It is to the praise of the craftsman’s glory, that his works are subjected to refining fires. The craftsman knows what is latent within and seeks to purify and refine – until its beauty is plainly seen by all. His workmanship is destined to be refined and purified, that its true worth might be revealed to the praise of his glory. In this same way, we as raw unrefined works are submitted to the work of God’s craftsmanship through the furnace and the crucible, and we are tested by our praise. As scary as that may sound, there is a point of view that is not only thankful for this but trusts in His ability to craft our lives and consider it pure joy in the midst of His refining work.
By design, the objects which He places into the crucible and furnace are not utterly consumed but totally purified. The Master Craftsman knows the intrinsic worth, and that what is precious must be tested. In this post, we will take a closer look at God’s work in refining and purifying ordinary men and women, like you and me, to be about His work and join Him in the business of making all things beautiful.
My venture into the fire…
When I originally embraced this aspiration of being a craftsman in 2006, I didn’t realize that my aspirations were in opposition to a work that God had been doing since before the foundations of the world. Much of what I was trying to do was in hopes of making a name for myself – to be noticed and recognized for my accomplishments. I struggled and was constantly pulling myself up by the bootstraps. Yet regardless of my efforts, my labor always seemed vain – it never accomplished what my soul truly desired.
I’ve begun to recognize the maker’s mark that we each bear – made in God’s own image to glorify Him. Yet the very thought of someone living for the praise of another is so foreign to me – that type of glory is hidden from me. While it is plainly revealed in the Bible, even today it is virtually unexplored and rejected it out of hand as the purpose for mankind. Why would anyone subject themselves to suffering so that someone else might be glorified? My thoughts naturally bend towards the idea of the “self-made man”. That I am the Master Craftsman. If I am to suffer it will be for my own glory. I have tried to champion statements like,
“No pain, no gain.”
“No guts, no glory.”
In my strength, I am constantly developing and testing new ways to strive and thrive. But I am realizing just how frail we truly are. Our lives surely are but a breath. Like a flower or a blade of grass, we quickly fade away.
God’s refining, fiery love…
Ephesians 2:10 says that we were God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. If that was true my desires would need to be purified. As I submitted to Him as a Master Craftsman – even in the midst of intense affliction – I discovered that He knew my soul’s true worth better than I did. In time I realized that I could trust His unchanging, purifying, refining, & fiery love. Daily I grew to appreciate my need to be conformed to His designed purpose – that He was setting me apart for good work.
The crucible is for silver… the furnace is for gold… a man is tested by his praise. What keen insights into the forging of this good work in us can be gleaned from this proverb? Upon closer reflection, we are given a word picture that causes us to consider not only the instruments which are being used to refine and purify, and the inherent value of the objects which are being refined, but then we are called to consider what is the true measure of our worth, and how that is tested.
Applying the verse in my life…
So I brought this verse with me into His workshop, intent on learning from Him about this good work that He had purposed to bring forth in mankind. It was during that conversation with Him that I found myself wrestling with thoughts like:
A crucible and furnace seem like places of intense affliction, stress, and hardship. Is there no other way? Lord, this will require a much deeper trust in your intentions to refine and not consume us.
Yet in the illustration, it was becoming clear that the crucible and the furnace were not designed to consume nor destroy these precious metals but refine and purify them. It was a process that revealed their true worth.
Lord, what instruments have you designed for us where impurities can be removed so that we are purified and refined and useful in your hands?
While I could see that there was great value in silver and gold being refined, what value did He see in us that was worthy of being refined? What would His furnace consume? reveal?
As I was watching Him pour these molten metals into forms that He had designed I was struck by how quickly they conformed to them.
As the metal began to cool He went to work fitting and shaping them for His intended good work. This excited me for the work of His hands being revealed in my life, but was that a selfish desire being burned up or an inherent worth being revealed – or both!?
And what did it mean that “a man was tested by His praise”?
Was He saying that His test was in my praise? It’s as if the object of my praise was going to reveal the purity of my heart.
Would the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart praise Him? How much purifying would it take to remove the dross in my life?
Did I love the praise of men more than God? If I only received His praise and not theirs would I be fulfilled?
Did I trust the skill of His refining? Did I have a proper fear that marveled at the work of His hands to purify my life?
What is revealed in the fire?
You and I are not just precious metals in the sight of God like silver or gold – we are of infinitely higher value. When we come to realize this, we must join the psalmist in asking “But what is man that you are mindful of him?” Silver and gold must be placed into an instrument of intense and concentrated heat in order to burn away impurities and cause the hard metal to become liquid. So too, men and women are given daily opportunities to be refined and conformed to reveal what’s in our hearts. It’s in the midst of these fiery afflictions that out of the abundance of our heart the mouth speaks.
Which brings me full circle back to this aspiration of becoming a craftsman, only to discover His aspiration to make me His workmanship. When we enter into His workshop we must acknowledge that we are corrupted, tainted. There are things hidden deep within each one of us which cannot remain should He continue in His aspiration to conform us to His image. While our lives are not a reflection of His finished design, we do possess the raw materials which when submitted to the Master Craftsman can be purified and transformed into amazing works of art. We are at best an impure state in desperate need of purifying and refinement. We are intentionally designed by God to bear His image, but we are corrupted throughout with the dross of our own praise.
Consider how our hearts respond when we are…
praised by others for our good works.
receive an honor for our efforts.
unacknowledged for our sacrifice.
overlooked in our striving.
or, unappreciated for our service.
He sees past the imperfect…
Yet it is God’s goodness and mercy that sees past these impurities and dross. As a loving craftsman, He presents us with opportunities to subject ourselves to fiery afflictions in the furnace of His love that we might be purified and made moldable. Will we trust in His refining work? His intention is to set our hearts ablaze until we are purified so that what comes forth is to the praise of His glory.
This is why the vision of God as our Master Craftsman is such a precious and primary relationship for us all. Crafted by God to love and serve others well in business will be the blessing of His refinement. As a master craftsman, God will always find ways to purify and reveal the overflow of our hearts. This will continue until it is the song of the redeemed to the praise of His glory. In that sense, we are the light of the world, and as that light (our praise of Christ as our Master Craftsman) is revealed rest assured He will set us on a hill so that many will see “our” good works and praise their Father in Heaven
Our praise of the Master Craftsman in the midst of His refining fire will inspire others to discover His aspiration for each of us to become what the Master Crafted.
Call to action…
Below is a list of questions that we should be asking ourselves when it comes to refining and purifying in our own craftsman business. Engage with these questions in the pursuit of loving and serving others well. I hope your journey of discovery with Christ in His workshop continues to be fruitful and multiplying as we join Him in making all things beautiful. May the Lord bless you and keep you and cause His face to shine upon you and give you peace!
What impurities are there in the raw materials that I work with?
What is the process of removing those impurities in your workshop?
How much value is added when those raw materials are refined?
Describe what is required of you as a craftsman to consistently engage this refining process with joy and expectation?
How do you let others see and discover the value of this refinement in the products you make?
What are the trade-offs of not refining and purifying your raw materials before employing them for good work?
Our products and services are praised because of their usefulness to the customer. In that sense, these products and services are tested by the customer’s praise.
What has been the result of that testing?
What does this teach us about additional purifying and refining work that needs to happen within our craftsmanship?
I would love to hear what you are learning as you submit yourself to the Master Craftsman’s work in your business. How is He inspiring joy-filled business in you?