In order to purify sliver it is put into a crucible or refining pot and heated to very high temperatures so that the dross can be scraped off the top. What is left is highly purified silver. Gold is similar in that the higher the purity the higher the value. Thus gold is put into a furnace to accomplish the same process. What this proverb says is that what the pot is to the silver and the furnace is to gold, God is to the hearts of men.
We read in the New Testament of Peter's comments in this same vein. "In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 1:6-7) James also tells us of the blessing of testing and trial in our lives when he writes, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4). So according to both this proverb of God and the New Testament, the purifying process that God uses to test our hearts is a blessing. Why then do we have entire doctrinal systems in Christianity that disdain this process and only want health, wealth, and prosperity to be our lot?
The answer to this is a lack of teaching that involves the entire counsel of God. Another reason for this also may be our affluent and oppulent lives in our world today. We seek to insulate ourselves from any bad thing happening to us - or any kind of negative setback. We have insurance and government protection to keep us from having the negative affect us too much. The problem is that God is absolutely committed to our hearts being refined so that we will be holy and godly men and women. What that means in the long run is that God is also committed to bankrupting our entire system if that is what is requires to eventually get to our hearts. There is a scary scenario - yet one that I fear is getting closer every day.
God tells us in Romans that all things do work together for good for those who love the Lord and who live according to His ways and purposes. What many don't do is read the next several verses where God says that His purpose is that we are conformed to the image of His Son - that we become holy men and women whose character reflects that of Jesus Christ Himself. For fallen men and women that means testing.
If we could hear silver and gold as it is put into the pot and the furnace - my guess is that they do not particularly enjoy the entire process - even though in the end they are refined and far more valuable. Neither do we find that process of trial and testing all that fun either. It is hard - and often it is stressful. It is a difficult thing to encounter - and many times it reveals rather embarassing sins in our lives. Yet as the dross is lifted off our hearts in this process - there comes out something that God can mightily use.
Am I volunteering for trials and testings . . . no, but I know that if I want to draw nearer to the Lord and be further conformed into the image of His beloved Son, they are coming. It is just a comforting reminder that in this process the Lord does not have it our for me. To the contrary, this is done out of His utmost love and desire for me to know Him better and relect the heart of His son. Remember this next time you find yourself in the refining pot. He loves you through it all - and more than anything else, all this is working to show forth the glorious perfections of His Son within you.