Monthly Archives: October 2009

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Tried By Fire & Coming Out Gold


But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.
Job 23:10 (NIV)

Being a card-carrying citizen of the hip-hop nation, I have a passing familiarity with gold.

Back in the late 80s, if you wanted to be rapper, you needed to look the part. That meant gold chains. Big, ostentatious, glittery gold ropes were the accessories of choice, along with gold rings — four-finger rings if you were a DJ.

(Or Radio Raheem.)

Of course, nowadays it’s not enough to have gold around your neck. It’s gotta actually be in your mouth. Makes me long for the days when the only gold you saw in a kid’s mouth were gold fillings.

This preoccupation with gold is not just with the young rappers, either. Older, down-and-out rapper MC Hammer has taken to shilling his likeness on commercials for Cash4Gold.

(Hammer probably agreed to this once he realized that his 24k gold chains no longer counted as collateral for his mortgage refinance.)

Even without gold itself, people still love the idea of gold.

When the Cleveland Cavaliers redesigned their uniforms for the arrival of LeBron James, their color scheme was not simply maroon-and-yellow. No, that would never do. In a nod to the upper-middle-class fans who attend most NBA games, the Cavs identified their colors with the two classic symbols of decadence: wine and gold.

This gold fixation is everywhere.

We eat hamburgers under the Golden Arches, and cereal with Golden Grahams. Photographers have the golden ratio, and philosophers have the golden rule.

It’s not enough to have a regular old American Express card, you’ve got to have the AmEx Gold card. Same thing with XBox Live, you can’t just have the silver account, you gotta have the Gold membership… you slap the word “gold” on there, it makes anything look valuable.

It’s what makes the Olympics so popular — everybody wants to go for the gold. And lest you think this is simply a problem of modern society, may I remind you: the Olympic games have been around for a long time.

Obsession with gold is not just a modern trend; it’s a symptom of the human condition.

* * *

It’s against this backdrop that the Bible offers a stunning contrast between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world.

The world simply chases after gold.

As followers of Christ, as servants of the most high God, we are to become gold.

Metaphorically speaking, anyway. (No, I’m not on some King Midas Greek mythology trip.)

In this short quote from the book of Job, the Lord reveals to Job His own methods for bringing out the best in humanity, and Job expresses it with the language of the refiner. “I will come forth as gold,” he says.

It’s no coincidence that it’s Job making this proclamation.

The story of Job (rhymes with “robe” … the e on the end is both silent and invisible) is a story of tremendous trial and testing. Job sustained an unbelievable series of losses, none of which her his fault, each more tragic and crippling than the next. Job’s losses were the kind you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.

I mean, Job got a raw deal. He had an ordeal for every weekday, and a bonus crisis for the weekend.


Job went through so much drama, he had tragic angling for story rights.

I mean, Job’s life was so hard, he used to watch the evening news to cheer up.


Job’s situation got so bad, it got to the point that when he would walk past the lepers, they would give him money.

Job’s situation was, as Charles Barkley would say… turrible.

Fortunately, his story ends well. In the final reckoning, Job gets his life back — and then some. Truth be known, Job ends up with a fuller life after going through trials then he did before.

Today, we’re going to look at Job’s story, as well as some other key Scriptures, in order to ask a big question, a question that many of us will ask at one point or another — why.

Why was Job’s life fuller after such a string of horrific losses? Why did God allow those things to happen? Is there a purpose for such hardship? Is there any comfort to be had in such trials?

These are important questions, because all of us go through seasons of trial and testing.

And because we’re all in different places along our journey of faith, many of us have already been through the fire, time and time again. Everyone who follows of Christ lands somewhere in this process. We’re all slowly being conformed into His likeness, and some of us have been going through it longer than others.

So just because we’re taking the time to focus on this as a church doesn’t mean that this is a new thing.

On the contrary, God has been doing this for awhile.

So if these questions are burning inside you, I pray that together we’ll find some answers in God’s Word.

* * *

Before we do that, though, let’s take a closer look at the gold itself.

Gold has always been a popular, valuable commodity, but in thinking about Job 23:10, I started wondering… why? Why is gold so valuable? What makes a precious metal precious?

To find some answers, I did some basic research (which is code for, “I looked it up on Wikipedia.”)

Here are a few things I found:

Gold is more resistant to rust and other forms of corrosion compared to other metals, which means that it’s safer to expose to the natural elements.

