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Refiner's Fire: Life is Hard But God is Good

Life is hard. It’s a well known fact. Even the Dread Pirate Roberts says,

“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who tells you differently is selling you something.”  (Princess Bride, William Goldman).

And you might rightly ask, “Why? I’m a God-fearing, bible reading, church going believer. God has saved me from my sin. His Son, Jesus died for me, so that I might be saved. His grace covers me. Where is the abundant life? Why is life still hard?”

My usual answer to that question is that we live in a fallen world that displays the result of sin. Ever since the fall in the Garden of Eden, things have been going downhill. Everything has been affected by that choice made so long ago. And the enemy is still at work in this world seeking to destroy everyone in his path. 

So, even though we have personally been saved through the work of Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection, we still live in a fallen world. We still struggle against our own heart of flesh. 

His work brings us into the state of grace, no longer condemned but pardoned. Justified as the righteousness of Christ Himself covers us. 

This establishes a right relationship between us and God. But He doesn’t just leave us we are when we come to Christ warts and all, He begins the work of sanctification in our lives. 

In his Systematic Theology, A. H. Strong gives us such great illustration of this: 

The steamship whose machinery is broken may be brought into port and made fast to the dock. She is safe, but not sound. Repairs may last a long time. Christ begins to make us both safe and sound.  Justification gives the, sanctification gives the second...soundness.

So where does this leave us? Not without help, girlfriend! And I, for one, am so thankful that we have the Holy Spirit to guide us through the trials conquer the remaining sinful nature of the flesh , even as we continue to struggle against it. 

The goal is a pure heart as we are told in Matthew 5:8, 

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 

Purity is something we do not achieve through our own sweat and blood. It does not come about through sheer determination and work on our part. It’s a heart issue. But how does the heart become pure? How do God’s ways become the strongest desire of my heart? 

Remove the dross from the silver, and a silversmith can produce a vessel ~Proverbs 25:4. 

It is God who does the refining. To refine is to purify. In Biblical times, the refiner would put the silver ore into a melting pot and then into a furnace with flames hot enough to burn off the ‘dross’...the impurities that keep the silver from being turned into a useful vessel.  I found it interesting when I looked up the word ‘dross’...

The Oxford English dictionary as this:

  • foreign matter, dregs, or mineral waste, in particular scum formed on the surface of molten metal.

  • something regarded as worthless; rubbish.

God uses this ‘word picture’ of the refiner’s fire throughout scripture, as it correlates to our faith being refined through painful trials. And as He removes the dross, the worthless rubble from our lives that keep us from being useful vessels, He purifies our hearts and they become more and more a vessel of His love. Yes, it is a necessary process in the life of the Christ follower. 

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart. ~ Proverbs 17:3

See, I have refined you, though not as silver: I have tested you in the fire of affliction. ~ Isaiah 48:10

We are even told not to be surprised when we encounter the fire of affliction and trials. 

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 

~ 1 Peter 4:12

This refining process, though it can be painful, is a necessary part of our lives. Our character is refined, and we become a reflection of His grace and mercy. 

One more word about this…because, to some, it may seem to be a cruel thing for our God to put us into the fire of affliction and leave us there. 

Accept that He does not leave us there. Oh no, my friend. He sits with us there! 

But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. ~ Malachi 3:2-3a

Just as God spoke to Job from the midst of the storm, He sits with us in the refining fire of our trials on this earth. He did not leave Job and He will not leave us!  

Not only is His presence assured, but His purpose is not to harm us. He, as the Word and the refiner’s fire, burns out the power of sin in our lives. He removes the desire, by removing those habits that keep us from walking in step with His word. Be’s a process, not a once and done deal. 

Because we are assured of His very presence as He does His work in our hearts, our response to this process can be, as Peter and James say: 

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith- more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire- may be found to result in praise and glory  and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  ~ 1 Peter 1: 6-7,(ESV).

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.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 

~ James 1:2-4

I want to be mature and complete, not lacking anything. Don’t you? 

So what will it take? 

Surrender...let the refining fire of God’s fierce love sweep over you and do it’s transforming work in your heart.  And trust the One who has your heart in His hands.  As the Psalmist says, 

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls: 

 all your waves and breakers have swept over me. 

By day the LORD directs his love, 

at night his song is with me

…a prayer to the God of my life. 

Why are you downcast, O my soul? 

Why so disturbed within me? 

Put your hope in God, For I will yet praise Him, 

My Savior and my God. ~Psalm 42:7, 8, 11.

I’ve come to understand that is hard. Through the many trials I have endured in this life, I have learned to place my trust in Him. And through it all I’ve come to the resounding conclusion that in spite of the difficulties of this life…

God is good! 


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