The cutting away of the "death" within us can be painful. But God's goal for the surgery is to remove those things that work death in us and replace them with His life.
Even if you are already walking in holiness, you will go through a season of God's refinement because He desires to radiate His glory and His presence through your life. He wants pure vessels that He can pour His anointing into.
We can't control whether or not God will take us through His refiner's fire, but we can control how long we stay in the fire. The more we resist Him, the longer the process will take. The more we cooperate with Him, the faster it will go.
Surrender to the Process
The first step in surviving God's refining process is to cooperate with Him rather than resist Him. Once I was holding on to something dear to me that held me back in my walk with God. For about a week, God and I struggled over this. Then He said: "Teresa, we can do this the easy way or the hard way, but we will do it."
God showed me two pictures. The first was a child's hand tightly clasping a stone. An adult's hand began peeling back the child's fingers one by one until the stone fell out of her hand.
The second picture was the same child's hand holding the stone. But the child relaxed her grip and placed the stone in the adult's hand.
"Which will it be?" the Lord asked me.
Suddenly I understood that God was going to remove this thing from my life. I could willingly cooperate with Him, and He would help me gain the victory with minimal pain and effort. However, if I chose to resist Him, He would orchestrate one situation after another to "pry back my fingers" until I could not hang on to it any longer.
Tearfully, I laid this thing on the altar. It was not long before God gave me the victory in this area, and I found new fruit of the Spirit emerging in my life.
Then God showed me a little girl holding on to a very dirty and tattered teddy bear. The girl's father was trying to take the bear away, and she resisted strenuously.
Finally, she released her grip on the old teddy bear. As soon as she did, the father placed an exquisitely beautiful doll in her hands that she liked much more.
God showed me that He made me give up what I had been holding on to so that He could replace it with something better.
Acknowledge the Need
The second step in surviving the process is to see our need for cleansing. "Impurities" will rise to the surface, and we will see behaviors, attitudes and character traits in ourselves that we do not like.
When the pressure is on, inappropriate responses from our weaknesses and woundedness will become more visible. These may include bitterness, unforgiveness, fear, anger or sinful desires that we know are displeasing to God. These have to come to the top so they can be "skimmed off."
We may be horrified at what shows up in our lives. Some of us may go into denial mode and try to push these things down.
But Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick" (Luke 5:31). We need to see our need before God will help us.
Receiving forgiveness for sins works on the same principle. We must see our guilt, confess our sins and repent before God will forgive us (1 John 1:9). If we acknowledge our need for God to help us in this area of our character, He will.
Some of us become upset and condemn ourselves when we notice impurities present in our lives. We may even pull away from God.
But God wants us to run to Him and receive His forgiveness and cleansing. His desire is not to condemn us but to purify us and transform us into the image of His son (Rom. 8:1; Titus 2:14; 2 Cor. 3:18).
We're in the Fire Together
We can be of great help to our friends and acquaintances when they go through God's refining in their lives by 1) understanding that God is bringing impurities to the surface to remove them and 2) being quick to forgive and slow to take offense. We also need to encourage our loved ones to have hearts after God, bless their resolve for holiness, pray and speak God's strength into them.