Gold Silver Precious Stones Wood Hay Straw

by Mike Ratliff

For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw– each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:9-15 ESV)

There is a blog devoted to atheism that has linked to a post I did the other day about homosexuality being a sin. The fellow that runs that blog is attempting to show that my refusal to dialogue with him about the issue shows that Christians cannot debate them because our cause is empty. The problem is that he does not really want to debate, he wants to dialogue. These are two different things. John Ashbrook said it well, “A debate is a conflict which clarifies a position. A dialogue is a conversation which compromises a position.” 1 I did attempt to debate the man, but when he kept going back to a position that I addressed completely as if I had not done so, I ended it. You see he wanted to “dialogue” with me not “debate” me. Why? It was an attempt to compromise the position I took in that piece. I honestly do not enjoy conflict, but God uses it to clarify the truth. We err if we attempt to find peace with those in conflict with God’s truth by compromising, which is the point of dialogue. Instead, we debate until it becomes apparent that we are casting pearls before swine and that which is holy to dogs. At that point, we must be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves as we end it.

That being said, I need to confess to one and all that I have had a pretty rough time since before Easter. My mother had a heart attack and my father, who has Alzheimer’s, had to be put in a locked down assisted living center. Since then my mother has also suffered a stroke. I attended our church the Sunday before Easter. I went to church with my parents on Easter Sunday and all of this began just three days later. Since then, I have been able to attend church just twice. It seems like I have been traveling somewhere nearly every weekend. Through all of this, I have been dealing with some topics on Possessing the Treasure that are considered to be very controversial. The spiritual attacks have been nearly constant since all this began. Last evening I did not write anything. I just could not do it. I felt like a total failure.  I was very discouraged by the many attacks from those who seemed bent on gnawing away at this ministry like a swarm of termites. I saw myself as a worthless servant who just needed to abandon this ministry as I simply faded away into the background. Let others who are more capable take up the fight! I reached bottom. I was ready to throw in the towel. Then I read this devotional.

“Continue in the faith.”-Acts 14:22

Perseverance is the badge of true saints. The Christian life is not a beginning only in the ways of God, but also a continuance in the same as long as life lasts. It is with a Christian as it was with the great Napoleon: he said, “Conquest has made me what I am, and conquest must maintain me.” So, under God, dear brother in the Lord, conquest has made you what you are, and conquest must sustain you. Your motto must be, “Excelsior.” He only is a true conqueror, and shall be crowned at the last, who continueth till war’s trumpet is blown no more. Perseverance is, therefore, the target of all our spiritual enemies. The world does not object to your being a Christian for a time, if she can but tempt you to cease your pilgrimage, and settle down to buy and sell with her in Vanity Fair. The flesh will seek to ensnare you, and to prevent your pressing on to glory. “It is weary work being a pilgrim; come, give it up. Am I always to be mortified? Am I never to be indulged? Give me at least a furlough from this constant warfare.” Satan will make many a fierce attack on your perseverance; it will be the mark for all his arrows. He will strive to hinder you in service: he will insinuate that you are doing no good; and that you want rest. He will endeavour to make you weary of suffering, he will whisper, “Curse God, and die.” Or he will attack your steadfastness: “What is the good of being so zealous? Be quiet like the rest; sleep as do others, and let your lamp go out as the other virgins do.” Or he will assail your doctrinal sentiments: “Why do you hold to these denominational creeds? Sensible men are getting more liberal; they are removing the old landmarks: fall in with the times.” Wear your shield, Christian, therefore, close upon your armour, and cry mightily unto God, that by His Spirit you may endure to the end. – C.H. Spurgeon (emphasis mine)

It was as if the chains forged by Giant Despair that had been cast around my heart holding me in the filthy dungeon of Doubting Castle were broken to dust. This also seemed to cast off the mist that was blocking my discernment. I realized that I had succumbed to a spiritual onslaught designed to discourage me and drive a wedge between my Lord and me by thwarting our fellowship. Being separate from the saints at Church this long has taken its own toll. We are encouraged and commanded to not forsake the gathering of the saints. I used to think that this was for religious purposes, however, it is for our benefit. It is such a wonderful thing to fellowship with God’s people in that loving environment and then feed on God’s Word as it is broken and fed to us by a godly Pastor.

When this sort of thing happens to us, we must do a spiritual inventory as we come out of the dungeon. This examination reveals to us whether we have been building on the foundation that was laid in Christ, which is the Church, with gold, silver, precious stones, which represent faithful ministry. If so, we are being used by our Lord as He builds His Church. Then we can look at the oppression of the enemy as something God has allowed in us in order to try us in the fire. The fire is, of course, God’s discerning judgment. As we are tested, it may appear that we have been cast aside or forgotten by God because of some fault found in our ministry or us. But it is through the trial or test that we learn that any building we have done that is of the gold, silver, precious stone quality are the product of us working within the Grace of God as we abide in our Lord, not by our own abilities. The gold, silver, and precious stones can take the fire of God’s discerning judgment.