Gold, when purified, is an effective conductor of electricity. It’s often used in high quality wiring for the purpose of preserving signal fidelity.


Gold is also soft, making it unusually ductile and malleable compared to other metals. This makes it useful for fashioning into things.

And of course, it’s considered beautiful.

Gold is a mineral, so it’s found in the ground, picked and chipped away one nugget at a time. Then it goes through an intense process of refining before it becomes desirable to the eye.

In order for gold to be refined, it must be subjected to an intense fire. This fire is what purifies the gold, because it separates out all of the impurities in the gold, also known as the dross. As the dross is burned away, only the pure gold remains. The refiner knows when the gold is sufficiently purified when he can look into the nugget of gold and see his face in the reflection.

This refining process is the only way gold is made. There are no alternatives, and no shortcuts.

Which leads me to the first lesson…

Refining is a process for every believer.

“Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth.” Psalm 26:2-3

Let’s move off of Job for a minute and look at another popular Bible character. This psalm was written by King David.

I don’t know about you, but on first glance, this passage seems awfully arrogant. It makes it sound like David was just a perfect guy.

But if you actually read the Bible, you find out — David was anything but. David was sort of an Everyman of Bible times… he has his moments of epic triumph (“down goes Goliath!!”) and just as many epic failures (“Bath-sheba? Isn’t she married?”).

But this does not stop David from honestly petitioning God to be tested. Amazing.

If I had all the same colossal failures on my record as David did, there’s no way I would want to ask God to be testing me. There’s no way I’d be boasting about being blameless and above reproach. I’d be wearing a ski mask (or something similar) and sunglasses, hoping nobody could identify my hidden sins.

The fact that David says what he says in Psalm 26 means that he wanted to know and please God more than he wanted to get away with any misdeeds.

As a matter of fact, in the previous psalm, David makes reference to sins that were eating away at his insides because of his concealment, most likely an allusion to his murderous affair. This leads me to believe that by the time he’s writing this psalm, he’s writing from a place of restoration. Having repented of his previous sins, he appears to writes this psalm out of a holy fear of God and a desire to remove any barriers of relationship to Him.

It’s because of this kind of radical devotion to God that David is known as a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14). This is the legacy of one of the greatest kings in the history of Israel, who, despite his victories, was a tragically-flawed hero.

Which means that the rest of us… well, we have no excuse.

If we’re going to learn anything about God, we must be willing to be tested. James 1:2-4 tells us to consider it joy when we face trials, not if we face them. What James knew then is what we need to be reminded of now and again:

Just like in school, testing is not just for the smart kids. It’s for everyone.

Here’s the second lesson:




Refining is a process that we do not control.

Let’s go back to Job.

The beginning of the book of Job starts with God. God is having a conversation with Satan, and God is bragging about Job. “Have you seen my servant Job?” God says to Satan. God is proud of Job, proud that he is above reproach and fears Him only.

But Satan is cynical, and accuses Job of false motives, saying, essentially:

Yeah? He only does that because you do good things for him. Take those away, and he’ll curse you to your face.

So God makes an agreement and allows Satan to harm Job, just to see what his response will be. In short order, Job loses all of his wealth, all of his worldly possessions, and even his children are killed in a freak accident. So Job becomes saddened and despondent, but he clings onto God’s sovereignty. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away, he says.

This was Job’s first test.

So then Satan goes back to God and says:

Oh yeah? A man will do anything to protect his health. If I make him sick enough, THEN he’ll curse you to your face.

So God allows Satan to afflict Job will all these horrendous sores all over his body. It was so bad, the only way Job could get some relief was to scrape his wounds with pieces of broken pottery.

Now you would think that after all of this, Job would have nothing to do with God. But Job 2:9-10 records his response:


“His wife said to him, ‘Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!’


He replied, ‘You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?’


In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.”


Here Job makes a profound theological statement — God is in charge.


Period.


This means we cannot cheerfully and freely accept his blessings and then turn around and curse him when things are not going our way. It’s the refiner who decides how hot the fire needs to be.


Sometimes as believers in Christ, we believe in our minds that God is in control, but we live as though we think that God somehow owes us prosperous circumstances. We wouldn’t come right out and say this, but we tend to operate on the principle that if we give our life to God, then that means that life should be easier, not harder.


Let me tell you something.


If someone told you that being a Christian would automatically make your life easy and drama-free… they lied to you.



Which brings me to the third lesson:




The refiner’s fire is fueled by suffering, which makes us like Jesus.


