COAL OR DIAMONDS
T. PIERCE BROWN
It is generally understood that coal and diamonds consist of the same basic carbon compounds. The difference is said to be that the diamonds are formed under conditions of extreme heat and pressure for some period of time. This suggests a principle that we find in the Bible and in our own experience.
James says it this way, “Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold temptations; knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience. And let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). In my own years of growing up in poverty and hardship, going barefooted in the snow and having nothing to eat except popcorn balls or hominy for several days, I am aware that hardships and testings of various kinds may be valuable in helping to form character. However, I have discovered another truth, perhaps of equal value. The wind that causes one tree to be stronger and have deeper roots may uproot and destroy another. The difficulties, adversities and tests that help to make one person strong may break another. What is the difference?
It seems apparent that one of the things that make a difference is in what was there in the first place. If you do not have certain qualities present in the raw material, the end result will not be the same. The things that caused Pharaoh to harden his heart might well have caused a person who had any respect for Jehovah to soften and repent. The same sun that shines on a stick of butter, causing it to melt will shine upon a piece of clay and cause it to grow hard.
If, by God’s grace, you have learned to love God, all things, including hardships, testings, pressure, difficulty, disaster, danger or death will work for your good (Romans 8:28). If not, they may well be your downfall. Whether the pressures of life and the heat of battle cause you to be a diamond or merely a lump of coal depends to a large degree on what was there before those pressures and heat were applied. Our primary concern should be to make sure that loving God and glorifying Him are more important than anything else in our lives.
Jesus and Paul taught that the righteous shall suffer persecution, and that we are blessed when we suffer for the sake of righteousness. It is possible, however, for us to suffer rebuke or alienation because of our bullheaded, obstinate, hateful attitudes, self-righteous, opinionated, arrogant assumptions and responses. In our blindness, we may then whine and complain because everyone else is wrong and Jesus and we stand alone against the rest of the world. Whether you turn out to be coal or diamonds may well depend on what you were before the pressure and heat got turned on.