Being Refined and Purified

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1 Peter 1:6-7 (TPT)
May the thought of this cause you to jump for joy, even though lately you’ve had to put up with the grief of many trials. But these only reveal the sterling core of your faith, which is far more valuable than gold that perishes, for even gold is refined by fire. Your authentic faith will result in even more praise, glory, and honor when Jesus the Anointed One is revealed.

While there are various methods out there for gold purification, Peter used refinement by fire as an illustration in this letter. When refining gold by fire, the gold is heated to such extreme temperatures that it turns in to a liquid. In Biblical times, a goldsmith would sit beside the fire and stir the liquid constantly, skimming the impurities that floated to the top off to create the purest gold possible. If that sounds like an easy job, take note of how hot the fire was that the goldsmith used to purify the gold. The flames would reach a temperature of roughly 1832 degrees Fahrenheit.

The extreme heat served a purpose. It’s impossible for the impurities to stay in the gold when exposed to such scorching temperatures. The gold becomes liquid, making it more malleable for the goldsmith. This liquified version of one of the earth’s most sought-after elements is easy to work with and purify.

In the same vein, Peter compares the trials and problems that we face in life to fire. While we may feel like our faith is less valuable than gold, God doesn’t see it that way. In fact, the Bible says that without our faith, we cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6). However, for our faith to reach its full potential, it must be purified. How do we achieve that purification? Through the fire. A few chapters later, Peter revisited the fire analogy.

1 Peter 4:12-13 (ESV)
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though some strange thing were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

When you view your faith as gold and the trials and tribulations as fire, you can get a better understanding of how adversity can serve as a benefit in your life.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego
Daniel 3

If you went to Sunday School when you were little, you may have heard this story before. King Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon created an image of gold. During his reign, Israel was living in captivity in Babylon, so they were under this wicked king’s jurisdiction. Not only did he make a statue of gold, but he also even put a rule in place that said that everyone had to bow down and worship his golden image. According to Daniel 3:4-5, Nebuchadnezzar said that whenever his musicians played their music, everyone in Babylon was to drop what they were doing and run out to worship at the foot of the golden statue.

What happened if they refused? The consequences were dire:

Daniel 3:6 (ESV)
And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.

Notice the King didn’t say that they would be killed and thrown into the flame. Instead, any rebel who refused to bend the knee to the statue would be thrown into the flame alive. Just one verse later, the music played, and all the people ran out and worshiped at the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Well, almost everyone. After the music played and everyone worshiped, accusers came to Nebuchadnezzar to report that some people had refused to take part in the impromptu idol worship.

Daniel 3:12 (ESV)
There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. These men, O king, pay not attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.

Out of all the people in Babylon, including those who were Jews, only three men refused to participate in the worship of a false god. It didn’t take long for news to get back to King Nebuchadnezzar. Immediately, Nebuchadnezzar sent for the three Hebrew captives and brought them into his chambers.

Daniel 3:15 (ESV)
Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?

“Who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” The question from Nebuchadnezzar forced Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to make a decision. Would they continue to trust in the same God who they had believed in for years? Or would they fear the flames of the furnace and offer their worship to Nebuchadnezzar’s idol.

Adversity affords us a wonderful opportunity to remind ourselves who God is. Instead of focusing on our problems, adversity gives us the opportunity to go back to past victories in our own lives. When David stood before Goliath, he didn’t focus on the giant. Instead, David told Goliath about God miraculously protecting him and his flock from a lion and a bear (1 Samuel 17:37). When we’re faced with what appears to be sure disaster, we have a wonderful chance to look back over our lives and find examples of God’s faithfulness. Clearly, that’s what Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did. Take a look at their reply:

Daniel 3:17-18 (ESV)
If this be so, our God who we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.

A blatant refusal to bow down threw Nebuchadnezzar into a rage. In fact, the Bible says that he became so angry with the three Hebrews that his face took on a different look. In his fury, he told the guards to turn up the furnace seven times hotter than it had ever been turned up before (Daniel 3:19-20). The strongest men in Nebuchadnezzar’s guard tied Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego up in their own clothes and threw them into the fire. The flames were so hot that the guards who threw them in fell over dead due to heat exposure when they opened the doors (Daniel 3:22).

Nebuchadnezzar went over to look into the furnace, expecting to see dead bodies, but instead he saw something that staggered him.

Daniel 3:24-25 (NKJV)
Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying tohis counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”

First of all, take note of the fact that they were thrown into the furnace tied up. Now, Nebuchadnezzar says that they were “loose” and “walking.” Secondly, look at who they were walking with: the Son of God.

The trial of your faith, through it may feel like fire serves a purpose in your life. First of all, it burns off the things that are holding you back. When your faith is all that you have, you’ll find that your faith is all that you need. Secondly, it presents the opportunity for us to get closer to Jesus Christ. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego believed in Jesus, but they had never actually walked around with him. The fire created the opportunity for them to actually get to commune with him. Your fiery trial can do the same thing for you.

A Closing Prayer:
God, help me to find Your presence in the fire. Give me the kind of faith that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had in the face of certain doom. While I would never have chosen the fire, I want to use it as an opportunity to grow closer to You. In Christ’s name, Amen.

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