The Craftsmanship of the Master
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10
In the last chapter we took a look at what the Master is carving in our lives. In this chapter, we will discuss the craftsmanship He uses as He goes about shaping our lives.
In the book of Genesis, we read:
“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Genesis 2:7
The word formed in this verse is referring to the craftsmanship that God used to shape us; much like the potter molds and shapes a vessel.1 The skill Jesus, the Craftsman, exercised in forming the human body is evident since our scientists are still nowhere near able to fully understand the intricacies of His work.
Before the potter begins his work on a glob of clay, it has no value. In the same way, without the work of God, we would be worthless, nothing but dust. Not only was man formed of the dust of the ground, but a second component was added, the breath of life from God. This was the infusion of what made man in the image of God. The breath of God is what makes man different from the animals. Mankind has a spirit. It is his awareness of and relationship to God that makes man different. Jesus, the almighty Creator, stooped down and put His mouth in the dust that man might have the life-giving breath of God.
Sadly, Adam chose to move away from the component of himself that was from God. He moved toward the other component, which was the dirt and filth of the dust. All of Adam’s descendants followed him. Since mankind has chosen to move toward the dirt and filth component, we all eventually leave the life-giving breath of God and die. When a person dies, his body is lost, becoming nothing but dust after it is buried in the ground from where it came.
When Christ came to earth, once again, God gave of Himself to provide life for us; but this time instead of His breath, He gave His blood. Once again, Jesus stooped down to bring us life. Once again, He put His mouth in the dust that we might have life. This time though, He put his mouth in the dust of the grave. The following verse seems to foreshadow this event.
“He putteth his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope. He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him, he is filled full with reproach.” Lamentations 3:29
If we choose to trust Christ, the Master Carpenter then begins shaping and carving us in order to restore the lost image of God. Without the grace of God, we are nothing but dust. Without the skilled hand of the Master Craftsman, we are nothing but a rough log. Jesus takes our nearly worthless lives and begins to shape us and transform us into a thing of beauty, a thing of value as we begin to live a life of good works for Him.
I work as a tool engineer for plastic injection molds and much of my work involves being around mold makers. I admire many of the skills displayed by these men. They take a nearly worthless block of steel and turn it into a thing of value, often times a thing of beauty. Although they work to shape steel, not wood, I believe many of the principles of workmanship to be the same. I can see many of the ways of the craftsman in our Lord and how He works.
How does a craftsman work?
- He cares about his work. This is especially true due to the amount of time and effort he invests in each piece. No one cares about us more than Jesus does. He has invested His life’s blood in us. A mold maker will work on a block for not more than a few months; Jesus works on us for our entire lifetime.
“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” I Peter 5:7
Sometimes the Carpenter has to carve deep dark recesses. Often it seems there is no end in sight of how far down He is going to make us go. At other times He carves bright, cheery, and glorious things at the peak. It is all necessary to achieve the image He is after. Often we wish everything would go well all the time, but if everything were on the same high level, there would be no carving done, and no image. Read Psalms sometime with this in mind, and think about how God shaped David’s life with huge contrasts between deep dark times of difficulty and joyful experiences. When we go through tough times, we must realize that God sees the overall image and is doing what is best to shape us into the image of Christ. God cares about us as we go through the difficult process of being carved.
- Understands the material. In working with the material day in and day out, the craftsman develops a feel for how the material reacts in certain situations. He knows which way the grain should face, he knows how the material should feel when he polishes it, and he knows when to be careful not to chip it out. Jesus is the Creator of the wood (mankind) and became wood. He understands the material perfectly. He knows us and He knows how we will react in every situation.
- Understands his work. The mold maker craftsman understands what makes a mold tick. He knows the purpose of each piece and where it belongs in the assembly. He understands what he is trying to achieve and has a purpose in what he does. He understands exactly what the part is to look like that the mold is to produce and then tailors a unique mold to perform that task. God does not act without purpose. He understands perfectly what He wants to achieve in our lives. He knows what good works we should produce and tailors us to perform that unique work.
