Embrace The Fire
"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you." (1 Peter 4:12) Trials come into all our lives; none are exempt. Just because you are a Christian it doesn't mean that you won't suffer times of darkness, tests, and circumstances that seem more than you can bear. Jesus even warned us that while we lived in this world we would have these times (tribulations). (John 16:33) They are a fact of life, you can't escape them. Since you can't get away from times of trials, it's important that you learn how to deal with them when they come.
The Bible compares these trials to such things as- a wilderness experience, a desert (dry) place, a valley, a place of darkness, and a fiery trial. Let's talk about the fiery trials. In the Book of Daniel, the three Hebrew children (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) faced a literal furnace of fire. Though we don't face a literal fire, the "fiery" times that we go through are just as real and just as hot. (If you have been there you know what I'm talking about.) There are times when everything seems to be closing in around you, you are being stretched to the max, you can't see any relief in sight, and you feel like you are surely going to be burned alive. These are hard times, there's no doubt about that, but so many times we make them harder than they actually are. It is possible to go through the fire and come out without even smelling like smoke. What happens to you in the fire and how you come out of it is up to you.
The first thing you need to understand about the furnace is that it serves a purpose. "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28) You have to see the fire for what it really is- not a destructive force, but a constructive force in the life of the believer. "After that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you." (1 Peter 5:10) Listen to this verse in the Amplified Bible- "And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace [Who imparts all blessing and favor], Who has called you to His [own] eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you securely, and strengthen, and settle you." The fiery trials that we go through are intended to work something wonderful and eternal in us. Though the devil would love to destroy you in the fire (he comes to steal, kill, and destroy), God can use it to work together for good in your life, and bring Him glory in the process. It's so important that you understand the purpose of the fire, if you don't you will be defeated before you even face the fiery furnace.
Before we move on, let's take a closer look at some of the purposes of the trials (or sufferings) that we go through. We have already discovered that it will establish us, perfect us, strengthen, and settle us. Establish and settle us in what? In Faith. "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire..." (1 Peter 1:7a) It is important that our faith be strong; the fire will test the strength (or weakness) of our faith. Why is faith so important? "The just shall live by faith." (Galatians 3:11) "But without faith it is impossible to please Him (God)..." (Hebrews 11:6a) Faith is like a muscle, it has to be exercised or used in order to be strong. The trials cause you to have to use your "faith muscle". "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing the word of God." (Romans 10:17) The word of God plants a seed of faith in our hearts, but that seed of faith only grows, developes, gets stronger, and becomes mature when it is put to the test during times of trials and sufferings.
Another purpose of the trial is so that we might be refined. "Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction." (Isaiah 48:10) "And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God." (Zechariah 13:9) "But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold." (Job 23:10) "For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried." (Psalms 66:10) Webster's dictionary defines refine as- to free or become freed from impurities, dross, etc.; purify; to free or become freed from imperfection, to make or become more polished. When we are saved (born again) we are freed from the bondage that sin had over our lives. We receive eternal life and have our names written down in the Lamb's Book of Life, but that isn't the end of the story. We are saved through the blood of Jesus (redeemed) and on our way to heaven, but even though we are forgiven we aren't completed yet. There is still a work that has to be done in us- in our character, our thinking, in the way we look at things, issues that have to be dealt with, there are some old habits that have to be broken and some new ones developed, we are still a work in progress. "And so I am sure of this: that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished unto the Day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6- Good News Bible) Of course there are other ways of being transformed into the person that God is making us in to, such as putting the Word of God into practice in our daily lives. As we follow it's precepts and obey it's commands a change will take place in us. But, there is no way around the fiery trials. They serve a very important role in this process of transformation.
Why do we need to be refined? And what is this transformation we are talking about? When we come to God through Christ and confess our sins, a change takes place in our nature. "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17) Our nature changes; we take on the nature of Christ. The fiery trials help to "polish" us up and perfect the image of Christ in us. The word Christian means- one who is like Christ. If we are truly going to be Christ-like and His nature and image seen in us, then we "must decrease so that He might increase" (John 3:30) in us. The fire is one way of decreasing. As we go through the fire it will burn off all of "us" (our flesh) that is standing in the way of Jesus being seen to the fullest in our lives. Just as Jesus said, "...he that hath seen me hath seen the Father..." (John 14:9); we should be able to say, "When you've seen me, you've seen Jesus." If Jesus was the Father's representative while here on earth, everything He did is what the Father told Him to do, everything that He said was what the Father told Him to say, He spoke the Father's words not His own, He was led by the Spirit of God, He let the people know what the Father was really like through the way He lived and conducted Himself, everything He did pointed to the Father not Himself, and what He did He did so that the Father would be glorified. Is this not an accurate description of what we are to be like? Aren't we God's representatives on earth? Who's words are we to be speaking? Aren't our lives suppose to glorify God in all that we do? Therefore, I submit to you that when others see our lives, they ought to see a true picture of who Jesus is through our lives. We have been "predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son". (Romans 8:29) "And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." (1 Corinthians 15:49) "For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh." (2 Corinthians 4:11) Unfortunately, we don't always present a true picture of who Christ is. That's where the fire (refining process) comes in.
