Recently, a show aired on television that showed how the ancients refined gold and silver. The refining of metals dates back to 550 BC at Sardis, where the first coins were minted. The refiner would heat the fire to 700 degrees to melt the silver and then pour it into clay jars. The impurities would float to the top and stick to the edges of the pots. How did the refiner know when the silver was pure? He knew when he could see a perfect reflection of himself in the silver.
I have to admit that I often struggle with the knowledge that I have been made in God’s image because at any given time I can take a spiritual look at myself in the mirror and I have yet to see His perfect image staring back at me. After watching this show, it became clear to me that the fact that I do not see His reflection it does not mean that I am not made in His image and it does not mean that I will never see His reflection looking back at me. Refining gold and silver is a process.
Malachi 3:2-3 describes Yeshua’s coming as follows: “For He will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.”
When I accepted Yeshua into my heart, my life changed immediately. My image did not. I became a child of God, but I did not always look like one to those around me, especially in the beginning. The process however commenced immediately.
I look at many circumstances, events – and from time to time – a crisis here and there. In retrospect, I can see that in all of things, God has allowed the heat to be turned up in order to separate the dross from my character by this very process. I am called to reflect grace and mercy, not unkindness and judgment. I am called to reflect courage and faith, not cowardice and fear. I am called to live and walk in integrity, not dishonesty. The purification or refining in my life is a continuous process, one that deepens my dependency on Him, one that brings me into a more intimate relationship with Him, and one that brings me closer to having His reflection look back at me in that spiritual mirror.
Knowing Him is loving Him. Loving Him is doing as He did in the same nature and spirit as He did. His Refiner’s Fire is not limited to the Levites….
When we find ourselves calling upon God to rescue us from the furnace of affliction what we’re really doing is asking Him to save us from an opportunity whose primary function is to bring Him glory and secondary function is to inspire growth in us.
I never find myself asking Him to remove circumstances from my life when they suit me. When things are humming along I’m likely at my happiest though I rarely learn anything in these situations. I guess you could call that “blissful ignorance” and it’s safe to say that I don’t bring much glory to God because my focus becomes self-centred. Candidly speaking, it seems that the longer things go well, the less grateful I am. Why? Because the condition of my spirit begins to degrade – in the Old Testament days that is what they called a “hardened heart”. How many people really spend much time on their knees in worship, praise, prayer and thanksgiving when things are going splendidly?
Then there are those times – when I am being pulled out of the furnace that it seems to me I’m most grateful. It all has to do with mindset – where my focus is – and it’s usually on myself and my comfort rather than God and His promises for my life.
But here’s something new I’d like to try on, (did I just say that?). What would you say if I told you that the best place to practice gratitude is actually in the furnace of affliction? So, why am I not filled with gratitude when God stokes the fire a little? I know that every moment I spend in the furnace results in a spiritual upgrade, but for some reason – the “old man” in me seems to have the ability to resurrect itself when the coals begin to turn red.
Yahweh was in the furnace with Abednego, Meshach Shadrach, but since then He has made atonement for us, He is in us in the furnace – with all-conquering power and glory. Before we even step in there, He knows what the outcome will be and He invites us to come into the fire. I have, on occasion, bowed down to fear rather than accept His invitation.
It’s all in the mindset – like Joshua and Caleb who believed and saw the promise of God while the other ten spies needed see in order to believe. Glory is achieved in the furnace – His and ours. Daniels’ friends stepped into the furnace full on and later came out refreshed and with an attitude of gratitude. God is in our circumstances – we belong with Him.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39 NIV.
There’s something visceral about emotional pain. It can take on a life of its own. If it’s not dealt with quickly and in a healthy way, it can convince us that the situation causing the pain will never stop, that we’ll never stop feeling the way we do right now. Right now seems to be ripping us to shreds. The life of our pain becomes like a parasite, feeding off our emotions, our spirit, then our energy and health. While the pain feeds, we look to fill the voids it is leaves behind – we pursue a seemingly unattainable and illusive hope.
Sometime later, weeks, months or even years, it seems like there’s nothing left of us – all hope seems to have dried up with all the tears we’ve shed. Life is too difficult to bear. The decision to stop the pain is left in our hands and leaves us little choice. We’ve tried everything we know to stop it – therapy, stuffing our feelings down, maybe alcohol, maybe drugs, maybe a little cut here and there. All these things end up being an anchor and, while they helped for a few minutes or even hours, the pain only became worse afterward. We tell ourselves what we’ve been thinking for a long time: “I wish I was dead.”
But we don’t really want to die, do we? We don’t want to live … this way … but we don’t want to die. We want the pain to end. We want someone to fill us, to understand and to love us. We need someone to hold us – someone who understands without our having to explain it. What we really want is to live – not survive – but thrive.
I promise you that there is One who knows, understands and loves us without condition. God never lets a hurt go to waste. He is waits for us to acknowledge Him, to invite Him into our lives. From the moment we began to suffer, He waits for us to call out to Him. His Son, knows all too well our suffering – He suffered for our eternal life. One thing I do know from experience is this: what feels as if it will last forever will not, no matter what our feelings or logic tell us. He has plans for each of us; an early death is not part of His plan. All we have to do is call out His Name and believe. Fight for life.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” Psalm 46:1-3