- Carefulness. The craftsman will not make a cut on a workpiece without knowing for sure that it is right. He does not guess. The phrase, “measure twice, cut once” is the philosophy of the craftsman. Jesus knows what He is doing with us. Sometimes it may seem that He has ruined us, but not so. If there is a damaged area in a mold or if the design of the part needs to be changed, the mold maker will often times cut out a portion of the block and insert a new piece in order to accomplish the change. If he chooses, he may elect to weld the area instead. The mold maker will not cut out a larger portion or weld a larger area than is necessary. Sometimes changes can seem radical, but they always are necessary. Inserting a block or welding on the mold like this is many times not beneficial for the strength of the block, but it is completely necessary if the plastic part the mold produces is to be what it needs to be. God wants us to produce a life that is glorifying to Him. Sometimes this work may require changes in our lives that may not seem to benefit us, (in other words, make us richer, happier, and healthier at the time) but are completely necessary if our life is to produce glory to God. In other words, all changes that the Master works in our lives are done to shape us to be more Christ-like and to make us suitable to produce glory to God. By contrast, the changes that we instigate ourselves may work to bring about the opposite result.
- Patience. The craftsman will work with the work-piece as long as it takes to bring about the desired result. With mold building, this is especially seen when the mold builder is putting the final shiny polish on a block and finds it to be pitted. He can’t see the pits until the piece is brought to a high polish. He will start over and go back to a coarse stone to remove the pits before bringing it up to a high polish again. If he still finds pits, he must start over yet again. He will continue this until he achieves the desired finish. I have seen a mold builder spend well over a week refinishing a block rather than settling for a lesser finish.
- Doesn’t give up easily. There are sometimes certain problems in molds which are very difficult to solve satisfactorily. We once had to deal with a mold that was especially riddled with problems. The mold was an existing mold that our company had gotten from some other company. Someone incompetent had worked on it before we received it. Sometimes a mold may be so full of problems that it is impossible to address all of them simultaneously. Little by little, progress is made, addressing one problem, then another. Many times, correcting one problem will reveal another problem that you did not even realize existed. As an example of this: There may be something binding that keeps the mold from closing properly. After you correct that, you may discover that the runner is not large enough to allow you to fill the mold. If you correct this so that the mold will fill, you may find that the part sticks and that a rib is breaking off in the area that would not previously fill. If you get the part to eject without ripping the rib off, you may find that the part is warping from uneven shrinkage which you couldn’t tell before because the part was being distorted from sticking…and so on. In much the same way, God may have to deal progressively with problems in our lives after we are saved. Many of the problems He has to deal with were established before He began His work. Perhaps God will first convict a person of his disobedience if he is unwilling to be baptized. If that person yields to God and is baptized, perhaps God will begin convicting that person of his need to attend church faithfully. If that person begins attending church faithfully, perhaps God will convict that person of his need to give to God. If that person yields to God and begins giving, perhaps God will begin convicting him of his need to witness…and so on. (not necessarily in this order or these particular issues) Eventually, in dealing with molds, the skilled, experienced craftsman will almost always come up with something that works. The solution may seem unorthodox, but He has invested a tremendous amount of time and is unwilling to just quit. God does not give up easily on us, praise His name! He died for us. He is committed to making us work for His glory.
- Plans the work. The craftsman thinks about the order in which the work needs to be done to achieve the required result. If the work is done in the wrong order, it can make it impossible for the piece to turn out right. The mold builder does not cut the part-shaped detail into the block before squaring the block up. He does not contour the top of an ejector pin before it is keyed. He does not heat treat and harden the block before he has tapped the screw holes. In the same way, Jesus takes us step by step in a logical sequence through our Christian walk. He knows what we need next. We can see this in the way He led the children of Israel as they journeyed to the promised land, and in the way He led and taught His disciples. He will not take us where we cannot go. Our only task is to follow Him.