When silver or gold is being refined, it is a long, very hot process. The purpose behind refining something is to get out all the impurities and dross. That which is to be refined, gold for example, is placed in a pot over very high heat and melted until it becomes a liquid. During the melting process all the impurities, sediments, trash, and anything that is not part of the precious metal rises to the top. At that point, the refiner takes a scoop and skims off these impurities. This process may be repeated many times before what's in the pot is pure gold. The ultimate goal of the refiner is to see his own reflection in the pot. When the pot is full of the melted liquid, the refiner looks over in to it hoping to see his reflection as clearly as if he were looking in a mirror. He will continue the refining process until he does. The refining fire of our souls serves the same purpose. Our lives are full of so much that isn't like God. We are so full of self will, self ambition, self righteousness, pride, bitterness, unforgiveness, grudges, unholy affections, temper, anger, fear, doubt, and unbelief (to name a few). These "works of the flesh" makeup the "dross" that is found in us. God allows the refining fires to come into our lives for the purpose of purifying us. "That He might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." (Ephesians 5:27) (I don't know about you, but I think the best way to get spots and wrinkles out of something is with heat.) As the Refiner of our lives, God looks into our lives hoping to see His own reflection looking back at Him as well. So, you see, the refining fire serves several purposes: it helps build our faith, it shows us what's inside of us that doesn't look like Jesus (so it can be dealt with and removed), it helps to bring about His image in us, and it glorifies God when He sees His own reflection in us and others see Him in our lives.
Now that we know the purpose for the trials and refining fire, the next question is, "How are we going to respond when we find ourselves in the middle of the furnace?" When in the furnace, you have two choices- 1) you can murmur and complain about it, fear it, go down kicking and screaming, or 2) you can embrace the fire and let it accomplish it's work. What do we mean by embracing the fire? The word embrace is defined- to accept readily, to clasp in the arms, hug. To embrace something is the opposite of fearing it. When you know that it will bring about something good in your life, then you need to readily accept it and not run from it so that it may do what it's intended to do. By embracing it, you are surrendering and submitting to it, not fighting against it. As a result, the process won't be as painful. (It's all about attitude.) What kind of attitude are you going to have about the fiery trials? Complaining and trying to escape it only adds fuel to the fire and makes it worse. Embracing it and bringing God the sacrifice of praise in the midst of it will make it much more bearable. The choice is up to you.
"I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation." (2 Corinthians 7:4b) I'm not trying to minimize or make light of what you may be facing. Yes, these times are hard, they aren't easy, I'm not saying that they aren't real and painful; what I am saying is what the Bible says...we can have joy even in tribulation. When King Nebuchadnezzar looked into the fiery furnace he saw the three Hebrew children loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they were not hurt. (Daniel 3:25) We can experience this also in the spiritual fires we are in. We can be loose (free) while in them. We can walk around (we don't have to be dragging, struggling, or in bed depressed) during them. We can come out unhurt, unscathed, and not even smelling like smoke. How is this possible? Let's finish reading the rest of the verse, "I see four men loose...and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God." Beloved, you must always remember...you never go through the fire alone. The Lord is always in there with you. You may see His presence, but you may not; but rest assured He is with you. "For I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." (Hebrews 13:5b) Our souls are committed to God's keeping. (1Peter 4:19) He knows how to keep us and preserve us unto His heavenly kingdom. (2 Timothy 4:18) There is something very interesting about the refining process of silver. While it is being refined, the refiner sits over it carefully watching. He stays there looking at the pot, the fire, the temperature, the metal in the pot, the consistency of the liquid, every part of the process he oversees. He doesn't turn his back on it, he doesn't leave it to refine itself, he doesn't go off and do other things while this process is going on; he commits himself to it and sticks with it until it's over. When you think about the refining process that we go through and the fact that Father God is the Master Refiner, it's very comforting to know that He never leaves us unattended either during our times of trials. When Job was in his time of testing, God was watching (overseeing) everything that was going on. He saw every boil that was placed on Job's body, every sheep that was slain of his flock, every stone in the house that fell where Job's children were when they were killed. God was watching the temperature of Job's refining pot. He kept a close eye on it and never allowed it to get any hotter than was needful. "And the Lord said to Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. And the Lord said to Satan, Behold he is in thine hand; but save his life." (Job 1:122; 2:6) God sits over your life and mine keeping close watch on us. When we are in the "fiery furnace" He will not let the fire get one degree hotter than necessary.
When you find yourself in the fiery trial of testing keep in mind- it's working a purpose that is for your good, not for your destruction; you have a choice while going through it, you can either embrace it or resist it; you are never alone in it, God is with you watching over you; finally, there is a reward that comes as a result of the fire. When you go to the jewelry store to purchase jewelry, which do you think will cost you more- gold filled or 14k gold? The 14k piece of course. The pure gold is much more valuable than the other that has a lot of alloys in it. God is wanting your life to be the "pure stuff", the pure gold so that you will be "found to the praise and honour and glory of God at the appearing of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 1:7b) Some of you ladies will probably get a nice piece of jewelry for Christmas this year. I know the first thing that you are going to do when you get it...go show someone or call up your friend on the phone and tell them about the gold necklace or diamond ring you got. You are going to show it off. That's what God wants to do with our lives...show us off before all of creation. (What a reward! having God flaunt us before the angels and principalities.) There is also another reward in store for us. "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him." (James 1:12) To have God be so pleased with us that He wants to show us off and to receive a crown of life (eternal life) is worth every moment spent in the fire, every trial that we've faced, every hardship that we've born, every valley we've walked through, and every desert that we've crossed. You think that's a great reward, wait until you hear Him say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant...enter thou into the joy of the Lord." (Matthew 25:23) Kind of takes the heat out of it...doesn't it? Now can you embrace the fire?