United Church of God

Council Letter: Spiritual Tools of the Trade

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Council Letter

Spiritual Tools of the Trade

My father was a bricklayer and stone mason. So was his father. I carried on the family occupation by working as a bricklayer’s helper during summer jobs while I attended university. It was hard work, but the pay was good. I had to mix mortar, set up scaffolding, carry bricks and scrape the excess mortar from between the bricks. Working with concrete blocks was more strenuous because they are heavier than bricks.

My dad died many years ago, at the age of 55. I conducted his funeral, the first one I ever performed, as a young minister. Today, I still have his tools and have used them occasionally. What tools you might ask? Actually, there are not that many—some trowels, a level, a scraper, a brick hammer, a line of string and some chisels for stone work. With these simple tools and skillful work, I watched my dad build beautiful fireplaces, fences, houses and commercial buildings.

When I came in the Church as a teenager, I easily understood the importance of using spiritual tools. There was an emphasis on “getting in your prayer,” “doing your Bible study,” fasting and meditation. We talked about having a good attitude instead of a bad one. Prayer and Bible study became a regular part of my way of life. So I also did regular fasting. The first time I fasted, at age 16, was for two days. I was alone at our summer cottage near Edmonton. In the ministry, long drives have given me much time to meditate.

When I went to Ambassador College, I thought it was so unique to have prayer closets in our dorms. I thought that it was so cool to be able to find a private place to pray. When I first started to pray as a boy at home, I literally went into the closet in my bedroom. That worked out okay until my mom walked in and opened the door. Talk about embarrassing!

I cannot imagine having come this far on this spiritual journey without using these spiritual tools of prayer, study, fasting and meditation. Christ said, “When you pray…” not if you pray (Matthew 6:6). He also said, “Moreover, when you fast…” not if you fast (Matthew 6:16).

The apostle Paul was a wise master builder (1 Corinthians 3:10). He encouraged Christians to, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, KJV). That was quoted a lot in the early years when I began attending Church services. Back then the standard Bible that most used was the King James Version. Some other translations word this a bit differently. For instance, the New Living Translation says, “Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive His approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.”

God tells me, and He tells you, “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 1:20-21).

Every tradesman has his tools. As bricklayers, my dad and his dad had theirs. When I came into the Church, I was given spiritual tools to help build on my faith. They have been invaluable, and I would be lost without them.