- Understands how it all fits together. Some molds have many, many pieces. If you take a mold apart, it can be very difficult to remember how it all goes back together again. If one tiny piece is out of place, it can cause the entire mold to produce the wrong results or nothing at all. I once tried to help a mold maker assemble a mold and accidentally put a small piece in upside down. When we ran the mold, we discovered that the parts were wrong, we had to take the mold back apart again. The craftsman keeps track of it all somehow and makes sure it is right. Jesus knows what He wants to accomplish in our lives. He is also the designer; He understands the whole plan. When things get complicated, Jesus knows how to bring all the pieces together for His glory. When we love God, we can have faith in God according to this verse:
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
Trust the craftsman to do His work. Errors occur when we try to put our own lives together.
- Precision. The work of the craftsman demands accuracy. Mold builders frequently work to tolerances of just a couple ten thousandths of an inch. If the components are not fit together closer than one thousandth of an inch, the plastic part may flash (plastic will leak out). The Lord is the one who created atoms. He knows precision like no one else. He is the one who created time. He demonstrates His control through precisely fulfilled prophecy in the Bible. He is in perfect control of events, frequently timing things to hundredths of a second or less. I remember when I was about ten years old; our family went on vacation. We were going down interstate 80. There was construction, and the other direction of traffic was diverted over to our side of the road so that the interstate was reduced to a two-lane road. Cars were nearly bumper to bumper going both ways, but still going the regular speed. All of a sudden, a wheel came off of a semi going the other direction, bounced past the front right corner of our car just missing it by what seemed to be inches. The wheel then went into the ditch and bounced way up in the air. That wheel could have killed our entire family, but God timed it precisely to miss us. Many of the things He does are not as dramatic, but know that our God is a precise God. He says precisely what He means. He does precisely what He says He will do. He brings people and events into our lives precisely when He wants them to occur. He makes us to be precisely what He wants us to be.
- Teaches others. A journeyman (experienced) mold maker oftentimes has apprentices (inexperienced mold makers) working with him to whom he teaches the trade. A good journeyman will teach the apprentices who work under him to think and work in the same way he does. The apprenticeship lasts for several years. When I think of this, my mind goes to our Lord’s ministry where much of His time was spent teaching His disciples (apprentices) how to work and think like He did. He knew that He would not be on the scene for very long, and He knew that He needed to train others to carry on the ministry in His absence from the earth. There is a great need for this type of teaching in our churches. The older men and women need to realize that they aren’t going to be on the scene forever. They need to mentor and teach those who are younger. We are in a race. Those who are older need to continue to press toward the mark and run a few steps with the younger before the baton is passed.
- People depend on his work. If a mold maker does not do a competent job, people in the entire company will suffer. The molds, which he works on, are the unique tools used to create the unique product, which is the source of revenue for the company. If he botches the job, it can cause great economic damage as well as damage to the reputation of the company, since the company may not be able to deliver a quality product as promised to customers. Keep in mind that our Lord is not merely a craftsman of things, but of people. We can and do trust Him with our very lives.
There are two instances in history where the lives of all of humanity depended on the work of one carpenter. The first time was when a carpenter named Noah built a huge boat. If he had not done a competent job, all of humanity would have been lost. Those who did not trust his work and get on the ark were lost. The only ones that were saved from drowning were those who were in the family of the carpenter.
The second Carpenter, Jesus, is still carrying out His work today. As in the days of Noah, the lives of all of humanity depend on the work of the Carpenter. Those who do not trust His work and enter in as a part of the temple He is building will be lost. This time they will not be lost to water but to fire. He knows what He is doing. He is a competent craftsman. Trust Him. If you are not adopted into His family, you will not be saved. Only those who turn from sin and trust in Him will be saved from eternal death in the sea of fire.
