“The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, but the Lord tests hearts.”
God’s Anvil for His Handiwork
Max Lucado’s first book On the Anvil is still one of my favorites. Its pages are dog-eared and there are a few stains in between the highlighting — evidence of tears that flowed because his words described what mine could not express. That’s because I’ve been on that anvil.
Even if you’ve never read the book, I bet you can relate to the analogy. It’s a powerful way to summarize what Scripture teaches about our faith being refined through trials and the purifying that must happen so we can be instruments for noble purposes.
Paul called us “God’s workmanship.” (Eph. 2:10)
Peter referenced a goldsmith’s furnace for our faith. (1 Pet. 1:6-7)
James promised that finished work would follow tested faith. (James 1:3-4)
Malachi compared God to a smelter (translated goldsmith/silversmith). (Mal. 3:3)
And through the prophet Isaiah, God himself spoke of refining his people in the furnace of affliction for his own name sake. (Isa. 48:10-11)
A Smith both Smites & Signs
When we go through the trials and disappointments and hardships of life, we are desperate for reminders that we’ve not been left alone in a scrap pile and there is a purpose for our pain. If you’re on the anvil, you’re in a fire, beneath a chisel, and under construction. But it’s all taking place in the presence of a master craftsman — a smith.
There are two things worth noting here about a smith.
1-The ‘smith’ in goldsmith/silversmith/blacksmith is derived from the Old English word ‘smite.’ Smiths are professional smiters. The very nature of their craft requires pounding, purifying, heating, molding, reshaping. There is no other method.
2-The smith is an artisan. Each unique piece he crafts is a reflection of him and he signs his name to his finished work.
These things evoke competing emotions for me.
I love the idea of being God’s masterpiece and having his fingerprints on my life. I’m all about sparkle and shine and great workmanship. But this smiting thing? #NotSoMuch.
The Skit Guys illustrated this struggle brilliantly in their video, “God’s Chisel.” You won’t regret spending five minutes watching it.
Loved too much to be left where you’re at
I imagine we can all relate to Tommy’s request for time out, “We’ve done some great work. Can we just take a break and I’ll stay right here?” (1:10)
And what was the answer in the video?
“You never just ‘stay.’ You’re either moving closer to me or away from me.”
“I love you too much to leave you where you’re at.”
God loves us too much to leave us stagnant and let us get comfortable, slowly sinking into lukewarm or slipping into neutral. Think about what these classic verses on faith would sound like if this were an option.
James 1:3-4 would say instead:
“… knowing that [staying where you’re at] produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Hebrews 12 would go like this:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us [sit here, take a time out, and rest for a while], fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.”
No. James says the testing of our faith produces endurance and Hebrews calls us to run with endurance just like the heroes of the faith persevered.
No Easy button or Fastpass
There is no neutral gear of faith and God spits lukewarm out.
The call here is to walk — to run even.
… to endure, persist, and persevere.
… to grow and be pruned.
… to be refined as silver.
… to stay on the anvil until we have been shaped, molded, and formed into an instrument for noble purposes, useful to the Master. (2 Tim. 2:21)
It’s not a stroll through the park or a trip to Staples. There is no easy button or Disney FastPass. Although we know this, we are tempted to embrace a counterfeit expectation, just like the character in the video. He is admonished:
“You bought into the lie thinking it was going to be easy when you gave everything over to me.” (4:10)
This is a lie the enemy loves to spread. If he can frame our expectation that followers of Christ get an easy button or ticket pass, then when the wind blows and the storm rages — when it’s our time to stay in the wilderness or walk through a valley — we will be tempted to question if God has forsaken us. We’ll stall out trying to make sense of all that doesn’t add up to match our expectations.
God isn’t running a theme park; he’s building a Majestic Kingdom — a showroom full of works that reflect his image and his glory. If you’re on the anvil or feeling chiseled, it’s because your Father considers you worthy of his attention to your details.
You are not set aside. You’ve been set apart. He’s not finished with you, and that’s a GOOD thing. He will do a work in you before he does a work through you, but know this: he is working.
Trials, divine discipline, and other anvil experiences refine so that you reflect your Savior more visibly, just like silver reflects more clearly after it has been melted and hammered and buffed. And when he’s finished and engraves his name upon your life, you’ll say with absolute confidence, “It was worth it.”
In the process, remember you are transformed by submitting to the Master’s hands, not by changing the circumstances, crawling off the anvil, or running from the smith’s shop.
If it is from him, you can trust it because you can trust him.
Don’t let your flawed thinking or the enemy convince you to question God’s motives or assume he’s left you to rust in the corner by yourself. He is near.
The very act of “smithing” requires the Master to touch the masterpiece.
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