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John Benson - The Refiner's Fire


   The Lord is determined to purify and cleanse His people. He allows many of His chosen
   people to pass through the furnace of affliction. He is determined to bring forth the pure gold
   of holiness, genuine faith and Christ-like character. But is it possible that we have put out the
   Spirit’s fire as He seeks to move among us? John Benson writes

I was a metallurgist before I heard        out into a mould and shaped for         adultery with Bathsheba and then
the Lord’s call to ordination. I           use. In a similar way, I was going      conspired with Joab to have her
still bear the scars from laboratory       to be refined by fire and shaped        husband Uriah killed in battle. The
accidents with steel bars at very          into something useful for the Lord.     Lord sent Nathan the prophet to
high temperatures. I soon learnt                                                   speak to David. ‘Why did you
that respect is needed – even when         Before I develop these points, let      despise the word of the LORD by
the fire is contained in a carefully       me quickly add that the refining        doing what is evil in his eyes? You
controlled furnace. You cannot play        process continues to this day. The      struck down Uriah the Hittite with
with fire without getting burnt. Fire      Lord has not finished dealing with      the sword and took his wife to be
gives warmth when we are cold.             me. I am still a work in progress. It   your own’ (2 Samuel 12: 9 –10).
Fire cooks our food. Fire refines          is only through the riches of God’s     David had no place to hide,
metals in the furnace. Fire also           mercy and grace that I can stand.       no room to negotiate and no words
destroys.                                  Spurgeon expressed it with his          to speak in mitigation. He
                                           characteristic clarity: ‘We are not     confessed his sin and Nathan
The words of Daniel Iverson’s              what we hope to be, But we are          assured him that the LORD had
hymn ‘Spirit of the living God’ made       not what we used to be. There has       taken away his sin. David’s
sense to me as I worked in the lab:        been progress, but there is still a     confession is amplified in
                                           long way to go.’ ‘I press on to take    Psalm 51 and he recognises that:
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on   hold of that for which Christ Jesus     ‘The sacrifices of God are a broken
me.                                        took hold of me.’ (Philippians 3: 12)   spirit; a broken and contrite heart,
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on                                           O God, you will not despise. (Verse
me.                                                                                17)
Break me, melt me, mould me, fill me.      BREAK ME
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on
me.                                        Jesus said that when the Holy           David is convicted of his sin. Lust,
                                           Spirit comes ‘he will convict the       pride and arrogant self-confidence
Scrap metal was broken up and              world of guilt in regard to sin and     have been exposed. He is broken
placed in a furnace. The furnace           righteousness and judgement’            and contrite before God. He is
was heated until the metal melted          (John 16: 7 – 8). King David had        forgiven. He can make a fresh start
and the impurities burned away.            painful experience of such              with God, but he will face constant
The molten metal was then poured           conviction of sin. He committed         trouble in his own household
because of his sin.                     praise, glory and honour when               A politician of an earlier generation
                                        Jesus Christ is revealed.’ (1 Peter         was described as ‘a self-made
Isaiah also experienced a deep          1: 7) Peter is in good company              man, very much in love with his
conviction of sin when he saw a         when he writes in this way.                 creator That is the summit of
vision of the LORD seated on a                                                      human pride and ambition. Such
throne, high and exalted. He heard      Job went through some of the most           ideas cannot survive in the
the seraphs calling out, ‘Holy, holy,   painful trials recorded in Scripture.       presence of the high and lofty
holy is the LORD Almighty; the          He suffered the loss of family,             One who says: ‘I live in a high and
whole earth is full of his glory’       property and health. He struggled           holy place, but also with him who is
(Isaiah 6: 3). His immediate            with his unhelpful comforters, but          contrite and lowly in spirit’ (Isaiah
reaction was to say,                    he developed the conviction that            57: 15)
‘Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a     ‘when he has tested me, I will
man of unclean lips.’ A seraph flew     come forth as gold.’ (Job 23: 10)           Jesus prayed in the garden of
to him with a live coal from the                                                    Gethsemane that the cup of
