To refine is to purify. Throughout history, gold has been refined by melting. Diamonds require a deep boiling process in a combination of caustic solvents. Silver, too, requires fire and heat.
Thought: Did you know that God thinks of us as jewels? (see Zechariah 9:16, ESV)
For the past year, we have been aroused from the denial and stupor of routines and schedules which (we thought) kept our lives sane. As schools remain closed, masks continue to be mandated, we have had to face a jarring reality.
Daily life, in whatever form most of us had always known it, has drastically changed.
Fire in Daily Living
This new normal continues to feel at times like mental and emotional whiplash. My thoughts recently turned to the late philosopher and theologian Francis Schaeffer, who in 1976, published, How Shall We Then Live?, a compilation of lectures on the rise and fall of Western civilization.
One of Schaeffer’s many valid insights, which may have been embarrassingly revealed to many of us in the last year, is that the promises of personal peace and affluence were the greatest threats to evangelical faithfulness. Psalm 107 provides a very condensed version of our fickle relationship with God since time began.
When God blesses our lives with His favor, we have a tendency to begin to stray from Him and become ungrateful…and then demanding.
Fire Reveals Dross
For instance, I was disconcerted and quite convicted to discover how quickly my irritation level rose after the normalcy of my life had been disrupted for a couple of months. Ultimately, as the proverbial light at the tunnel grew more dim each passing week, my tolerance for the changes waned, too.
Impatience, anger and annoyance became new, unwanted companions. But was it new, or had it merely been hidden by a season of complacency? Did my sinful attitudes, (let’s call it what it was!) have more to do with my growing spiritual laziness than the inconveniences of lockdowns and masks?
Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 15 for honoring God with their mouths and by their traditions, but not from their hearts. He then told His followers,
It is not what enters the mouth that defiles the person, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles the person...But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and those things defile the person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, acts of adultery, other immoral sexual acts, thefts, false testimonies, and slanderous statements. These are the things that defile the person; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the person. (NAS)
Truly, it’s an age-old problem. However, to me and perhaps to you, it’s too often shockingly easy to fall into the trap of continuing to ‘talk the talk’ after I’ve ceased tending to my heart. Perhaps even long after. That’s dross, better known as sin.
When the Holy Spirit convicts, and I hesitate to confess my sin, I become susceptible to the next temptation to yield to the enemy…and the next.
Be assured, before a well-known Christian leader is ever exposed for secret sin, the loving, convicting Spirit of the Father made numerous attempts to convict and call him back to Himself. And He does the same for you and me.
The Fire Touches Each of Us
Any situation, individual, church, community or nation can reach a point when our Father, who loves us with an everlasting love, must burn away the dross of sin. Refining requires fire.
I will bring the third part through the fire,
Refine them as silver is refined,
And test them as gold is tested.
They will call on My name,
And I will answer them.
I will say, ‘They are My people’;
And they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’
(Zechariah 13:9, NAS)
Fire for the Father’s Purpose
Do you see what the Father’s end result is from our refining process? His testing is never arbitrary or capricious. The Bible repeatedly reveals a Father calling His people to Himself. He woos them through various means until finally, He must use refining measures. His desire, however, is for us to say, ‘The Lord is my God and we are His people!’
There are several examples in Scripture of God’s refining, but this one intrigues me. In Psalm 66:10-12, (NAS) the Psalmist begins, ends, and spends the majority of the chapter resoundingly, joyously praising the name and attributes of God. At the halfway point, there are three verses that, at first glance, seem more fitting for a Psalm of lament.
For you have tried us, O God;
You have refined us as silver is refined.
You brought us into the net;
You laid an oppressive burden upon our loins.
You made men to ride over our heads;
We went through fire and through water,
Yet, You brought us out into a place of abundance.
Where did that come from?!
Praise for the Fire
The Psalmist has been caroling the praises of God and making His awesome works known. He invites others to “come and see the works of God, who is awesome in His deeds toward the sons of men.” Furthermore, he instructs others to bless God, “Who keeps us in life and does not allow our feet to slip.”
But, he said, by the way, it hasn’t always been good times. Moreover, he continues, You allowed us to go through fiery trials. We thought we might drown from the sorrow and pain.
Fire For Pure Silver
How could the Psalmist go seamlessly back into praise after this brief relating of such traumatic events?
Because the Psalmist had complete trust in the Lord, in His faithfulness, and in His love. He could suffer the hardships. His eyes were fixed on the character of God. Therefore, he was convinced that God’s desire for His people is always to ultimately bring us into a place of abundance, (see Ps. 66:12).
In addition, the Psalmist knew that without fire, there is no refining.
Remove the impurities from silver, and a vessel will be produced for a silversmith. Proverbs 25:4, HCSB.
Refining fire removes the impurities from our hearts. Submission to God leads to purity of heart. Abundant life in Christ follows obedience.
How To Navigate Refining
- There are no easy formulas, but always the place to begin is daily time alone with the Lord in the Word.
- Write down what you learn about Him and about you. If you don’t know and trust Him, it’s very difficult to hold onto Him when the refining fire is hot.
- Prayer. Designated time with your Father, absolutely.
- But also conversational prayer all day.
- Listen for His voice. Write down what His Spirit whispers to your spirit.
- DO what He tells you to do. If it’s repent, repent. If it’s write a note, write a note. You get my drift.
In addition, rejoice! You will not be acting on your own strength.
His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3) HCSB