I carry with me a reminder of the incredible plan God has for me, everywhere I go. It is a piece of gold. Most of you here this today have one too. It is a ring. If you have anything made of gold, silver, or precious gemstones -- you have that reminder also. Or at least after today they can become a reminder of God's plan to you of God's plan for your life.
What will you end up with from your life lived on planet earth? God says all we will hold in our hands at the end of life will be either ashes or treasures.
For every day, every hour, and every moment lived -- God is going to reduce EVERYTHING to smoke and soot, or one of three things - gold, silver, or precious stones. Which do you think is better? Your life today reflects what you believe about the end result you desire - ashes or treasures.
The first three substances -- gold, silver, and precious stones are very identifiable. They are hard to change. Gemstones can be crushed, ground, or milled as flour and yet NEVER lose their distinct crystalline structure. An amethyst is rhomboid in structure, whack it with a hammer, crush it to powder - every piece will be rhomboid. Topaz is orthorhombic - the same is true to the minutest speck. Rubies are hexagonal to the minutest speck; and so through every precious stone. Gold is one of the heaviest minerals, and therefore can be panned easily because the Gold sinks to the bottom, below the other substances. In addition, it can be easily separated from other substances due to the weight differences. Gold is the most malleable and ductile substance known. It can be flattened out to less than .00001 (hundred-thousandth) of an inch and a 1 oz. (28 gram) mass can stretch out to a distance of over 50 miles (75 kilometers)!
These three precious substances are also very scarce. It is hard to find much of any of them so they are called precious. They are all out of sight (underground) and hard to get. They also are very enduring able to withstand all the elements - fire, water, storms, and time. Gold is also one of the most resistant metals. It won't tarnish, discolor, crumble, or be affected by most solvents. This adds on to the uniqueness of this mineral.
The other three substances Paul names are all above ground, very visible (wood of trees, hay of grass, stubble of straw), very fragile - they burn, they die from insect attack, they rot with water; very soft (they can be easily ground up and lose their identity); very plenteous (they grow everywhere).
But gold and silver and precious stones all have a problem. They are not usually beautiful in their natural state. They need some purging, refining, and polishing. My wedding ring is made of precious gold. It has a soft and beautiful shine that reflects an incredible change that has taken place. You see gold and silver rarely occur pure and shiny in their natural state. "The mineral Gold is almost always mixed with a small amount of silver, and sometimes contains traces of copper and iron. A Gold nugget is usually 70 - 90 percent gold, and the remainder mostly silver."
"God has a plan to make us valuable, precious, and enduring. In nature, gold is usually found in combination with other minerals, principally silver, lead, copper and zinc. The process of refining, or purifying, gold to the point where it is truly a precious metal - and a useful one - involves the use of intense heat and caustic chemicals. What is more satisfying after working hard to polish a piece of fine silver than to look into its gleaming surface and see your face? How would we know what we look like as we face each day if we could not look into a mirror, the reflecting surface of which is a thin layer of silver? But think of what the silver had to be put through in the refining process.
God's pruning is the refining process through which the believer must pass before God can look at him and see His own face. Actually, God is looking for the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. "Whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom. 8:29).
As we undergo God's pruning, He is removing from us that which dims the image of Christ in us. God has a model or pattern to follow as He fashions the lives of His children. That pattern is Jesus Christ. And God's great purpose is that Christ should be "formed in" us (Gal. 4:19).