The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but he Lord tests the heart. - Proverbs17:3(NLT)

When precious metals such as gold and silver are extracted from the earth, it’s raw, crude, formless and visually unflattering. Impurities are still mixed in with the real stuff and it needs to undergo a purification process to separate the gold from everything else. For this, a furnace is used to melt the precious metal until it is unrecognizable from its original appearance. It becomes soft and may now be shaped to what it may be for such as jewellery, assets and decorative ornaments. Because the metal is heavier than the impurities, these impurities float to the top of the mixture and may now be taken away from the real stuff.

A few weeks ago, the Living Word IT Park Young Professionals ministry organized another camp held at Monteray Farm in Pinamungajan, Cebu. For three days and two nights, young professionals—myself included—took time away from the world to focus on the Lord, His Word and our fellowship with each other.

The place we were staying at was no short of beautiful, and it really had most, if not all of us, reminded of just how awe-striking God’s creation is. From the fresh air, to the general ambience of the compound, and not to mention how they prepared the meals! The only things from the city life present in the venue were the A.C units in the sleeping and function rooms, a pool and moderate cell service. Other than that, all other distractions were set aside so that we can keep our eyes away from the busyness of work.

Now it all wasn’t just about being away from the city life. Five speakers were tasked and appointed to share to us the legitimacy of our faith, the solidity of our foundation, the genuineness of our motive, the purity of our love for God and each other and the urgency of our mandate. Additionally, an array of activities was prepared for us to apply just what we learned. It was honestly life-changing.

The first three messages had a way of graciously and properly defining things that we constantly tackle in church and in Bible studies. Although the speakers all had their personal styles, I do believe God used them to give us a sound understanding of how our faith works, how our foundation is true and how our motive must match what the Bible teaches. These timeless truths are vital to our salvation, and through the messages taught, we were built up.

We constantly learn in Bible studies just how the things we learn in the study of God’s Word—although deep in doctrine and definition—are the easiest aspects of the faith. Application of these things is the furnace used to test the treasure that we claim to have. The fourth speaker dealt with just how authentic our love for God and one another is.

When we claim to love God and not love each other, the love we claim to have for the Lord is a lie. It was He who said in John13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Things turned out differently than we expected, since we were challenged to approach a brother or sister if we had hurt them or harbour ill feelings towards them, come clean and ask for forgiveness. Some were even encouraged to make a phone call if the person we needed to talk to wasn’t in the same vicinity. It went on for a while, and it was a sweet time of reconciliation and restoration. When I asked some of the campers who were invited yet had just started connecting with people at camp, they were very blessed with how people were willing to be humble enough to apologize and forgive. After about an hour, we all gathered at the campfire and sang praises to the Lord before we called it a night.

The last day, as expected, already had a pang of nostalgia in the air since after lunch however short we have been staying. We would inevitably leave the farm grounds and make our way back to the city and although we didn’t want to, we knew we had to, and that’s where the last session came in. The final speaker, through his message, challenged us to be authentic believers in our work place. In the same way that the disciples had their fair share of retreating from the world for a little while and going back to the world to apply what they learned, so must we. The whole point of being away from everyday life was to come back to it equipped, to preach the Gospel of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ that all sinners who believe in that finished work would come to a saving knowledge of who God is and begin a life of repentance to be lived for His glory. The Gospel is too important to keep to ourselves; it must be heard in our speech, seen in our conduct and evident in our lives.

On a personal note, I honestly had my doubts about joining the camp at first, mostly because of financial reasons, and a few fears. However, the moment after I settled in and stepped out under the sun to walk around and explore as I breathed in the clean, fresh air and the smells of farm life, I found myself praying to God to humble my heart and be open for His plans on this three-day stay. Listening to the speakers refreshed my mind of the truths I knew well and dear. The sessions I had with my group also helped me to open up about my man-centered anxieties, and they lovingly helped and assured me that my worries were lies and I had to cling to the things of God. The time we had at the farm also allowed me to work on my relationship with three brothers. One, a new friend whom I’ve had the privilege of getting to know and fellowship with who shares similar doubts and fears; second, a brother who humbled himself to apologize to me about the way he treated me lately, whom I forgave; and last, a brother whom I had to apologize to, who lovingly rebuked and corrected me of my unwise words and actions and has forgiven me. Not only was my spirit refreshed by God’s Word and teaching, but as these truths play out through obedience and authenticity, my relationship with a few brothers has been restored, and the load I didn’t even know I was carrying has been taken off. For that, I am extremely grateful.

We all put on masks that hide the things we don’t want others to see. We want people to see our very best selves while hiding the ugly parts. We pretend we’re alright, and we sweep things under the rug to save face and hope the discomfort goes away. But God loves working in each and every believer to take away the impure parts to sanctify His child and fill the vessel with the things of Him. He uses tools that chisel away the things He wants out of the life of the Christian and sometimes these tools hurt. But it hurts like the way a dry scab has been taken off a healing wound and a delightful sense of freedom takes place however small. The test of fire for the gold isn’t an easy one, yet it’s necessary.

I don’t want anyone to read this article and leave without doing a heart check. I charge you that if you haven’t come to a saving knowledge of who Jesus Christ is, that you would see that He has saved you from your sins through His death on the cross and resurrection that you may believe Him and repent of your sins. To the Christian I humbly ask that you would grow your understanding in just how solid our faith and foundation is, as these truths have withstood scrutiny through the centuries. To those who are called and who are being called into service, your only concern must be the glory of God in all you do, think and say.

Maybe you’re reading this and God has put it in your heart to make amends with a loved one whom you’ve hurt, or might’ve hurt you. Don’t wait any longer. It’s hard, yes, but we’re not called to just do what is easy. Approach them. Make that phone call. Pray. Apologize. Correct. Rebuke. Restore. We do hurt each other, but we don’t stop being family just because of a few qualms. We can’t properly minister to this dying world if we are yet to reconcile things with those dear to us, because the urgency of our mission also calls us to be a shining light that doesn’t hide in the darkness of this world. Each believer is a missionary where God has placed them, planted there to lead others to Him. So allow me to end with this question: Are you the real deal?