Monday, July 15, 2013

In the furnace of affliction

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."  James 1:2-5

When some Christians learn their faith may lead them to suffer trials and difficulties, they have second thoughts about their vows to love and serve God.  Closer reading and thinking about the above verses bring us to understand God allows us to face these difficulties in order to strengthen us  in the development of perseverance. When we actually encounter and defeat some obstacle, James lets us know in these verses that we emerge not only victorious, but also much stronger in our faith.

Isaiah 48 gives us even deeper understanding of God's intended purpose in our trials.  The children of Israel were in captive to the Babylonians and some had even become followers of their heathen ways. No doubt, their captivity proved to be most difficult for them. But through Isaiah, they were reminded how they had been disobedient to God and gone after the false gods of their captors.  God called them stubborn, and said they had necks stiff as iron and were hard headed. (Sound familiar?)

We might wonder why God didn't just give up on them and let them suffer the consequences of their own wrong choices.  But these were God's people, and as disobedient as they had become, God still loved them.  He was in the process of bringing them back to freedom, back to himself.

Look at verse 10, "See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction."

God is letting them know their suffering in captivity as slaves, and all the trials they faced physically, emotionally, and spiritually, were a part of God's refining process to make them stronger and more fit for serving him.  Even during the weakness of their faith, God's hand was still directing them.

We live in troublesome times as well, and we, too, face trials and difficulties of every kind and from every direction.  These trials may come our way as a result of our own unfaithfulness, spiritual neglect, or possibly they are allowed by God so we can and will become stronger.  I do not have an answer for every bad thing that happens to you, or me. We need to remember when bad things happen, our faith in God will be strengthened and our lives for him will be made better through the trials we encounter. 

Then there is something else I noticed in Isaiah 48.  In verse 6, God reveals something for those who endure this testing in the furnace of affliction.  “From now on I will tell you of new things, of hidden things unknown to you."  This sounds as if God is going to bless the faithful with new things, things previously unknown to us.  Whatever that means or whatever that is, it's going to make the trials and difficulties we face in this life seem insignificant. 

Whatever you face today, continue to believe and know God is with you. And you, tested in the furnace of affliction, will be stronger and better equipped for serving him. 


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