My dad worked for the Highway Department for 32 years. All of my childhood memories smell like asphalt! I can remember many days playing in his work truck, drinking out of the big Gatorade cooler on the back of his truck (that was the coolest thing!), and listening to his stories of how incredibly hot road work was.
Here’s the thing about asphalt. You have to heat it to make it work properly. Unheated it’s just a bunch of randomly collected bits of rock, gravel and sand. Heating it fuses it together and makes it smooth for the road surface. Asphalt isn’t ready for the car to travel on it until it has been heated and pressed.
The persecuted church in China talks about how they won’t let their leaders lead until they have been to prison. They say it’s their seminary! They look at suffering with willing, even excited, eyes, expecting God to do in them there what He could not do in the ‘outside’ world.
Do you see the connection? If we do not allow God to apply the ‘heat’ of His Word/His Spirit/His Church to our lives we will remain randomly selected bits of rock and sand. Many of our churches are made up of members that are no more than individual pieces of a would be road. There’s almost no cohesiveness between them and the other members, the vision of the church, or the world in which they are called to serve. They refuse to allow suffering to work its due in them. They even pray against it! As soon as pain begins to encroach on their lives they pray “Lord, make it stop! Heal me! Save me! Rescue me from this pain!” When in fact what God’s intentions are many times is to rescue you from your isolation through the medium of pain!
When dad worked to build a road several components had to come together. First they trucked the asphalt in from an outside location. (This has happened with some…we are here…but there are many still in holding tanks around the world! Part of our job as believers is making ourselves aware of the workers God is preparing to use and inviting them to come on site to join the work.) They had to let the surrounding traffic know work was about to be done. (We, as the church, are not very good at this. We work and work and work without ever letting our community know what is happening inside the walls of the church. You disagree? Take a random survey. Ask some members of your community that you know are not involved in church what they think is happening on the inside. Nine out of ten won’t have a pea-sized answer. Don’t know anyone who doesn’t go to church? Well, there’s another problem!) Once the traffic was made aware the road crews were set to do their work. They had a machine that would strip the old asphalt from the surface of the road. (Many of our churches need to remove the rutted layers of tradition and ritual to make room for new growth. If you lay new asphalt over a rutted surface, the new layer will take the shape of the surface underneath.) They sprayed the surface of the road with a mixture that helped the asphalt bond to the surface. (We MUST yield ourselves to the Spirit throughout every step we take in the church! He is our bonding agent. If He is not present, nothing we do will last.) They heated the asphalt. (This is the point that many of us want to avoid. We don’t like to be heat treated! The truth is if we are not, we are not fit for use.) Then they laid the asphalt on the road like you would spread a sheet on a newly made bed. It wasn’t ready for use yet, but it looked good! (Some of our churches are at this point. They have gone through the heat-treat process and appear ready for use. But they are not…yet.) The final step in the process is to roll the asphalt. We’ve all seen the steam rollers. There have even been a few songs written about them! They have massive, heated rollers that move over the newly laid road surface and press the pieces of melted asphalt together. It’s this final process that makes that road smooth enough for traffic.
O believer, if you would only see the benefit that can come from submitting yourself to our rolling machine, the Holy Spirit! Without Him and His process of refining us for use we remain a fragmented bunch, not used for much more than disagreeing with each other. But when we submit ourselves to His work, the painful, joy-filled work of becoming more like Christ, we are fused together and forced to be made ready for use. Oh how God wants to use you in the dying world! You may say “I don’t like to be forced to do anything.” And that, my friend, is the problem.
Accept the heat and allow the Divine Design to fuse you together with the other members of Jesus’ Body. You’ll be shocked to see the ways God will use each of you as a roadway for a lost world to meet Him!