Tools for Refining

A few Sunday mornings back, during the social shuffle between the end of the Bible Class hour and before the start of the worship service, I stood in the entryway to the sanctuary, waiting to grab a pew to share with my family members. As I dallied by the doors, a teenage girl - a newer member in our congregation - approached me. We uttered the usual, casual, “Good morning,” greetings and the, “Did you have a good week?” questions.

Then, “Hey, actually, I’ve been wanting to talk to you about something.”

The following conversation with this bright and bubbly high school senior set my heart aglow. She and a fellow classmate were hoping to start a morning Bible study for other female students at their Christian high school. She sought materials, advice, ideas - anything that would help make their weekly meetings successful and beneficial.

To see the Holy Spirit work so visibly in a young woman’s heart and life was incredible. It both convicted and inspired me. There I stood, without excuse, knowing how lacking my own Bible studies often are, while also being jolted with a bursting desire to dig into the Word, so I could be a source of support for these Christian ladies.

It’s easy to assume that young people are caught up in the world and its temptations. However, how often do we become more caught up in these things as we age? How often do we skip our own personal devotions and prayer time, let alone fellowship time with our brothers and sisters? A sparking light of Christian encouragement from a girl several years younger than me, a girl young enough to be my very own student, yet close enough in age that I knew we were going through some of the same battles.

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.  Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.
— I Timothy 4:12-13

For the month of September, our focus is living refined. If you look up the definition of refine in a dictionary, you’ll find descriptions such as: “to become pure”, “free from impurities”, “to become more fine, elegant, or polished.” However, if you scroll to less common definitions, you’ll find one that should resonate well with the Christian heart. Rather than simply being the definition of refine it’s actually the definition for refine on / upon.

The number eight definition on my phone app’s dictionary states the following:

Refine on / upon: to improve by inserting finer distinctions, superior elements, etc.

We can only live a life refined because a superior outside element has been inserted in our hearts. Our gracious God has made a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit in us through his Word, through our fellowship with others, and through the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. To live refined is not a choice of ours but a result of God acting upon us.

My heart swelled that Sunday morning when a mature, young lady asked me a simple question and again in chit chats over coffee days later — not because this girl was an exceptional model of Christian living in action, but because the refining light of the Spirit was shining through her. How naive was I to not see the potential to walk in faith with those my junior? It’s routine to get caught up in our day-to-day living, in our own paths, in our own thoughts, and to believe that these are the undeniable truths in our lives.

What a blessing that the Spirit uses innumerable outside forces to call us to attention and polish our faith. Prayerfully, let’s lean on our fellow Christians this way. Young and old. Weak and strong. Lifelong believers and those new to the faith. Man and woman. Spiritual leaders and the everyday church member. Stay alert and seek out these outside sources of spiritual insights, encouragement, and excitement.

The Spirit is working in ways you cannot imagine.

May the Lord pour out his Spirit to refine our own hearts so that he may sharpen our faith as a blessed tool used to refine others.

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