Monday, June 10, 2013

Removing the Dross

In elementary school, I was introduced to the brilliant idea of extra credit. I loved it. I worked the system like a champ, and I made sure I made perfect scores on every test I took so that the bonus points could build a cushion for my off days. I liked seeing 110/A on tests. I really liked knowing that I would still have a perfect average even if I had a bad day in the future. It was secure, safe, and I was confident that I would be successful in school. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to be the valedictorian, and I knew insulating my grades would help achieve that goal. I was right. It did.

So naturally, as I've matured and grown up in life, that same mentality has shifted into almost every other area of life.  

When we heard about Dave Ramsey, the Christian financial advisor, and his plan to become and stay debt free, we jumped on board. I loved his smart advice, and I loved the financial security of being insulated from any possible emergency or pitfall in the future. I sold out for his plan 100%, started a home business to make it possible, and I leveraged everything to help us become more financially secure.

Enter church planting. It rocked our world. Enter Pax. I became too sick to keep up with the world I had built, and God didn't heal me. Enter confusion. Up until this point, God had provided in miraculous ways to keep us debt free, and for this season, He didn't. Enter anger. I felt that God had abandoned me in my suffering, and I didn't understand why He was not providing for our needs. Enter despair. I knew I was helpless, and I was ashamed that I couldn't keep up with the system ideal I had set for my life.  Enter the Prosperity Gospel. When I tried to find comfort in other Christians, I often heard that God blesses those He loves, and Sin is the reason God withdraws His blessing. Enter struggle. I wrestled with God and myself. I knew we were following God. I knew life was hard. I knew He was my only Hope for peace. I knew I needed Him.

Enter rest.  I'm here.  

It's because of the Word. Scripture redefined my worldview, and I realized suffering was what I needed to purge the false theology that I had made my own. God had to take away the "dross from my heart to make a suitable vessel for His Spirit (Prov. 25:4 paraphrase)." I needed His refining fire to melt away everything that was competing with Him to make His Spirit shine brighter in me than everything else. The process has been painful. I can't say I have enjoyed the journey, but I am thankful that God sometimes withholds His provision for a season to expose our hearts and ultimately lead us to a greater dependency on Him. (There is an incredible sermon about this here that Dr. Russell Moore preached back in 2010 if you'd like to explore this idea more.)

I still love the idea of being debt free so that you are more free to give. I want to be there again with my whole heart. However, it's not an idol for me anymore. If we are never debt free again but are faithfully using our resources for the Kingdom and not merely for our own pleasure, we won't have failed. The funny thing about being married to a pastor is that you usually get to be a living sermon example for whatever he is passionate about. Bryan hates the Prosperity Gospel and the way it has tainted the worldview of the Church.

We are getting to live out that following Jesus doesn't always lead to financial security and prosperity, but it will lead to peace in Christ.

Jesus is worth more than anything.

John Piper teaches, "Purity only comes through the refining fire." (You can listen to that sermon here.) The good news is that the refining fire is ultimately for our good. "Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God." Matthew 5:8

As John Piper preaches, "What is life like in the refiner's fire? More than anything else it is the unshakeable trust that all the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness. And on the path to purity and heaven the truth is this: no pain, no gain. Both things are true: the Lord is like a refiner's fire, and a refiner's fire is a fire."

Dear Christian as you struggle in this world and are beat down by the accusations of those around you who question you and judge you for not being successful on their terms, you may be exactly where God wants you to be. God doesn't care about your worldly success. He cares about His glory and your good. God will refine you until you reflect His Son well.

It is a good thing. He will sustain you. Rest in Jesus.

"For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly." Psalm 84:11

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