Gold is so cool!
In my last post, we looked at God’s remarkable earthly element, gold. If you haven’t read it, you can find it here – Faith Like Gold, Part 1
Pretty fascinating and desirable stuff, gold!
I don’t have to tell you, dear reader, that gold is highly desirable and sought after.
My first exposure to the lust for gold came during the much-ballyhooed release of the James Bond flick Goldfinger in 1964. Because it had adult-oriented content (tame compared to today’s pitiful standards), this five-year-old at the time wasn’t allowed to watch it. But boy, did people talk about it! Especially Bond’s car! It seemed everyone wanted JB’s ejector-seat, machine-gun, and oil slick-equipped Aston Martin DB5.
But I digress.
Why is gold so desirable? It comes from the fact that gold is rare, valuable, hard to refine, and has an amazing set of unique properties like spreadability, stretchability, durability, and conductivity.
According to 1 Peter 1:6-7, our faith, our trust, in God is compared to gold. It’s worth more than gold, Peter says. But while it’s different than gold as to its worth, the Bible shows faith has a lot in common with this precious God-created element. One key difference is that gold can be destroyed by fire, but our faith is refined by fire!
So, let’s go down last week’s list of gold’s characteristics, parable-like, and see what insights we can gain about how much our faith is like gold.
Faith is rare. Compared to all the people who have ever lived on earth, how common is faith in Jesus? Jesus Himself laid it out, “For many are invited, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). In the End Times it seems faith will be in very short supply, for Jesus asks, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). Paul states that at the End there will be a great “falling away, rebellion, defection, or revolt” coinciding with the arrival of the Antichrist a few years before Jesus’ return (2 Thessalonians 2:3, apostasia, apostasy, a defection from faithfulness to the Lord). Sadly, we’re already seeing well-known Christians denying their faith publicly such as Joshua Harris, author of “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”, and Hillsong singer/songwriter Marty Sampson. Thank God more people seem to be coming to faith at this point rather than running from it. But will it continue?
Faith is valuable. Faith is the key to a relationship with God. It’s the only thing that saves us from eternal separation from Him. Faith is valuable because we can only get it from God. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Our Father has only one way back to Him. That’s by trusting Jesus’ death as sufficient to pay for your sin and provide God’s power to change you inside. We can’t earn it. It’s given by God. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a gift. All other religions and philosophies that try to make their own way to God are just spiritual alchemy – trying to change lead – a fallen person – into gold – a child of God. Like the Middle Age alchemists, that’s out of anyone’s league, but God’s.
Faith must be refined. How do we obtain this rare and valuable thing called faith? Well, like gold in the earth, God must create it within a pile of earth (you and me). It’s part of His New Creation. Faith is implanted and comes to the surface when God speaks to us through His Word, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” as Romans 10:17 says. But then our newfound faith must be refined. (Oh joy!) The process of refining gold is illustrative.
First comes the heat. God puts us through the blast furnace of trials. This goes back to the refining process spoken of in 1 Peter 1:6-7.
Then comes the spiritual oxygen, the Holy Spirit, who works in us during trials to help reveal and separate impurities (stinkin’ thinkin’, attitudes, lies, habits, etc.) in us.
Remember the poisonous cyanide bath into which gold is immersed after the furnace? You got it! Throughout life our Father allows us to be submerged in traumas and bitter experiences. This is a really tough part of refining. Even though the cyanide bath dissolves the gold into tiny little bits and separates the impurities from it, the gold remains gold! So, we can feel like our faith has been reduced to a speck during traumatic and bitter times, it’s still there and just as genuine! Be encouraged if that’s where you’re at right now. Bitter times are purifying times.
Do you remember how gold emerges from the cyanide bath? By clinging to bits of rock (carbon) as it’s passed through a filter. So too, our faith successfully comes through traumatic and bitter trials only by holding fast to the Rock.
But we’re not done.
As gold is reclaimed and concentrated through electricity or some chemical agent, so the power and presence of the Holy Spirit help pull our faith together and concentrate it within us after the refining trial. Ever notice how much stronger your trust in God is after difficulties?
The gold-purifying process must be repeated as needed until the gold is impurity-free. So it’s the same with our faith in God. As we’re subjected to repeated refining throughout our lifetimes, our trust in God becomes purer, more solid, and ultimately perfect.
