“The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart.” (Proverbs 17:3)
Purify my heart, let me be as gold and precious silver
Refiner’s fire; my heart’s one desire is to be holy
Set apart for You, Lord
(Refiner’s Fire ~ Brian Doerksen)
The process of refining silver, in the era when the book of Proverbs was written, is an evocative picture of how our hearts are refined. It’s a “made for sermon illustration” metaphor that I really like.
Silver is purified by the refiner, who brings increasing heat to bear on the unrefined metal. As the heat increases, all the impurities rise to the surface, and the refiner skims them off. The process is repeated until the desired result is achieved: a clear reflection of the refiner’s face in the silver.
The spiritual parallel is stunning; God refining our character until He sees a clear reflection of Jesus in us.
But as anyone who has experienced the refining process can tell you, when the heat gets turned up, it’s uncomfortable. (That’s an understatement of, shall we say, ‘biblical proportions’.)
At the same time, achieving the desired result makes the uncomfortable process worth it in the end. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)
Whenever we pray for more of the Spirit’s power and presence in our lives, we should not be surprised that the heat gets turned up, and some of our “schtuff” flares up in our face.
That’s how it works, after all. More of the Spirit’s work in our lives means more refining as part of the overall package. There are ‘mountain top’ moments that are exhilarating, but there are also difficult ‘valleys’ — both are part of the Spirit’s work in our lives.
Which is why things can get wild and woolly during times of revival. The Holy Spirit is poured out in ways that go beyond ‘typical’ — the ‘omni’ presence of God becomes the ‘manifest’ presence — and there are a wide range of responses from people.
Some sin will be stirred up by the Enemy, trying his darndest to discredit what the Spirit is doing. And the critics of renewal movements delight in pointing this out, as if the presence of sinful activity ‘proves’ that God is not involved.
And some sin will be stirred up by the presence of the Holy Spirit, so it can be dealt with. That’s what a good Refiner does.
‘Revival’ is always connected to repentance. Whether it’s people coming to faith for the first time, or believers having the low-burning embers of their faith fanned into flame once again, repentance unto a holy life is normal.
There should be nothing shocking about sinful patterns being forced to the surface during times of revival/renewal. That’s how the Refiner’s fire works. The heat is on.
If you find yourself crying out for more of the Spirit, and sin & the temptation to sin seems to flare up — don’t rebuke the devil (except where appropriate) and don’t allow yourself to become discouraged. Instead, recognize the hand of the Refiner, and co-operate with the Spirit’s purifying work.
The heat is on. And the end result will be worth it.
Purify my heart; cleanse me from my sin, deep within
I choose to be holy, set apart for You, my Master
Ready to do Your will
(Refiner’s Fire ~ Brian Doerksen)