- Knows which tools he can trust. A mold maker most likely will prefer to measure anything that needs to be measured accurately with his micrometer, not calipers. The reason is that he knows that his micrometer is more accurate, and he knows he can trust it. If something needs to be machined to great accuracy, most likely you will find that the mold maker will prefer to avoid using certain mills or certain grinders. He does this because he knows that the ways are not as good as they could be on those machines, or the chuck isn’t as flat, or there is some other thing wrong, and they will not produce as good of a result. Some tool makers have a great appreciation for a certain tool that has reliably given them the best results. Our Lord knows whom He can call upon when He needs a job to be done. He watches to see whom He can count faithful, and who will do His will accurately. In our company we have a calibration service come in to check the accuracy of measuring tools. One tool maker refuses to leave his measuring tools with the calibration person, but will insist on accompanying his tools while they are being calibrated. How do you think God feels about those He can count on the most?
- Is innovative. The best of mold makers love to be challenged with problems that others consider impossible to solve. Addressing problems like this allows the mold maker to express his creativity. He may come up with some innovative mechanism that has never been tried before. He may come up with some special unorthodox-looking tool to accomplish the job. Our Lord loves to be challenged with impossible problems. That way you know it is He who has brought about a solution, and He will receive the glory for it. Sometimes God may use some unorthodox type of situations in our lives to accomplish the job.
- Uses appropriate force. Sometimes a mold maker may take a very small piece of plastic and use it as a hammer to tap a mold part out of its pocket. On other occasions it may require a sledgehammer or a hydraulic press. Mechanisms may sometimes become stuck and require extra force to get them apart. The reason for this is often that scum and dirt have worked their way in. If the mold is not cleaned often enough, the part may seize fast. Often times we as Christians may let the dirt and scum of the world into our hearts. If we refuse to let God clean our hearts by asking His forgiveness and repenting (turning the other way) from our sin, God has to use a bigger hammer to knock us loose from that sin. We can see how this happened in Israel when they worshipped false gods, and God finally had to use a very large hammer. He had them carried away captive into Babylon. The nation of Israel finally, when struck with that blow, turned away from that sin, and repented. Yield to the will of the Savior; don’t make Him use a bigger hammer.
- Protects the workpiece. Even though a significant amount of force may be needed, the mold maker is always careful to use something soft like brass, or leather, or plastic to contact the mold so as not to damage the mold. Whatever God does in our lives, He will do all He can to avoid damaging our ability to glorify Him.
- If required will do radical changes to make it work. After the plastic press shoots plastic into the mold, the press opens the mold. If all goes as planned, the part will stay on the moving side of the mold as the mold opens. If it does not, you have a problem because you cannot eject the part from the mold, and the mold will not produce parts. Usually polishing the stationary side or maybe adding some undercuts to the moving side can solve this. At work, however, we have an old mold, which you could see had a design change done to it. This design change made the part stick to the wrong side of the mold. In order to make it work, the mold maker turned the mold upside down and made the stationary side of the mold the moving side. Sometimes God may need to turn our lives upside down or do radical changes to make our lives produce glory to God.
- Skillful apparent sloppiness. Although to us it may look like carelessness, a skillful craftsman may work quickly because he is good and he knows what he is doing. Those with lesser skill may botch the job if they try to go as fast as he does. To us a tragic event like a car crash can look sloppy, but the Master Craftsman is good and He knows what He is doing.
A craftsman may even look as if he is goofing around when he really is working very efficiently. Opening up a mold with a pry bar is not one of the more enjoyable parts of working on a mold. Opening a mold is often frustrating because it is difficult to split the two halves of the mold evenly. If the mold doesn’t come apart straight, it will window lock the alignment pins so that you have to beat the mold closed with a leather faced mallet and try again. One of the mold makers at work discovered that if he balanced a mold on a bump on his bench, he could spin the mold and the centrifugal force would cause the two halves of the mold to separate evenly. This action may seem like careless horseplay, but he can have a mold opened up in seconds while it would take most mold builders several minutes. I have never seen him come close to dropping a mold half by doing this. The next time that God seems to be playing with your life and giving it an unusual spin, remember that He may actually be working very efficiently to accomplish His will in your life and make you more like Jesus.
