Monday, December 13, 2010

Invited to the Crucible

3 As silver in a crucible and gold in a pan,
   so our lives are assayed by God. 
(Proverbs 17:3)

I lived in Alaska for three years.  One of the biggest "tourism" souvenirs that you could take with you back to the lower 48 was a gold pan.  Often, they would be fully painted with some scenery of the great gold rush days of Alaska or just an outdoor rendering.  The served as a memory of the big gold bonanza that brought many a prospector to the territory.  

Silver is mined - then must be separated from all the various impurities that it is surrounded by such as sulfur, arsenic, antimony, chlorine, or argentite.  It is rarely found in some big clump that you can take out of the mine and say that it was purely silver.  There is a refining process that must occur in order to separate the other stuff from the silver.  Look at what silver is found "clinging" to:
  • Sulfur - when burned, it can have a suffocating odor.  Its various uses are for the production of gunpowder, in the formulation of medicines to kill various germs, and in the vulcanizing process of making rubber. 
  • Arsenic - the interesting thing about arsenic is that it vaporizes when heated, has a great metallic luster which gives it an appearance of beauty, and is quite poisonous is ingested.
  • Antimony - a kind of lustrous metal compound that looks good, but has very little value as a metal.  Its main use is in being an addition to metal alloys to give them strength.  It is the metal often used in semi-conductors.  The important thing to remember is that it is quite toxic.
  • Chlorine - we know that chlorine has many uses, but its main use is in the purification process because it has the ability to kill bacteria.  It is toxic in both its gaseous and more "visible" forms such as liquid or crystal.
  • Argentite - this mineral usually never exists alone.  It is found in the silver mines along with the silver, clinging to the silver as part of the ore. It is lead grey in color and is very unstable once exposed to air, so it is not really of any use as a mineral.
Okay, I did not want to bore you with all kinds of information on the minerals of silver mining, but I wanted to refer to each of these just a little bit to bring some clarity to why this analogy of silver in a crucible is used to describe God's work in our lives.  Let's examine each one briefly to see how they relate to what God may be doing by placing us in circumstances that we refer to as the "crucible" of trial.
  • We may have some "sulfur-like" behavior that we need to have brought to the surface and separated from our lives - such as anger or wrath.  When it is allowed to remain "combined" with the silver - we have a "combustible" part of our character that does not bring honor to God.
  • Arsenic may look good, adding some type of "luster" to our character, but it is toxic.  We might have some types of "toxic" character traits, such as gossip, malice, envy, etc., that God knows the extreme "toxicity" of if they are allowed to remain - so he puts us through the purifying process in order to remove these from our lives.  
  • Antimony gives the appearance of "looking good", but the presence of the "mask" never determines the reality of what is hidden.  God knows that a transparent Christian is more valuable than one that looks good on the outside and is hiding nothing of value on the inside.  Antimony is kind of like being this intensely strong appearing Christian on the outside, but being a blubbering idiot on the inside!
  • Chlorine has both a positive and negative affect - it can be a purifying agent, but not until it is "processed".  It must be separated from all the other impurities, then it has to be used very carefully or it burns!  We can liken to this as either giving off a "sweet smelling odor" that delights God, or being "toxic" in what we emanate, burning the world around us.
  • Argentite is absolutely worthless when it is exposed to air - it does nothing to lend to the strength or beauty of the silver once it is exposed. That is the same with any secret sin in our lives - as long as it is hidden in the cores of our inner man, it gets along just fine.  Once exposed to the Word of God, the sin shows the true corruptibility of its substance.
God uses the crucible of circumstance (trial) to remove the stuff that only serves to contaminate our spiritual beauty and our testimony.  The next time you are going through the fire, you might ask God what "worthless mineral" he is focusing on separating from your life at that moment in time.  The "smelting" process God uses is designed to produce the clarity of pure, refined silver - gleaming in all its beauty, reflective of the image of Jesus.  Our invitation today is to endure the crucible - the refining process is well-worth the heat!