The Painful, Necessary Process of Purging Our Idols
By Megan Rawlings
I felt the monotony of the workday end and a sense of relief come over me as I walked through the door of my home. I instinctively called for my husband, “Hey, I’m home!”
“In here,” he replied.
I walked in to find him packing up his most valued item. When I asked him what he was doing and why, he shared a story from his time in seminary.
While studying for his Master of Divinity at Abilene Christian University, a professor, Dr. John Willis, encouraged my husband and the other students to walk through their homes and discard their most valued possession in order to guard their hearts against what could be deemed idols. It made sense. Jesus instructed, “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” (Matthew 6:21, New Living Translation). Ridding ourselves of our idols—treasures that distract us or take our attention away from Jesus—is vital to maturing in our faith and following the will of God. The process, known as refining, can be painful, but it is necessary.
The Refining Process
While mulling over this concept, I read a story that was floating around the internet. I’m not sure whom to credit, but the story’s sentiment perfectly supports what I’ve already shared.
A group of women were studying the book of Malachi. (This is my favorite type of Bible study—a group of sisters in Christ opening the Bible and digging in.) In Malachi 3 they came across this: “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver” (v. 3). The women wondered how this showed God’s character, so one of them volunteered to learn more about the process of refining silver. She promised to report her findings the following week.
She called a local silversmith to make an appointment to study how he worked. She explained that she was curious about the process of refining silver but never mentioned the Bible study. On the appointed day, she watched the silversmith hold a piece of silver over the fire to heat it. To refine silver, he said, one must place it in the middle of the fire where it is hottest and allow the heat to burn away all the impurities.
She suddenly understood this was how God holds his followers in “hot” spots, exactly like the Malachi verse that talks about how God sits as a refiner and purifier of silver. She asked the silversmith if it was true he had to stay with this piece of silver, in front of the fire, the whole time it was in the flames. The silversmith answered emphatically, “Yes!” He told her there was more to his job than just sitting and waiting, though. He said he had to monitor the silver the entire time it was in the fire, never taking his eyes off of it. “If the silver is left in the flame even a second too long, it would be impaired,” he said. “If it was not in the flame long enough, impurities would remain in it.”
She listened and then sat silently for a moment before asking, “How do you know the exact moment when the silver is completely refined?”
He smiled at her and said, “That is a good question and has an easy answer. The silver is fully refined when I see my image in it.”
The End Product
Giving away our most valued possession can be difficult. Going through trials and facing temptations in order to get rid of things we may have unknowingly used as idols can feel as if we are being held in the center of the flames. But consider the words of Jesus’ brother: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4, English Standard Version).
I want to challenge you to rid yourself of the most distracting item in your life. And as you do, remember that God is watching closely for a glimpse of his own reflection.
Megan Rawlings is the founder and CEO of The Bold Movement. She is an extrovert, pastor’s wife, and lover of the Scriptures.