All That Glitters is Not Gold

I used to be so “star-struck.” I was fascinated by the life of the rich and famous. I bought all the magazines so I could keep up with my favorite celebs. I soaked up every detail of their lives – where they went, what their house looked like, and especially what they wore. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to be them.
Then I met Someone – He wasn’t a star by the world’s standards, but He created the stars and calls them all by name. And suddenly the lives of actors and singers fell far short; their glitz and glamor couldn’t compare to His splendor. I don’t waste money on magazines since I found the Book He wrote. I want to soak up everything about His life. I want to walk like He walked. I want to be wherever He is. I want to look like Him and talk like Him. I want to be like Him. His name is Jesus.
This world idolizes celebrities and makes kings and queens out of men and women who can sing a song, pretend to be someone else, bounce a ball, or show themselves off in outlandish ways. But there is One who set aside His incomparable splendor and became the most humble of men. He deserves all our worship and all our praise. One day, at the mere mention of His name, “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10-11). Even LeBron and Miley and the whole Kardashian clan.
Beloved, who has caught your attention? Who is a “star” in your eyes? No one will ever shine as brightly as Jesus.

Trading Gold for Bronze

“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie. . .” (Romans1:25).

I love to watch the Olympics.  I love to see people with great skill and talent at their best.   I admire the determination and dedication they show to hone and strengthen their skills; I am encouraged by their single-minded focus and discipline. Thousands of athletes come with the hopes of winning a medal for their country, with the gold as their ultimate goal. Silver medals are awarded to second place and bronze for third, but gold medals are the pinnacle of success in the competitive world of athletics. Gold is far more valuable than silver or bronze, thus it is awarded to the most worthy athlete.

Gold is also a show of one’s wealth. In fact, that can be taken to ridiculous extremes with gold cosmetics, gold clothing, a gold coffin, gold teeth caps or a gold slinky. And if you really want to show off, you can put a roll of gold toilet tissue next to your gold toilet. Silver and bronze just won’t cut it if you want to really make a statement.

Solomon was the wealthiest of all the Old Testament kings, so much so that the Bible says all the articles for his personal dwelling places were made of gold because “silver was considered of little value in Solomon’s day”(2 Chronicles 9:20).  Solomon had wealth that today’s richest billionaires can only dream about. I found a particularly interesting note in 2 Chronicles 9:15-16 which says: “King Solomon made two hundred large shields of hammered gold . . . he also made three hundred small shields of hammered gold.” Gold shields – that’s pretty wealthy, don’t you think?

Solomon eventually died and his son, Rehoboam ascended to the throne in his place. The young man did not inherit his father’s wisdom, nor his grandfather David’s love for God. 2 Chronicles 12 tells the story of Rehoboam’s turning away from the Lord – “he and all Israel with him abandoned the Lord” (v. 1). They soon came under attack from the king of Egypt, and God spoke through a prophet declaring, “You have abandoned me; therefore I now abandon you” (v. 5). At this the King and people recognized their sin and turned back to God for His protection. God relented and rescued, but they still were made subject to the Egyptian king for a season as the Lord said, “so that they may learn the difference between serving Me and serving the kings of other lands.” (v. 8).

While the Egyptian king did not destroy the people, he did strip them of much of the wealth that Solomon had amassed. Verse 9 says, “Shishak king of Egypt . . . carried off the treasures of the temple of the Lord . . . and of the royal palace. He even took the gold shields Solomon had made.” Wait, did you catch that. The gold shields – Solomon’s gold shields – were claimed as booty by the king of Egypt. Look at the next verse: “So King Rehoboam made bronze shield to replace them” (v. 10). Because of the sin of the king and his people with him, the royal gold shields were traded out for bronze – an inferior metal for an inferior king.

There are two points to consider here: first, God allowed the people some time with the enemy king so that they could see how much better they had it under His authority. Where they had once been the most feared and respected nation under David and Solomon, they were made a subservient nation under Egypt. Their freedom was taken from them and they were made to pay tribute to the Egyptian king. Their harvests were divided so that Shishak received his portion, whether or not they had any left themselves. The second point is this: they had been the wealthiest and most prosperous nation, but they had been forced to trade their gold for bronze because they turned away from their God. King Rehoboam’s entry ends with these sad words: “He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord” (V. 14). They squandered all the blessings God had given them for the false pleasures of the world. And in the end they lost more than all those worldly treasures were worth.