Hebrews 2:5-10 says this:


5It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. 6But there is a place where someone has testified:
“What is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
7You made him a little[a] lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor
8 and put everything under his feet.” [b]

In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. 9But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

10In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.


Two main points to highlight here. First, it says in verse 8 that God left nothing that was NOT subject to Jesus. That means everyone, and everything, was, is, and will be, in the final reckoning… subject to Jesus.

But the second more important point is that because Jesus was made perfect through suffering, He has the same process in store of each of us. Each of us are working out our salvation and slowly being made perfect… through suffering.

And by going through this suffering, we become more and more like Jesus.

No matter how you may feel about the suffering itself, this is VERY GOOD NEWS. This means that our suffering is not in vain, that there is a purpose behind it.

Being more like Jesus is that purpose.

So when Job proclaims that he will be as gold, he is foreshadowing the gold standard of human expression and achievement – Christ Jesus.


Just as the refiner knows his gold is ready when he can see his face in it, we’ll know that we’re becoming more like Him when others can look at us when we’re going through suffering… and see His face.

This is what it means to be tried by fire and come out gold.


Gold Characteristic: Non-Corrosive

Consider the first characteristic of gold that I mentioned — it’s non-corrosive. That means it doesn’t rust. It’s not affected by natural elements like wind and rain. It retains its molecular configuration.

Romans 12:2 says:

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

As believers in Christ, Jesus sends us into the world to make disciples for Him, but He wants to make sure that the world doesn’t make disciples of us first.

This is why sometimes He allows us to experience certain ways of the world, in all of its brokenness and moral depravity, so that we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, where those roads lead.

As believers in Christ, some of us experience suffering because we still find ourselves drawn to these worldly ways. Not saying we’re not saved, or that we’re not trying to live for God… maybe we are, but we still find ourselves intrigued and mesmerized by the enemy’s counterfeit pleasures now and again.

So God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, allows us to experience the consequences of our actions… and we suffer as a result.

You know that you’re becoming more like Jesus when you can face those temptations square in the eye, whatever they are, and choose to run like crazy in the opposite direction. When you’re able to resist being conformed to the pattern of this world, but instead, choose to actively engage in God’s word and allow the Holy Spirit to renew your mind… that’s when you know:

You’re comin’ out gold.



Gold Characteristic: Preserves Signal Fidelity

Gold is also great conductor of electricity, which means wiring made of gold has strong ratio of signal fidelity.

John 5:19 says:

Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

Jesus made sure he had a clear signal coming from the Father at all times. With all of his miracles, he only did what God the Father was already doing.


So being more likes Jesus means we allow His fire to burn away all the impurities in our life that prevent us from really being connected to Him.


Some of us have a problem hearing from God because we have habits, situations, maybe even certain people in our life, who are causing interference.


Jesus is standing there, like the Verizon guy, saying “can you hear me now?”

If we can’t, then He turns up the heat. He allows someone to hurt us, or allows a negative situation to come about, knowing full well that pain and suffering often get our attention and open up the lines of communication.

How many of us have ever gone through something difficult, and then realize that our relationship with God is better for it?

God uses our suffering to purify us, so that we can receive clear signals from Him. The more we’re pure, the more we’re like Jesus.


So when you find that you’re no longer groping around in the dark trying in vain to discern His will, that’s when you know.

When you can encounter Him in your times of private and public worship, reading His word, and having in conversations with other believers, that’s when you know.

When you can lay aside the distractions and dead weight that prevent you from really fulfilling your calling, and when you can fall asleep at night with a Godly satisfaction, knowing full well that you’ve heard from God and you’ve expended every ounce of energy possible pursuing His call… that’s when you know:

You’re coming out gold.





Gold Characteristic: Soft and Malleable

Gold is also much softer than most metals. This softness makes it more malleable, which makes it ideal to be fashioned into whatever the refiner wants.

Consider Mark 10:1-12:

1Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.


2Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”


3“What did Moses command you?” he replied.


4They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”


5“It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied.


6“But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’[a] 7‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,[b] 8and the two will become one flesh.’[c] So they are no longer two, but one.9Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”


10When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

Normally when this Scripture is preached, the point is to reinforce the idea that God hates divorce. And make no mistake… this is true. God hates divorce.

(Lest you think I’m reading too much into this, I offer Malachi 2:16a: “‘I hate divorce,’ says the Lord God of Israel…”)

But I want to draw your attention to a verse that is often overlooked in this passage — verse 5.

