A bar of steel is worth $5. However, if it is made into horseshoes, it is worth $10. Manufacture needles from it and the value becomes $350. If the bar of steel is used to make penknife blades, it is worth $32,000. Use it to create delicate springs for expensive watches and it will yield $250,000. Truly, there is amazing potential in a bar of steel when it is set apart for a special purpose!
Since these numbers are dated, I assume they are no longer accurate. In spite of that fact, however, there is still a great lesson to learn in this illustration. Do you see it?
In a sense, accountable adults are each like a bar of steel. All have an inherent value because all are fashioned in God's image (Gen. 1:26,27). This is true even for the most wicked. However, the Bible teaches that most will never come to the Lord or submit to His will. They choose their own path in life--sadly, the one that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13,14). While alive, they remain a bar of steel with great potential for service to the Lord, yet that potential is never tapped in rebellious living. They squander the blessings God entrusts to them (i.e., their time, energy, abilities, and resources). To fail to become what one could in service to the Lord is one of the greatest tragedies in life.
Of course, it should be realized that even those who choose to follow Jesus often fail to become what they could for the Lord. Many Christians fall well short of their potential for God. This too is tragic!
In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus delivered the parable of the talents. In my estimation, the fundamental point of the parable is that each of us must faithfully use--to the best of our ability--what the Lord has entrusted to us as His stewards. Whether we are entrusted with much or little, we all have the potential for greatness in God's eyes! However, when we fall short of our potential, we fail the Lord and His kingdom. God wants us to be more than just a bar of steel!
Are you committed to living a holy life for Jesus Christ? Are you dedicated to being a servant of His every day, willing to have your life used for His special purposes? That's what it means to be holy! Our commitment to holiness will determine whether we become Christians of minimal, moderate, or significant spiritual influence.
Consider what Paul wrote about this theme in II Corinthians 7:1 - "...let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." It's not good enough to be partially set apart for God's use. We need to be completely set apart for His purposes! We ought not to say: "Father, I'll serve you to this extent, but there is a line that I just will not cross for You" or "God, I'll be your servant under the following conditions..."
If we fear God, we won't be satisfied until we tap into the great potential He has given each of us. We will allow our lives to be shaped, by God and His gospel message, into things greater than bars of steel. We will not resist the way that we, as steel, are heated, hammered, molded, polished, etc. We understand that the more steel is worked and manipulated, the greater its value (remember the tiny watch springs?). The more we allow God to use us for His purposes, the greater our value to His cause.
May we always trust God, submit to His will, and be patient. Those who suffer the most for Him are capable of yielding the most (e.g., the apostle Paul). It is through trials and mighty struggles that God gets the most out of us--for His glory and the blessing of others (Rom. 5:3-5).
Friends, how committed are you to holiness?