Into the Furnace

Heat. Overwhelming heat. Thousands of degrees of heat.

Within four walls of solid, blackened rock. And an immovable door.

Not to mention flames — burning, hungry fire that burns and sears and scorches.

Sound pleasant? Well, it’s the best thing that could happen to your spiritual walk.

Job 23:10 says, “But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.”

1 Peter 1:6-7 — “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ…”

And Psalm 66:10 says, “For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.”

fire

Fire in the Bible is used as this image of something that licks out all impurities, that burns out all of the useless bits and leaves only the good. The point is that sometimes God does that same cleansing in our lives.

Before writing this post, I had never taken the time to look up what all is involved in purifying metals like silver and gold. Why do precious metals end up in fire so often, at least in the Bible?

What I found out is that gold has a really crummy life.

First, the poor gold is ripped out of the ground and smashed into small pieces. Then it is melted down in those flames into a liquid that can be worked with.

Next, to get out all that is mixed in with the gold, it is stuck back into that furnace and melted again so that all the impurities can be scraped off. For the really, really pure gold, the bars are melted down yet again after that! Finally, it can be shaped into those bright, flawless bars of gold that I have only seen in movies.

According to the Bible, we are that gold, or our faith is that gold. Look back at 1 Peter 1. The fire that God uses when purifying us is made up of various trials. We are stuck in this world with some painfully, searingly hard times. But they are used for our benefit and God’s glory.

Romans 5 tells us we should, “glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” In other words, trials are God’s way of teaching us and building in us a closer likeness to that person He designed us to be.

Yet, I know that I am always seeking the easy life. “Lord, please don’t let that happen to me!” is an almost constant prayer. “Please point me in the direction with the least struggle.”

But according to these verses, when trials happen, rather than asking God how to get out of it, we should be asking, “Lord, what can I learn from this?” That furnace described at the beginning that we so often feel ourselves sweating through wasn’t built for our destruction. God allowed us to be placed in it for the growth of our faith.

For visual proof, think again about gold. If the gold (assuming it had thoughts, emotions, and a will) refused to go through that fire, if it refused to be completely and totally melted, the gold would be almost worthless. The beauty and the value could never be fully brought out.

And in 1 Peter 1:6-7, we see that a genuine faith, faith that is cleansed of selfish will, lack of trust, or any other impurities, is worth more than any amount of gold.

Trials, while they’re painful, while they’re miserable, while they make us powerless, they are an opportunity to let God work in us, to refine us by His master hand. Like an expert goldsmith, He knows what temperatures we can handle and He knows exactly how to shape us. But we have to be willing to let Him. We have to be willing to let Him work in us through the trials.

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