Crucible. Is it a word you recognize?
Merriam-webster.com defines “crucible” in three variations: “a pot in which metals or other substances are heated to a very high temperature or melted; a difficult test or challenge; a place or situation that forces people to change or make difficult decisions.” The word has no form for either adjective or adverb, used only as a noun.
Despite the fact that the word is no longer common, the concept it represents is absolutely inescapable. It simply is not an issue of “if” we will experience a crucible…it is only a question of the type, duration, intensity, or outcome…and if we have to go through it alone…
…which is where the counsel of God steps in.
The Lexham English Bible compares “the words of Yahweh” to “silver refined in the crucible on the ground, refined seven times.” (Psa 12:6, LEB) The Lexham and Holman Christian Standard Bible both utilize “crucible” in Proverbs 17 and Proverbs 27: “A crucible for silver, and a smelter for gold, and the Lord is the tester of hearts.” (Prov. 17:3, HCSB) Prov. 27:21: “A crucible is for the silver, and a furnace is for the gold, but a man is tested by the mouth of him who praises him.” (Lexham English Bible) The Living Bible adds “crucible” to Psalm 66:10 by translating “You have purified us with fire, O Lord, like silver in a crucible.” TLB also utilizes the word in Prov. 27:21, and adds prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel to its list of crucible-users in Jeremiah 9:7 and Ezekiel 22:18-20, both references citing God’s purifying work among His people.
That all sounds pretty dry…but here comes the turning point and the great “ah-ha”!
The Living Bible states James 1:2-4 as “Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.” God has a purpose for every crucible we encounter.
Paul stated to the Corinthians, “What a wonderful God we have – he is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does he do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us.” (2 Cor. 1:3-4, TLB)
We don’t have to face our crucible alone…and neither should anyone else.
In Hebrews 10, Paul encourages, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds…encouraging one another.” (Heb. 10:23-25, NASB) Stimulating one another to love and good deeds…I really like that phrase. It’s full of action, compassion, extending and receiving love from one to another. But just what components might that action contain?
In I Thessalonians 5 Paul wrote, “Live in peace with one another…admonish the undisciplined*, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another…rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks…do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every appearance* of evil.” (*translated footnote, I Thess 5:14-22, NASB)
I suspect that those who reflect on this passage frequently interpret a subject transition between v. 15 and v. 16, so that verses 12-15 pertain to “relationship instructions” and verses 16-22 are “general instructions.”
But I think I want to examine the entire section as a continuation of his instruction as to how to “live with one another” and see if, when presented in that fashion, it connects in perfect harmony with instructions such as “stimulating one another to love and good deeds,” or “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” (Eph. 5:19, NASB) or “with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…” (Col. 3:16, NASB)
Maybe a first-person proclamation of I Thessalonians 5:14-22 would sound something like this:
By yielding to the bond of unity in the Spirit, I live in peace with my brothers and sisters. If it seems led by Him, I kindly explain the fruits of an “undisciplined life” vs. a “disciplined life” in regards to respecting and following the indwelling Spirit of God; for those who are not understanding that it is “Christ in me, the hope of glory” and feel they are not “measuring up” to God’s expectations, I share Truth with them regarding God’s unwavering love and delight in the fact they have come to recognize Him as their Abba. To those who are feeling drained of strength, perhaps exhausted by the demands they consistently face, I am willing to offer practical advice that might help them, and pray for their strengthening and vision for the next stretch of road ahead. I choose to extend the patience that God has towards me, to others. On those occasions someone makes a negative assessment of me, or speaks hurtfully about me to others, I will not hold a grudge or alienate myself from that person – but, rather, try to resolve whatever provocation might have existed and reassure them of our good relationship. I will seek to release His Joy over people as we hug and greet one another; I will pray with or for my brothers and sisters when they are within arm’s reach, and I will pray as the Lord brings them to my mind when they are absent. I can always thank God for His love and the joy with which he regards others, and encourage others to share in that thanksgiving as they begin focusing on Him and not on the surrounding troubles. I try to stay attuned to how the Spirit might want to direct me, and I will pass on prophetic images, thoughts, encouragements or words as they might encourage and build up someone else. When talking with my spiritual family, I listen with discernment and see if the enemy or the world is throwing falsehood or misconception into their thinking, their mindset or reasoning about a subject. I embrace that I have been set free from the law of sin and death; as one who has been made righteous through the shed blood of Christ, I walk in Jesus-shine both in the heavenly and earthly realm. I will not taint that reflection of Him by covering it with the gray dullness of either the world or the enemy.”
I don’t have to face my crucible alone…and neither does my sister, or my brother, or those who don’t yet realize that through Christ, we are in relationship with them. We shine….and we take someone’s hand…and we walk together.