Growing up, my best friend’s parents actually owned a small gold mine, tucked away in the mountains of northern California. Occasionally we would pan for gold, just like the early settlers did. I never found much, but the little I did find was very exciting. They were just tiny flakes that glimmered when the sun hit them.
Gold does not exist in nature in the same form that it is in the jewelry that we buy. It has to be purified in order to be valuable. Typically it still contains a variety of impurities. To eliminate these impurities, gold goes through a purification process.
There are various methods used to purify or refine gold. The Bible most often speaks of the use of fire. This process can produce a heat of up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, after which it is free of any impurities.
Scripture refers to this process as the refiner’s fire. All Christians go through these fiery trials, to one degree or another, at one time or another. During these trials we often find ourselves with a gamut of emotions (anger, fear, despair, and frustration) and questions like “Why me?”, “Why now?” But, as someone once said, God takes us into His “darkroom” to develop our character.
Spurgeon, who experienced many fiery trials, said that there is no education like adversity, testifying “I have derived more real benefit and permanent strength and growth in grace, and every precious thing, from the furnace of affliction, than I have ever derived from prosperity. Stars may be seen from the bottom of a deep well, when they cannot be discerned from the top of a mountain.
As many of you know, I have experienced some very painful and fiery trials in my life. And, I agree with Spurgeon. In fact, I can now say with Peter, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
One of my favorite verses in all of Scripture comes from Job, who at the peak of his suffering, and far from having the answers he longed for about his painful ordeal, said, “when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” That’s pain that purifies. That’s faith through the fire.
“But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” Job 23:10