Faith can only be proved genuine when tested by fire. Real faith will always release a manifestation of Christ as a testimony to His presence and power.
that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, (1 Peter 1:7)
Gold has held a fascination for man since the beginning of time. People have starved for it, killed for it, or died for it. Yet, like man, this precious metal is found in ordinary places, hidden in lumps of rock, and often buried deep. Its real value cannot be realised or measured until it has been tried and refined. Gold that has been tested by fire is pure and precious. There are no shortcuts or easy ways to remove the dross and impurities.
Even gold tested by fire is temporal.
The first truth today’s verse highlights is that gold is temporal. It is of the world, and anything of the world has a limited lifespan. It is created to pass away. There is nothing on this earth can withstand the inevitable decay that is inherent in the fate of all creation. Even mountains, which stand for millions of years, are slowly eroded day by day. Rock breaks and crumbles. Water evaporates. While scientists claim that gold is indestructible, the Word of God says otherwise. Even gold that is absolutely pure – that has been tested by fire – can perish.
We can understand this better when we consider the truth that the world and everything in it are held together by God. Colossians 1:27 says: And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. God alone is infinite, and all created things are subject to His will. He has the power to create and to ‘uncreate.’ Whatever He has made remains only as long as He wills it to remain. Gold, no matter how pure, is created and therefore perishable along with everything else in this universe. The ‘bonus’ message here, of course, is that even gold should never be relied on. We should depend on the creator and sustainer of all things rather than the things created. Gold, even when tested by fire and found pure, has no eternal value.
Faith is spiritual gold.
The second truth revealed in today’s verse is that our faith is likened to gold that has been tested by fire – the purest of the pure. It is something desirable, something to seek after and pursue. It’s a fascinating study to dig into the history of gold and trace the extremes to which men and women have gone in pursuit of it. If humanity could only value faith as it does gold, our world would be a very different place. The sad reality, though, as that as the world spirals through end times, avariciousness has reached extreme proportions. The pursuit of gold – or wealth – is the love of Mammon. Faith, on the other hand, is the love of God. The two have always been on opposite sides and always will. They cannot share equal honours.
Gold has always held a singular power in the world. It has the ability to set those who have it apart from those who don’t. Those with gold have the power to control the world and usually do so. Faith possesses the same mark of distinction. It is the single most powerful indicator of those who follow God. Having faith is what sets us apart from the rest of the world who do not. It stands to reason, then, that the increase of one in the world arena will inevitably cause the decrease of the other. Faith is mocked as ‘blind’ or ‘foolish’ because it defies the pursuit of gold – the tangible treasure of the world. It challenges every single worldly value, and when it is tested by fire, the things of the world cannot remain alongside it.
Faith tested by fire retains its nature, like gold.
Of course, none of us would be satisfied to possess gold in its raw state. We want pure gold, that which has been tested by fire and its worth proven. Who in their right mind wants to drag around chunks of rock? We want to remove the dross, burn away the impurities, and hold onto the bright, perfect result. While gold is gold, whether in its raw or refined form, it only achieves its full value in purity, i.e. when what is not gold is removed. The remnants of rock particles and impurities devalues gold.
Faith, in its raw form, is like those chunks of rock. The inherent nature of it remains the same. Just as gold is gold is gold, faith is faith. The refining process doesn’t alter faith. It simply releases it by removing the rock, impurities, and unwanted particles. Faith itself cannot be changed. Tested by fire simply means refining, and refining means removing what isn’t faith, not altering the faith itself. It’s a simple fact that gold can be subjected to extreme temperatures and literally melted over and over again without losing its nature. The same is true for faith.
Only faith tested by fire is genuine faith.
There are countless stories about how gold-seekers were deceived by the so-called ‘fool’s gold.’ Iron pyrite has a glossy yellow look which readily persuaded the gold-hungry to believe they had struck it rich. In reality, it is absolutely worthless. It has no value at all, even as a ‘semi-precious’ metal. This raises an interesting truth: genuine faith is very different to ‘fool’s faith.’ The first is precious spiritual gold and the second is the false perception of faith. We can really only tell the difference when it is tested by fire. If it emerges pure from the furnace, our faith is genuine.
