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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Potency and Purity

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

Yesterday, we took a look at the process of "stoking" the furnace of our hearts - getting us to a place that God can work with us, forming us into what it is he envisions for us.  Today, I'd like to continue to explore another instrument of the craftsman used in the process of purification - it is what is known as the crucible.  The crucible is similar to the furnace, but its purpose is not so much to heat to the point of being "pliable" in the hand of the craftsman as it is to bring to the surface that which is impure in the substance he is working with.  For some of us, we feel the "heat" of the crucible much more often than we'd like.  Take heart, that really means that God is just at work bringing to the surface the things in our lives that he needs to remove by his tender care.


When I lived in Alaska, I got to know a gentleman that was into looking for gold.  He used a process of "panning" for gold in the streams and rivers of the area.  He did not hit any big "mother lode" of a gold find, but he found enough to make it worth his while.  As I would watch him go through the arduous process of sifting that sand, stone, and debris through the gold pan, I observed his tenacity for the process.  Slowly, he'd let water in and out of the pan, shifting the contents back and forth, until all that remained were tiny flakes of gold in the midst of just a little sand at the bottom of the pan.  That gold would catch the rays of the sun and glimmer brightly in the midst of the sand that remained.  He'd pluck out the gold bits, placing them carefully in a pouch he maintained for that purpose, and then he'd "dig in" for another plate of sand, debris, and stones.


Whether it is the craftsman at the crucible, refining the impurities from the metal substance being heated, or the gold miner gently sifting the debris away until only the "shiny stuff" was visible, both are reflective of the process of getting the impurities out of the way so the "good stuff" is seen.  Did you ever stop to consider that we often don't see the "good stuff" until there is enough agitation in our lives to bring it out clearly?  We often resist the agitation of our souls - because it hurts - without realizing that without that agitation, the good stuff is always going to be masked by the other stuff that gets in the way of it!


I see a word used in this passage that we don't use so much in today's communication - assay.  There are two meanings of this word that I think apply to our passage today:


1)  To examine or analyze - the goal of the process of the crucible is to determine the measure of what is contained within.  When God goes about the work of assaying our lives, he is bringing us through one examining process after another.  No part of the assaying of our character is unnecessary - it all serves a purpose of exposing the impurities and bringing out only the best in us.  


2)  To determine the potency of something - the process of assaying a substance is to see what "strength" that substance is capable of producing.  When a scientist assays the various substances that make up a product, they are really looking to see if the strength of the combined substances will make the substance more or less potent.  God only looks for that which will lend potency to our lives - all the other stuff he wants to remove.  


The process of assaying is really a process of analysis.  Therefore, the crucible is an instrument of analysis in our lives.  The crucible results in a lot of agitation of the substance contained within - "good stuff" is hidden deep and must be uncovered.  God is not too timid about how he goes after that which is hidden within - both the good and the bad.  When he gets the bad to the surface, he gently removes it, freeing us from that which impacts our potency and purity.  When he sees the good stuff becoming clearer and clearer, he is delighted because he knows we are developing the strength of character that will give us the potency to stand strong in this world.


God's goal in the crucible - in the refining process - is not to break us, but to bring out our highest potential, our greatest potency, and our strongest character.  The process involves a little agitation in order to uncover the "good stuff", but without that agitation, we'd never really get to see the beauty his grace is able to produce in our lives.  So, allow him to stoke the fires, sift the debris, and assay on!  Good stuff is about to catch his eye and become that which he notices with great delight!