The teaching of Scripture is clear. In order to produce a godly, mature Christian, God increases the temperature of life in order to turn our hearts more devotedly toward him. He melts our faith in order to bring to the surface the remaining sin and unbelief in our hearts, but which we may be blinded from seeing or too stubborn to address. By doing so the Holy Spirit matures our faith, making it more precious than any earthly treasure. Just as the refining process is used to remove impurities, in order to bring out the beauty of gold, so trials are used by God to refine and bring out the beauty of our faith. Looking into the heart that is devoted to Jesus, while it is being refined through suffering, the Father sees the image of his Son progressively revealed. The end result is the glory and pleasure of God.
“Behold, I go forward, but he is not there,
and backward, but I do not perceive him;
on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him;
he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him.
But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.”
God ordains trials to enter our lives in order to test the reality of our faith in a way that is similar to the process of purifying precious metals. Gold, for example, is purified through various means, including high temperature heating or chemical exposure. One such method is called the Miller process, which “uses gaseous chlorine to extract impurities when gold is at melting point; impurities separate into a layer on the surface of the molten purified gold.” Those impurities are then skimmed off the surface, leaving gold that is purer and more valuable. If perishable gold is valuable enough for man to work through painstaking processes to refine it, what must God be willing to do to ensure that our imperishable faith becomes even more precious?
According to Scripture, God at times turns up the thermostat of our life. He heats up the smelting furnace of affliction in order to reveal the imperfections already present in our hearts, so that they can be skimmed off. He does not do this to discourage or defeat us, but to prove the reality of our faith. We are “grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of [our] faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:6-7). Commenting on these verses, Greek scholar, Kenneth Wuest, provides a beautiful illustration of God’s refining fire.
The illustration is that of the ancient goldsmith who refines the crude gold ore in his crucible. The pure metal is mixed with much foreign material from which it must be separated. The only way to bring about this separation is to reduce the ore to liquid form. The impurities rise to the surface and are then skimmed off. But intense heat is needed to liquefy this ore. So the goldsmith puts his crucible in the fire, reduces the ore to a liquid state and skims off the impurities. When he can see the reflection of his face clearly mirrored in the surface of the liquid, he knows that the contents are pure gold. The smelting process has done its work.