He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, Mal 3:3
My last blog was on being refined. But there’s so much good stuff I’ve been learning. I can’t stop with just one post!
So for this blog, I investigated how silver was refined in the olden days. I found out it was a pretty arduous process of putting the silver ore over a blazing hot fire and keeping it there until the impurities have separated and burned away.
If that is a metaphor for how God purifies his people, it doesn’t sound like fun!
Does God refine the all of us like this, or was it just the Levites at that time in history?
In I Peter 1, Peter talked about the many “grievous trials” the first Christians endured, “These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
It sounds like the refining of faith through testing is a process God likes to use for Christians.
Rats. I wish I was like James, thinking it’s great when there are challenges! “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3
But more often I want to avoid the unpleasantness. I haven’t been blogging partly because I had several bouts of depression. When I’m depressed, I feel like a failure. The voices of self-accusation are so loud! It is very hard to feel like I am pleasing God.
And I’ve also been ADD. My mind has been like a bee flitting from flower to flower, and not able to land in one place for long. Plus, I’ve been working through the emotional fallout from some situations that upset me.
Is this refining? It’s been making me feel like I’m becoming more unspiritual, not more spiritual!
It’s funny to me — last night we were talking at house church about the widow who gave two mites, and I saw how ironic it was that Jesus commended this woman who probably didn’t look sharp or well put together, and derided the teachers of the law who did look sharp and well put together. (Mark 12:38-44)
In my own life, I tend to think I need to feel and look like I have everything under control. But maybe that’s not what God is seeking.
We can see what God is seeking by looking at the process of refining metal. If God purifies us like silver, the following things are going to happen:
- We’re going to feel the heat! Refinement can’t happen if the temperature is just pleasantly warm. In the same way, we’re not going to progress if it’s too easy and comfortable. God’s going to put us right over the fire!! “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” II Cor 1:9
- We’re going to think it never ends. Refinement isn’t an instant chemical reaction. It takes a good while for all of the impurities to burn away. So we can’t expect to learn what we need to learn in a quick trial. God works through processes. “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-4
- We’re going to be in a controlled situation. A silversmith has to keep a constant eye on the refining process to see when the impurities are burned off, and when he needs turn off the heat. If he exposes it to fire too long, the silver can oxygenate too much and it will be unworkable. In the same way, God doesn’t just expose us to heat and go off and do other things, like we do with a pot on the stove. He monitors and protects us. He gets us through at just the right time. “And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” I Cor 10:13
- We’re going to get radiant!! The end product, purified silver, is so shiny, it’s like a mirror. In Ephesians 5:29 it says that Jesus gave his life so the church could be radiant. So what does it mean to be radiant? It means we’ve quit our whining and bellyaching and started trusting God completely! “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure …Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.” Phil 2:14-15
The upshot of this is that we start trusting God completely because the trials have made us realize the worthlessness of our own efforts and of the unspiritual things we’ve been relying on.
We’re studying the Bible right now with a woman who’s been through some really harrowing stuff in her life. At this point in time she sees clearly that all of the things she’s been chasing are empty. She told us that she is so sick of it all that she is ready to throw in the towel and give her life to God.
She’s going to God as the source. That’s what I’m learning to do as well. When I’m feeling weak, I’m seeing that I’ve got to rely more on the Spirit.
“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:13
When I’m feeling down, I’m remembering that His grace is sufficient, and that will get me through.
“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” II Cor 12:9
When I have a sticky situation, instead of wracking my brain, I praying more, expecting God to help me work it out.
In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Ps 5:3
Instead of freaking out at a challenge, I’m taking a deep breath, accepting it, and asking God what he is trying to teach me.
He wakens my ear to listen like those who are being taught. Isa 50:4
It’s true, I do feel a bit haggard and worn lately – a little like a widow with two mites myself! But I’m learning to find peace.
I’m learning that God is the god of the broken, of those who are travel-stained and stumbling on the road. I’m learning that God doesn’t want us to always look impressive, and be able to pat ourselves on the back.
This statement resonates with me, “We miss the gospel of God: the good news that although the holy and all-powerful God knows we are but dust, He still stoops to breath into us the power of life – to bring to our wounds the balm of acceptance and love.” (Rich Mullins)
The gospel is that we who are dust, who feel the burden of our failings, can be healed, refined, made radiant. It’s counter intuitive, but it is pure joy to undergo the grueling process of trials, because the end is so wonderful.
Still, the end product may not look like we think — us looking all sharp and well put together. Instead, we become joyful beggars, exchanging our dross for riches with a loving savior who is happy to provide.
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich. Rev. 3:18
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed . . . Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. II Cor 4:8-9, 16-17