I vividly remember the first time I ever felt the burning sensation as a child touching something hot on the stove. I instinctively pulled my tender little hand away as I let out a high-pitched scream. My mother immediately ran my hand under some cold water from the sink, and the pain began to subside. However, the nerve endings continued to tingle like fire reminding me never to do that again and be more careful next time.
One of my siblings was fascinated by fire at an early age. I recall finding ashes from matches in the bathroom sink as they tried to cover their tracks. Despite numerous warnings from our parents, it took a while for them to grow out of that phase, I am so thankful that our house never burned down! On the other hand, there is nothing like the crackling sounds and the gentle warmth of a campfire while sitting with friends roasting hot dogs or marshmallows for smores!
I enjoy lounging by the hearth of a warm fireplace at Christmas time passing out stuffed stockings to my family. However, I am awestruck watching the devastating forest fires rage through California, leaving a trail of destruction in their path. My heart breaks for the families that have lost their homes and everything inside. They have to hold to their memories tighter than ever after losing everything in those fires.
Facets of Fire
Fire can bring comfort and joy at times, but it can also bring pain to one’s life. There are spectacular images of fire all throughout the Bible. One of my favorite scenes is when Elijah calls down fire from Heaven to defeat the prophets of Baal. (1 Kings 18:36-40) The Israelites were humbled, and God’s glory was on display by this magnificent demonstration of His power.
God also rained down fire from Heaven, destroying the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah due to the wickedness of their habitual sin. However, getting back to Elijah, He never died or was killed. God carried him up into Heaven via a chariot of fire! How cool is that? I could talk about the miracles that God empowered Elijah and his protege, Elisha, to perform all day. On the other hand, I want to discuss how God uses fire in our own lives every day.
Power of Pain
Pain gets our attention. As I am purposefully writing the words for my next book, The Furnace of Affliction, I know for a fact this is true. I remember the painful moments in my life where God attempted to get my attention. I often ignored the convictions of the Holy Spirit, leading to dire consequences. However, God, in His undeserved grace, continues to mold and shape me into the man He desires to use for His glory.
We may never understand the painful moments and experiences that take place in our lives. Remember Job in the Bible? He had no earthly idea that he was a pawn during a battle taking place in the spiritual realm. Notwithstanding, God rewarded Job for his faithfulness as he continued to give honor and glory to God despite the devastating attacks of Satan.
The Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and increased all that he had twofold. (Job 42:10)
Restore. Improve, repair, and renew. Those are just a few of the words that describe this word. I have a few favorites that relate specifically to what God is doing with my faith in Him. Rejuvenate, build up, and my favorite definition is the word strengthen. Throughout all the pain, suffering, and fiery trials, God continues to restore my faith in Jesus.
In love You have delivered my life from the pit of destruction. For You have cast all my sins behind Your back. (Isaiah 38:17)
Although I knew Christ as my Savior, I was a broken man for many years, even before my stroke in 2010. Emotionally, Physically, and especially spiritually, I needed restoring. Looking back at some of those times in my life, God attempted to use me for His glory. However, I was more than happy to wallow in worldliness. Every day I thank God for His unconditional love bestowed on me. Look here at the mercy God showed towards Israel.
Their heart was not steadfast towards Him; they were not faithful to His covenant. Yet, he being compassionate atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them. He restrained His anger often and did not stir up all His wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and comes not again. (Psalms 78:38-39)
To borrow a quote from my upcoming book, “pain is not meant to destroy but to develop you.” God continues to use His refining fire to mold Christians for service. From the great women of God like Ruth and Esther, the prophet Elijah, King David, and the apostle Paul. Trust me when I say this- there are no shortcuts to spiritual maturity in Christ. In preparing His vessel to be used effectively, there are painful steps in the process that must take place. God created you for a specific purpose and for this exact moment in time.
We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for God works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
I don’t know where you stand currently in your walk with Christ. Are you limping along in pain through life’s journey feeling broken? Maybe you are wandering around searching for direction?
Whatever your situation may be, God has a roadmap for divine guidance. A map overflowing with spiritually-infused rest stops to strengthen you for the journey that lies ahead. Spend purposeful and intentional time In God’s Word. Draw close to Him in times of trials and testing. Tell Him how you feel and seek His will.
Facets of Faith
Do you want to live your life lacking in faith? If not, you must go through the refining fires of a loving God. He cannot use you to the fullest extent if your trust in Him is lacking. Most importantly, having a dead faith is worse.
Look at these people from the Bible known for their faith, who were tested in the refining fires and served God’s purpose.
Sarah-Stradling Faith. She could not commit to trusting God completely. Some of those decisions have led to dire consequences even to this day.
Noah-Committed Faith. He was determined to obey God and build the Ark He commanded despite the ridicule of others.
Gideon-Timid Faith. He was initially called by God to lead his people into battle. He questioned God’s wisdom. God, in His patience, used him to deliver victory for Israel in battle.
Samson-Detoured Faith. Distracted by the lust of the eyes and the flesh. He never achieved all God intended for his life until His tragic death.
Ruth-Inspiring Faith. Her inspiring story of perseverance through difficult times of losing her husband and moving to a foreign country led her into the lineage of Christ.
Esther-Compassionate Faith. She was willing to go before the king and face possible death to save her people genocide.
Elijah- Bold Faith. He served God fearlessly for most of His life but was not immune to bouts of anxiety at times.
Jonah-Conflicted Faith. He was a prophet of God who disobeyed. He saw the error of His ways and repented of his sins in the belly of a whale.
King David- Reverent Faith. His faith is Almighty God reveals itself in the Psalms we still read today.
Apostle Peter-Progressing Faith. He loved the Lord dearly. God had a plan for him despite his denials. God Used him to build the very first Christian church.
Every one of these stalwarts from the Bible God used in remarkable ways. However, some were more successful than others, and some took longer to be used by God. Looking at each one of them, where are you in your walk of faith? Are you willing to obediently serve Him regardless of the trials He promised you would experience? Share with me in the comments, and let’s have a discussion. I’d love to read your testimony of faith.
But He knows the way that I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot held fast to His path; I have kept His way and not turned aside. (Job 23:10-11)
It’s my prayer that regardless of your answer, you will remember to run to Jesus in every circumstance. He may not take you out of the fires, but He is right there with you going through it, molding you, shaping and developing you, and preparing you for service.
To God be the glory,