How Does God Purify Our Faith?
What do you long for? Why do you get up in the morning or dream about when you are bored? What do your goals and plans ultimately aim to accomplish? What are you pursuing?
We could keep going with all the questions, but each one is a version of the same question that is essentially asking: What are you living for?
Who Bumps Your Beaker?
Using an analogy borrowed from John Piper, our Lead Pastor Mark Vroegop often talks about the act of “having your beaker bumped.” The idea is that we each have a little beaker that’s settled into routine, but that can be easily jostled—either intentionally or unintentionally—by those around us.
This example describes how difficulties tend to reveal what’s really going on inside of us. When life bumps up against us, the way we respond or react helps us—and others around us—see our heart—the center core of who we are, what we really believe, who we really trust, what we are really living for.
The reality is that there is often a disconnect between what we say we believe and what we truly believe deep down in the core of our being. On one level, we affirm our church’s statement of faith; at another level, we believe things that are contrary to good doctrine. I’m not saying that we are willingly deceitful (though sometimes that might be the case). I’m simply saying that there are times when we are unaware that some of our core convictions actually contradict what we say we believe.
The good news is that God loves us enough to allow people or circumstances around us to bump our beakers and reveal to us what we really love, what we really believe, and what we’re really living for, so that we can repent and turn back to Christ.
How Does God Purify Our Faith?
Peter highlights this concept of “beaker bumping” in 1 Peter 1:6-7:
“In [God’s salvation] you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Peter compares the trials that grieve us to the testing of metal. The way metal is purified is by being heated to temperatures so extreme that they actually melt the substance, causing impurities to rise to the surface. So how does God purify our faith? He does so in the same way that metal is purified. When we face the kinds of trials that put pressure on us, our own impurities—false thinking, misdirected affections, arrogant attitudes, and idolatrous objects of trust—rise to the surface so that we can identify and remove them. This is the grace of God.
How does God purify our faith? Through the refining work of trial and “beaker bumping.” But why? Why does this even matter? Well, Peter says that when Jesus comes back, those who have undergone this kind of testing and have been found to have genuine faith will have great praise, glory, and honor. Think about this: when you experience difficulties, pay attention to the sin that it reveals in you, and repent and turn back to Christ, Peter says that you will be honored—even glorified! —when Jesus comes back. What’s more, ultimately this purification leads to Christ’s glory, as the splendor of who he is becomes more evident in the way you live your life.
The Danger We Must Avoid
The greatest danger for us is that we would close our eyes, plug our ears, and refuse to see or hear what God is trying to show us in the midst of many trials. This is what God’s people did in Isaiah’s day (Isa. 6:9-10), and Jesus pointed out that many in his day were doing the same thing (Matt. 13:14-15). May it not be so with us!
Does it feel like your beaker is being bumped right now? What’s striking about this particular moment in our history —a global pandemic, economic turmoil, protests for racial injustice, and the deep political and social divisions that seem to keep widening—is that God is revealing not only things about each of us individually, but as a nation as well.
How are you responding? Are your eyes and ears open? Are you listening carefully and considering what might really need to change—beliefs, attitudes, actions, and institutions? Remember, God bumps our beakers and reveals what’s really there because he loves us. His aim is the purity and genuineness of our faith, and praise, glory, and honor when he comes back to fulfill his kingdom in its fullness.