Have you ever had one of those moments when you’ve realized that you have heard the same thing from two different people and you wonder if the message that God has given them for their growth and encouragement may have actually been for you? This is where I am currently.
Recently, the men from our church attended a men’s retreat. They were at a facility that is in the country. And since God created man to be hunter/gatherers, they fished, did ropes courses and built fires. It was in the building of fires that God spoke. The men collected sticks, that represented their past. Each one, when they were ready to let go, threw their sticks into the fire. It was a pivotal moment for many men. It was a pivotal moment for my husband.
In the brief time between their return and when I needed to be back at the church, he began telling me about the stick story and I couldn’t help but think, “that’s good.” It gave understanding to Isaiah 61:3, “he bestows a crown of beauty instead of ashes.” Our ugly past and our beautiful feature.
The same evening, I was talking to a friend. She was telling me how God has been working on some things in her life; He is refining her. We talked for a few more minutes about this and about what God is working to remove from our lives. It was an interesting conversation because, not only was I able to put voice to something that God has been working on in me, causing me to be accountable to a trusted friend, but it also caused me to think a lot about fire.
As I sat and thought about fire and the uses of it, I couldn’t help but think about the many reference to fire in the Bible. God used fire to consume offerings and He gave it to His people as they wondered in the wilderness; we read all over the Bible about fire being used to forge, refine and consume. God himself is referred to ask our Consuming Fire in Hebrews12:29.
When I think about the words refining and forging, I think of all of the blacksmith shops I have stood in with Jim while he watched and asked questions of the smith as he worked. I don’t remember any of the smiths ever being small men, they were always big and wide shouldered from years of swinging a hammer. When a smith starts a project, he has an idea in mind of what the end result will be, a promise. He knows that with a little patience and a lot of fire, he will get his desired outcome.
That’s how God is with us. He refines us by burning out the impurities. This part hurts, because this is often the time that God makes us deal with the things that have been holding us down. These are the things in our life that we have held onto because we unknowingly have found comfort in them. This could be things like rejection, unworthiness, or a feeling of hopelessness. But, it can also be as big as un-repented sin in your life that you need to release and ask forgiveness for. Once the impurities have been purged, then God starts the molding process.
Doesn’t molding sound so much nicer than forge? But, that is what is really happening. God gives us time to cool down into a solid form, then, He sticks us back into the fire. This time, the fire isn’t burning off anything, it’s making us soft, so God can craft us into His vision, His promise.
If you have watched the blacksmith at work, they put the metal into the fire and hold it there for a few minutes. Not too long, because it will become too soft and unusable. Not too quick or it can’t be formed. It has to stay in the fire for that perfect amount of time to be usable. Then, the molding starts. Did I say that purifying was painful? It didn’t involve a hammer. This is when God starts twisting us and turning us; this is the time when you think you have it all together but God knows different. He sees a bend in us, so He hammers it out. He sees a sharp point, so He files it down. He sees an area that is preventing you from moving the way He intended for you to move, so He may put you in the vise to shape you even more. And, after all of that, if you are still struggling, you make go right back into the fire to start the process again.
Do not lose heart, He is only trying to rid us of things like pride, control, fear, doubt, or any other that seem to keep us from walking fully in the direction God is leading. Putting you in the hot seat isn’t to hurt you, it’s to make you better, stronger, and so much wiser. Remember, He is a consuming fire and once you’ve sat in the hot seat a few times, letting God do what He needs to in your life, then you will be able to walk in His promise.