There is an analogy that compares the Christian life to the formation of diamonds, where a lump of coal undergoes a transformation by exposure to tremendous heat and pressure. But as Paul Harvey used to say, “and now for the rest of the story.”
Where does coal come from originally? Coal is the remains of organic organisms, both plant and animal that have died and been buried. To become a Christian our old natures must die and be buried. (Romans 6:4)
That organic material decomposes, losing its original shape and structure. But not all coal becomes diamonds. It takes a special set of circumstances for coal to be exposed to the right combination of heat and pressure for the diamond to form. Likewise, the Christian having put off the old man must now put on the new man made in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:24) God uses the circumstances and situations that we go through in life to make us into a new creation. (Romans 8:28)
For a diamond to form, the impurities must be eliminated from the carbon. Then the carbon itself must undergo a transformation where the atoms themselves must be aligned into a specific crystalline structure. The Holy Spirit working in our lives purifies us from sin, sanctifying us. (Hebrews 9:13-14) As our thought processes and actions become aligned with the Word of God, we become humble, selfless, and ready to listen for the still small voice of God. (Colossians 3:12-17)
But this isn’t the end of the process, only the beginning. The diamond is now trapped in the rock deep underground and isn’t in any position to do anything. It takes a seismic upheaval to bring the diamond to the surface. This upheaval can either be a natural or man-made event. In either case the diamond must be separated from the rock before it can be collected. In obedience to the will of God the Christian must be separated from the world. We must leave behind anything that could come before God. (Matthew 8:18-22)
Diamonds in the rough are not all that attractive and have little value. Only when the rough diamond is examined by a master jeweler, who can see its potential and can chip away the rough edges to reveal the beauty that lies within, will the diamond take on value. In Jeremiah 18 God directs the prophet to go to the potter’s house to receive his message. There Jeremiah watched as the potter took a lump of clay and with skillful hands formed it into a useful pot. God then proceeds to compare himself with the potter and the clay to the nations and individuals whom God can shape as he sees fit. In several different verses the prophet Isaiah also cautioned that it is the potter who decides, the clay has no choice in the matter. (Isaiah 24:16, 45:0, 64:8) The diamond also has no say in what will become of it. God sees our potential when no one else does. (Psalms 139:13-16) He knows his plan for us, to prosper us not to harm us, to give us hope and a future. (Jerimiah 29:11) We just need to submit in obedience to his will for our life. (1 Samuel 15:22-23)
Diamonds are one of the hardest substances on earth. Only a diamond can cut another diamond. Diamonds are very useful both as jewelry and in industrial applications, so nothing goes to waste. Every chip that is removed will be used in some fashion. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” God uses other Christians that are serving the purpose that he created for them to shape us. Nothing that happens in a Christian’s life goes to waste. Romans 8:28 says, “all things work to the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.”
Flawless diamonds are of greater worth than flawed diamonds, which may contain impurities or imperfections in their structure. Flawless diamonds refract light in a beautiful rainbow of color. Flawed diamonds may crack under pressure. They may look good at a distance, but they don’t stand up to scrutiny or hard use. Christians may also be flawless or flawed. Christians that most clearly let the light of God shine through them can be used by God for great effect. (Matthew 5:16) Flawed Christians have little value because they can’t be trusted in difficult situations. (1 Corinthians 3:1-4) A jeweler will often break a diamond down into small pieces in order to remove the flaw. Likewise, God will continue to refine an imperfect Christian until he becomes flawless. (Romans 5:1-5)
Diamonds are measured in carats; large diamonds are much rarer than small diamonds. Large diamonds will become the center piece of a royal treasure, while small diamonds find life as a wedding ring and even smaller diamonds become accent pieces. God has called some Christians to do great things before the rich and powerful of this world, while he has called others to serve the common man. But each of us has a place assigned to him by God, that will bring glory to God. (Ephesians 4:11-12)
Diamonds often become family heirlooms passed down from generation to generation, increasing in both monetary and sentimental value over time. God is shaping us not just for use in this life but in the eternity to come. (1 John 2:24-25) Christians can also pass on a legacy of faith and service to their spiritual children, those who come to faith in Christ because of their obedience and testimony. (Galatians 4:19)
No analogy is perfect when you carry it out to the nth degree, but the comparison of the Christian and a diamond holds together pretty well. 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 says:
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.”2 Corinthians 4:7-11
As Paul Harvey said in conclusion of his radio broadcast, “And now you know the rest of the story.”
While I was in prison, I had time to read, study, and meditate on scripture. Articles like this one came from those times of quiet reflection on God’s Word and from discussions with my brothers in Christ. For my brothers and I, prison was a time of significant growth in our walk with Christ. We were in the fiery furnace and the impurities of our former lives were being burned away. God was working in each of us and using each of us to support, encourage and challenge one another to grow stronger and deeper in our spiritual journey.
My time in prison was by far the most productive time as a writer that I have ever experienced in my life. Not because I had lots of time on my hand, but because I was in tune with the Holy Spirit. God had my undivided attention and was able to work through me. For many, prison is a waste of time because they fail to learn anything from the experience. I have learned a great deal from my prison experience and tried to share it with the readers of this blog. I have written about my experience in prison in The Warehouse of Lost Souls and I would encourage you check out those older postings.