Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Refiner's Fire: "Waiting in the Crucible"

In the process of tracing the elements of the word “crucible” we learn that it is a derivative of the Latin word crux, from which we get the English word cross. The term “crucible” is used in this week’s lesson in a figurative sense to describe severe tests or trials. There are times when we must wait in crucibles of pain and suffering. It is during these times we are to learn lessons of patience, faith, endurance and perseverance. And too, crucibles into which we are placed ought to further purify us.

We might spend worthwhile time studying about Jacob waiting for Rachel and David for the throne or Daniel waiting for the interpretation of the time period in his chapter eight. However, the subject of our thought is to consider how this lesson of “Waiting in the Crucible” correlates to the message and experience of Minneapolis in 1888.

The lesson presents two thoughts concerning a crucible that do not seem compatible. The title states one thought: “Waiting in the Crucible.” The other is found in the third paragraph on the first page of the lesson and implies that waiting is the crucible. To join this thought with the title we would have to say that we are to be “Waiting in the Crucible of Waiting!” I am not sure these thoughts can be correlated logically.

However, there are times when we must wait in crucibles of suffering and affliction. During these times we should become more patient. In the memory text (Gal. 5:22) this waiting is expressed by the fruit of “patience” in the NIV and “longsuffering” in other translations. This fruit originates in and with the Spirit of God. Not that He learns patience, but that He has to wait patiently for us because of our unbelief. The cross is ever before Him. He can be grieved (Eph. 4:30). The context in which this verse is found reveals practices that bring grief to the Holy Spirit, such as corrupt communication, bitterness, anger, clamoring, and malice. No doubt He is also grieved when insulted (Heb. 10:29), just as was Jesus when He was spit upon and mocked (Luke 18:32).

Our insubordination to God brings grief to Him also. One reason for our remaining on earth is because of the absence of subordination or submission, even our resistance to the authority of God. Ellen White stated years ago that we “may have to remain in this world because of insubordination many more years” (Dec. 7, 1901, letter to P. T. Magan, Spalding and Magan Collection, p. 202; also Lt. 184 in 20 MR 312). We are still here, and during this time we wait in crucibles of manifold afflictions. When the lessons to be learned are accepted both corporately and individually, while in these vessels of suffering, we shall be purified and subsequently removed from the pot that melts our cold hard hearts.

Elders A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner, and Ellen White, waited and lived through the ordeal of the crucible of Minneapolis. In the boarding houses several “made light of the truth and of those who advocated the truth” (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 875). The joking, insulting laughter, and not-so-funny stories about Jones and Waggoner produced crucibles in which they suffered, but they endured with much patience. On a couple of occasions Ellen White was ready to leave that place, but the angel of God stopped her and told her to remain in Minneapolis. She wrote:

“I was about to leave the meeting for Kansas … That night the angel of the Lord stood by my bed and … I was commanded to stand at my post of duty; that there was a spirit coming in taking possession of the churches, that if permitted would separate them from God as verily as the churches who refused light that God sent them in messages of warning and of light that they might advance in regard to His second coming to our world” (1888, p. 296).

“When I purposed to leave Minneapolis, the angel of the Lord stood by me and said: ‘Not so; God has a work for you to do in this place. The people are acting over the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram’” (ibid., pp. 1067-1068).

The trio at Minneapolis persevered and no doubt learned valuable lessons from that crucible into which they were thrust, and in which they waited. They could do no other. We can be thankful for particular delegates at that meeting, who, although confused as to the issues, observed the conduct and attitude revealed by Jones and Waggoner. Some of the delegates during the meetings, and in the days and months following, accepted the messages graciously given by God, designed by Him to prepare us for His kingdom.

However, we are still here. So … the crucibles still await us. But one day these afflictions shall end. We all need a deeper experience in the things of God that come through faith and the study and practice of the Word of God.

“As we near the close of time, there will be needed a deeper and clearer discernment, a more firm knowledge of the Word of God, a living experience, and the holiness of heart and life which we must have to serve Him.

“Much precious light was brought out at this meeting [Minneapolis, 1888]. The law of God was exalted, placed before the people in the framework of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which left impressions on many minds which will be deepened and will be as lasting as eternity, while some minds were closed against light because it did not meet their ideas and former opinions. I have heard many testimonies in all parts of the field: ‘I found light, precious light.’ ‘My Bible is a new Book.’ ‘Never did we feel as at this meeting the necessity of being under the constant control of the Spirit of God, constantly uplifting the heart to God, to be Christians in heart, Christians in principles, possessing not merely a theory of the truth but revealing the principles of truth in a Christlike spirit’” (ibid., p. 828).

The crucible did its job in the lives of Elders Jones and Waggoner, Ellen White, and a few others at that time. Minneapolis was the crucible into which every person in attendance at that meeting was placed. Some learned the lessons and endured the purifying process. Others wanted no part of the crucible—the cross of Christ. The crucible became to them, instead of a purifying agent, a rock of offence, and a stumbling stone. To paraphrase Romans 9:33: Behold, I lay in Zion a rock-like crucible of offence and a stumbling vessel, but whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.

So, how is it with you? Are you in a crucible? Are you tempted to jump out? As excruciating as it may be, take courage, for Jesus knows what you are going through. He has been there. He will remain in the crucible with you. He will not allow anything but dross to be consumed from your character. He will carry you through your ordeal, just as He did with Moses and Elijah who complained of the crucibles into which they were in. Both were in such a state of depression and despondency that they asked God to kill them (see Numbers 11:10-15 and 1 Kings 19:4).

Notwithstanding that those men of God failed the testing in the crucibles at that time, they are in heaven today. And one of them entered heaven without experiencing death. Both men typify God’s people who, in the last days, will go through “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” that last crucible of suffering.

There is another truth concerning Moses and Elijah. Those two were sent by God to encourage Jesus before His time of Jacob’s trouble—His ordeal in the crucible of intense suffering, of desperate despondency and deep depression during His ordeal in Gethsemane and Calvary (Luke 9:30, 31; Matt. 26:37, 38). He waited in the crucible of our redemption until His work was finished on the cross. In the light of Christ’s experience for us, shall we complain while we wait in our crucibles?

Our “Waiting in the Crucible” may not be our desire, but the waiting for God is good for us. Whether we place ourselves in crucibles or whether life’s circumstances insert us into the crucibles of suffering or of fearful trials we may say with Peter:

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 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, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:6-9).

This is the gold refined in the crucible that Jesus counsels us to receive from Him (Rev. 3:18). He stands knocking, ever knocking, at the doors of our hearts, longing for the invitation from us to permit Him to come in and sup with us and we with Him (Rev. 3:20). Have you received Him, or will you receive Him now, in this the day of your salvation?

—Gerald L. Finneman

(Note: A series of CDs on these lessons recorded by Robert J. Wieland is available. Click here to listen to the audio recording for Lesson 11 now in MP3 format.

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