Moses gave you this law because your hearts were hard.

What Jesus seems to be implying here is that by asking about the rabbinical laws concerning divorce and remarriage, the Pharisees were completely missing the point.

Where man looks at outward behavior, God sees the heart. Divorces happen because men and women harden their hearts toward God and each other. Therefore, God doesn’t just want to change our outward behaviors, he wants to change our hearts.

In this way, becoming like Jesus means allowing our hearts to soften.

See, God always has purpose for what He does. And He has a perfect plan for each of our lives. But many times, we become so fixated on the hurt and pain that we’ve endured that we harden our hearts against Him.

When this happens, we’re no longer flexible. We’re no longer submitted to His will. We’re no longer able to be molded and shaped as He sees fit.

This is why sometimes God allows us to go through tests and trials, because pain and suffering can make our hearts soft again. Because we know what it feels like to suffer, we can be more compassionate toward those who are suffering.

That may have been why Job went through so much drama. I don’t really know if that’s what Job needed or not. Scripture seems to imply that this was all Satan’s idea and God was just going along for the ride. There’s certainly nothing in Scripture that implies that Job needed or deserved to experience so much tragedy.

But God always has a purpose for these things. Perhaps He wanted Job to continue being humble. Maybe God knew that without some adversity coming his way, Job might have eventually become like the Pharisee in Luke 18:11, who thanked God that he wasn’t like all the other sinners.

Like I said, I don’t know. To me, the Bible isn’t explicitly clear about this.

But what is clear is that God values softness of heart. This is why God hates divorce so much, because divorce is the ultimate embodiment of hardheartedness. It’s a blatant reneging of a sacred covenant, and in many cases, a sure sign of unbelief — for how can you have enough faith to submit to God’s plan for your life, when you’ve already rejected a large part of God’s plan for your life?

Having said that, divorce is still not the end of the world.

And speaking of the end of the world, Jesus already taught us that by the time the resurrection happens, there will be no marriage as we know it. So divorce is obviously not by any means an unforgivable sin.

But it’s evidence of a hard heart, and God has a cure for hardness of heart. It’s the divine heat of the refiner’s fire, where anything that is impure, anything that is not like Him, is burned away. Anything that is left over… looks like Jesus.

So when you find a way to finally push through the anger and bitterness and forgive the person that has caused you so much harm, that’s when you know that you’re coming out gold.

When you’re afraid of the unknown, but you still allow God redirect your plans, even though it may mean the postponing of some of your needs being met… that’s when you know that you’re coming out gold.

When you find yourself in a situation you did not anticipate, engaged in a form of ministry you never thought you would ever do, and even though it’s not what you asked for, you find a deeper sense of purpose and satisfaction doing this thing than anything else ever before, including the thing that you thought you wanted so badly… THAT is when you KNOW… that you’re coming out gold.



Beware of gold-plated counterfeits

Remember, when it comes to the refiner’s fire, there are no alternatives and no shortcuts. Even so, the enemy of your soul would have you believe otherwise.


It’s not for nothin’ that he’s called the Father of Lies.

He wants you to believe that there are shortcuts, and that suffering is for suckers, or for people who don’t have enough faith.

Satan’s offer is to make you gold-plated. He wants you to look the part without knowing the material. He wants to give you a form of godliness without the power.

Don’t fall for it. Don’t go for the okey doke.

The world doesn’t need another church full of CHINOs… Christians In Name Only.

If the world is going to truly experience the redemptive power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, who died, was buried, and resurrected to break the power of sin and death, it’s going to have to see real Christians live out their suffering, up close and personal.

So it starts with you, and it starts with me.

The world needs to see you and I, not being conformed to the world, but being renewed day by day.

The world needs to see you and I, standing firm amidst suffering, because we know that God will use it to make us more like Jesus.

The world needs to see us being tried by fire, and coming out gold.



As I close, consider the words of John Rippon, author of the great hymn of the church, “How Firm A Foundation”:

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

“Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed!
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

“When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
for I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
and sanctify to you your deepest distress.

“When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie,
my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
the flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

“The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
that soul, though all hell shall endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no, never, no, never forsake.”



Set to music and verse, these are the words of Jesus.


As the refiner’s fire burns, I pray that His thoughts, words, and actions would become ours.


I’m Jelani Greenidge, and thanks for Mixin’ It Up with me.