Monday, October 26, 2015

Forged in the Trial

Testing comes at different times and in different ways - but we can all be assured of one thing. We will go through times of testing. The question is how we will respond to the testing.

James 1:12 says

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial,

for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, 

which God has promised to those who love him. (ESV)

That phrase, “stood the test” is “hoti dokimos genomenes” in Greek. That word “dokimos” has its origins in coin making. In ancient banking, each coin was made individually by an artisan. The metal was melted and poured into forms. Once it was cooled, the burs and other imperfections were shaved off. Some money changers would shave off more than required. This became such a problem that at one point there were 80 laws on the books in Athens to regulate how much could be shaved off for a coin to be genuine. Some money changers were honest and gave each coin the full weight. Their coins were genuine and the coin changers were referred to as “dokimos”.

As I was thinking about this, I thought of the differences in casting and forging. I am no expert, but when a metal piece is cast, liquid metal is poured into a mold and cast into the desired shape. Some dross or imperfections have been removed, but no strength is added. Haven't you ever had something made of metal that just snapped in two? Chances are, this piece was cast.

In forging, the metal is heated, hammered and cooled – repeatedly. It actually changes the metal crystallization and grain refinement of the metal. The metal becomes more flexible and stronger.

James outlines two processes in chapter 1 of his letter. In verses14 – 15, he says our desires give birth to sin. These desires may not look bad, but they are not necessarily pleasing to God. We need wisdom to discern if what we desire lines up with what God wants. The best place to find that wisdom is in the scriptures. Once birth is given to sin, it becomes full grown. Instead of taking our thoughts captive, we feed them. We keep them warm and incubate them by thinking about “our rights”. We become self righteous. We tell ourselves the lie that our “little” sin won't hurt anyone. And then, full grown sins lead us to death.

The other process is found in verses 3-4. It starts with testing. Testing comes in many forms. There is the testing of cause and effect – you reap what you sow. There are spiritual trials – usually when our desires are in conflict with God's desires. And then there are mysterious trials. These are probably the hardest because there is no rational reason for them. All of these trials, if we let them, will grow us in steadfastness until we become perfect and complete.
 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48 (ESV)

The culmination of this is the Crown of Life. The word for crown is “stephanos” and does not indicate a crown of royalty, but rather a victor's crown or laurel wreath.

It is this second process that leads to us becoming “dokimos”. The dross of our life is removed. We are hammered and cooled and reheated. The mettle of our life becomes stronger. We are proved to be “dokimos”. And receive the Crown of Life.

I, for one, fight this forging process. It is not easy to allow the Lord to shape and strengthen us. It would be so much easier to be melted once into the perfect shape, wouldn't it? Unfortunately there would be no strength in us. And truly we would not be genuine or give the full weight to our calling. And truly, doesn't He deserve followers who are genuine? He is a God who is above all Faithful and True. We are promised that He who began a good work in us will finish it. Should we not trust Him in this promise while we are in the process of being forged into the person He has called us to be?

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