The Bible talks about two kinds of fire. The fire of judgment – the lake of fire spoken of in Revelation 20:9,10 and the cleansing fire or refiners fire. One speaks of destruction, the other of purifying.
The Bible uses the process of refining silver as an example of how God uses trials and afflictions to bring about a purifying process in the heart of the Christian. Isaiah 40:10 speaks of this process – “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver, I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”
When refining silver the silversmith must hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames are the hottest. He must sit in front of the fire the whole time (Malachi 3:3) and keep his eyes fixed on the silver. He knows when the silver is fully refined because he can see his image of it.
This is a beautiful analogy of God refining us through the heat of the trials that come upon us. This fire is to cleanse us and get rid of the “dross” (sin). If we humbly submit ourselves to Him for this cleansing, He will make us pure and holy in His sight.
James 1:2-4 gives us some insight for times when trials come into our lives. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish the work so you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Also 1 Peter 1:6 – “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”
From these verses, we can see that trials are a test of our faith that God allows, for His purposes to be fulfilled in us. Sometimes these trials can seem endless but we can be reassured that they will end and when they do it will seem like they lasted “a little while.”
Trusting God through our trials for a good outcome brings reassurance because “we know that all things work together for good for those who have been called according to His purposes.” Romans 8:28.
This purpose is to make us “mature and complete, not lacking anything.” God wants to build our character into the likeness of Jesus, to last for eternity. God allows affliction, hardship, and trials so that we might humble ourselves before Him so He can expose what is hidden in our hearts.
Remember the Israelites and their 40 years in the wilderness? Moses reminds the people that there was a purpose in those long years of testing. Deuteronomy 8:2 – “And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all that way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.”
The whole of chapter 8 records how during this time God did not abandon them. He was present with them, he clothed them, provided shoes for their feet, gave them food, and gave them shelter from the cold (fire by night) and the heat (pillar of cloud by day). So it is with us when we go through the refiner’s fire, He is with us!
When using the refining process, we find that not all silver can be refined. Some silver contains metals that cannot be removed by fire. Despite the fire, the silver refuses to let go of the impurities. The silver is then rejected by the silversmith.
Jeremiah 6:29 describes this –
“The bellows blow fiercely to burn away the lead with fire but the refining is in vain; the wicked are not purged.”
In this case, Jeremiah was speaking to the nation of Israel when they were in complete rebellion against God-worshipping idols, seeking help from ungodly nations and living life in an ungodly manner.
They refused to be refined and chose sin over being made into the image of God.
God seeks to refine our hearts. He wants to purify us from the inside out so He can see His image in us.
This is His desire for us but it is our choice to let Him use the trials, afflictions, and hardships that He allows. He is building His church into the pure and holy Bride of Christ to present to His Son.
Are you willing to allow His fire into your heart?