On the other hand, the test may reveal to us that we have been building upon this foundation with wood, hay, and straw, which are inferior or worthless things that cannot stand the test of judgment fire. These would include ministering with wrong motives such as attempting to do it for self-aggrandizement or to build up self-worth. If the focus of our work is anything but the glory of God and the edification of the Saints then all we are doing is building with wood, hay, and straw. Also, if we are using corrupt tools such as man-focused doctrines and methods or we are compromising God’s truth in order to preserve a false peace with the world or heretics or apostates then we are only building a very flammable façade. When God’s discerning judgment tries those who are doing this then all will be burned up.

One worthless thing that many are falling for today is something called spiritual formation. This is a product of the emerging church. It utilizes certified Spiritual Directors whose “ministry” is to teach their “flocks” the various ways and means to get closer to God and to emulate Him. The Spiritual Directors teach that there are certain practices that their people can do in order to be more like Jesus. These are things such mystical rituals that teach those in them how to find God within. Having a relationship with Jesus Christ is not necessary or a prerequisite. Contemplative prayer is part of this. In a DVD called Be Still, which promotes contemplative prayer, Richard Foster has said that contemplative prayer is for anyone and that by practicing it, one becomes “a portable sanctuary” for “the presence of God.”

I read an article today about a pastor who was trying to tell his congregation that Paul was teaching spiritual formation in Galatians 4:8-20, especially v19. Here are vv18-20.

It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you. (Galatians 4:18-20 ESV)

What does it mean that Paul was in anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in the Galatians? Is this spiritual formation? No, this is not a mystical thing that will bring the Galatians to the point of finding god within. This is talking about their spiritual maturity unto Chirstlikeness. The Greek word used here for “formed” is μορφόω or morphoō. This verb is in aorist tense, subjunctive mood, and passive voice. All that means is that the action of the verb is done to the subject of the sentence. That would be the Galatians. Morphoō means, “to form or fashion. When used in this context in Sacred Scripture, it always refers to the young or immature Christian maturing.” We see this clearly in the context of the passage, the chapter, and the book of Galatians itself. That was Paul’s concern for them. False prophets were overtaking them and if they had been more mature in Christ, they would not have succumbed to them.

When we dig into God’s Word like this to discern the truth and then share that with the Church for their edification, we are building upon the foundation with gold, silver, and precious stones. However, those who twist scripture in order to support mysticism and very dangerous things such as spiritual formation and contemplative prayer, they are building with worthless things such as wood, hay, and straw.

The spiritual battle I just came through became very intense as I began my study into learning Koine Greek better. I can handle Greek word studies pretty well and I understand the grammar and I have some excellent study tools that enable me to do this, but I do not speak Greek. I can read much of it, but not as well as I would like. Therefore, I am studying it from a beginning level just like someone would do to learn English as a second language. When I made that commitment, the attacks from our enemy became very severe. I have prayed about this and I have asked God if I should continue. The answer is that I must do so, however, the battle to learn it will be just that for our enemy does not want us to know God’s Word well. Please pray that I will be able to become as proficient in Greek as God wants me to be for His glory alone.

I pray also that all reading this will examine themselves to see with what building materials they are using in their ministry unto the Church. All of us are building on the foundation in one-way or another. I most certainly do not want what I build to be burned away by God’s discerning judgment.

Soli Deo Gloria!

1The New Neutralism II, John E Ashbrook (Here I Stand Books, 1992), p. 7.)

22 thoughts on “Gold Silver Precious Stones Wood Hay Straw

  1. Mike,
    I don’t like to do this because I don’t want myself acknowledged by man. My heart goes out to you. Remember He who started a good work in you will take it to completion. Continue to share the gospel, the good news, Christ crucified for all these things.
    Remember He has told you that He has overcome the world and to be of good cheer, for while we are still in this world it will be filled with trials and tribulations..Also remember that Judgement starts in the house of the Lord, and that is while we are still here. May the Lord Jesus Christ give you HIs strength, patience and peace in Jesus’ name I pray.
    Love In Christ,
    David

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  2. Oh it is not unto me Oh Lord, not unto me for Yours be the power and glory forever and ever.
    My brother, my tears are with you! I can’t say anymore! For I know that with things in my life, no one shares those feelings and the tears are held in a bottle by the Lord Jesus Christ.
    In Christ,
    David
    We are called to keep fighting for the faith. For He chose the day you where born, He chose your name, He chose the day you will die and inbetween all of that He will take you to completion, in His day…And you will keep up the race set before you!

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  3. Your brothers and sisters in Christ are here for you, Mike.
    Keep fighting the good fight of the faith. God is using your ministry to edify saints and glorify His name. Praying for you.

