Refined By The Fire

Where is God in our trials? When we call, Jesus runs to our cry. He is able to help us because He knows exactly what our cries sound like. Aren’t you glad He does?! 

While we are in these difficult times, you might find yourself asking a question I have asked, “Okay, God, I believe You are doing something, but what exactly are You doing?” 

I can’t tell you specifically what God is doing in your life, because your story is unique and special. But I can tell you that during the hard, painful chapters of our lives, God is accomplishing at least five things in all of us.

  1. God is opening our eyes to new paradigms

We will learn lessons in these fiery trials that we couldn’t possibly learn any other way. 

  1. God is building empathy in us which we didn’t have before

One dictionary defines empathy as “the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person’s feelings.” It’s only because of our trials that we no longer have to imagine what someone else is feeling, but instead we know exactly what they’re feeling and how we can help. 

  1. God is growing our patience 

It’s been said that patience is the “mother of all other virtues.” Paul said that “these troubles produce patience” (Romans 5:3). As God grows your patience, He will also help you to grow all of the other Christlike virtues. 

  1. God is refining His character in us 

Paul went on to add that not only does trouble produce patience, but “patience produces character” (Romans 5:4). During the times of difficulty and uncertainty, we become more aware of deficiencies in our character. 

  1. God is building in us an unshakable hope in His future grace 

Hope is not wishful thinking; it’s well-founded believing! 

I want to circle back to that word refining because I think that best sums up what God is doing in our painful times. Romans 8 tells us—The Spirit Himself thus testifies together with our own spirit, assuring us that we are children of God. And if we are His children, then we are His heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ—sharing His inheritance with Him; only we must share His suffering if we are to share His glory. But what of that? For I consider that the sufferings of this present time—this present life—are not worth being compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us and for us and conferred on us! (Romans 8:15-18) 

So where’s God in this time of fire? He is overseeing our trial as a Perfect Refiner. Do you know how the silversmith knows he has purified the impurities from the silver ore? The silver is pure when he can see his own reflection in the silver! 

In the heat of your trial, God is close to you. He knows the perfect temperature and the precise time that it will take to allow His face to be seen in you! 

Sometimes you will see what God is doing through your furnace time, sometimes you won’t. But don’t ever bail out! God IS working! He is giving you a new perspective, a deeper empathy, more patience, an unshakable hope, and most of all—He is removing the impurities that will allow His face to be seen more clearly in you! 

Join me this Sunday as we continue to learn where God is in our darkest times. And if you didn’t catch the previous messages in this series, please check out The God That Runs To You and How Long Will This Last?

Hope-Filled Declarations

Whether it’s a doctor’s diagnosis of cancer, or a rapidly-spreading virus, or a painful relationship, Lynn Eib helps us keep these unexpected things in perspective. These may have taken us by surprise, but nothing takes God by surprise. No diagnosis nor prognostication can limit God’s power and love. 

As David learned in his painful time: “God has spoken once, twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God. Also to You, O Lord, belong mercy and loving-kindness” (Psalm 62:11-12). He is All-Powerful and All-Loving. 

Let these declarations Lynn made when receiving her cancer diagnosis help put things in perspective for you—

I refuse to believe my diagnosis is a death sentence.

I believe God is on the side of my healing because His unbreakable Word says so.

I believe treatment is effective against this illness, especially the skillful efforts of scientific medicine with my strategies for replacing lying thoughts with truth.

I believe my hormones and immune system are on the side of my healing and are even now working to overcome this illness.

I believe I am personally responsible for my treatment and for managing it.

I believe hope is a choice. I choose hope, not hopelessness.

My major aim is to have a mind fully submitted to the Spirit of God and His truth, not just to see better lab results or improvement in physical symptoms.

I believe I am on earth to share Christ, hope, and joy with others. I am here only to love others, regardless of my physical condition.

I believe that God’s will is good. 

I believe that He loves me and wants only the best for me—whatever He is allowing me to experience right now.

I can recover from this illness and live a rich, productive life of service. But whether I recover or not, I am going to leave this life someday regardless. Until then I can live a full life of service every day for as long as I am given. 

