Gold panning is the process of standing in a river, scooping up some mud in a pan along with some water, and then sloshing it around until the useless material is discarded and only the gold is remaining. Because gold is a more substantial material, it remains in the pan and does not get washed away. Our Christian faith in much the same way provides us with the extra weight we need to be considered valuable to God. Without the righteousness provided by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we would be useless to God and therefore discarded when Jesus returns to establish His kingdom. Jesus used a parable about fishing to illustrate this point.
“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish.” Matthew 13:47 (NIV)
This parable is talking specifically about the return of Jesus to the earth where He will find believers and unbelievers all over the world. Jesus will be bringing an army of angels with Him and together they will separate the good from the bad – the righteous from the unrighteous.
“When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.” Matthew 13:48 (NIV)
Like the miner panning for gold, Jesus has no use for those who have turned away and will be seeking out His followers as the precious gold that will remain with Him throughout eternity.
“This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 13:49-50 (NIV)
There’s no way to know precisely what the imagery of a blazing furnace and gnashing of teeth accurately depicts. It certainly doesn’t sound inviting. It may allude to the burning anguish one feels when they know a wrong decision has been made that cannot be corrected. Frankly, I’d prefer never to know what the other side is like. I’m confident my faith in Jesus will keep me from ever experiencing that kind of eternal trauma.
Like the gold miner, God is standing in the river of our lives sloshing around the mud and gravel waiting for the gold to sink to the bottom and be collected when Jesus returns. Unlike the gold nuggets, we have a role to play in God’s mining operation. We have a choice to make. When we make a decision to follow Jesus, and put our faith in Him, we become more valuable than gold nuggets and become children of God – loved and protected for all eternity.
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