To melt gold a goldsmith needs to stoke the furnace to over 1,000 F. However, in order to remove all the impurities and to make 24k gold the heat of the furnace is doubled to nearly 2,000 F. The hotter the purer and more valuable.
God is like a goldsmith. He takes his creation made of dust, full of impurities and at times puts it into the fire to make it pure and beautiful. Nobody likes being in a furnace, but everyone like the result. It is in the fire that God does his greatest work. It is in the furnace that our faith grows.
Pain and suffering are unavoidable, but is it fruitful or beneficial? There is no doubt they get our attention. In his book, The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis says,
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain, it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
In the midst of suffering it is helpful to remember that Jesus is our example. See how he suffered and faced pain. He was not immune to it. As horrific as Jesus’ sufferings were they are for our benefit (v.3). It was his pain for our gain. His sufferings are far greater than any suffering we will ever face (v.4, cf. John 18-21). Take heart!
“Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” – Hebrews 12:3, ESV
We must understand that suffering can come from the hand of God. That might mess with your theology, but it is true. Now, God doesn’t inflict pain and suffering for fun like a mean ogre or an abusive father, but God is likened to a father and God will discipline his children. The difference between God and earthly fathers is that God always disciples out of infinite love (vs. 5-6; cf. Proverbs 3:11-12). It is his parental prerogative (vs. 7-9). If God didn’t discipline us and allowed us to get away with every evil thing we wouldn’t have any respect for him nor would we say that he is truly loving. God’s discipline stems from love because he desires to see his children learn from the heat of the furnace rather than to get away with sin and suffer even greater in hell. The discipline he gives lasts only a short time but the effects can last a lifetime (vs.10-11).
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” – Hebrews 12:11, ESV
Just like nobody likes to be in the furnace, no child likes to be discipled and no parent likes to discipline their children, but it is a necessary practice to help children grow up. God always has the right discipline to produce the right character within our heart, particularly a pure heart full of faith. A faith that is rich and valuable.
Questions for Reflection:
- How does God have a plan for our suffering and trials? Why is our fight against sin much lesser than Jesus’?
- How does “considering” the sufferings of Jesus encourage you not to grow weary or lose heart in similar sufferings? What does it mean to share in Christ’s sufferings?
- How does God discipline from genuine love? How is discipline a hard but good thing? How does discipline grow our respect and confidence in God?
- How is an earthly father a picture of our heavenly Father? What are the limitations of this picture?
- What is the holiness of God? How does God’s discipline produce holiness? How are you sharing in God’s holiness now?