Tested By Fire

Fire is a refining agent. Cheap stuff burns up–paper, straw, twigs, logs. Gold, on the other hand, purifies.

The Apostle Peter alludes to this process in his first letter to the Christians of the first century. They faced a lot of persecution because of their faith, and he noted that fact:

In this [your salvation] 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)

According to Peter, faith is of greater value than gold because even gold will eventually perish. But faith, even when tested by the fires of persecution ends up bringing praise and glory and honor when we see Jesus.

It’s an amazing thing. This trust in God, this dependence on Him even in the worst of circumstances actually is cause for joy. Peter again:

and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8)

How ironic, then, when contemporary Western Christians approach trials as opportunities to express anger and disappointment toward God.

I do believe we should be truthful and of course that includes truthfulness when we’re talking with God. But there’s a difference accusing God because that’s how I honestly feel and confessing to God because that’s how I honestly feel.

The first might sound something like this: God, why did you let this unfair thing happen to me? I am so mad at You right now. I thought you were on my side, looking out for me. You really let me down.

The other might be something like this: God, this bad thing happened and it makes me so angry. I know that’s not an attitude demonstrating trust in You. I’m worried and fearful and want revenge. I know none of that brings you glory. Please, God, forgive me and help me find a way out of those debilitating reactions to a place of trust. Help me to find in You exactly what I need.

One reaction makes God out to be the culprit and the other recognizes Him as the rescuer. The first pushes Him away, the second draws near to Him for help.

The bottom line is, accusing God of wrong doing, no matter how honest the person is being about their emotion, is still saying about God what is not true. James says, “For God cannot be tempted by evil and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” God does not do evil. How then is it honest to express anger toward God by accusing Him of something He is not?

I’ve heard Christians, time and time again, toss off their tantrums as something God is big enough to handle. The issue is not whether God can handle our sin. We know He canceled our sin debt at the cross. The issue, instead, is whether we should justify our sin and even applaud it as being real.

It’s much the same as the church in Corinth boasting about their tolerance of sin in their church. We today act as if we are doing some great good to hurl angry charges at God because … well, because we feel angry and we need to be real with Him.

What happened to trusting God in the midst of trial?

Here’s what the prophet Habakkuk had to say about the matter:

Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. (Hab. 3:17-18)

Where’s the exultation of the contemporary Western Christian? I fear it is reserved for our honest emotions we hurl at God rather than for He who is with us when the waters and the rivers overflow, who walks with us through the fire and flame.

How sad that we rob ourselves of His comfort and presence and even protection because we’re so busy venting our honest emotion.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you. (Isaiah 43:2)

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Published in: on June 13, 2012 at 6:46 pm  Comments (7)  
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7 Comments

  1. I just enjoyed a rich dessert!

    Who says it is our place to question such an enormous God, anyway? Just take a look at the tiny cars in the tiny towns from the plane, and remember that God Is in the third Heaven, still able to see the miniscule people and every cell of each of them, and hear all the rants and the praise, simultaneously and deliciously intimately, and frankly, our “bold reality” just looks silly. Maybe it’s because we’ve never had a king in the U.S.A., to help us understand majesty and begin to comprehend the unlimited Majesty of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!

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    • Peggy, you’ve identified the real issue–that we are, in fact, small, yet too often picture ourselves as in a position to judge God and rate how He’s doing His job. It’s silly. We complain about things–not serious tragedies or even genuine hardships–and use them as excuses to go our own way, not God’s. It’s heartbreaking to hear people accusing God, and doubly so when they proclaim it is as a virtue.

      I honestly don’t know what has led to this situation other than the sinful heart of Man. We, like Satan before us, have this desire to be like God, and I see this as a working out of that bent.

      Becky

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  2. Thank you for the reminder that there is a difference between being real before God in a spirit of humility or just plain accusing Him. It is a difference that I have not always seen clearly since the death of my son.

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  3. Peter, I can only imagine how hard such a trial must be. But I think that’s why people like Corrie ten Boom, Elizabeth Elliott, and more recently Kent Whitaker have such impact. They lost much, but because of their trust in God, loved much and forgave much. Their witness is powerful, irrefutable. And that’s what I saw for the first time really. This response to trials gives an occasion for praise to God like nothing else in life can.

    People expect someone to thank a benefactor, a protector. But when we don’t see the provision or the protection, who would praise the One in charge? Those who know Him as He actually is–who know that loss and hardship and grief are not indicators of God’s character.

    May God comfort you with only that which His Holy Spirit can provide, especially this week.

    Becky

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