    In Christ,
    Brian

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  4. There are times in our lives when we have to ask the question is Jesus enough. When our world seems to be crumbling around us, is Jesus enough. When we don’t have the christian fellowship we crave is Jesus enough. When the spritual battle is fierce and it seems we are losing is Jesus enough. Mike hold on to the One who bought you. Hold on to the One who bought you. Hold on to the One who bought and loves you. Jesus is holding on to you. Yes, he is enough. God Bless You Mike.

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  5. My heart goes out to your struggle, Mike. As always, I pray for you and for your ministry.

    I agree with all of the messages above. Hold onto Jesus. We all must do that when He is truly all that we have left. There is no better place to be. But know, also, that we are with you! Please don’t give up!

    Right now saints are being pressed from all sides and the fog can be thick and unyielding but we KNOW that our Savior is holding us and His Spirit is leading us. We can trust that truth!

    God bless you always,
    Heather

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  6. Thank you so much Heather! It is a wonderful thing to know that my brothers and sisters in Christ are praying for me, my family, and this ministry. Yes, there the darkness is ever-encroaching on the Church. Our Saviour will never let those go who belong to Him and we must hang onto to Him as we pursue the truth. He is the light of the world and we must not only be in that light, but bear it as well. We are the salt of the earth and it doesn’t like it. It loves the darkness. So…we must not be surprised when we are assaulted on every side by those who hate the truth. God bless you as well Heather

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  7. Mike – absolutely excellent. I hope you don’t mind but I posted the devotional from Spurgeon on my website. Wow! Of course, our perseverance will be attacked. Paul cautioned the Hebrews against fainting or growing weary in their MINDS. This is where the battle occurs.

    Another excellent scripture is Lamentations 3. Jeremiah was lamenting his terrible state and everything he was going through. But all of a sudden…

    “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed and because his compassions never fails, but is new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness!”

    May the Lord strengthen you during your time of trial.

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  8. Hi brother Mike 😀
    When I go through such things it is always a sign to me that I am doing something right, and that the enemy is not happy about it, and so hits at the perseverance side of our walk. Being a Christian is ‘not for sissies’ (for want of a better term). We learn to be strong in the Lord by going through such things that He allows that both will and do strengthen us. No wonder Peter says in 1 Peter 1:3-9 what he does. He knew full well! We are in a very real battle and the wonder of it is that it is the Lord’s battle. He will uphold us when we are needing upholding. He will equip us for every good work, He has for each one of us to do – that is something we can be certain about.

    Be so encouraged dear brother! We all have this from time to time and Your ministry here brings fellowship, joy and refreshment for all who stop by, but mostly brings glory to God.
    Bless you
    Jessie

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  9. Discouragment seems to be hitting all the true believers. We must not give up. In Rev. it talks about the faith and the patients of the saints during an awful time. We long for Jesus to come and get us NOW. We are sick of this world gone totally evil. When we have done all we can do, STAND. Be encouraged Mike. He hears your prayers. It just can’t be much longer before He comes and gets us.

    You are studying Greek! Wow, thats a job!

    Hang in there Mike, we are with you and many times we are refreshed by reading your posts. Blessings to you.

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  10. Paul and Luann, yes, I do think that my experience in this is far from unique in these dark days. Yes, we STAND in Him. Thanks for the encouragement guys. Yes, I am studying it…it sure beats watching TV and having my brain turned to mush with all of that nonsense. 🙂

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  11. Nonsense is putting it mildly for whats on t.v. these days. We play the ‘original’ Bible Trivia game which has over 5600 questions or something like that, and they are not the kindergarden questions either.

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  12. Mike~ I have spoken with a couple of brothers and sisters who are struggling as well in these dark days. This is a sign of the times in which we live, but our Lord is our strength. The times of testing are times of strengthening as well; I pray for you my brother. May our Lord draw near to each of us and breathe on us the breath of perseverance.
    Remember this from Daniel 10:19, ‘And said, O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace [be] unto thee, BE STRONG, YEA, BE STRONG. And when he had spoken unto me, I was strengthened, and said, Let my lord speak; FOR THOU HAST STRENGTHENED ME’.
    May the Lord richly bless you

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  13. Please don’t shut down. I read a lot of blogs – very good blogs – but it is evident that yours springs from a very real person with a very real relationship with Christ who strives to exalt Him alone through scripture alone. I thank you for that.

    We are a fallen race and deteriorate really quickly when not founded upon the Rock of the Word.

    A sister and I have been struggling with our laodicean church body and I have decided to leave to seek living water, and she has decided to stay as a missionary to the lost. It is a difficult decision for both of us. Pray that Christ alone be our living water out here in the wilderness.

    Your clear writings here have refreshed me and kept me focused on truth when there hasn’t seemed to be much truth on the horizon. Grace upon grace rain on you. -k

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  14. Kate,

    Thank you my sister for the encouragement. I will continue to minister here as long as God allows. I know leaving a church is very difficult, probably harder than staying and fighting it out. I remember when I left our old church which went PDC, I had the same feelings and grief that I had when my grandmother died several years ago. However, your sister sure needs our prayers as well.

    Thank you for your prayers my sister.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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