“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 43:2 NIV).
One thing that is as certain as death and taxes is that in this fallen world is we will have problems. Jesus said these words in John 16:33 many years ago, but they still ring true today. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” To me, this means that our earthly troubles are temporary but our Lord and Savior reigns forever and in Him and through Him we have life and victory over sin and death. What sort of life does He offer you may wonder? Well, as we return back to the book of John in Chapter 10, verse 10, we learn the answer. “I have come so that they may life, and have it abundantly (emphasis added)”
Our troubles often appear overwhelming when we focus on the discomfort of the problem rather than the provision and protection of God. Also, our troubles can consume us when we try to face them alone rather than with a group of fellow followers of Christ.
Problems and trouble come in many forms, but they always bring some sort of “heat.” It is important to understand that the flame that is causing the heat is never intended for our harm. Of course, a fire that destroys a house is terrible, but such a fire would not come from God. My house was not destroyed by fire but was badly flooded in 2016. I was devastated, but I watched God work through human hands and eventually my house was repaired, and my furniture was replaced. Now, I have a powerful testimony to His faithfulness.
Everything that is good about a fire can be listed as a blessing of the Holy Spirit. Fire is a purifying force, and the Holy Spirit is the ultimate purifier. Rev. Max Lucado wrote in a recent devotional – “We need the cleansing, sanctifying work of the Spirit of God.” As I first read this devotional from Rev. Lucado my mind drifted to Malachi 3:3. “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” Silver is refined through heat to burn off the impurities. Similarly, we are refined through our troubles as we grow closer to God and then emerge with a strong testimony of His faithfulness. I think it is interesting that a silversmith knows that all of the impurities are gone when he can see his reflection in the molten silver. As we are refined, our face begins to “look” more like Christ and we begin to seek the same things that He is seeking for us.
While we are in the valleys of life, life is certainly hard. The stress can take a toll on our bodies. However, this is the best time to invite this refining fire to finish its work in our hearts. A wildlife in the forest brings immediate devastation, but eventually there is new growth and renewal. The fires in our lives also bring about spiritual renewal in spite of our physical condition, which I think is the message of (2 Corinthians 4:16). “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
The next time you feel the heat of life, stop and realize that God is at work in your life. If you turn toward Him, you will not only emerge on the other side with a closer walk with our Lord, but also a testimony that is a powerful witness in a world that so badly needs powerful witnesses. Don’t let the fire consume you but rather let it purify you.
Prayer: Dear God, Thank you for refining us. Forgive us for the times we turn from you and help us to embrace the fires of life and yoke to your Holy Spirit to find joy in all circumstances. Amen.
Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist under the direction of the General Commission of United Methodist Men and is concurrently in training to become a Lay Minister under the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He enjoys writing inspirational Christian blogs at toddshupe.com.
Gulf South Men is a regional ministry coming along side churches and men’s ministries by offering Education, Training, Resources, Men’s Events and Mentoring to help churches build effective men’s ministry and make disciples for Christ.
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