Those of you who are familiar with the process of refining gold know that the gold is first placed in a crucible and subjected to intense heat. The heat causes the gold to melt and its impurities to separate and come to the top, where they can be skimmed off.
This process is repeated as many times as necessary in order to increase the quality and purity of the gold. For example, 10-karat gold does not have to be heated as much or as long as 14-karat gold. Twenty-four karat gold undergoes an even more intensive refining process.
In a similar manner, God is in the process of refining His church. He wants a pure, beautiful bride upon whom He can pour out His anointing and His power. God desires to manifest Himself through His church so that each of us is able to do the things Jesus did (John 14:12-14).
Christ longs for each member of His body to see what the Father is doing and to do it with Him. It is His will that we walk in victory and be overcomers. These are His highest priorities for the church.
The Refining Process
God has to remove the impurities from our lives that hold us back from going all the way with Him. I believe that this is His agenda for the church right now and that we have entered a season of God's refinement.
Refining can be a difficult and uncomfortable process. At times, we may feel very much as the gold does when it is being melted. We experience heat, discomfort and adversity.
This process is walked out a bit differently in each of our lives. For some of us, important relationships seem to fall apart. Others are misunderstood, misjudged and falsely accused.
Finances run out for some; others may face sickness or hardships. We may find ourselves struggling once again with emotions and issues that we thought we had long since conquered.
The purifying process can be especially confusing to those of us who have been seeking the Lord and drawn to a place of deeper intimacy with Him than ever before. We may not understand why God is allowing "bad" things to happen in our lives.
Is It God or the Enemy?
Some believers don't understand that God is refining them, so they "resist the devil" instead of submitting to the Holy Spirit (James 4:7, NIV). But God wants us to know what He is doing in this season so that we can properly respond to it.
Sometime the enemy's attacks and the refiner's fire look a lot alike. Fortunately, God has given us a strategy for distinguishing them. In his letter to the church, the apostle James wrote: "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" (James 1:5).
In other words, ask God, and He will make it clear to you. It may not happen the instant you ask because sometimes His answer has to work its way into our understanding.
God may choose to speak to you through circumstances. James says that the enemy must flee when we resist him and submit to God (James 4:7). So if you apply the authority that Jesus has given you over the situation and nothing changes, that may be a hint that this is God's hand on you and not the enemy's.
Perhaps you've seen a certain weakness frequently rise up in you. The Lord may be calling your attention to a character trait He wants to refine.
He may put a conviction in your heart, speak to you through the Scriptures or use friends to let you know that He wants to deal with you in a certain area. I can't tell you precisely how, but He will make it clear to you.
You can know when it's the enemy's attack and what strategy God wants you to use to resist him. And you can know when it is God's refining fire and how to best cooperate with Him in the process.
Why God Allows the Fire
We need to realize that God wants to purify our lives of the things that keep us from moving forward with His plan. Hosea 6:1-2 paints a picture of what God is doing:
"He has torn us to pieces but He will heal us; He has injured us but He will bind up our wounds. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will restore us, that we may live in His presence."
When I first read that passage, I had a mental image of a lion mauling someone. I could not understand why a loving Father would maul His children in that manner, so I asked God about it.
He told me: "Teresa, you have the wrong picture. Let Me show you what it really means." Then I saw a picture in my mind's eye of a surgeon skilfully cutting around a cancerous growth so it could be removed.
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