A Diamond in the Rough
As most are aware, the diamond is the world's hardest naturally-occurring substance, its hardness the result of molecular compression caused by tremendous pressures during its formation deep in the earth. Though regarded as one of the most valuable of gems, the diamond actually has little value in the original form in which it is found. Only after very precise cuts by a skilled diamond cutter, and then being polished to its characteristic brilliant luster, does the diamond become a thing of great beauty and value.
There are striking parallels to be found between the transformation of a diamond in the rough into a gem of great value, and that of a person who has been redeemed by the transforming power of God.
Just as the raw diamond is subjected to tremendous pressures deep beneath the earth, a Christian is often called upon to also endure great pressures--of a spiritual, emotional and psychological nature, rather than the forces of nature. Adversity, persecution and martyrdom have characterized the Lord’s people for thousands of years, and numerous passages in the New Testament assure believers that this will not change until Jesus comes back. The history of the Church is replete with accounts of the saints enduring great pain--suffering and death at the hands of Satan and his minions. Yet, the Church has steadfastly withstood Satan's assaults, protected by the shield of faith, and encouraged and empowered by the sweet knowledge that dwelling in God's presence for all eternity awaits those who remain faithful unto death.
Hebrews 11 recounts the sufferings of God's people--long before the New Covenant--as a result of their steadfast obedience and devotion to God, even to the point of discounting this earthly life. These serve as examples to the Church of the Lord's people being faithful even unto death; and the history of the Church demonstrates that she has continued to follow that example. The pressure of Satan’s attacks is often relentless, and continues today in many nations, as a true test and measure of faith and resolve. As you read these words, saints in many nations suffer and die as a result of their faith. While many may be broken by the pressure, the called and chosen will stand up under it through their steadfast faith.
So then, as with the diamond, extreme pressure upon a true, Spirit-filled believer only serves to make him or her stronger. Faith is like a spiritual muscle: the more it is challenged, the more powerful it becomes; and the more powerful it becomes, the more it can accomplish. The pressures of adversity and tribulations empower us to endure ever greater affliction and adversity. A number of NT passages in fact, speak of afflictions and tribulations producing this positive benefit in a believer. The Apostle Paul assures us:
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (Rom 5:3-5)
Likewise, James tells us:
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,
knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 2:1-4)
So then, just as pressures deep within the earth produce strength in the diamond, so spiritual pressures endured by the Christian in his walk with God increase the strength and quality of his faith, perseverance and character.
Yet an even more profound parallel exists between a Christian and the diamond: unquestionably, the most spectacular feature of a finished diamond is its characteristic, multifaceted shape, which gives it its dazzling brilliance. It is that sparkle and shine that is the defining quality of a diamond. However, it does not possess that quality until part of it has been cut away. It seems ironic that value can be added to something by taking away from it. Yet it's precisely that cutting away of strategic parts by the master craftsman's hammer and chisel that imparts to the stone its magnificent beauty and value.
In a similar way, by the grace of God through faith, a believer becomes a child of God because of what is taken away from him or her: sin. The atoning blood of Jesus removes our sin, taking away that spiritual death and enmity with God we are born with, and which condemns us apart from God’s merciful salvation. The Apostle Paul in fact, alludes to this "cutting away" of sin as a sort of spiritual circumcision:
and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; (Col 2:11)
So then, just as the diamond increases in value because of what is cut away, so righteousness before God is added to a person when sin is cut away through the redemption we receive in Christ. And like the diamond, a great strengthening is imparted to us because of the spiritual pressures of adversity and afflictions. We're worthless, just like a raw diamond until the Master Craftsman does His work upon us, and then everything changes. Something that is old and without value is made into something new and precious. The disgraced and fallen human race was corrupt and thoroughly without hope—badly damaged goods. Yet in His infinite wisdom, and by His awesome power, God gave great worth and hope back to mankind by means of what He took away : sin.
As a diamond is selected from a mine, so each believer is selected from the mine of God's eternal election, and begins as an uncut, spiritual diamond in the rough. And only after the Master Jeweler has cut away our worthlessness, and then polished us to dazzling, spiritual beauty by the infilling of His Spirit, will we possess the value and quality God originally intended for us to have.
One final parallel remains: the sparkling brilliance of a finished diamond is not self-contained. It is merely a reflection of the sun glittering upon its faceted surface. In the same way, we have no intrinsic spiritual beauty within us, but can only reflect the magnificent glory of God. And we will reflect that glory for all eternity in God’s holy presence, in His everlasting kingdom. As Jesus promised:
Then will the righteous shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. (Matt 13:33)