—Lynn Eib, in Peace In The Face Of Cancer 

On Living In A [COVID-19] Age

In 1948, World War II had come to a close and the nuclear age had dawned. The Cold War was beginning to ratchet up and the fear of nuclear annihilation was gripping people’s hearts. 

In this environment, C.S. Lewis wrote an essay entitled On Living In An Atomic Age. I have changed the word “atomic” for “COVID-19,” and I think you will see the relevance. 

In one way we think a great deal too much of the COVID-19 virus. “How are we to live in a COVID-19 age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the COVID-19 virus was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by the COVID-19 virus, let that virus when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about viruses. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

For Christians, I would urge you to think in ways in which I am certain C.S. Lewis would agree: 

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:2) 

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8) 

Be joyful because you have hope. Be patient when trouble comes, and pray at all times. (Romans 12:12)

Poetry Saturday—Lord Of All Being

Lord of all being, throned afar,
Thy glory flames from sun and star;
Center and soul of every sphere,
Yet to each loving heart how near!

Sun of our life, Thy quickening ray,
Sheds on our path the glow of day;
Star of our hope, Thy softened light
Cheers the long watches of the night.

Our midnight is Thy smile withdrawn;
Our noontide is Thy gracious dawn;
Our rainbow arch, Thy mercy’s sign;
All, save the clouds of sin, are Thine.

Lord of all life, below, above,
Whose light is truth, whose warmth is love,
Before Thy ever blazing throne
We ask no luster of our own.

Grant us Thy truth to make us free,
And kindling hearts that burn for Thee,
Till all Thy living altars claim
One holy light, one heavenly flame. —Oliver Wendell Holmes

Poetry Saturday—Clinging To Thee

O Holy Savior, Friend unseen,
Since on Thine arm Thou bidst me lean,
Help me throughout life’s varying scene
   By faith to cling to Thee.

Blest with this fellowship divine,
Take what Thou wilt, I’ll ne’er repine;
E’en as the branches to the vine,
   My soul would cling to Thee.

Far from her home, fatigued, oppressed,
Here she has found her place of rest;
An exile still, yet not unblessed,
   While she can cling to Thee.

Without a murmur I dismiss
My former dreams of earthly bliss;
My joy, my consolation this,
   Each hour to cling to Thee.

What though the world unfaithful prove,
And earthly friends and joys remove;
With sure and certain hope of love,
   Still would I cling to Thee.

Oft when I seem to tread alone
Some barren waste, with thorns o’ergrown,
Thy voice of love, in gentle tone,
   Whispers “Still cling to Me.” 

Though faith and hope may oft be tried,
I ask not, need not aught beside;
How safe, how calm, how satisfied,
   The soul that clings to Thee!

They fear not satan, nor the grave—
They feel Thee near and strong to save;
Nor dread to cross e’en Jordan’s wave,
   Because they cling to Thee.

Blessed is my lot, whate’er may befall;
What can disturb me, who appall,
While as my Strength, my Rock, my All,
   Savior, I cling to Thee? —Charlotte Elliott

Full Of Gratitude And Prayer

I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly. (Ephesians 1:16)

Paul didn’t pray just a one-and-done prayer, but every time he thought of his friends he was grateful and prayerful. 

The mark of a godly leader is one who is grateful and prayerful of those around him.

What a prayer Paul prayed! He didn’t want his friends just barely eking out an existence, but he desired for their lives to experience explosive growth and joy! 

He prayed for them to experience…

  • … the full weight of God’s glory
  • … the vast knowledge of God’s revelation wisdom 
  • … an ever-increasing understanding of just who God is
  • … an enlightened mind to grasp God’s nature
  • … an unshakable hope in God
  • … the immeasurable richness of an intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ
  • … God’s power working both in them and through them 
  • … the rock-solid security they have in Jesus
  • … their inestimable value they were to God
  • … their indispensable place in the Body of Christ 

I like the way Eugene Peterson captures this prayer in The Message:

That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing Him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is He is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life He has for His followers, oh, the utter extravagance of His work in us who trust Him—endless energy, boundless strength!