- Attention to detail. When shaping a mold, the craftsman mold builder will scrutinize every surface, every corner, every nook and cranny to make sure that the part turns out exactly as he planned. God pays attention to every detail in our lives. He works in every facet of our lives to bring about exactly the result that He is after.
“But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Matthew 10:30
He doesn’t have to count too high for some of us; but our God is a God of details. We can trust Him for every detail of our lives. Notice that God not only has your hair counted, but has them numbered. He knows which one is in which location on your head. This reminds me of the mold builder who numbers the ejector pins in a mold so that he knows where each one goes. God knows everything about us.
- Is in demand. Mold makers are some of the most highly skilled workers there are. At this time there is a shortage of good mold makers, and they are in great demand. In the human heart, there is a great need, a great longing for the Savior, and only the work of Jesus, the Craftsman, can satisfy the soul.
- Does a great deal of work that few people, if any, ever see. Even though the plastic part may be quite small, the mold that forms it may be quite large and heavy. A part weighing only a few grams probably came from a mold that weighs several hundred pounds. There may be many complex mechanical actions used to form undercuts on the part. Even though the undercut may be quite small, the mechanism used to release it may be quite large and complex. The carpenter who is making fine furniture spends a great deal of his time making joints between pieces of wood that are designed to be hidden. No one on earth will ever see all the experiences God has brought into our lives to shape us into what we are. Most people know us only casually, never realizing all the complex events which have happened to cause us to glorify God.
- Takes pride in his work. The craftsman has a high standard for his work. We recently finished building a mold, and one of the mold makers had accidentally put a rib in the wrong location. The design engineer told him that he could simply add a new rib in the correct location and leave the original rib where it was. The mold maker did not settle for this, but decided to fill in the old rib as well. This involved several times as much work as just putting in a new rib, but he felt that it was important for him to take pride in doing his work correctly. Perhaps there are certain things in our lives that we think God could just leave alone and still have a perfectly satisfactory result; they don’t seem to be hurting anything anyway. But is that how the Master Craftsman is looking at it?
- Enjoys compliments about his work. Mold builders love it when you tell them that the parts look great, or that the mold sure runs well, or what a neat idea they had. Our Lord is much the same way. When was the last time you told Him that you are thankful for what He has done in your life, or how neatly He worked out that difficult situation, or that you are just amazed at all the good things He has provided for you?
- Enjoys looking over the end product. When a mold is finally done, and everything is working right, the craftsman always takes a moment and looks over his work. He looks at everything on the part and will usually see things that no one else would notice. Our Lord is the same way. We see Him doing this in the account of creation. Several times during the creation account we read that God looked at His work and saw that it was good. On the last day of creation He looked at everything that He had made and said that it was very good. When He is done shaping our lives and we go to be with Him, He will take a moment and look us over at the judgment. He will scrutinize everything about us, every detail, and see things that no one else has noticed, inspecting every thought and word and action.
- Puts his name on his work. Many craftsmen and artists put their name on their work. They want people to see what they have done and know who has done it. They have a high standard for their work. We see this with mold shops; many times the shop will be named after the owner who is the “master craftsman.” A nameplate with the shop’s name is usually fastened to the mold. It is interesting to find that the Lord has placed his signature on the temple building. How awesome to know that He is proud of what He has done in shaping our lives! Do we glorify His name by how we live?
“…I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there for ever…” I Kings 9:3b
Think about how you have seen the work of the Craftsman in your life. Consider the ways the Craftsman is working to shape your life into something beautiful like Jesus.
“Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us…” Psalm 90:16,17a