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Swordmaking, Rebellion, and Maturity
"Take away the dross from the silver, And there comes out a vessel for the smith" (Proverbs 25:4).
Did you ever watch a sword maker at work? It's pretty amazing. I traveled to Japan a few months back and watched a seventh generation sword smith pound out a beautiful piece of art from a rough slag of iron ore. The metamorphoses from raw to refine impressed me.
Each firing and subsequent drive with the hammer released more impurities from the raw metal. Finally, a pure state of iron was reached. It was time for the sword to be shaped. To make the sword without this purification process could prove disastrous in the heat of battle; the sword would crack wherever there was an impurity. It meant life or death.
Today, there are no samurai battles to be fought, but the same meticulous care is taken by God with the sword of our lives. Are you going through a firing process? Do you feel pounded on the anvil of life? If you are following God, then welcome to the wonderful world of heat and hammer. You are not alone. Every son or daughter of God goes through the same treatment (Heb 12:8-11).
I observed an interesting insight about the hammering process. Before the smith can work with the metal, it has to be purified first; it has to be cleansed. Before it can start to move toward the finishing process, the firing from the charcoal must burn out the dross. To start the finishing process prematurely would result in a defective weapon. Bubbles and cracks would appear. The weapon would fail in the heat of battle.
That is why you cannot put a spiritually young person into leadership too quickly. It will set them in their immaturity and result in a potential crash down the road; maybe a moral break down or any of the other ministerial failures so prevalent today. The rush to promote has resulted in a massive collapse of the church leadership hierarchy. Impatience has bred sub-standard quality. The focus on knowledge and degrees apart from character development has resulted in illegitimate sons and daughters running once-upon-a-time legitimate ministries.
You cannot work on refining ministerial skills until the character is formed. To pursue fine tuned skills apart from character development would result in a defective minister. That is why the waiting room is so important. It's the place where rebellion is burned out.
The hardest piece of dross to burn out of the ore of character is rebellion or pride. It takes lot of pounding. God likes to use his favorite tool for this purpose: another human being, especially leadership. He will offend, hammer, beat on, and steam roll every bit of arrogance out of our lives using leaders, the rough kind too. He loves us too much to present a poorly made piece of work. He is a craftsman. He loves to say, "That's good!"
Our ability to submit to leadership with the right attitude is a good indicator of our growth in character. It takes great faith. Like Joseph, we need to understand that God can work out his good even through unjust and evil leadership (Genesis 50). That's why we can submit to even unjust leaders. This is very hard for us Americans, who like to voice our opinions whenever our boundaries are crossed. Maybe its better if we shut up for a season and look for the wisdom of God in our situation. We may find his hand and chisel in the process. We may find our destiny and calling.
The art of sword making is a lost art today. Only a few submit themselves to the rigors of this craft. I would venture further to say that only a few want to be beautiful and strong swords for God. Too many opt out of the furnace and settle with only becoming defective pieces of work. We will serve in some capacity, but not reach our full potential apart from God's perfect process. It's our choice. I pray we choose the best.