Been reading I Peter. Chewing on it. Listening. Asking. More chewing. And some really neat stuff is coming to me. This particular Epistle is FULL of gems about suffering. I think I’m going to preach through this book in the next year, it’s so good. But one little word has given me a new lens for Peter’s words, a three letter powerhouse that changes everything.
In particular, Peter writes about the trials people have been experiencing. Some really harsh times. “Now for a little while you may have HAD to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” Had. Had to. Had to suffer. Had to suffer grief. A few thoughts here.
1. According to Peter, filled with the Spirit, this stuff was absolutely necessary. No way around it.
2. It wasn’t the trial itself they needed, but the grief produced by the trial.
Let that sink in. “You HAD to suffer grief.” Angst. Emotional pain. Junk. Why?
“These have come so that your faith, of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine.” Oh. You’ve heard of this, right? That God superheats our life — or allows our life to get really, really hot — to smelt us. To force the impurities to the surface so they can be ladled off. So the gold can be purified and recast in a more usable form.
We often talk about God purifying our faith. We usually don’t realize, practically speaking, what this might mean. It’s like this: I have a chunk of faith in my hand. About eight pounds of the stuff. But hard times come, and my faith is tossed in a smelting oven thingy, which superheats the gold, and the gold, being heavy, melts and sinks. So the impurity, the stuff that isn’t gold, rises to the top where it can be scooped off. This process is repeated over and over again until no more slag rises to the top. The gold is pure. It’s shiny. It’s malleable.
It’s small. Eight pounds is now maybe two ounces. What I took to be a shotput sized nugget of faith is now the size of a pea. Think about it. How many times, during trials, do you feel like your faith is shrinking. Until you come out of the tunnel and hold it up and think, “There’s almost nothing left!”
Oh, there’s something. There’s pure gold faith, that’s what. You’ve lost skewed ideas you thought were faith, attitudes that diluted your faith, selfishness that weakened it. Which is why your faith is so small, now that all that stuff is gone. But before you despair over how little there is left, remember that Jesus said all you need is a mustard seed’s worth of the pure stuff to move a mountain. Purified faith is pure plutonium, baby! And the only way to get it is through suffering. God bringing the heat. You can’t get this clapping and singing “Everlasting God” or even “Refiner’s Fire.” “You HAD (have) to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”
God’s message to me lately is to embrace the heat he’s bringing. What about you?