Although this was written several years ago, I feel that it is still very relevant today.
For some, 2008 was a year of ups and downs. I can remember at the end of 2007 everyone declaring 2008 as the year of change and prosperity. But as we prepare to ring in 2009, we look at 2008 and see little prosperity and what change we had seemed to be a change for the worse. Companies that have been around for decades and some even over a century had to close their doors. Unemployment hit record levels and people lost their homes due to foreclosure at alarming rates. Some people lost everything they had – saved and unsaved alike. In situations like this, people start to question God. How could He let this happen? Is even still here?
A while back I got an e-mail that really put all of this in perspective for me so I will share it with you today. One day a group of women were in a bible study class and came across a verse that left them puzzled. The verse was Malachi 3:3. It read, “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” Not fully understanding the meaning of this verse, one woman took it upon herself to dig a little deeper. The next day she called a silversmith and made an appointment with him so that she could observe the process of refining silver. As she looked on, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained to her that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were the hottest as to burn away all of the impurities. The woman asked the man if it was true that he had to sit there the entire time the silver was in the fire. His response was yes and not only did he have to sit holding the silver, but he also had to keep his eyes on it the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left in the fire for a moment too long, it would be destroyed by the flames. The woman sat silent for a minute, then asked, “How do you know when the silver is fully refined?” The silversmith smiled at her and answered, “When I see my image in it.”
Some of you may feel like you are in the fire right now. You may have lost your home or your job, your marriage may be falling apart, or every time you try to take a step forward you get knocked ten steps back. Well, there is a message in this story for you. God is sitting as a refiner and purifier of silver. And if you don’t know what it means to refine something, let me tell you. It means to make something better, to make it more effective. You may think things are being taken away from you, but the truth is God is only melting away the impurities so that He can see His image in you and so that He can be glorified through you. You may have lost your house due to foreclosure, but God said take shelter in Him. You may have lost your job and are wondering how you are going to pay your bills, but God said trust in Him. He is Jehovah Jireh, your provider. By taking away our trust and dependency on earthly things, God is molding, reshaping, renewing, and strengthening our trust and faith in Him so that when you come out of the fire (and you will come out), you will be more effective in your witness of Christ Jesus. You will be able to help someone else; because how many of you know that your struggle is not even about you? When you see someone struggling you can tell them that God is there and that He sees what they are going through and that the situation is only temporary. They’ll ask you, “How do you know?” And you can say with confidence, “I know, because He has done it for me!”
The bible tells us in Ecclesiastes chapter 3 that there is a time and purpose for everything under the sun. Sometimes we don’t learn the reason until after the season has passed but nonetheless, I assure you that God has a purpose for everything you are going through. Sometimes the Lord takes things away to make room for something even better. Sometimes He has to break us down just to get our attention. We get so caught up in habit and tradition that we forget to get caught up in the Holy Spirit. God has plans for us but sometimes we miss those plans because we are so wrapped up in the plans that we have for ourselves. But then there are times when we are on track, we do spend our time in worship, we seek God constantly, and we are obedient to His word, yet we still find ourselves being tried in the fire. But saints, even still, know that God has a purpose for this season. Because even though you were good before, God can make you better and even though you were strong before, watch out, because God can make you stronger. We can be thankful that a season is just that. It only lasts a season, it is only a period of time and does not last forever. A poet put it this way:
“Just as winter turns to spring
Our lives have changing seasons too
So when a gloomy forecast comes
Remember – God has plans for you.”
And the plans He has for you are for your benefit. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not harm you, to give you hope and a future.” Don’t be discouraged that you are in the fire right now. Although your circumstance says one thing, the word of God says this in Romans 8:28-30, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” The Message translation puts it like this, “God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.” God has a purpose and a plan for every trial and adverse situation that you are going through today.
Ecclesiastes chapter 3: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” Reading through verses 2 through 8 we see that there is a time for good just like there is a time for the not so good. (I say not so good because even though we are in the fire, we still have much to be thankful for.) Look at the order of the words in verses 3 and 4. We see that breaking down comes before building up, that weeping comes before laughter, that mourning comes before dancing. Just looking at the text alone, we see that sometimes, the bad has to come before the good. So when we see that things are not so good, we can rejoice in knowing that the time for good is coming. You may be weeping right now, but you can still rejoice because the time to laugh is coming. You may be mourning right now, but you can rejoice because the time to dance is on its way. You may be losing now and feel like you have nothing left to lose, but praise God, because His word tells us that there is a time to gain.
However, just because we know that God has a time and purpose for everything, doesn’t mean we are just supposed to sit idle, waiting for change. While the refiner holds us in the fire, there are things that He expects from us and desires for us to do. In Joel 2:12, God says, “Turn to me now, while there is time! Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.” God uses many of our problems and situations to humble us as part of our growth as Christians. Being in the fire puts us in a place where we can hear Him and change our direction. It takes away the distractions that life puts in front of us so that we can truly seek Him with our whole hearts. God wants pure worship from us and sometimes our sacrifices get a little dusty as time goes on. That’s why He will put us back in the fire. He says rend your heart and not your garment. He doesn’t want our material possessions or worldly offerings. He wants us. Just us. Sometimes He will take everything else away so that all we have to give Him is ourselves. Come with fasting He says, to destroy the will of the flesh. Come with weeping to break down the outer image (in other words pride). Come with mourning to bring about passion for change.
Tried in the fire. While we are in the fire, something has to change. Just as in the story of the silversmith, you won’t come out of the fire until His image is seen in you. Don’t let doubt, fear, anger, depression, pride, lust, and so many other sins cloud the image of God that is in you. Leave all of those things in the fire that you may come out pure as refined silver. But this is something we can’t do on our own. Because if we could, those things never would have gotten in the way in the first place. The only way to make it out of the fire, is through Jesus Christ our redeemer. With His blood, He washes away all of those sins so that the image of God can be seen in us.