school test where you are graded. Rather like a crash-dummy test to see where our limits are, to see how far we’ll go to follow through on our commitments and our prayers. When we ask God to make us a living gospel to neighbor kids, will we continue to speak life and show love and forgiveness when those same kids start acting out and introducing bad habits to our kids? When we ask God to send someone to help our prodigal brother will we take that same brother and all his mess into our house to be the help we asked God to send? In Psalm 66, where we find the refiner metaphor, it says, “For you oh God have tested us, you have refined us as silver is refined.” (Psalm 66:10 NKJ)
We live in a fallen world. You will be broken and cut and burned. Do you want to be broken for nothing or do you want to be broken for the Lord? Do you want to be crushed by Satan in empty destruction or do you want God to use that crushing with loving precision for a purpose? Either way you will have hurt in your life, who do you trust to hurt you?
Have you already been crushed by the Lord? Are you ashamed of that season of crushing? I was.
The Lord invited me to give Him my life when I was 9 or 10. I was so in love with Jesus, I wholeheartedly gave Him every day ahead of me. No one told me about the refinement process so I prepared to land at the glorious end just like I was taught. Over the course of 5 or 6 years I was utterly crushed instead. I felt so confused and betrayed. I was supposed to be chosen, set apart. What good would I be to God crushed?
In college the crushing process ended. The Lord said, “Now you are ready. Here is my healing oil in you.” It was as if the Holy Spirit handed me a jar of oil to use in ministry. But I was ashamed of my oil so I put it in a back cupboard. Instead of doing all the things I knew I was supposed to do for God, I hid. For 10 years. I pulled away and secretly tried to reconstruct the olive pulp that used to be my heart.
Thankfully the story doesn’t end there. In the last couple of years God has striped the shame and dismay from my understanding. This past summer I came to a point where it was just me holding my broken heart. Again the Lord invited me to give Him my life. So I offered what I had: my brokenness.
The Lord reminded me of the oil I hid away in shame. He said, “It’s time to bring out your oil and use it for healing.” I am in the process of learning how to do that. I am trying to do all the things I’ve put off for the sake of hiding.
Jesus was crushed. It began in the Garden of Gathsemane, when Jesus prayed to let the cup pass. The Garden of Gathsemane was and is an olive grove, which presumably means there was an olive press nearby when Jesus was there praying about the crucifixion. Which is just a lovely Easter egg waiting to be found by future pastors. God loves to leave little things like that for those who really dig into the Word. All nerding-out aside, Jesus was crushed, broken, bruised, and ultimately died to remove our sins. Jesus became the ultimate oil of the Lord, and healed the broken relationship between ourselves and God.
In Jeremiah, the prophet is mourning the fall of Jerusalem. He says, “Is there no balm in Gilead, is there no physician there? Why then is there no recovery for the health of the daughter of my people?” Jeremiah’s heart is broken for the sin of the Israelite people, and the judgement that was upon them through the invasion of the Babylonians. Jeremiah wonders who can heal the brokenness of his people. At the time he had no answer, but now we know there is a balm in Gilead: it is Jesus.
When we are chosen and refined through a crushing process we become the answer to Jeremiah’s question too. In Christ, we become the balm in Gilead, the healing oil of the Lord. God sends us out to heal the wound of His people.
I want to say to you, if you have been crushed through a refining process don’t be ashamed of your crushing years. Bring out the oil of the Lord in you. If you have been chosen by God don’t be surprised when you are undone. Press into Jesus and know the dross that weakens and undermines the strength of your heart is being removed. When the dross is gone you will adorn the Lord, the King of kings, in strength and brightness as His chosen one.