Several of my ancestral grandfathers were blacksmiths. That job seemed to be a skill or an art, if you will, passed down from generation to generation. Many years ago, the black- smith was an essential member of the community. His skill, fire, hammer and anvil forged tools needed to survive more easily. Of course, with all our modern engineering techniques, that trade, while still unique, is unnecessary for daily life.
Thoughts of the blacksmith of yore remind me of God’s words about being shaped or refined by fire and how fire will test the quality of each man’s work.
Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord and like a hammer that breaks a rock into pieces? Jeremiah 23:29
Sometimes, I visualize myself as that piece of iron on the anvil and the blacksmith forging me into a useful tool, being shaped for God’s purpose. I want to see myself crafted into a thing of beauty, an instrument or tool worthy of God’s use and blessing. I want to focus on the finished product. I read in I Corinthians 3:13 that the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.
Author Max Lucado (remember, he is my BFF, he just doesn’t know it), in his book On the Anvil, has things to say about the fire’s refining power. He says there are three kinds of tools found in the blacksmith shop and awaiting the fire: tools in the junk pile, tools on the anvil and tools of usefulness.
Max says the junk-pile tools languish in the scrap box, without a calling or a purpose. These tools symbolize people with fires quenched and dreams dashed, yet people who are unwilling to push forward. I’ve been there. Haven’t you?
Secondly, many tools already lie on the anvil, ready and waiting to be hammered and molded, and, like people with open hearts, are ready for a purpose.
Lastly, Lucado says the tools of usefulness rest in the toolbox, primed, fired, and ready for action. Ready for the Master’s use.
Being ready as a useful tool is a desirable position, but we’re all there, ready or not, in that blacksmith’s shop, aren’t we? Being in the scrap pile doesn’t define our destiny unless we let it. One, two, or yea, three failures need not victimize us, when we accept failure is not fatal or forever. If we’re on the anvil, being hammered and honed or broken to pieces, let us submit willingly, knowing it’s for our good and that God still thinks we’re worth messing with. Should we find ourselves in the toolbox, all refined and ready, let’s get excited. We’re ready to be an instrument for God’s noble purposes.
Said another way, just because we find ourselves in one spot in the blacksmith shop, doesn’t mean we are stuck there. It’s never too late to spring for the anvil and then push for the polished product. But another thought: unless we are vigilant, we can go from polished product back to the scrap pile, or more likely back to the anvil to again be refined. Ouch!
Life keeps coming at us in unexpected ways and our race continues. The son of one of those ancestral blacksmiths of mine has this on his tombstone: I have finished my course. I fought a good fight. I kept the faith (a paraphrase of II Timothy 4:7).
Let us submit to all the shaping we need in order to be used of God for His purposes. In time, we’ll all finish our course and win the prize. Let us keep the faith.