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Jamie Johnson
5 July 2015


NOTE: This is a written version of the message I delivered on July 5, 2015.

When Friction is Good

What is friction? According to LiveScience, "Friction is the resistance to motion of one object moving relative to another." This applies to so much in our world. When we speak of friction in a more relational sense, we often think of negative things. What do you think when you hear something like there is friction between Henry and Anne? Does it sound like things are going well or smoothly for them?

Recently, I saw a picture of a gap between two sheer cliffs. The picture shows a giant rock wedged in the gap between the two cliffs and on that great rock a couple standing. When I saw it, I thought to myself that is a time where friction is a good thing. Without friction, the couple would slip off the rock. Without friction, the rock would fall. There is a functional goodness in that friction.

What if there was no friction? You would not move when you took a step. You would not stay on a chair or on your feet as they would not "cling" to the floor. If there was no friction, we would slip off into death immediately. Cars would not turn or stay on the road or even go. There is a functional goodness, a physical goodness in friction in many cases.

However, we often equate friction with conflict, trial and suffering and consider it negative. Though unpleasant at the time, these can be good. Friction can be good if in Christ. Consider Romans 5:1-5 (NASB):

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

So, can friction be good spiritually, too? Yes. If we were left without friction in life, spiritually speaking, we would be given over to ourselves. There would be no resistance, that is, friction, to challenge the status quo, to propel us to something else. Friction is what God can use to mold us to be more Christlike. Without friction, we would be given over to ourselves. This happened with Pharaoh. We see this in Exodus 8 and 9 where Moses confronts Pharaoh to let God's people go and there are plagues when Pharaoh refuses. Multiple times in chapter 8, the text says, "Pharaoh hardened his heart" (NASB). This occurs in verses 15, 19 and 30. It's interesting to notice that Pharaoh hardened his heart in chapter 8. In chapter 9, we see a difference when it comes to Pharaoh's hardened heart. In 9:7, the Scripture says, "the heart of Pharaoh was hardened" (NASB). This is using a passive voice showing that his heart was hardened by something, or more accurately by Someone. We find the answere in 9:12, where Scripture says, "The LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart" (NASB). Essentially this means that God gave Pharaoh over to himself. That is, God removed the friction and let Pharaoh come to the logical conclusion of the Egyptian king's hardness. And then we see what seems to be a couplet for the hardened heart in 9:34 and 35. In 9:34, the text says of Pharaoh: "he sinned again and hardened his heart" (NASB) where Pharaoh did the hardening. And in 9:35, it says again in the passive voice "Pharaoh's heart was hardened" (NASB) where God gave him over to himself. Pharaoh hardened his heart and God removed the friction and gave him over to himself.

Being given over to oneself is a bad place to be. Romans 1:18-32 describes what happens when God gives ones over to themselves:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

That's not a very good throng to be counted among. Those who harden their hearts against God again and again are given over to themselves and without repentance come to a place of depravity. Just as a car cannot stay on the road without friction, we can slip off into depravity when we dare not embrace the friction God uses to mold us into Christlikeness. Thank goodness for His grace and election and Holy Spirit to keep those who are His on track for we cannot do it in and of ourselves!

Friction hurts, though. Yes, it can. Yes, it does. And sometimes, one must go deeper into it to find release from it. I think about a story I heard of an animal caught in a trap mistakenly. To be released, the animal's leg had to be moved further into the trap before it could be freed. Sometimes, God will use people and circumstances as friction to sanctify you and you may have to go further into it before there is peace. And while we are always in process of sanctification this side of Heaven, if we obey, there is peace in Him. If we submit to God, the devil will flee as is taught in James.

Friction can be good. How many have sharpened knives? Sharpening a knife involves a lot of friction on a whetstone. And to make a sword involves pounding and fire and friction. Proverbs 27:17 (NASB) says, "Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another."

Friction brings about heat. Rubbing sticks together can produce a fire. I sometimes pray that God would revive me and make me "on fire" for Him. That may be a prayer for friction. It may be a prayer to turn the heat up. If a car tire squeals on the road, it gets hot and there is even melting of some of the rubber of the tire when the tire leaves a mark. Out of friction, it leaves some of itself behind. Out of friction, it leaves a mark. When you experience friction, are you leaving a mark? Is it a good mark to leave? Is it a good legacy? Is there something good you are leaving behind and are you growing in Christ through it? When the heat is up, there is opportunity.

Friction can be difficult, but consider 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NASB):

we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed

That sounds like friction to me. Does it to you? Can you take comfort when you struggle, suffer or experience types of friction? You can if you know Jesus Christ. You see, the verses continue in 2 Corinthians 4:10-12 (NASB):

always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.

Do you know Him? Are you hardening your heart only to be given over to yourself and a mind of depravity? Or are you allowing Him to bring you to the end of yourself through the momentary times of friction that you live dependently on Him?

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