GOD’S REFINING SHOP

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“Why me, Lord?” We have all asked it. Why  does is always have to rain on my parade? Why did this have to happen to me? Why my child? Why my marriage? Why my job? Why? Why? WHY? 

The answer may be found in an obscure Old Testament passage where God is pictured as

sitting over a refiner’s making silver of His people. Malachi wrote: “And he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness” (3:3).

A woman read this verse in Bible class and was curious enough to seek out a silversmith to see what it meant. She found him sitting before a furnace, gazing intently into a boiling pot. She asked, “Do you have to sit here all the time or just come back when it’s finished?” He replied, “I have to keep my eye on the crucible. If it gets too hot, the silver is injured. I know the process of purifying is completed when I see my own image reflected in the silver.”

The answer to “Why me?” is found in the silversmith’s shop.

THE REFINER’S POT

God values us far more than a prospector does his “mother load,” a miser does his coins, an addict does his fix, or a mother does her newborn (1 Corinthians 3:12; Psalm 116:15; Isaiah 43:4). He wants the best for us and demands the best of us. Just as the refiner’s job is to increase the value of his product by removing impurities, God sees His job as removing the impurities (sin) from us.

Lehman Strauss knew the heartache of suffering. In the midst of dealing with his wife’s stroke, he wrote a book entitled, In God’s Waiting Room: Learning Through Suffering. As he attempted to understand better the events that moved into his life, he likened his experience to childhood memories of his mother making a cake. Dr. Strauss recalled the various ingredients-flour, baking powder, shortening, raw eggs-that went into a cake. By themselves they weren’t very enjoyable snacks, but when properly mixed together and baked for the correct length of time, they collectively produced a delicious dessert. Like the silversmith, the backer knows that the end product is the result of a process, not the individual ingredients.

In our lives we experience ingredients that seem unpalatable, and our temptation is to tell God He’s ruining everything. At those times we will find greater strength and peace when we acknowledge that God knows what He is doing.

What kind of furnace or boiling pot does the Refiner use? He uses the furnace of affliction, physical injury, disease, prolonged sickness (2 Corinthians 12:7-8), difficulty in rearing our children, problems with parents, financial reverses, or other overwhelming cares of life. Such suffering is an effective teacher in the great school of life. Some important lessons are only learned at her feet.

At the same time, God watches to see that the fire never gets so hot that it injures us. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). These things hurt us but they do not permanently injure us-unless we turn from the Refiner.

THE REFINER’S PURPOSE

Amy Carmichael wrote, “A wise master never wastes his servant’s time.” No matter what set of circumstances we receive, God is not wasting our time. He is educating us; He is improving us; He is molding us. A young woman was suffering greatly and confided her frustration to an older Christian friend: “If God loves me as you say He does, why did He make me so?” The older woman replied, “He is making you now.” God’s purpose is to prepare us for heaven.

The Refiner wants to make heaven attractive to us (2 Corinthians 4: 16 -5:1; Hebrews 11:10; Colossians 3:1-2). Paul had suffered perhaps more than any other Christian in the New Testament; he also seems to have been most attracted to heaven. He said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Philippians 1:21-23). One philosopher observed: “It is through our tears that we see the farthest into heaven.” Hard times can build good character (James 1:2-4 1 Peter 1: 7).

The Refiner wants to test our faith (Genesis 22:1). Paul explained, “Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is, If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward, If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). The worthiness of the ship is not determined while it rides at ease in the harbor, but when it rides the waves of a storm. Our faith is worthless if it cannot get us through life’s storms.

The Refiner wants to teach us to appreciate our blessings (Luke 17:17; Colossians 3:15). Domesticated bullfinches are placed in a dark room for several weeks before they learn to sing. When brought into sunlight, the bullfinch’s song is sweeter and more beautiful than it would otherwise be. God often takes us into a dark room of suffering so that when we come back into life’s sunshine, our song of praise will be sweeter than ever before.

The Refiner wants us to learn to comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-7). It is difficult to feel real compassion for someone else if we don’t know what he is going through. But when we have “walked a mile in his moccasins,” we can feel sorry for the one with blisters. Suffering can help us help others. One remarked, “I asked for health that I might achieve I was made weak that I might do better things.”

The Refiner wants us to learn to trust HIm (Luke 14:11; Proverbs 16:18; James 4:10; Jeremiah 10:23). Paul mentioned the lesson he learned by wrestling with his thorn in the flesh. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). His suffering had taught him to rely on God, to trust in divine power. Abraham Lincoln said, “I have often been driven to my knees by the sincere conviction that there was nowhere else to go.”

THE REFINER’S PRODUCT

As the silversmith told the Bible class student, silver is ready when he sees his image in its reflection. God knows we have been purified when He sees His image in our lives. Paul wrote, ” But we all, with open face beholding as a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18; cf. Romans 8:29; Colossians 3:10).

A silversmith may make many pieces over the course of his days, but only a few of them are deemed worthy of display in his own house. God is fashioning of us what he wants to display in His own house. Ralph Waldo Emerson was once approached by a concerned and inquiring person who said, “Mr. Emerson, they tell me that the world is coming to an end.” Emerson calmly replied, “Never mind, we can get along without won’t be concerned with the world and its suffering anymore.


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