altar, touched his lips and said,       Isaiah expressed a similar thought:         suffering might be taken from Him,
‘See, this has touched your lips;       ‘See, I have refined you, though            but He ended his prayer with ‘yet
your guilt is taken away and your       not as silver; I have tested you in         not as I will, but as you will.’
sin atoned for.’ He had a broken        the furnace of affliction. For my           (Matthew 26: 39) He came to do
and contrite spirit before a holy       own sake, for my own sake, I do             the will of the Father.
God. He was not despised. He was        this. How can I let myself be
forgiven and then commissioned to       defamed? I will not yield my                Jesus taught us to pray ‘your will
go and speak God’s words to the         glory to another.’ (Isaiah 48: 10 –         be done on earthas it is in heaven.’
people.                                 11)                                         That includes ‘your will be done in
                                                                                    my life.’ It includes ‘mould me and
Why do we try to by-pass this stage     Malachi continued the theme: ‘For           shape me as you want me.’
of being broken before the Lord in      he will be like a refiner’s fire . . . he
ministry today? Have we reached a       will purify the Levites and refine          Is it possible that we have resisted
higher level of holiness than those     them like gold and silver.’ (Malachi        the Holy Spirit (Acts 7: 51) as we
who have gone before us? Has the        3: 2 – 3)                                   have asserted our own control over
Lord lowered his expectations of                                                    the life of the Church? Have we
us?                                     The Lord continues to take the              resisted the Holy Spirit as He seeks
                                        saints through the refiner’s fire. The      to lead us forward in obedience
Is it possible that we have grieved     Lord is determined to purify and            and holiness? Do we need
the Holy Spirit of God (Ephesians       cleanse His people. He allows               to pray ‘mould me’ and yield
4: 30 – 32) by our bitterness and       many of His chosen people to pass           ourselves again to the Father’s
anger, by our lack of love and          through the furnace of affliction.          holy will?
forgiveness, by our lust and greed?     Some face persecution and
Do we need to pray ‘break me’ and       death. All face temptations and             FILL ME
allow the Holy Spirit to convict us     trials. He is determined to bring
and change us?                          forth the pure gold of holiness,            Is it possible that we have grieved
                                        genuine faith and Christ-like               the Holy Spirit, put out the Holy
MELT ME                                 character.                                  Spirit’s fire, and resisted the Holy
                                                                                    Spirit by our lack of holiness? Have
We soon learn that fire is hot and      Why do we avoid the refiner’s fire?         we looked for the power of the
that it is wise to step back and take   Of course it is painful and we avoid        Spirit in ministry and overlooked
your hand out of the flames. We         the pain. Why do we put up with             the insistence of the Holy Spirit that
instinctively step back from pain       sin in our lives? Why do we settle          holiness is essential if we are to
and suffering. We also know that        for a life that is not on fire with         continue to serve? Is it possible
some hardship cannot be avoided.        passion for the Lord? Is it possible        that we need to return to a radical
                                        that we have put out the Spirit’s fire      holiness of life if we are to
Peter wrote his epistles in the         (1 Thessalonians 5: 19) as he               experience the streams of living
gathering storm of persecution. He      seeks to move among us? Do we               water that Jesus promised to those
knows the present reality of trials,    need to pray ‘melt me’ and                  who believe in Him? Do we need to
but he also looks to their eternal      allow the Holy Spirit to do radical,        pray again:
significance: ‘These have come so       holiness-producing, surgery in our
that your faith – of greater worth      hearts and lives?                           Break me, melt me, mould me, fill me.
than gold, which perishes even                                                      Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on
though refined by fire – may be                                                     me.
                                        MOULD ME
proved genuine and may result in

   Canon John Benson has recently retired after 20 years in the Diocese of Singapore.
   During these years he has served as Vicar of St George’s Church, Dean of Cambodia, Director of Training, and
   Vicar of Chapel of the Resurrection. He is married to Anita and they have two grown up daughters.

   This article first appeared in ReSource magazine. Click here for more articles.

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