The conceited soul can never be calmed because it is never content with God’s divine providence. It can never see how the invisible hand of God is working out His plans and purposes in our lives. Consequently, it is never trustful of God and thankful to Him; instead, it is always suspicious of God and sniveling over every little perceived misfortune.
The conceited soul cannot see how God uses our hardships and heartaches to conform us to the image of His Son. According to the Apostle Paul, nothing can happen in the life of a Christian—one who “loves God” and is “called according to His purpose”—unless God Himself allows it to happen (Romans 8:28-29). Furthermore, the only thing God will allow to happen in the Christian’s life is something He can use for the Christian’s good. The specific good Paul is speaking about in this incredible passage of Scripture is God’s conforming us to “the image of His Son.” In other words, God is using everything in our lives, including our troubles and trials, to make us more like Jesus than we’ve ever been before.
A man once asked a shop owner who sculpted the lifelike sculpture of a horse in his shop window. When the shop owner admitted that he had sculpted the statue, the customer remarked that it must have been an extremely difficult task to accomplish. The shop owner assured the customer, however, that the task was really quite simple. “All you have to do,” he told the customer, “is get a rock and knock everything off that doesn’t look like a horse.” This is exactly what God is doing in the lives of Christians; He is using everything in our lives, including our hardships and heartaches, to knock everything off of us that doesn’t look like Jesus.
Not only is the conceited soul blind to how God uses hardships and heartaches to conform us to the image of His Son, but the conceited soul is also blind to how God uses hardships and heartaches to equip us for His service. Although the Scripture is rife with examples of this, we’ll only take the time to point out a couple.
Have you ever thought about the life of Moses? As an infant he was taken from the bulrushes to spend forty years in Pharaoh’s palace. At the age of forty, he had to flee Egypt for his life, living for the next forty years on the backside of the desert. Then, at the age of eighty, God called him at the burning bush to go and negotiate with Pharaoh the deliverance of the Hebrew people from their slavery in Egypt. Who better to do this job than Moses, who had lived in Pharaoh’s palace for forty years? After God’s miraculous deliverance of His chosen people from their Egyptian bondage, Moses led God’s people for forty years in the desert. Again, who better to do this job than Moses, who had previously lived in the desert for forty years?
Perhaps there is no better example in all of Scripture of God’s sovereignty over our lives than the story of Joseph. Joseph had to be thrown into a pit by his brothers, sold by them to an Ishmaelite caravan, put on the slave block in Egypt, sold as a slave to Potiphar, falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, and imprisoned unjustly for years in order to be ultimately exalted to the position of prime minister of Egypt so that he could be used by God to save his family from starvation during a time of famine. Although Joseph might have felt he had been forsaken and forgotten by God, in the end he learned that all of his hardships and heartaches were merely the means by which divine providence made his dreams come true (Genesis 37:5-11).
In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, the Apostle Paul explains that one reason bad things happen to God’s people is so that God can equip us to minister comfort to others who are going through what we’ve been through ourselves. Paul explains—what the lives of Moses and Joseph exemplify—that God uses hardships and heartaches to equip us for His service.
Like clay yields itself to the hands of the potter, the calmed soul is content yielding itself daily to the nail-scarred hands of Christ, believing that Christ is at all times forming and fashioning it into a vessel that bears His image and is fit for His service.
To calm the soul Christlikeness must be our goal and Christ’s service our preoccupation.