Kidder’s Column

The Molten Moment

Joseph Kidder, DMin, is professor of Christian ministry and discipleship at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, MI, USA.

Not long ago I was talking to some young people who asked me why there is little mention today of character development. In an era when behavioral psychology (which teaches us that character is the influence of our environment) is dominant, when moral relativism has settled across the land like a thick fog so that there are no absolutes of rights and wrongs, and when media laughs at the notion of character, it should not surprise us that there is no serious talk of its development. But we all need to grow in character, and that growth only happens intentionally. The opportunities for growth are constant; catch them, and character development is yours. 

I once visited a rolling mill where they created an unparalleled seamless tube. I saw a great serpent of molten metal come slithering down; the machine would grab it by its ends and begin to spin it. By centrifugal force, that bar of molten metal would open from the inside out, forming a perfect tube of steel without seam or blemish. 

The operator said, “The most important stage of the process is the temperature of the metal, the molten moment. If it is too hot, it will fly apart; if it is too cold, it will not open as it should. Unless you catch the molten moment, you can’t make the perfect tube.” Unless we catch the molten moments when character can develop, we will miss our opportunity, just as the disciples did in Gethsemane.

Jesus took three of His disciples into a special place in the Garden to pray with Him and encourage Him; instead, they feel asleep three times. In agony after finding them the first time, Jesus asked, “Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:40, 41, NKJV). The disciples had the opportunity to see how Jesus handled suffering and how He faced ugliness head-on, not running from it or denying it but confronting it and defeating it. In observing Him, they could have learned about courage, patience, hope, endurance, mercy, and boldness. All of these priceless lessons could have been theirs, but they slept and missed the opportunity to grow. 

I don’t know what constitutes a molten moment for you. Perhaps it is your own suffering or the death of someone you love. Maybe it is an inner urge you can’t explain, the example of someone you admire, a bit of Scripture, a letter from a parent or a friend, or the words of a sermon. Whatever it is, it suddenly causes within you the desire to expand your character beyond what it was. Claim that moment. Don’t sleep through it. Jesus said to the disciples, “Watch and pray, lest you, yourselves, enter into temptation.” 

At a church function, I saw a man crying. He told me that the breakfast and worship that day reminded him of the things his recently-deceased wife had enjoyed but that he had been unwilling to do. She loved to get involved in church activities and social functions, but he didn’t. She loved to go out to dinner; he wanted to save money. She wanted to go for walks; he wanted to stay home and watch TV. He said to me, “I wish I could go back in time and do the things she loved to do and be a better man for her. I missed my opportunity to grow and become more like Jesus; instead, I put my needs ahead of hers.” Many priceless memories could have been his, but he slept and missed his opportunity to grow.

What happens when we stay awake, listen to God’s voice, and earnestly follow His leading? Recently a woman told me about her brother and his struggle with God. He grew up knowing Him, but because of a crisis, he drifted away. A few months ago, she felt compelled to speak to her brother. For a while she resisted because she thought he wouldn’t be interested, but she finally decided to do it anyway. She had a heart-to-heart talk with him and urged him to make things right with God. She implored him, “You never know what will happen to you. Leave your resentment, bitterness, and anger and start over.” After a long talk, he broke down and gave his heart to God again. In the following weeks, he experienced a transformation of character. He started going to church, praying, reading his Bible, and becoming more like Jesus. One Sabbath after going for a walk, he said to her, “I have not had peace for a long time, but today I did. I had one of the best days of my life.” On Sunday, he drove his car to work. Fifteen minutes from home, he was in a fatal car accident. Though his sister grieves, she rejoices that she had the opportunity to lead him again to Christ. She said to me, “What would have happened if I hadn’t talked to him about Jesus that day and he had remained unchanged? I am so glad I did and glad he responded positively. It was a golden moment that would never be repeated.” 

S. Joseph Kidder is professor of church growth and leadership at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA.

Joseph Kidder, DMin, is professor of Christian ministry and discipleship at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, MI, USA.