Recently, we have been faced with the challenges that life brings to all of us. You know those challenges that are not a respecter of persons, those challenges that affect both believers and nonbelievers alike. Of course, for me the first question that comes to mind when I face these land mines of life is to ask myself is there some area in life that I am not being obedient? Is the Father trying to get my attention because I am not paying attention or distracted? While one or even both of the aforementioned questions could be an issue is it what I am supposed to focus on? Like Isaiah many of us won’t see the wretched state we are in until whatever or whoever we have set up as King in our lives is dead.1 I know that like Isaiah, there could be someone or something blocking me from seeing Him. In fact, is it possible these challenges have an independent significance far greater than the issue being presented?
The Breaking Point
Recently, I had an enlightening conversation with a friend about the process gold undergoes to be refined. It got me to thinking how we are refined also through affliction. Think of us as that metal before refining, we are full of soot, have more issues then we can name, and our thoughts are more vial then those things we actually say and do. Like gold the amount of time it takes for us to be purified is based on the amount of junk in us that needs to be separated. Imagine if just the things that go through your mind was displayed on a billboard, could you imagine how embarrassing that would be? While I am thankful, that isn’t the case the simple fact of the matter is, the Father knows what we are thinking, and He is the most important one we need to concern ourselves with.2 So, here we are with all our junk being brought to God’s refinery. Isn’t it scripture that tells us that YHWH will refine us as is silver, and try us as is gold?3 Though I can’t speak for the gold, refining for us is a humbling experience. It makes you re-evaluate the things you thought you knew and understood and challenges you to bring you to the point that you realize that you have no answers, and therefore you have to rely on the One who is The Answer. However, you don’t want to stop or forsake the process, because if a refiner stops before the process is complete then the quality of his product will be compromised. It will retain many of its flaws and forfeit the quality and purity of the product.
This summer this process really hit home for me as we entered this season with a broken air conditioner, no insulation, and a leaking roof. In my desperate attempt to circumvent the process I have priced materials, and researched technology hoping to find a quick fix to my dilemma so that I could quickly exit this lesson in humility. To no avail, the Father helped me realize it would not be in my best interest to get out before the process is complete. Like gold tried in fire our bodies also undergo purification through heat. Our skin is the largest organ of the body and while sweating buckets of water is offensive to those standing around you, it also has a natural inclination to repel that which is not profitable to completing the process. Sometimes, we need to be separated from some people and some situations so that we can more clearly see the direction God is leading us to. Just as we saw in the case of Isaiah, there is a possibility we don’t hear from the Father because of that person or thing that we have made king in our lives. The natural inclination is to bypass or forsake the process in hopes that we can just get to the relief. However, by having that mentality we become carbon copies of the medical establishment, we put out blinking warning signs, but don’t fix the problem. Don’t get me wrong pain medication and all those things has its place, just remember its place is based on renting not buying, and as long as you don’t confuse a hotel room with a lease with the option to buy you won’t find yourself making the temporary fix your permanent place of residence.
While we don’t want toxins in our body, or unprofitable fat on our flesh, we also don’t want to go through the separation stage required to get there, and you can’t maintain one without going through the other. I don’t know what gold smells like in a refinery, but I can tell you hot flesh doesn’t smell pleasant. Yet, in the midst of it I have recognized some beneficial benefits. Last week I was having disturbing sharp pains in various parts of my body that I don’t have anymore. Apart from minor dietary changes the only two major things that happened that could explain its disappearance is a heartfelt repentance for holding unforgivenness in my heart at which I felt a release took place, and the bringing in of sweltering heat causing massive buckets of sweat being purged from my body. One was a Spiritual act on my part to submit to the process, the other was a physical purging brought about by God through the radiant rays of His Sun, pun intended, to remove that which is unprofitable for me, waste. While this process is uncomfortable, it is a necessary conflict to bring us to maturity.4
Surely, the servant is not greater than the Master and the Master learned obedience through suffering. That is a sober thought to consider. How much more, must we be broken and tried through the fire to come out shiny? Please don’t misunderstand me I am not glorifying the process, but appreciate the fact that at the other end of the process is the victory. Consider this without opposition or adversity what would cause an ordinary man to do extraordinary things? In other words conflict is necessary to every hero, because without it he couldn’t be one. So, I’m not saying conflict isn’t in our lives as a result of disobedience, because that could be it, but it could also be apart of the journey to our breakthrough. So, yes living without air has caused me to seek Him for relief from the heat. It is making me like that Proverbs 31 woman I always longed to be who works till late, but gets up early while it is yet night to accomplish some things.5 The sweat has caused me to release toxins that were clogging my pores, and as a result I know that He is doing a work in me that no surgeon could do without leaving a scar. The process even helps me to lose weight, because, for one thing it is too hot to cook, and secondly money not eaten is money saved helping me to be more thoughtful in my spending.
Finally, it is okay not to like the process; in fact we shouldn’t like it. It is the process that causes us to be more steadfast in pursuing the Father, so that we can draw from Him the contentment to endure until it’s complete. Yahoshua didn’t like the process, but like Him we are called to look towards the joy that is set before us, enduring the cross (the process), despising the shame (the impurities or detoxification that comes out as a result of).6
1In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.
2For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
3And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God. (Zec 13:8-9)
4Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec. (Heb 5:8-10)
5 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
6Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:2)