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?

Thursdays With Spurgeon—God Will Not Acquit The Wicked

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

God Will Not Acquit The Wicked

     The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked [Nahum 1:3]. The Lord is slow to anger because He is great in power. ‘How say you so?’ says one. I answer: He who is great in power has power over himself. And he who can keep his own temper down and subdue himself is greater than he who rules the city, or can conquer nations. … When God’s power does restrain Himself, then it is power indeed—the power to curb power. The power that binds omnipotence is omnipotence surpassed. God is great in power, and therefore does He keep in His anger. … We bless God that the greatness of His power is just our protection! He is slow to anger because He is great in power. …  

     I have blotted out like a thick cloud your transgressions, and like a cloud your sins [Isaiah 44:22]. Not of one of all those sins that have been pardoned was pardoned without punishment. Do you ask me why and how such a thing as that can be the truth? I point you to yonder dreadful sight on Calvary. The punishment that fell not on the forgiven sinner fell there. … Sin is still punished, though the sinner is delivered. … 

     And now we trace this terrible attribute to its source. Why is this? We reply, God will not acquit the wicked, because He is good. What? Does goodness demand that sinners will be punished? It does. The judge must condemn the murderer because he loves his nation. …  

     Mercy, with her weeping eyes (for she has wept for sinners), when she finds they will not repent, looks more terribly stern in her loveliness than justice in all his majesty. She drops the white flag from her hand and says, “No. I called and they refused. I stretched out my hand and no man regarded. Let them die, let them die” and that terrible word from the lip of mercy’s self is harsher thunder then the very damnation of justice. Oh yes, the goodness of God demands that men should perish if they will sin. …  

     Can you by humble faith look to Jesus and say, “My substitute, my refuge, and my shield; You are my rock, my trust, in You I do confide”? Then, beloved, to you I have nothing to say except never be afraid when you see God’s power. For now that you are forgiven and accepted, now that by faith you have fled to Christ for refuge, the power of God need no more terrify you than the shield and sword of the warrior need terrify his wife or his child.

From Mercy, Omnipotence, And Justice

Have you looked in faith to the work Jesus did on Calvary so that your sins could be forgiven? If so, wonderful! You have nothing to fear from God’s justice. 

If not, I plead with you—look again. God’s mercy has been extended to you at least long enough for you to read this, but His justice must fall. Don’t procrastinate another moment: Allow the acquittal of your sins that Jesus purchased with His blood to be yours this very moment!

 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—God Is Slow To Anger

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

God Is Slow To Anger

     God is “slow to anger” [Nahum 1:3]. When mercy comes into the world, she drives winged steeds. The axles of her chariot wheels are glowing hot with speed. But when wrath comes, she walks with tardy footsteps. She is not in haste to slay; she is not swift to condemn. God’s rod of mercy is ever in His hands outstretched. God’s sword of justice is in its scabbard, not rusted in it. It can be easily withdrawn, but is held there by that hand that presses it back into its sheath, crying, “Sleep, O sword, sleep. For I will have mercy upon sinners and will forgive their transgressions.” … 

     God will not at once slay the man whose character is the vilest until He has first hewn him by the prophets. He will not hew him by judgments. He will warn the sinner before He condemns him. He will send His prophets, “rising up early” and late (Jeremiah 7:13, 25; 26:5; 29:19; 32:33; 33:15), giving him ‘precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little’ (Isaiah 28:13). … 

     God does not in grace, as in nature, send lightning first and thunder afterward, but He sends the thunder of His law first and the lightning of His execution follows it. … But best of all, when God threatens, how slow He is to sentence the criminal! When He has told them that He will punish unless they repent, how long a space He gives them in which to turn to Himself! …

     Although God is slow to anger, He is sure in it.

From Mercy, Omnipotence, And Justice

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives…. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation… (2 Peter 3:8-11, 14-15).

