July 18, 2011

the test

"The crucible is for silver and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts." - Proverbs 17:3

Yesterday I came across this verse, and found much comfort in it. These were my observations:

1.  Silver, gold, and other precious metals are of great worth.

2. Because they possess value, they must be made pure and spotless; who would purchase imperfect, muddied gold? The inherent worth of the material demands purification.

3. The materials, while raw, must be proved genuine. (The silver looks shiny, but will it endure age, wear, and the elements?) It must be tested to prove it's authenticity.

4. Testing of precious metals is achieved and efficient only when it has become hot enough to dismantle the material. Silver and gold are changed into an altered state - liquid, rather than solid - in order for the impurities to rise to the surface.

5. The impurities come from within the gold and silver; they are rooted deep under the surface. It takes great pressure, heat, and time to bring what is impure and imperfect to the light so that it may be removed.

There is comfort in this, friends! Do you see it?

1. Our hearts are of GREAT worth. They are valued. They are important. They are rare. They are unique. You, friend, are of great worth.

"Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." Matthew 10:31

2. Because we're of great worth -- image-bearers of God, called by Him, and (to those who believe) bear the name Christian -- we must be made perfect. Our inherent value as God's creation calls for it.

"Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it. For how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another." Isaiah 48:10-11

What is the glory that God will not give to another? That of His own name and salvation. We call ourselves Christians. But do we allow that undeserved title to be muddied, despised, and undervalued by sin, laziness, hardened hearts, unfaithfulness, and disobedience? How then could we NOT expect God to purify us for His own glory? We bear His name and His image, walking under His banner of grace. We should anticipate God's purification process, and accept it with joy rather than grumbling.

3. We must be tested to prove our authenticity. There's a wonderful quote by C.S. Lewis concerning this: 

"God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn't. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down." -C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Our authenticity is not placed in us, but in who we are IN Christ. When tested and found lacking (which we WILL be found lacking), we must waive the white flag of surrender and claim Christ as our only hope for authenticity.

"For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." Colossians 3:3

"These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold- though your faith is far more precious than mere gold." 1 Peter 1:7

4. Our hearts are hardened by sin (Hebrews 3:13, Ezekiel 36:26). The Word of God has to actually cut into us, penetrating our joints and marrow, so that it can cut out what is sinful and replace it with what is good, and pure, trustworthy, lovely, and noble. (Hebrews 4:12-13)

Friends, our hearts must be dismantled - broken, shifting, undone - so that Christ can accomplish His work in our lives. Our calloused souls do not often yield to soft entreaties and slaps on the hand; if they did, perhaps Christ's death would not have been necessary. But it was, and He suffered much so that we could obtain salvation. Our suffering will never outweigh His, endured on our behalf.

"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed." 1 Peter 4:12

"But you O Lord know me; you see me, and test my heart toward you." Jeremiah 12:3

5. The greek word "dokimazo" means "to test (literally or figuratively), to approve, to prove, to try, to discern, to examine." It means to "prove with a view of approving". 

The Lord wants to bring change in our hearts, and He works from the inside out. It takes time, pressure, heat, and trials to bring the impurities, sinful thoughts, attitudes and behaviors, and our own faulty theologies and ideas of God to the surface. 

The Lord already knows the value, measure, and goal for our hearts. Often, we do not. I think that He tries us in order to show us His surpassing grace upon us, His covering over our failures and sins, His greatness working through our infirmities, and His healing power working at the depths of our soul. He already knew this was the true state of our regenerated hearts; we rarely walk in the knowledge of it. 

He tests us with a view of approving. Find comfort, friends.

"Search me O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!" Psalm 139:23-24

"...that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God." Colossians 1:9-10

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