I think it’s fair to say that if you’re journeying through chronic illness today, you probably feel you are in the furnace of affliction, otherwise known as the ‘refiner’s fire’.
It is a common belief amongst Christians that ‘God is in control so allows sicknesses and tragedies to teach, discipline, grow and refine us.’
I used to subscribe to this thinking also.
However, as I continue along this journey, the more convinced I am that there are significant aspects to the refiner’s fire and the furnace of affliction which don’t, in my eyes, correlate to the healing journey.
Today I will explain why the healing journey is not the same as the refiner’s fire.
Understanding this important Biblical truth will motivate you from passivity to action and encourage you to believe God for something higher.
Basically, if you think God is wanting to teach or refine you through your illness, then you will never believe Him for healing. Andrew Wommack says this:
“I think the idea that God either causes or allows evil so that we will somehow grow spiritually is the worst heresy in the body of Christ. It renders people passive and takes away their hope.”
Let’s dive in.
WHAT IS THE REFINER’S FIRE?
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction”
For gold to become pure, it goes through intense heat; the refiner’s fire. This is not a fire that outright destroys, but one that purifies.
The fire burns away impurities until nothing but pure incorruptible gold remains.
When God refines us, he allows our ‘impurities’ to rise to the surface when we go through seasons of pressure, and when we recognise them, God helps us deal with them.
As John Bevere says in his teaching ‘The Wilderness’, we are not created for easy, we were created for victory. God isn’t as concerned with our happiness as He is with our character and purpose.
By impurities, I mean sins, flaws or bad habits. God says we are forgiven, but this doesn’t mean we are sinless.
It is the process of sanctification that God desires for every believer.
But does this apply to the healing journey? In my opinion, the answer is no.
THE HEALING JOURNEY
If your journey is anything like mine, you’ll have recognised all sorts of character traits when you were first unwell, and you probably blamed illness.
For me, I became withdrawn and could no longer see a future. The depression was overwhelming and the suicidal thoughts were consuming.
Then came the anger, the bitterness and the victimhood.
As I continued on the journey, God continued to reveal those parts of me He wanted to restore. These are the parts of my character which were my ‘normal’ for as long as I could remember.
Low self-esteem, people-pleasing, lack of self-love, guilt, shrinking back, splitting off…..the list goes on!! (And I’m still on the journey).
It’s important to realise that these mindsets and thinking patterns didn’t just appear from nowhere when illness struck. There were already on the inside of me, lying dormant.
God began to heal these traits one step at a time and is still healing me. It is the journey back to wholeness and authenticity.
If God zapped us and changed all of these things in an instant, our systems couldn’t cope. The mind-body connection is God’s design.
How has God healed and changed you since you began your journey?
Most people seem to believe that because of this, it means sickness has a divine purpose and God is teaching them through it, hence the refiner’s fire.
This isn’t Biblically accurate.
To me, the healing journey is not a journey from the freedom of sin or the process of sanctification. The healing journey is the process of God transforming and restoring us back into the person He saw at the beginning of time.
There is a fine line, but can you see the difference?
However, there are other Biblical truths which suggest that the healing process and the refiner’s fire are not synonymous.
Let’s look at God’s will and His purpose for both these situations:
1. GOD’S WILL
The Bible says that God allows us to enter into these difficult seasons so He can purify us. Joseph, Moses, the Israelites, David, Peter, Stephen, Saul…
In fact, most men and women of God in the Bible go through the refiner’s fire and God permits it in order to prepare and purify them for service.
We could say it is in alignment with His will or God-ordained. Therefore we cannot pray away the discomfort if God wills it. Think about a plant that needs to be pruned to see new growth or the clay on the potter’s wheel being moulded by God.
However, it is not God’s will for you to be sick.
None of those men and women of God were on a healing journey. If you’re wondering about Paul’s thorn, See THORN IN THE FLESH: THE BIBLICAL MEANING OF A THORN
Andrew Wommack believes just because God is sovereign, doesn’t mean He is in control.
“God never uses evil to correct or draw us to Him. A. Wommack
God doesn’t give us sickness to teach or instruct us. Nor does He allow it for some character-building lesson. God doesn’t need to use sickness as a tool.
Jesus went to the scourging post so you and I can receive healing. Healing is in the atonement so we are redeemed from sickness.
