God’s Refining Shop

Introduction:

  1. “Why me, Lord?”  Everyone has at one time or another asked it.  Why does it always have to rain on my parade?  Why are things always happening to me?  Why my family?  Why my children?  Why my job?  Why?  Why?  Why?
  2. The answer is probably found in an Old Testament passage where God is pictured as sitting over a refiner’s fire making silver of His people.  “He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness.”  (Malachi 3:3)
  3. A sister read this passage during a Bible study and was intrigued.  She sought out a silversmith to see if he could shed more light on the passage.
    1. The man was sitting before a crucible, gazing intently into a boiling pot.  She asked, “Do you have to sit here all the time or just come back when it is finished?  Sort of like setting the oven on a temperature and timer?”
    2. He replied, “No.  I have to sit here and keep my eye on it until it is finished.  If the crucible gets too hot, the silver is injured.  I know the process of purifying is complete when I see my own image reflected in the silver.”
  4. The answer to “why me” is found in the Silversmith’s shop.

 

  1. The smelter’s (refiner’s) pot:
    1. God values us more than:
      1. a prospector does his “mother load”
      2. a stingy person does his money
      3. an addict does his fix
      4. a mother does her newborn.
      5. Psalm 116:15; “Precious in the sight of the Lord Is the death of His godly ones.”
      6. Isaiah 43:4; ““Since you are precious in My sight, Since you are honored and I love you, I will give other men in your place and other peoples in exchange for your life.”
    2. We need to acknowledge that God knows what He is doing:
    3. Lehman Strauss, an Old Testament Bible professor, knew first-hand about suffering and heart ache.
        1. His wife had suffered a stroke and in the midst of dealing with it, he wrote a book entitled, In God’s Waiting Room: Learning through Suffering.
        2. As he attempted to better understand the events that moved into his life, he compared his experience to childhood memories of his mother baking cakes.  She used various ingredients:
          1. flour, baking powder, shortening, eggs-
          2. each on of these ingredients on their own do not taste good on our palate
          3. but once they are mixed together and baked for the proper length of time, they collectively produced a delicious desert.
        3. In our lives we experience ingredients that seem unpalatable, and our temptation is to tell God that He is ruining everything.
        4. at those times we find greater strength and peace when we acknowledge that God knows what He is doing.
      1. What kind of furnace does the Refiner use?  He uses the furnace of:
        1. affliction
        2. physical injury
        3. disease
        4. prolonged sickness (Corinthians 12:7-8;  “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.”)
        5. difficulty in raising our children
        6. problems with parents
        7. financial disaster
        8. etc.
        9. This kind of suffering is an effective teacher of life.  Some important lessons are only learned at her feet.
        10. “I walked a mile with Pleasure, she chattered all the way;
          But left me none the wiser, for all she had to say.
          I walked a mile with Sorrow and ne’er a word said she;
          But, oh, the things I learned from her, when Sorrow walked with me!  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.”  (Robert Browning Hamilton)
  2. The Smelter’s Purpose
  1. God does not waste our time.
    1. Amy Carmichael (missionary in India) wrote, “A wise master never wastes his servant’s time.”
    2. No matter what set of circumstances we receive, God is not wasting our time.  He is educating us; improving us; molding us.
    3. A young Christian was suffering and complained to an older Christian woman, “If God loves me as you say, why then does He make me so?”  The elderly lady replied, “God’s purpose is to prepare us for heaven.”
  2. The Refiner wants to make heaven attractive to us:
    1. 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1.
    2. Philippians 1:21-23.
    3. Hebrews 11:10.
    4. Colossians 3:1-2.
  3. The Refiner wants to test our faith (Genesis 22:1; 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 is it cannot get us through life’s storms.
  4. The Refiner wants to teach us to appreciate our blessings (Luke 17:17-ten cleansed only one returned; Colossians 3:15).
    1. Bullfinches are placed in a darkroom for several weeks before they learn to sing.  Once they are brought out into the sunlight, their song is much sweeter and beautiful.
    2. God often takes us into a dark room of suffering so that when we come back into life’s sunshine, our song will be sweeter than before.
  5. God wants to teach us to learn to comfort others (1 Corinthians 1:3-7).
    1. It is almost impossible to feel compassion for someone if we don’t know what he is going through.  It is only when we have passed through the Refiner’s crucible that we can truly understand the sufferings of others.
    2. The Refiner wants us to learn to trust Him (Luke 14:11; Proverbs 16:18; James 4:10; Jeremiah 10:23; 2 Corinthians 12:9).  Abraham Lincoln said, “I have often been driven to my knees by the sincere conviction that there was nowhere else to go.”

Conclusion:  The Refiner’s product:

  1. Just like the refiner told the Bible class student, silver is ready when he sees his image in its reflection.  God also looks to see His image in our lives.  Paul said, “But we all, with open face beholding as in 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).
  2. A silversmith will make many pieces over the course of his career, but only a few of them are deemed worthy of display in his own house.
  1. God is fashioning of us what He wants to display in His own house.
  2. 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 it.’When God finishes refining us, we all will be very happy ‘doing without’ this world and its suffering.
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