God’s Promise IS Coming

When God made His promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for Him to swear by, He swore by Himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. (Hebrews 6:13-15)

After waiting patiently…

God’s promise did come, but Abraham had to wait a long, long time! One translation says that Abraham waited long and endured patiently. Another says, Abraham stuck it out and got everything that had been promised to him. 

God’s promises DO come to those who patiently endure UNTIL the promise comes. 

Hang on.
Don’t fret.
Keep focused. 
Don’t lose heart.
Endure! 
Endure patiently.
Stick it out.
Don’t give up.
Keep going.
Don’t stop.
Persevere until it comes.

God has determined to show us the abundance of His promises, the faithfulness of His word, the trustworthiness of His promises. 

Ask Abraham. He’ll tell you that it’s so worth it to hang on until God fulfills His word.

God’s counsel is unchangeable. 
His wisdom is profound.
His treasures are immeasurable.
His delights are beyond comparison.
His hope is secure
His word endures.
His promises are sure.

Don’t give up. Patiently endure another day. God’s promise IS coming!

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Patience Of God

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

The Patience Of God

     But why are His chariots so long in coming? Why does He delay? The world grows gray, not only with age, but also with iniquity, and yet the Deliverer comes not. We have waited for His footfall at the dead of night and looked out for Him through the gates of the morning. We have expected Him in the heat of the day and reckoned that He might come before yet another sun went down. But He is not here! He waits. He waits very, very long. Will He not come?

     Long-suffering is that which keeps Him from coming. He is bearing with men. Not yet the thunderbolt! Not yet the riven heavens and the reeling earth! Not yet the great white throne and the Day of Judgment, for He is full of pity and bears long with men! Even to the cries of His own elect, who cry day and night to Him, He is not in haste to answer, for He is very patient, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. …

From the sermon God’s Long-Suffering

As a young child, I frequently heard my parents and grandparents say, “Jesus could return at any moment. His Second Coming is closer today than ever before.” My grandparents have all died and are with Jesus in Heaven, but I’m still here. 

Yet, I still believe it’s true: Jesus could return at any moment. His Second Coming is closer today than ever before.

Why does God delay Christ’s return? I believe the apostle Peter says it best—The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (see 2 Peter 3:3-15). 

That’s why Spurgeon concludes this sermon with this impassioned call to Christians: 

“God calls upon us, until the world is utterly destroyed with fire, to go on saving men with all our might and main. Every year that passes is meant to be a year of salvation. We rightly call each year the year of our Lord. Let us make it so by more earnest efforts for the bringing of sinners to the Cross of Christ.” 

Let’s continue to look for Christ’s soon return, but let’s be busy telling everyone about a God who loves them, who is patient with them, and who wants them to come to repentance and spend eternity with Him! 

The Difficulty In Answered Prayer

Often it is simply the answers to our prayers that cause many of the difficulties in the Christian life.

We pray for patience, and our Father sends demanding people our way who test us to the limit, ‘because…suffering produces perseverance’ (Romans 5:3). …

We pray to be unselfish, and God gives us opportunities to sacrifice by placing other people’s needs first and by laying down our lives for other believers. …

We pray to the Lord, as His apostles did, saying, ‘Increase our faith!’ (Luke 17:5). Then our money seems to take wings and fly away; our children become critically ill; an employee becomes careless, slow, and wasteful; or some other new trial comes upon us, requiring more faith than we have ever before experienced.

We pray for a Christlike life that exhibits the humility of a lamb. Then we are asked to perform some lowly task, or we are unjustly accused and given no opportunity to explain….

We pray for gentleness and quickly face a storm of temptation to be harsh and irritable. 

We pray for quietness, and suddenly every nerve is tested to its limit with tremendous tension so that we may learn that when He sends His peace, no one can disturb it.

We pray for love for others, and God sends unique suffering by sending people our way who are difficult to love and who say things that get on our nerves and tear at our heart. …

The way to peace and victory is to accept every circumstance and every trial as being straight from the hand of our loving Father.” —Lettie Cowman, in Streams in the Desert (emphasis added)

13 Quotes On The Gospel Of Luke

J.C. Ryle has given us a wonderful commentary on the Gospels in his Expository Thoughts On The Gospels. Check out my full book review here, and then enjoy a few quotes from Ryle’s insights on the Gospel of Luke.