Because of the cross, it makes no sense for God to then give us an illness, or even allow sickness and delay healing ‘until we’re ready’. God wants you healed asap. He wants to honour what His Son has done.
We are not redeemed from persecution, disappointments, setbacks, the behaviour of others, betrayals, and closed doors…. the sorts of situations that God uses to refine us.
He also uses the small ‘inconveniences’ to test our obedience – smiling at people when we don’t feel like it, speaking well of those who hurt us, waiting patiently in a queue, giving up your seat on a bus….. God says He will continue to work in us until the day of completion…(Phil 1:6)
Oftentimes God orchestrates these ‘inconveniences’ in order to bless and reward us as well as to refine us. Therefore we cannot pray them away.
However, when it comes to sickness, the Bible tells us to take a stand against it. To speak to the mountain, to use the prayer of command and use our authority.
We “resist the devil and he will flee…” James 4:7 This is what Jesus and the disciples did.
Surely this then contradicts the refining process. How can we command something to leave if we believe God is using sickness to refine us?
How can we stand against something God has ordained?
2. THE PURPOSE
Sin dilutes our faith, hinders the call on our life, hurts people and stops the Jesus in us from shining brightly in this very dark world.
A believer who is unrefined or unsanctified doesn’t give a good witness of God. The purpose of the refiner’s fire is a season of testing.
We allow God to work in us in order to pass the test.
Joel Osteen says this:
That person that irritates you, God can use them like sandpaper to rub the rough edges off of you. That neighbor that’s hard to get along with, God can use them to teach you how to be merciful, kind, understanding.
Or that loved one that says things that are hurtful, God can use them to toughen you up, to learn not to be easily offended. They’re not there by accident. God has them there on purpose.
…..your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honour on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.1 Pet 1:7
Our most valuable asset is our faith, so when we go through the furnace of affliction and cooperate, we become more like Christ.
Tried and tested faith becomes purer and our hunger for the Word of God stronger. This creates a boundary that the darkness of the world can’t penetrate.
The purpose of the refiner’s fire in the New Covenant is therefore to make us vessels of purity, fit for worship and service revealing Jesus to the world.
The more I consider this in light of the healing journey, the more uncomfortable I am with believing that the refiner’s fire and the healing journey are one and the same.
The healing journey is not a test.
If the purpose of sickness was to refine us from sin and make us more obedient, then surely God would see to it that we all suffer sickness.
He would forbid us from going to a doctor because that would be contradicting his purpose of refining. This thinking suggests that those who suffer sickness or tragedy are more refined or sanctified than everyone else.
Those with disabilities or long-term illnesses do not need more refining or are more disobedient; this suggests they haven’t learned their lesson yet.
Can you see how that makes no sense?
When Jesus healed, he didn’t make people confess and repent for sins beforehand, He just healed. In fact, even unbelievers can receive healing through someone else’s faith.
Jesus never had any conditions to follow Him after He healed someone. I also know people who received healing, yet their lifestyles are anything but Godly.
These people aren’t able to reveal Jesus to the world, they are not more like Christ nor are they prepared for Kingdom purposes.
If you believe that God is waiting for you to be more obedient before He heals you, I would say this is a legalistic mindset.
Let’s look at some Biblical examples of people going through the refiner’s fire.
JOHN THE BAPTIST
God wants to prepare us for the future He has in store. John the Baptist spent his whole life in the desert and took the Nazarite vows.
Think of the suffering: being completely separate from the rest of society, a diet of locusts and honey, having no wife or intimacy, sacrificing all his personal desires for a life of absolute dedication to God.
During this time, he ‘became strong in spirit’ Luke 1:80, Think of all the refining during this period. When it was the right time, he entered into his ministry.
Trials and afflictions cause us to rise higher. God doesn’t want those impurities holding us back from the great things he has in store.
To fulfil this very public and influential role, John needed humility and obedience. Without the desert and refining season, he wouldn’t cope with the call on his life.
Even Jesus said ‘there is no one greater than John the Baptist’ Matt 11:11
In the refiner’s fire, John learned to die to himself and allow God to have His way. This is what He refers to when he says “He must increase, but I must decrease” John 3:30
In his course ‘The Wilderness’, John Bevere says we need to embrace the process of refining and not fight against it. (James 1:4)
We don’t pray away every difficult situation but we do pray against sickness.
God wanted John the Baptist in the wilderness for a divine purpose; Whilst God will always use our experiences, He doesn’t keep us in a ‘wilderness’ of sickness for a divine purpose.
