Proverbs 17:3 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts.
It is in the heat, only in the furnace, that our hearts will reveal the dross still in them. It is only under extreme pressure that some impurities will at last show themselves and rise to the surface that they may be removed. We do not enjoy the fire. No one does. It isn’t pleasant. But it is so wonderfully useful. The truth is we would rather remain un-assaulted by the trials. But then our sins remain hidden, and still dangerous to our own souls as well as to others.
But here is a time to remember what is really going on. For we can vainly imagine that the soul-work of sanctification that the Spirit is about in us is something which is done in an instant, and that without discomfort. How many times have we prayed with our Beloved Paul for God to just take some thorn in the flesh away? I have. But that is the exception, not the rule – even as it was for Paul too. It is in vain that we seek some single experience to jolt us into a higher stage of spiritual growth. We want someone to utter a single powerful prayer and lay the battle against the flesh to rest. A seminar, a book, a sermon, an experience of some sort to short circuit the process and bring about the maturity in Christ we long for. But that is not His way.
Over and over the Divine Refiner returns to His laborious work in us. Heating and reheating, stirring and filtering and searching out those hidden impurities that seem to defy detection one day, only to finally appear the next. All at once, whole chunks of putrid debris float to the surface to be skimmed off by His loving hand – searching always to make us into the finest vessels imaginable.
Creation was child’s play in contrast to the work of re-creation. Nothing in the material universe as created resisted the will of the Maker the way sin in us seeks to wrest control out of His hands at every turn. But He is not about a mere work of fashioning lifeless clay. He is about His crowning achievement. He is undoing infinite damage caused by the Fall and then bringing about new vessels even greater and higher than in our first estate. It is nothing short of the same power exercised to first speak light out of darkness, and then to raise Jesus Himself from the dead. No wonder it seems gargantuan in scope, and requires a breaking up of the deeps. But the promise is worth it.
I am reminded of those insightful words some attribute to J. Oswald Sanders and others say remains anonymous – but speak the truth of these spiritual matters well:
When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses,
And which every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try His splendor out-
God knows what He’s about.