Have you ever thought of love as not only what holds our relationships together, but as a crucible in which they are refined and purified? If it were not for love given us by God, my own marriage could never have endured these 48 years of trials and testing, nor could any of the other enduring relationships God has given me in the body of Christ have lasted. Relationships are grown by enduring trials together and coming out the other side triumphant. They do not grow and take root by having everything go our way in some storybook fantasy life where Prince Charming gets his Cinderella and they live happily ever after in marital bliss. This fact is also true of Christ and His bride.
A crucible is usually made of a high temperature substance like ceramic or lined with such, so that it can endure the high temperatures that metals have to be melted and refined at. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church about a substance like this. “Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fade-less under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails.” Love is a crucible!
Peter wrote to the church:
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. (1 Peter 1:6-8 RSVA – emphasis added)
Yes! Without having seen Jesus Christ, we love Him and believe in Him. We love Him because He first loved us! Love is the crucible we are being refined in by His loving hands. We suffer many trials and testings in the fires of affliction for a little while . Actually, Peter says that it is our faith that is being tried—we have already been tried and found not guilty because of the atonement of Christ–so that our faith might be found genuine and precious in the eyes of our Father as Christ is revealed in us! It is His love and vision for us as sons and daughters of God that keeps us hanging in there and coming back for more that we might not fall short of the glory that our Father wants to share with Christ’s heavenly body.
How long must we endure this suffering and trials? Malachi, the last book of the Old Covenant, speaks of God’s Messenger coming to His temple with a new covenant (see Jeremiah 31:31-34), but His coming will be a day of endurance! Why? Because He comes to refine those who are His until we yield to our Father. He is after sons and daughters who live to and reflect His glory.
“Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? “For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the LORD. (Malachi 3:1-3 RSVA – emphasis added)
Is this an ideal process the way we think that ideal should be? Probably not. In Daniel we read, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end. Many shall purify themselves, and make themselves white, and be refined; but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand; but those who are wise shall understand” (Daniel 12:9-10 RSVA – emphasis added). “…and some of those who are wise shall fall, to refine and to cleanse them and to make them white, until the time of the end, for it is yet for the time appointed” (Daniel 11:35 RSVA – emphasis added).
I once had a neighbor who worked in a foundry. One day I asked him about his job, and he told me that they refined and cast iron products like manhole risers and manhole covers. They took old radiators and engine blocks, broke them up and melted them down in a giant crucible. I asked if it was ready to be poured into molds once melted, but he said there was more to it than that. The melted iron has to first be purified. The liquid metal always has impurities that float to the top and have to be scraped off each time it is melted. Casting the iron risers that the covers fit into only takes one melting and scraping before it is ready, but for the covers that will have heavy truck wheels rolling over them, the metal has to be cooled again after scraping and reheated and scraped off again a total of three times. Each time the metal is heated, it releases more impurities. If you are content to be a lowly riser buried in the dirt, one time is enough. If you are content to be a sewer access lid, three times is enough, but if you are destined to be a son of God it takes seven times!
“Because the poor are despoiled, because the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the LORD; “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.” The promises of the LORD are promises that are pure, silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times. (Psalms 12:5-6 RSVA – emphasis added)
For a just man falls seven times, and rises up again: but the wicked shall fall by calamity. (Proverbs 24:16 KJ2000 – emphasis added) (Also see also 2 Kings 5:1-14)
Refiners of gold and silver heat, melt and scrape off the dross from the molten metal seven times. Heated and cooled and heated and cooled again, scraped each time, but that is not all. On the seventh time, before the molten metal is scraped, they add arsenic and it causes the metal to boil violently. That brings up the last of the impurities to the top and they cling to the arsenic. It is interesting to me that arsenic is a deadly poison as well as a purifier of precious metals. Jesus said, “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39 RSVA). You see we both lose the one life and we gain the other. Our Refiner is after one thing. When He looks down into that crucible of His love, He wants to see His own reflection and nothing left of that old, rebellious Adamic mixture. At first we rebel and complain a lot about the heat and the scraping, but the further the process goes on in our lives, the more we submit to it, because we start seeing the goal of what God is doing. We agree more and more with Him in His methods of dealing with us because the intense love surrounding us keeps us in His marvelous ways.
In the midst of the [seven] lampstands [stood] one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden girdle round his breast; his head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters; (Revelation 1:13-15 RSVA – emphasis added)
We are Christ’s feet and as such we must be refined so we can to walk in Him among men.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2 RSVA – emphasis added)