(I do believe though we need more of Him and less of Us plus keeping our eyes fixed on Him, keeps us in that place of peace which is imperative for our healing.)
Likewise, humility and strength in Spirit increase our capacity for healing but God is not keeping us sick until we’ve learnt them.
When Joseph was a young boy he bragged to his brothers about how they would one day bow down to him. He was arrogant and unwise.
He then went through many years of suffering.
During his experiences in the pit, as a slave and a prisoner in the dungeon for many years, God refined him to be 2nd in command to Pharaoh (2nd richest person in the world) who said of him “ ..there is no one as discerning and wise as you.” Gen 41:39
Like John the Baptist, he grew in integrity, wisdom, humility and obedience.
He says to his brothers who betrayed him “As for you. you meant evil against me. but God meant it for good.” Genesis 50:20 (ESV)
Joseph understands that God allowed all of this to transpire. Had he not cooperated with the refining, he would not have had the character to fulfil such a prestigious and responsible role.
It was through his suffering, he developed into who God needed him to be.
God doesn’t want our ‘flaws’ and sins to ruin his call on our life. Joseph’s original arrogance would cause his destruction.
Some health situations cause us to feel as though we’re in prison. I know I certainly feel this way.
We can certainly draw learnings from Joseph’s situation and apply them to ours. But we need to remember that God willed Joseph to go through his troubles.
God doesn’t will us to be ill. Remember Jesus died for our healing.
Whilst our healing of course will benefit our calling and God will certainly use it, I don’t believe God is willing us to stay in a prison of sickness in order for us to fulfill our unique purpose within the Kingdom.
This makes our prison experience different from Joseph’s.
So Job had an illness and lost his children and livelihood. I’m sure you know the story. He didn’t understand and thought God was responsible.
Midway through the book, he says “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” Job 23:10
Now was Job in error? Or does this reflect God’s heart?
Let’s face it, Job has been wrong before. His revelation of God’s ways was limited and he had no understanding of Satan.
Remember Job was not in covenant with God the way we are. Satan is the ruler of this earth since the fall so when he asked God permission to attack Job, God gave it.
This cannot happen to a Christian today.
Most Christians would say Job 23:10 proves that God tests our faith during sickness, especially as some of us ‘come forth as gold’ at the end of the journey.
I personally believe that Job’s lack of revelation about God caused him to have a faulty belief system.
Unfortunately, the story of King Saul shows what happens when there is no refining process. He became king without any furnace of affliction to prepare him.
Saul grew in anger, bitterness and jealousy which ultimately destroyed him. He was self-focused and wanted glory for himself.
We see him disobeying God, blaming others and even lying. His character caused his downfall.
God clearly wants us refined so we don’t self-destruct like Saul.
** God doesn’t waste anything we go through and if we stick with Him, we end up better off as a result.
Perhaps you’re working really hard but not getting promoted. Maybe you’re planning to move house but no buyers are interested. Are you seeing those around you with the blessings you desire?
God uses traffic jams, betrayals, persecutions, disputes, people’s opinions, disappointments…to refine us so we are more like Christ.
But definitely not sicknesses, diseases, poverty, calamities, accidents… These are from the enemy so we stand against them.
SPIRIT, SOUL, BODY
Our ‘impurities’ can dilute our faith. It’s the Holy Spirit in us that heals our bodies (Rom 8:11).
When we cooperate with God on the healing journey, we allow Him to heal anything in our soul and body that needs healing.
The growth and healing that takes place during this process in my opinion cause wholeness; the person God intended us to be. He does this through His Word, and not the sickness itself.
He wants to heal all those traumas from the past. This is not sanctification.
We are not being tested with the divine purpose to be more Christlike or fit for service, (although we no doubt will end up more like Christ).
God’s perfect plan isn’t to heal, it’s that we never get sick in the first place. I don’t think we can say this about persecution or other forms of affliction.
Imagine the difference if you were to surrender to God’s will for refining as you go through difficulties whilst standing against the sickness you’re believing God to heal.
Jesus died for our healing, so why would He now be allowing it to make us more Christlike? If you’re suffering with sickness today, this is not the refiner’s fire so rest assured God is not teaching you something (even if you are learning lots!)
I hope today’s post will give food for thought, and encourage you to believe God for your breakthrough.
Have a great rest of the day
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