“Lay firm hold on Bible promises. It is of the deepest importance to our peace to do so. Promises are, in fact, the manna that we should daily eat and the water that we should daily drink as we travel through the wilderness of this world.” 

“Christ’s loving kindness to His people never changes and never fails. It is a deep well of which no one ever found the bottom.” 

“There is not enough of a missionary spirit among Christians. It should not satisfy us to be safe ourselves. We ought also to try to do good to others. All cannot go to the heathen, but every believer should strive to be a missionary to his fellow man.” 

“No man shall ever be a loser in the long run by deeds of self-denying charity and patient love. At times he may seem to get nothing by his conduct. He may appear to reap nothing but ridicule, contempt, and injury. His kindness may sometimes tempt men to impose on him. His patience and forbearance may be abused. But at the last he will always be found a gainer.” 

“Have we the word of Christ’s promises? Then let us rest on it and fear nothing. Let us not doubt that every word that Christ has spoken shall be made good. The word of Christ is a sure foundation. He that leans upon it shall never be confounded.” 

“How much we ought to hate sin! Instead of loving it, cleaving to it, dallying with it, excusing it, playing with it, we ought to hate it with a deadly hatred. Sin is the great murderer, and thief, and pestilence, and nuisance of this world. Let us make no peace with it. Let us wage a ceaseless warfare against it.” 

“We must give up the vain idea of trying to please everybody. The thing is impossible and the attempt is mere waste of time. We must be content to walk in Christ’s steps and let the world say what it likes. Do what we will we shall never satisfy it or silence its ill-natured remarks. It first found fault with John the Baptist and then with his blessed Master. And it will go on caviling and finding fault with that Master’s disciples so long as one of them is left up on earth.” 

“Occasional retirement, self-inquiry, meditation, and secret communion with God are absolutely essential to spiritual health. The man who neglects them is in great danger of a fall. To be always preaching, teaching, speaking, writing, and working public works is, unquestionably, a sign of zeal. But it is not always a sign of zeal according to knowledge. It often leads to untoward consequences. We must make time occasionally for sitting down and calmly looking within, and examining how matters stand between our own selves and Christ. The omission of the practice is the true account of many a backsliding which shocks the church and gives occasion to the world to blaspheme.” 

“Let us beware of allowing traditions, old preconceived notions, unsound interpretations, or baseless theories in religion to find a root in our hearts. There is but one test of truth: ‘What says the Scripture?’” 

“The kindness of a Christian towards others should not be in word and in tongue only, but in deed and in truth. His love should be a practical love, a love which entails on him self-sacrifice and self-denial, both in money, and time and trouble. His charity should be seen not merely in his talking but his acting—not merely in his profession but in his practice. He should think it no misspent time to work as hard in doing good to those who need help as others work in trying to get money. … Such brotherly love the world may not understand. The returns of gratitude which such love meets with may be few and small. But to show such brotherly love is to walk in the steps of Christ. … What are we doing to help those who are troubled in mind, body, or estate? There are many such in this world. There are always some near our own door. What are we doing for them? Anything, or nothing at all? May God help us to answer these questions! The world would be a happier world if there was more practical Christianity.” 

“Never let us forget that to be content with sitting in the congregation and hearing sermons, while we bear no fruit in our lives, is conduct which is most offensive to God.” 

“Let us endeavor to live daily in the sight of a holy God. So living, it will matter little how much we are ‘watched’ by an ill-natured and malicious world. Let us exercise ourselves to have a conscience void of offense toward God and man, and to do nothing which can give occasion to the Lord’s enemies to blaspheme.” 

“An idea appears to prevail in some men’s minds that true religion may be separated from common honesty, and that soundness about matters of doctrine may cover over swindling and cheating in matters of practice! Against this wretched idea our Lord’s words were a plain protest. Against this idea let us watch and be on our guard.” 