So I ask you – Are your trading gold for bronze – or even less? Are you trading the blessed life God longs to give you for the fool’s gold of the world?   The world we live in is ruled by an evil enemy – Satan, and he is constantly at work taking men and women captive under his cruel banner. God has offered us the safety and security of His Son, but we must set our heart on seeking Him, and receive His loving offer. We must turn to the Lord and commit ourselves completely to Him. I promise you will find that serving God, living under His authority and His golden shield is far superior to anything the world could offer you. Don’t throw away a golden life for worthless trinkets and momentary pleasures. Grab hold of the blessings God has for you and you will never lose the greatest treasure of all.

Holy Father, the world dangles worthless stones before our eyes, and so often we grab for them and forget about the real treasure that You give. Please help us to recognize the difference between fool’s gold and the pure and perfect gold that is only found in You. Amen.

Refining and Sifting

“But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.”

Job: 23:10

 

It seems that lately I write from the struggles of my own life, from the vat where grapes are crushed for juice, from the desert wilderness, and like Job from the smelting pot of the goldsmith. It’s a hard season with pressures coming at me from many different angles. I can understand Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:8: “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.” I look to the heavens as ask, “God what is this all about? What are You trying to do – break me?”

His answer? “Yes. But not to leave you broken. To make you whole. To purify your faith.” You see, God does not just pull us out of the pit of sin and death to go our own merry way in life. He saves us to transform us, to make us more like His own Son. And it is a life-long process that often requires pain and suffering.

Peter, Jesus’ friend and disciple, is a perfect example. If you know anything about him, you know Peter was impetuous, brash and often spoke before thinking. More than once, Peter’s mouth got him trouble. He could say profound and powerful things, like his great confession: “You are the Christ” (Mark 8:29), and a few minutes later, Jesus rebuked Peter for scolding the Son of God because He was teaching them about His coming death (Mark 8:31-33)! Jesus saw things in Peter that would both advance and hinder the Gospel.

At the Passover feast, which we now know at the Last Supper, while the disciples were arguing over their own status in His kingdom, Jesus made a terrifying statement. “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat” (Luke 22:31). The statement is given in the plural “you,” meaning Satan had asked to sift the entire company of disciples. And they would all be sifted, to a degree, when they see their Rabbi and Friend being arrested. Yet Jesus’ next statement was very pointed and personal. “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail” (v. 32). In those words Jesus told Simon that he would carry the brunt of the devil’s evil deed, for the “you” here is singular – “I have prayed for you Simon.”

Why would Jesus give His friend and follower over to be sifted by the devil? Because there were things in Peter that needed to be removed. Pride, arrogance, stubbornness. Just like the things that need to be sifted out of me. What was left after Peter’s sifting? Two things: The prayers of Jesus and humble man ready to be used for His glory. Did you catch Jesus’ promise in verse 32 – “I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.” Jesus prayed for Peter, that his disciple’s faith would not fail. And we know that whatever Jesus asks of His Father is granted, because He always asks according to the will of the Father. Peter could not fail, because Jesus has guaranteed it by His petition. When I am in the sifter, as I am now, my Savior is before the Father on my behalf – “Father, do not let her faith fail.”

The other part of Jesus’ promise in that verse is seen in one little word: when. “And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (v. 32b) (emphasis added). Jesus could assure Peter that he would turn back, because of His own prayers for Peter. Peter would survive the sifting and come through it with a refined faith. Jesus allowed Satan just enough heat and pressure to burn off the dross that lived in Peter, that would fight against the mighty work to which he was called.

The story is told of a woman who, having read in the Bible that God refines His people like silver and gold, visited a silversmith and asked about the process of refining the precious element. The smithy said he put the silver in a kettle and exposed it to extremely high heat that caused the dross, or waste to rise to the surface where he could scoop it out. This process took intense heat and so she asked, “how do you keep from burning it?” The man replied, “I lean in very closely to the kettle and watch it carefully, using only as much heat as necessary until it is just as I want it.” She asked “How do you know when it is ready to be removed from the heat?” The smithy answered, “When I can see my reflection in the surface.” We are called to be the reflection of Jesus Christ to the world and that image must be pure.

Jesus allowed friend to be sifted, to go through the crucible of intense suffering to remove what was marring His image in Peter. He became a mighty Apostle and preached the first Gospel message after Jesus’ resurrection. The Lord used a humble Peter mightily in the birth and growth of His church.

I did not welcome the suffering and pain of this season in my life, but I know that God is purifying my faith and refining me to be His witness to the world. I trust that He is leaning in closely and watching over me, allowing just enough heat to accomplish His purpose – to see His Son reflected in me. I know that my Savior is praying for me, and when the process is complete, like Job, “I will come forth as gold.”

Jesus, my Savior – as You were in the fire with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, come and stand with me now; carry me through this season of suffering on the wings of Your prayers. Let me come through as a reflection of You in the world. Amen.