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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, December 07 2023

The refiner's fire

God compares the process of our conversion and overcoming to metal being purified and refined in a fire. Psalm 66 states, “For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver…we went through fire and through water; but You brought us out to rich fulfillment” (Psalm 66:10-12).

When I was a child our family lived near copper mining and smelting operations, and as an adult I worked at copper smelters in both New Mexico and Tennessee. Copper ore is a mineral, and large deposits can have less than 1 percent purity and still be commercially viable. That means that over 99 percent of what is mined must eventually be removed and cast aside but, because of the value of the purified metal, it is worth expending the tremendous amount of labor and energy required to obtain it.

God created both the metals and their process of refinement, and He uses it as a lesson for us. We are to be pure. Christ’s return to the earth is portrayed as: “... who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver…that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness” (Malachi 3:2-3).

The book of Proverbs includes the observation, “Take away the dross from silver, and it will go to the silversmith for jewelry” (Proverbs 25:4). Dross is the scum of impurities that separates and floats on top of the molten metal. Once the dross has been removed the silver can be formed into something of value.

Each of us needs the shed blood of Jesus Christ applied to our sins to be justified or made right before God. Purification takes place throughout our lives. It involves casting off the works of our flesh which afflicts us, and bearing the fruit of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:19-23).

Enduring and overcoming difficult and stressful circumstances is an important part of our lives: “In this you greatly rejoice, though…you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold which perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love... yet believing, you rejoice…receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:6-9).

My wife, Michelle, had a very difficult delivery with our first child. She had to endure 20 hours of hard labor because our daughter’s position in the womb prevented her birth. As those hours slowly passed, Michelle began to weaken and we cried out for God to intervene. We knew He could easily move our daughter just a little and we wondered why He did not seem to be responding to our need.

Our daughter had to finally be delivered by surgery and it was only then the doctor realized Michelle had a serious medical condition. The placenta was not detaching from the uterus. If a normal delivery had taken place, Michelle might have bled to death before the resulting tear in the uterine wall could have been addressed. God is always there, in complete control, even though we may not always understand. We must learn to hold on to the assurance that God’s desire is for our blessing, even when our faith is being tested.

Habakkuk, the prophet, cried out against the increasing wickedness of his time and the trials and suffering of the righteous. God’s response was: “...the just shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4), and Habakkuk was reminded of the ultimate outcome for humanity: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (verse 14). After this assurance Habakkuk’s response is striking: “Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the field yields no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls—yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

God knows our needs, and He works with us through the choices we make in a loving and personal way. Unfortunately we may sometimes hold on to the things we most need to cast away: our anger and bitterness over some slight or injustice; the selfish use of our time and resources; or our pursuit of material comforts and pleasures ahead of seeking God’s ways.

God declared seven times in the book of Revelation, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (chapters 2 and 3), and He exhorted the church of Laodicea to “... buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eyesalve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:18-19).

God is holy and perfect, and we must be refined and purified in order to be like Him. This process becomes evident in our lives when we face various trials and tests, and learn to trust God and take comfort in His goodness and love.