Spiritual leaders should be working for and praying for the ever-growing maturity of those under their care. When they see that growth, they should burst out into grateful prayer. And if they don’t see the growth they anticipated, they should pray in faith believing that maturity will soon be visible. 

Let me say it again: The mark of a godly leader is one who is grateful and prayerful of those around him.

This is part 40 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

12 Quotes From “The Autobiography Of Charles Spurgeon”

Charles Spurgeon lived exactly as he preached. What a delight that is! Check out my full book review of his Autobiography by clicking here. Also, be sure to check out my weekly Thursdays With Spurgeon series, where I share longer passages from this Prince of Preachers. 

“My soul hope for heaven lies in the full atonement made upon Calvary’s Cross for the ungodly. On that I firmly rely. I have not the shadow of a hope anywhere else.” 

“While my brief term on earth shall last, I should be the servant of Him who became the Servant of servants for me.” 

“For I am persuaded there are more delights in Christ, yea, more joy in one glimpse of His face than is to be found in all the praises of this harlot-world, and in all the delights that it can yield to us in its sunniest and brightest days.” 

“I have found, in my own spiritual life, that the more rules I lay down for myself, the more sins I commit. The habit of regular morning and evening prayer is one that is indispensable to a believer’s life, but the prescribing of the length of prayer, and the constrained remembrance of so many persons and subjects, may gender unto bondage and strangle prayer rather than assist it.” 

“There is nothing that more tends to strengthen the faith of the young believer than to hear the veteran Christian, covered with scars from the battle, testifying that the service of his Master is a happy service, and that, if he could have served any other master, he would not have done so, for His service is pleasant and His reward everlasting joy.” 

“I went to my chamber and told my little griefs into the ears of Jesus. They were great griefs to me then, though they are nothing now. When on my knees I just whispered them into the ear of Him who had loved me with an everlasting love, oh, it was so sweet! If I had told them to others, they would have told them again, but He, my blessed Confidant, knows all my secrets, and He never tells again.” 

“That God predestined, and yet that man is responsible, are two facts that few can see clearly. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one part of the Bible that everything is foreordained, that is true; and if I find, in another Scripture, that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true. And it is only my folly that leads me to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict each other.” 

“It was said of an old Greek philosopher that he wrote over his door, ‘None but the learned may enter here.’ But Christ writes over His door, ‘He who is simple, let him turn in hither.’” 

“I used to think, sometimes, that if they had degrees who deserved them, diplomas would often be transferred and given to those who hold the plow handle or work at the carpenter’s bench; for there is often more divinity in the little finger of a plowman than there is in the whole body of some of our modern divines. ‘Don’t they understand divinity?’ someone asks. Yes, in the letter of it, but as to the spirit and life of it, D.D. often means Doubly Destitute.” 😀

“When I came to New Park Street Chapel, it was but a mere handful of people to whom I first preached; yet I can never forget how earnestly they prayed. Sometimes they seemed to plead as though they could really see the Angel of the covenant present with them, and as if they must have a blessing from Him. More than once, we were all so awestruck with the solemnity of the meeting that we sat silent for some moments while the Lord’s power appeared to overshadow us. All I could do on such occasions was to pronounce the benediction and say, ‘Dear friends, we have had the Spirit of God here very manifestly tonight; let us go home and take care not to lose His gracious influences.’ Then down came the blessing; the house was filled with hearers, and many souls were saved. I always give all the glory to God, but I do not forget that He gave me the privilege of ministering from the first to a praying people.” 

“It is the extremity of unwisdom for a young man, fresh from college or from another charge, to suffer himself to be earwigged by a clique, and to be bribed by kindness and flattery to become a partisan, and so to ruin himself with one half of his people.” 

“It is of no use to rise before an assembly and hope to be inspired upon subjects of which one knows nothing. If anyone is so unwise, the result will be that, as he knows nothing, he will probably say it, and the people will not be edified. But I do not see why a man cannot speak extemporaneously upon a subject that he fully understands. Any tradesman, well versed in his line of business, could explain it without needing to retire for meditation, and surely I ought to be equally familiar with the first principles of our holy faith. I ought not to feel at a loss when called upon to speak upon topics that constitute the daily bread of my soul.” 

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