To understand this better, we must remember that the refiner’s fire is designed to remove what is not pure gold. It does not create faith but simply purifies what we already possess. If we believe we have faith but in reality have ‘fool’s faith,’ it will vanish when tested by fire. What is not real or genuine will be burned away. Just as we cannot manufacture gold, we also cannot manufacture faith. It either exists or it doesn’t. What a huge relief it is to know that we don’t have to somehow conjure it or create it or find it. In very simple terms, genuine faith, like gold is given by God.
Tested by fire is a gift of grace.
The very notion of being subjected to the refiner’s fire is pretty scary. Having had my pyjamas catch alight once as a child is a chilling reminder of the merciless power of fire. It’s something I have a very healthy respect for. We blithely sing about longing for the refiner’s fire, but do we really know what we’re asking for? Or is it simply a spiritual-sounding feel-good sentiment to bolster our sense of righteousness? There are no half measures when tested by fire. It’s not something we can limit or define. Gold has no say in process, nor a choice in what impurities to hold onto. Reaching absolute purity is an all or nothing thing.
We will never know the real value of our faith until it is tested by fire. That’s an even scarier prospect, because it means we live in deception. We can truly believe that our faith is genuine when it is not. The implication is sobering, because without genuine faith it is impossible to please God. If we possess ‘fool’s faith’ our prayers are empty and meaningless, our lives are shallow and without purpose, and our entire Christian existence simply a hollow shell. That is why being tested by fire is a gift of grace. God, in His love and mercy, removes all pretence and impurity. He leaves us with His assurance that the faith He has created in us is pure and undefiled. Our confidence is not in the faith we imagine we have, but in the giver of faith, who also makes sure that is genuine and eternal.
When we are tested by fire, Jesus is revealed.
I’m reminded here of Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednego. It’s from these three young men that the phrase ‘trial by fire’ essentially originates. Their story is the very literal example of having faith tested by fire. What really stands out, though, is the fourth man in the furnace, recognisable even to the pagan king as the ‘Son of God.’ Genuine faith will always be accompanied by the manifestation of Christ. This is because Jesus is the perfect example of pure faith. His faith took Him to the cross, knowing absolutely that it was the will of God and that He would be resurrected and glorified. It was faith for absolute obedience ‘even unto death.’
Genuine faith is faith we live by – literally, in our day to day Christian walk, and spiritually in eternal life. For the three young Hebrew boys, their blessing was Christ with them, the evidence of their faith for all to see. For believers today, when our faith is tested by fire, we have Christ in us. The world doesn’t see Jesus with us, a separate identity alongside us in our trial. They see Christ revealed in us. Through His indwelling presence, we have access to His pure and obedient faith. It’s more than simply Jesus there to support and encourage us. Rather, it’s a supernatural impartation of faith that is genuine and real and which glorifies God in every way.
Rejoice when tested by fire.
This is the response Paul speaks of when he exhorts us to ‘give thanks in all things.’ It’s the joy of knowing that God has destined us for eternal things. When we are tested by fire, He works sovereignly to remove the dross and burn away all that is impure. He allows the fire in order to release His Son in us. There is another truth to encourage us also. Gold has many uses. It can be shaped by the refiner into any useful purpose. Pure, molten gold contains unlimited potential. As God burns away all that is not of Him, as He releases a faith that is genuine and which reflects Christ, He also shapes us according to His perfect purposes.
Lord, thank You that You care enough for us to not be satisfied with imperfect faith. Thank You that You don’t leave us to our own devices and mistaken beliefs. Sustain us in our trials and give us joyful hearts. Help us to yield to Your refining fire, and to look to Christ in us who is our faith, our strength, and our purpose.