A few years ago I was chatting with a couple about our walk with God. The husband began to share about a process he had heard about for the making of Samurai swords. He described how the sword goes into the fire because the metal blade requires intense heat to allow the atoms to become malleable. High heat is required before the metal can be properly shaped and formed into the sword.

After the sword is removed from the fire, it is laid on an anvil where it is beaten into shape. After the hammering process is complete, the sword is plunged into cold water to “set” the sword into the shape it has been beaten into.

After the sword cools, the process begins again. Into the fire. Onto the anvil. Into the water. And again. Into the fire, onto the anvil, into the water. And again. Into the fire. Onto the anvil. Into the water. Again and again and again the process is repeated.

Although the sword will look to the untrained eye as complete, it is still so brittle, that if used, it would shatter.

The husband then began to discuss how this is an analogy for how God works in our lives. We come into the intensity of the fire, the heat of trial, the intensity of challenges in life and it’s there in that terrible heat that our lives are able to change. It is there in the discomfort of the blaze that transformation begins. I recently heard that as the caterpillar transforms into the butterfly, the caterpillar actually liquefies in the cocoon before turning into the butterfly. Talk about stepping outside of our comfort zone!! Wow!

In thinking about this process later, I began to summarize it as heat, for going into the fire, beat, for the hammering process, chill, for the point where the sword goes into the cold water, and repeat. So, the process is – heat, beat, chill and repeat.

Our lives may “look” alright to the untrained eye, but when we stand before the Master, he knows the places we are weak. He knows the places where we appear strong, but are actually brittle, and unable to bear resistance. He knows the areas where we require strengthening so that we will not be shattered by the confrontations of life. He loves us as we are, yet longs to reveal a deeper beauty and greater strength that he knows he has placed within our being.

It requires our humility and willingness to allow the Lord to take us into the fire where the fierceness of the trial breaks away the familiar places we have looked to for strength outside of Jesus. It draws up the contaminated thought, the weakness and the frailty of our flesh to allow them to be stripped away, consumed in the fire, lost in the ashes.

Hebrews 12:29 ESV

For our “God is a consuming fire.”

Next, our humility will allow the Lord to “hammer” us into the proper shape, to pound out the deformities of will and twisted behavior. It is not a comfortable process, but it is a necessary process.

Hebrews 12:5-11 NLT

And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you.

For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accept as his child.”

As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father?

If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and not really his children at all.

Since we respected or earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?

For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness.

No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening – it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

We are then plunged into the cold to allow the changes made to set and take hold. We will rest here for a period before God takes us back for another cycle to further remove harmful habits and draw out the poisons of erroneous belief and practice where our lives are not in harmony with his will.

The fire will purge impurities and soften us to be properly molded. The hammer will help bring proper balance to places our appetites are out of proportion.  Then we will “chill” for a spell in the cold water for the changes to set. And again the Lord will invite our lives back into the fire for further purifying.

I can look at a lot of my life as a Christian and recognize that I have been unwilling to allow the Lord to discipline me. I thought that being a Christian meant I am an overcomer who should never suffer difficulty. I now look at that type of thinking, and although I know where I got that idea, it seem so ridiculous to think God was going to exempt me from the difficulties of life. I do believe God will do amazing, miraculous things for us, but he’s not going to change the process of life he set up. He uses life’s difficulties to teach us about holding onto his truth and trusting the goodness of his faithful character. I do not mean that God tempts us. I mean he uses our painful circumstances to work deeper learning in us.

Psalm 12:6 compares the word of God to silver that has gone into the furnace seven times for purification. Each time the silver went into the fire impurities or dross would bubble up to be separated from the silver. Each time the silver went back into the fire, less and less impurities existed.

God loves us so much that he doesn’t want to leave us full of hurt and anger, brimming over with bitterness or arrogance and pride. He loves us enough that he wants to help us become the best version of ourselves in all of life. He doesn’t love us more because we mature and grow, and if we never chose to humble ourselves to the process of discipline and transformation, he would not love us less.

God is a good father and as a good father, he has good plans for us and desires to train us and to bring us into fullness in our lives.

Jeremiah 29:11 – Common English Bible (CEB)

I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.

I believe especially when we offer service to the Lord in our heart, he will begin to grow and train us. We don’t always realize that these new and difficult circumstances that come into our lives are the means by which God purifies and cleanses us for holy work. If you are reading this and recognize that you are in a season of training, I encourage you not to quit, not to cave in because of the difficulty, but to persist and stay faithful knowing God is using these circumstances to refine your character.

Many people offer themselves to the Lord, but few will persist in the training to fully develop their character to sustain the gifts God gives them. I encourage you to keep pressing forward in the heat, beat, chill and repeat process of God’s plan for developing a steadfast and solid character to carry out the call of God on your life.