Refiner's Fire

Updated: Sep 6, 2021

In his letter, where Peter praises God for our hope in Christ, he invites us to penetrate into the essence of trials:


Rejoice about this, having grieved now a little, if necessary, from various temptations, so that your tried faith may turn out to be more precious than gold that is perishing, although tested by fire, to praise and honor and glory in the appearance of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1: 6-7)


Although Peter writes this primarily to a group of Christians in persecution, the principle he gives has universal application. In fact, we will all "get thrashed." I have not known a single person who would have gone through life without pain, difficulties and hardships.


I have met people who have developed all kinds of ideas and models for a victorious Christian life. I have met people who have adhered to a positive confession that says, "If you just follow this approach, declare these statements, study these teachings, you will truly become a spiritual superman who can deal with problems in one fell swoop."


But my experience over the years - I've looked at these approaches, studied the Scriptures, and checked the evidence of what's really going on in the world - has shown that everyone "gets thrashed." Everyone has problems in their personal life, in their families or at work. It doesn't matter how positive they are or how much attention they pay to teachings or statements.


In fact, it is my belief that God not only allows such trials to come our way, but from time to time He even sends us difficulties as part of our strengthening and cleansing process. Blessings alone will not bear the fruit He expects. He has to send some trials to achieve His goals in our lives. Often it is precisely those difficulties and trials that cause the most complete surrender to God. Often it is pain that makes us want (even thirsty!) To learn, change, and grow.


Thus, on the one hand, we are on a long journey to the promised land, the fullness of life in the kingdom of heaven. But at the same time, when God is concerned with the issue of our coming to heaven, He is also concerned with the fact that heaven should enter into us.


Peter teaches that we grow in Christian character through the trials that adverse circumstances bring into our lives. We are cleansed: clean in our thoughts, attitudes and ministry. We are strengthened in faith. All in order to fulfill Christ's purpose of creating new men and women to reflect His character. James 1: 2 says that we should "accept with great joy ... when we fall into various temptations." Why? Because “knowing that the testing of our faith produces patience” (v. 3). Thus, testing is an integral part of the character building process.


Jeremiah chapter forty-eight contains an instructive example of what it means for God to take an active part in changing our lives:


“Moab has been at rest from youth,

like wine left on its dregs,

not poured from one jar to another—

she has not gone into exile.

So she tastes as she did,

and her aroma is unchanged.

12 But days are coming,”

declares the Lord,

“when I will send men who pour from pitchers,

and they will pour her out;

they will empty her pitchers

and smash her jars. (Jer. 48: 11-12)


These images refer to the process of making wine during the ancient world. During fermentation and aging, a kind of sediment collects at the bottom of the wine vessel. This was called "yeast" (sediment in English.). If the wine is allowed to sit on the yeast for too long, it will become bitter and cloudy. Therefore, from time to time, the winemaker pours wine from one vessel to another, leaving more and more sediment in the old vessel.


You may have met people who did not allow the Lord to pour them from vessel to vessel, who resisted his attempts to change their circumstances. The taste and aroma of their life becomes bitter. It is the same with me and you. Our circumstances leave a residue, and if we get bogged down in it for too long, we can become bitter. Even if the prospect seems difficult to us, we must learn not to resist when God seeks to promote our growth through trials.


The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, touching upon the topic of punishment (“For is there any son whom the father would not punish?”), Clearly says that trials are allowed so that we grow: “Any punishment now seems to be not joy, but sorrow; but afterwards it brings forth the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been taught through him ”(12: 7, 11).


The obvious implication of this is that we should not be surprised when difficulties come. Difficulties are promised in Scripture. This is exactly what Peter says in his letter: “Beloved! fiery temptation sent to you for testing, do not shy away from adventures that are strange for you, but as you participate in Christ's sufferings, rejoice ... ”(1 Peter 4: 12-13). Rejoice. Consider all of this a joy. Welcome the challenges that come.


I think that only a few of us have reached a place where we truly and truly rejoice during our trials. "Oh, nice! Here comes another fight! " But we miss so much when we avoid or flee the challenges and trials that are presented to us to test and strengthen our character. Only after they work on us can we become effective representatives of the kingdom of God.


In Exodus we read about how the Israelites approached the waters of Marah. They did not want to drink from these waters, because they tasted bitter and caused a condition similar to dysentery. But the point is, those waters were part of God's provision for the Israelites. After a while, they began to suffer from a loss of strength, which could have been avoided if they had allowed the waters of Mera to do their job.


The fact is that you and I need to learn to accept even the bitter-tasting things that come to us from God, and to believe that He does what He does, and that our temporary inconvenience is intended to provide everything we need. and strengthen us for the challenges we will face in the future.


The more we want to grow, the more we must expect trials. It's hard for a culture that values ​​carelessness and comfort, prosperity and self-realization so highly. But looking at our example, Jesus Christ, we see that trials pursued Him at every step, and ended on the cross.


Is character building in the kingdom of God worth all of these difficulties? Is personal sacrifice and discipline, perseverance during trials, obedience in the matter of loss of reputation and success worth it? The answer is yes! “Blessed is the man who endures temptation, because, having been tested, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).


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