When is our trust in God perfect? When our Heavenly Father can see His reflection in us!
That’s why God will not let us avoid the refining process. Our faith in Jesus is valuable. It is our God-given currency that pays our way into His presence. It is our adornment that gives us beauty before the Lord and His heavenly hosts.
We can’t create faith, we only receive it. The refining process concentrates and strengthens it. “But Pastor Jay, it hurts!” Yes. You’re right. But what’s more painful, the refining in this life or being separated from God in the next?
Don’t misunderstand. Refining is not punishment, it’s purifying. Yes, it’s not pleasant. Ask the Christian martyrs when you get to heaven. Yet those who go through the refining fires emerge more precious in the economy in heaven. Refined faith has amazing characteristics, too.
Like gold, our faith is malleable – flexible under pounding and pressure. Our faith may be pounded and pressed, and it can feel as thin as gold leaf, but it’s still there. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 says, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” Sometimes our faith can be beaten so thin you’d swear nothing is left. But that’s when Jesus shines best through you! Many of God’s greatest servants are those who have been hammered the most.
Like gold, our faith is ductile, stretchy. The more our trust in God is purified the farther it can be stretched. Our faith in God is often stretched beyond what we believe is the absolute breaking point. But then we’re amazed at how much farther we can go. It’s amazing how thin and delicate our faith can seem to be and still rise to the challenge.
Like gold, our faith is durable. Contrary to what many of us believe, our trust in the Lord can take a LOT of abuse. Just ask those around you who have been walking with the Lord a long time through a lot of tough experiences. Our faith in God can take a lot of abuse in this life and remain intact. It may not be pretty, but it endures. Our trust in God can be beaten down so it’s very, very small – even the size of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20) – but it endures and even a small bit of faith is enough to do the impossible, like transform a sinner into Father’s child!
Like gold, faith is a very effective conduit of power. Our God-given faith connects us to the source of love and power which flows from heaven and through us to a spiritually needy world. We’re conduits of Jesus' character and gifts to be shared with the world.
And now the difference between gold and our faith. Even though gold is enduring, it can be destroyed by outward forces. Our faith, however, can’t be destroyed by outward forces. But faith can be surrendered and abandoned. 1 Timothy 4:1 says, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” I’m getting the feeling that the End will be pretty challenging for faithful folks.
Many of us know people (and it may be you reading this right now) who have surrendered trust in God and placed their faith in other things – jobs, self-efforts, family, politics, financial security, medicine, etc. Plainly speaking, that’s idolatry. I implore you to examine yourself and consider where your trust lies. Whether or not you believe we’re in the End Times or approaching the End, there’s still plenty of challenges that surround us daily, tempting us to surrender our trust in God.
Don’t do it. Trust God!
Finally, gold is preferred by God for His most intimate settings. Our Father encourages us to allow the purifying that the refining process brings us (James 4:8). Why? Because He wants us close to Him! The Tabernacle and Temple show us that the closer one wants to get to God, the purer one must be. That’s why the High Priest must be purified before he enters God’s presence (Leviticus 16).
It’s no accident that faith is compared to gold. Our faith in God will be pounded, pressed, stretched, acid-washed, and put in the furnace. Life is one big refinery. But when we come through the process, we’ll be even more precious to the Lord, those with whom He can be intimate.
Most of us would be excited to receive a gift of gold, and yet God has given us the greatest gift we could ever receive – the faith that brings us eternal life with Him after we die. We’ll all have eternal life. The question is where we will spend it. The Bible is clear that there are only two locations – with the Lord or the Lake of Fire. In other words, we can be refined now or burned later.
Some people are content to be gold plated or just gold leafed. You know, some of that superficial good work stuff so we can look like the genuine article. Yeah, that won’t cut it, y’all. Along with our faith, our works will also be tested by fire (1 Corinthians 3:13-15). Only the genuine will remain.
One final thought. The Latin word for gold is aurum, meaning “shining dawn.” When Jesus returns and the Morning Star rises in our hearts (2 Peter 1:19; Revelation 22:16), will our trust, our faith, glow like a shining dawn?
So, man or woman of faith, expect God to refine you. Don’t fret. It’s a sign of His love for you. If you’re being refined right now, may the Lord give you much grace so that your faith “of greater worth than gold…may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
Pastor Jay Christianson
The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts