These (trials) have come so that your faith--of greater
worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by
fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise,
glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:7
(Photo by Christopher Burns on Unsplash)
In the Bible, fire has both literal and symbolic meanings. It was used for daily activities such as cooking, keeping warm, or giving light. Metals like silver or gold were refined by fire. Fire was used to destroy enemy cities during war, and execute criminals. It was also used to burn sacrifices.
Sometimes God showed up in literal fire. He spoke to Moses from a burning bush (Ex. 3:2) and later came again to Moses and the people at Mount Sinai as fire (Ex. 19:18). And of course, you remember how God led the Israelites through the wilderness by a pillar of fire by night (Ex. 13:21)
He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah by fire (Gen. 19:24), and hell is referred to as a place of fire (Mt. 5:22; Rev. 20:14-15). There is some disagreement as to whether the fire of hell is literal or symbolic. During the tribulation, when the angels are released to wreak havoc on the earth, fire is often used as God begins His final judgement on the earth (Rev. 8:5; 9:13-18; 18:8).
When we talk about God and fire symbolically, it usually falls into three categories:
Ezekiel had a vision where he saw a figure whose appearance resembled a man. From the waist up he looked like glowing metal that was full of fire. This "man" was God appearing in human form (Ezekiel 1:27).
God is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:26)
God's word is like fire and a hammer that breaks a rock to pieces (Jer. 23:29)
The Holy Spirit is associated with fire at Pentecost (Acts 2:3) and in John the Baptist's preaching (Lk. 3:16)
Jesus' eyes are like blazing fire (Rev. 1:14; 2:18; 19:12) and He will be revealed from heaven in blazing fire (2 Thess.1:7)
God's anger burns (Hos. 8:8), and He pours out His wrath like fire (Lam. 2:4; Nah. 1:6)
Fire goes before Him to consume his foes on every side (Ps. 97:3)
Judgement against Samaria and Jerusalem (Mic. 1:3-4)
In the future and final judgement God will reveal Himself in a blazing fire (2 Thess. 1:7)
God will remove all the impurities from the rebellious nation, Israel (Is. 1:25)
When the seraph took a live coal and touched his lips and declared his guilt was taken away and his sins atoned for (Is. 6:6-7)
When Israel is ransomed (and through Christ, believers are also ransomed), we will walk through the fire and not be burned (Is. 43:2)
Trials show your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests gold and purifies (1 Peter 1:7)
I want to camp out for a bit here. No one likes to be tested. No one likes going through trials. If you're like me, you don't want it to be what God uses to refine us and make us more like Him. But we don't have a choice. So we may as well learn to embrace what He's doing as best we can.
God likens the purification process to the refining of gold or silver. To refine gold, you first place the metal in a crucible and subject it to intense heat. The heat causes the gold to melt and separate the impurities from the metal. The impurities rise to the top, which is called dross. The dross is removed. This process is repeated until you have the quality of gold you want. 14-karat gold will need to go through the refining process more times than 10-karat gold.
Gold put in the fire is similar to what God does in the life of a believer. He is refining you to be a pure and spotless bride (Rev. 19:7-8), one that will be able to do what Jesus did. In John 14:12, He tells us that we will be able to do even greater things than He was doing.
We don't accept Christ as Savior and automatically know how to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Jesus (Matt. 16:24). God has to remove all the things that hold us back. It can be painful just as it would be if we were put in a fire. People are given different trials, but all for the same purpose. Sometimes it's hard to know the difference between an attack from the enemy and being refined by the Lord.
If this is where you are, then let me tell you about a verse that will be helpful. James 1:5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." God wants you to know the difference so ask Him to show you.
God has a good plan for you, to prosper you and not to harm you (Jer. 29:11), but the only way for that plan to be realized is for you to go through the refiner's fire. God is very gentle throughout the process. He is like a surgeon who is skillfully cutting around a cancerous growth in order to remove it.
If you have a prodigal in your life, then you know the pain. Let God refine you during this time. Let the pain send you running to the Lord, for He is gentle and humble in heart (Matt. 11:28). He will give you peace and comfort. He will provide you with strength and wisdom. He will make sure you have rest and hope. He will stand right beside you!
You will be able to stand in the fire with the best of them!
Jesus by Chris Tomlin