Summary: Nails were distributed to the congregation, so that they could test: if you wish to endure, you have to endure some pounding. Holes may be punched in you, too. But if you persist, ultimately you will be built up.
If you really want to grow, it’s going to cost you. If you truly expect to be built up, there will be some pain involved. No growth ever takes place without pain. That’s a law of life. That’s not negotiable. No pain, no gain. No hurt, no growth. No rough edges, no building up. If you truly want to be built up, prepare to encounter pain.
When Peter speaks about spiritual growth, he uses a word picture. The word picture is about a building. He says we are to let ourselves be built into a building.
“Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house”.
That sounds good. It sounds good until you read a little further, and you find Peter speaking also about sacrifice, rejection, stumbling. Those things sound rather painful, don’t they? Sacrifice and rejection and stumbling – painful experiences.
But remember: no growth ever takes place without pain. If you truly want to be built up, prepare to encounter pain.
I like to watch buildings going up. The frustrated engineer in me is fascinated with new structures. Nearly every day I drive through Silver Spring and watch as just about the whole downtown is rebuilt. When I go through Fenton Street, the first thing I do is to see if I can detect what the latest changes are: new holes in the ground, new structural elements, new paint. I like to look for signs of growth. That’s the first thing I do; the second thing is to breathe a prayer of thanksgiving that it’s happening across the street from somebody else’s church and not across form ours! What a nightmare construction brings!
Now I’ve noticed that when buildings are going up, nothing says “construction” like hammers pounding on nails. There’s just something special about the whack, whack, whack of a good solid hammer hitting the nail right on the head. It feels like this is the real thing! Oh, skill saws whine, but saws cut things apart instead of putting them together. Concrete mixers growl, but concrete mixers lay down foundations instead of building things upward. High-rise cranes creak as they lift beams high in the air, but cranes just dangle those beams there until somebody joins them. For me, it’s the sound of the hammer, driving nails into wood, that really says, “building”! Hammers nail board to board; hammers nail the frame together, hammers nail the roof in place; hammers nail the wallboard on. Hammers, nails, that’s what building really is.
And so, today, in order to help Peter speak to us about being built into a spiritual house, we’re going to pound some nails. We’re going to demonstrate some spiritual principles. Up here, I’ve got a board, I’ve got nails, and, “if I had a hammer …” – oh, I do have a hammer. I’m ready to show you what Peter meant. But I need your help too.
[Nail packages passed down rows]
You have nails. You don’t have hammers or boards, but you do have nails. And as you handle your nails from time to time, you’ll be reminded of one important fact: nails hurt. Nails hurt. But again: no pain, no gain. No hurt, no growth. If you truly want to be built up, prepare to encounter pain.
First, if you want to be built up, you will have to endure some pounding. [Pound] Somebody will hit at you. And not just once, but repeatedly. Somebody will find your weak spots and pound away at them. Just as if I want to drive a nail into this board, I don’t look for the hard knots, because I won’t be able to get the nail through the knots, but I look for the soft fleshy part of the wood – in the same way, somebody is going to look at where you are not solid, where you are not secure, and is going to pound on that.
Is that a bad thing? Is it damaging for somebody to get on our case because we have flaws and failings? Is it bad for us to be told, repeatedly, where we are going wrong? No, it is not bad. It is good. It can be painful, but it is a good thing. Like the repeated pounding of the hammer on the nail, it can hurt to be told what you don’t want to hear. Nails hurt. But most of us have to be hit, over and over again, with the unpleasant truth about ourselves. We have to be hit, over and over again, in order to be built up. It’s painful. Nails hurt. But it is for our good.
Peter starts this second chapter of his letter in a very challenging way. He gets down to it. I guess you could say he “hits the nail on the head.”