It was 1956 when I started work at a local Iron & Steel company as a commercial trainee. Part of my two year training plan was to become very familiar with the way the plant worked & it's products. To do that I had to spend an allotted time in each of the many sections of the works to learn about the steel-making process; how iron became steel & the way that the end products were produced. I enjoyed being appointed as a guide to take visitors round the plant and explain the different stages of steel production to them. It was a great experience that remained useful throughout my working life.
One particular part of that training that always used to fascinate me was when the open-hearth furnace doors were opened & the ladle-man used to reach into the white hot furnace to scoop out a sample of the molten metal with an extremely long "sample spoon" to have it sent for analysis at the laboratory. The results that came back from the analysis of the sample dictated how much longer the process needed to continue and how many more impurities needed to be removed before the steel that was being produced was 'fit for purpose'.
What I particularly remember was the rush of searing heat as the furnace door was opened & how the ladle-man wore goggles to protect his eyes from the heat & how he used to put the end of his sweat towel in his mouth & bite on it to help him bear that incredible heat. I remember asking him why he put it in his mouth & he said it was to stop him cursing the fire.
That set me thinking. There are times in life when the heat of what we are going through gets to us if we are honest. It can become unbearable at times and we begin to question, "Must I bear such intolerable heat?" "How much longer does the process have to go on?" The answer is that it depends on what else needs to be removed from our lives to ensure that we are 'fit for purpose'.
God's desire is to refine us. (Jeremiah 9:7) and the way He does that is to place us in the furnace of affliction for our good and for the glory of His own name. It's worth remembering that trials do not come randomly upon us; they come in an orderly way. Our comfort is that as we go through the process He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver (Malachi 3:3-4).
While the process is continuing He does not take His gaze from us (Psalm 32:8) until the right time has come for Him to remove us from the furnace at that particular time that we have become 'fit for purpose'.
Whenever we go through what may seem a never-ending process of 'trial by fire' it will be useful to remember that we shall come through it more refined than we went into it because it is the Lord's aim to purify us (Zechariah 13:9). The impurities of life are being removed. It's for our good.
The truth is that it is perfectly possible to come from the refiner's fire having not been hurt in any way by the intensity of the heat and not even with the smell of the fire upon us as we see from the account of the three men in the fiery furnace ( Daniel 3:27) if we trust the Lord to know what He is doing and that He is with us in the fire!
How does the refiner of silver know when enough is enough? It's when He takes a sample and can see His own reflection in the silver that He is refining. He does it for the sake of his own name and that others might see him reflected in that which He has produced. Be encouraged; He is watching out for you in whatever you are going through with His gaze fixed steadily upon you until you are, in He eyes, 'fit for purpose'. Now there's a thought.
Isaiah 43:2-3 When you pass through the waters I will be with you and through the rivers they shall not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel; your Saviour.