Have you known someone who has gone through the fire – some great trial or test of life? Have you been through the fire yourself? Are you going through the fire right now? Let me quote Mr. Spurgeon as an encouragement to you who are in the fire today: “Know absolutely that you are a piece of gold, or you would not have been put into the furnace.”
When we meditate on Scriptural examples of those who endured the fire, who comes first to mind? The three Hebrews from the third chapter in the book of Daniel, right? They were threatened with the furnace if they refused to bow to the king’s idol. And into the furnace they went!
We know that God chastens His children (Hebrews 12:2-11). Were the Hebrew boys being chastened by God in this furnace experience? No. God puts His people into the fire to refine us – to free us of impurities (2 Timothy 2:21; Isaiah 1:25&26). Is that why they were thrown into the fire? No. Their faith was strong and their obedience firm. And they walked out of the fire without the smell of smoke (vs26&27). Why did they go through this fiery trial? According to Daniel 3:26-29, it was that the glory and power of God might be revealed.
Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den – a through-the-fire-experience, wouldn’t you say? Did he require purging from moral defilement? Not according to the Bible. Daniel 6:22 reports that he was found to be innocent before God. Was his heart divided by the heathen culture of Babylon? Not according to the Bible. Daniel’s obedience to God was unwavering (v10). His trust in God was steadfast (v23). And His God Whom he served continually was able to deliver him out of the lion’s den (v22). Why did Daniel go through this trial? According to verses 25-27, it was that the glory and power of God might be shown.
Paul went through the fire – and then some! Within his writings to the Corinthian Church, he tells of being beaten, stoned, shipwrecked. Endangered on land and sea, in the city and in the countryside. Imperiled by his fellow Israelis and by hypocrites in the churches. He suffered weariness and pain, hunger and thirst. He was troubled and perplexed, persecuted and cast down. He stood in jeopardy every hour, expecting daily to die for the cause of Christ. And he struggled with the thorn in his flesh. Why did Paul suffer all this? According to Paul, it was all that God’s grace be shown sufficient to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 12:9&10), and to reveal that the fire is but a light affliction compared to the eternal weight of glory yet to come (2Corinthians 4:15-17).
Hugh Latimer and Nicolas Ridley were burned at the stake for their testimony to the truths of the Word of God – not for chastisement from their heavenly Father, nor for their refining. But for this: “Be of good comfort, Ridley,” said Latimer. “We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.” They went through the fire, according to Matthew 5:10-13, for His Name’s sake. And to make public that God’s grace is sufficient, to the glory of God.
Does our loving heavenly Father lead His dear children through the fire? Yes, He does. And to that each of us can testify. Why? Elisabeth Elliot said it this way: “Our vision is so limited that we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering. The love of God did not protect His own Son! And He will not necessarily protect us from anything it takes to make us like His Son. A lot of…fire will have to go into the process.” Another author states, “We must put away the childish measuring stick that uses circumstances to measure the love and character of God. God is good, holy, just, sovereign, wise, and He is Love – always.”
Trials are different than chastisement, and trials and chastisement are not the same as temptation. These each serve different purposes in our spiritual growth and walk with the Lord. And no child of God is exempt. Hebrews 5:8 makes this plain: Though He (Jesus) were a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.
Peter tenderly tells us, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you: but rejoice, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you – on your part He is glorified. And that the trial of your faith, though it be tried with fire, might be found to the glory of God (1Peter 4:12-14; 1:3-9). As the children of God, we are called at times to go through the fire – sometimes for refinement, or chastisement, or testing, or for His Name’s sake. And other times we don’t know, and may never know, the purpose for the furnace.
It may be that no one has gone through the fire as Job did. And God Himself testified that Job was perfect in His sight (Job 1:8). No chastisement or refinement required. Read Job’s trusting testimony from within the furnace (23:10): “He knoweth the way that I take. When He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”
Joni Eareckson Tada wrote: “Let’s offer sincere, wholehearted praise to God as we walk through the…fire. Perhaps those who pause to peer into our furnace will see the Son of God walking with us.”
When you and I come to the end of our journey, if, with Job, the three Hebrews and Daniel, the Apostle Paul, Hugh Latimer and Nicolas Ridley, and a glorious host of other saints, this be our testimony: He led me through the furnace, and I am come out as gold, faithful and obedient, to His glory and by His power, then, as Max Lucado wrote, when we enter the City, Jesus Himself will remove His pierced hands from the sleeves of His robe – and applaud. “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joys of thy Lord!” As Jesus Himself can testify, the glory is worth the fire.