You can read Ryle’s quote on The Gospel of Matthew here, and on the Gospel of Mark here. 

❤️ The Love Test

The description of love that Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 13 is well known, and I think most people would agree that this is an outstanding definition of true love. But the ultimate test is this: can this definition of love be said of me?

God wants you to be able to say “yes!” and so the Holy Spirit works on us to make this definition more and more consistently true of us. Here’s how we can test ourselves and find out where we need to allow the Spirit to work on us—put your name in this passage everywhere you find the word “love.”

Can this be truly said of me:

“Craig is patient. Craig is kind. Craig isn’t jealous. Craig doesn’t sing his own praises. Craig isn’t arrogant. Craig isn’t rude. Craig doesn’t think about himself. Craig isn’t irritable. Craig doesn’t keep track of wrongs. Craig isn’t happy when injustice is done, but he is happy with the truth. Craig never stops being patient with others, he never stops believing the best for others, he never stops hoping for the best for others, he never gives up on others. Craig’s love never fails.”

If you put your name in that passage, how well do you do on the love test? If you will let Him, the Holy Spirit will help you get all As on these tests.

8 Quotes From “How To Listen So People Will Talk”

In How To Listen So People Will Talk you will learn some invaluable skills for taking your relationships and your leadership deeper. Becky Harling has given us an amazing resource! Check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“Honestly, it’s impossible to be a good listener without developing a humble spirit. Think about it. When you’re listening and fully engaged, you allow the other person to have all the attention. Listening forces you to lay aside your agenda. It challenges you to let go of your need to share your opinions, theories, and assumptions in favor of listening to another’s feelings, thoughts, and sentiments. That decision can only come from a heart of humility.” 

“Resist the urge to dive in with your own story. … Whenever you dive in with your own story, you are stealing the microphone from the person who is telling their story. … The best advice is to remember to let someone be the star of their own show. Keep the focus on the person talking.” 

“How is it that we who have problems ourselves are so quick to try to fix someone else’s problem? James was spot on when he wrote, ‘Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak’ (James 1:19). I’d like to suggest that a great paraphrase for this verse is, ‘Let everyone be quick to listen and slow to give advice!’” 

“Don’t tell people what to do; ask them questions. … You gain greater insight, they gain greater self-awareness, and the two of you grow closer. … When we dare to ask someone what they want, we give them the opportunity to verbalize their need. … The best questions allow people to explore what’s in their hearts.” 

“When you validate another person’s feelings, you’re basically saying, ‘Your feelings make sense.’ You compassionately acknowledge that the person’s feelings are important and that those feelings are understandable. You don’t correct feelings or instruct a person on how to feel. You simply offer understanding. … Validating someone’s feelings doesn’t necessarily mean you agree with the actions of the other person. … Feelings are neither right nor wrong. They’re just feelings. It’s what we do with those feelings that determines whether or not we sin. … Validate feelings, but only validate actions that line up with Scripture.” 

“In your relationships, what does it look like for you to mimic Jesus and show others how valuable they are? How does your face send the signal, ‘I want to hear what you have to say’? Your nonverbal signals act as a green light, inviting others to share their feelings.” 

“Conflict can be transformational. In the chaos of an argument, if you will listen to understand and focus on meeting the others need, you’ll be more able to work as a team, coming up with a solution that satisfies both. In the end, your relationship will emerge stronger and more resilient.” 

“People are dying to feel heard, and unless we’ve purpose in our hearts to offer our full presence to others, we’ll drift through life distracted and dishonor those who matter to us in the process.” 

Thursdays With Oswald—His!

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

His!

     “They were Yours; You gave them to Me” (John 17:6). It is this aspect of a disciple’s life that is frequently forgotten. We are apt to think of ourselves as our own, of the work as our work. A great point in spiritual nobility has been reached when we can really say, “I am not my own.” … The Son of God is the Highest of all, yet the characteristic of His life was obedience. We have to learn that God is not meant for us, it is we who are meant for God. … “Do you not know…you are not your own” [1 Corinthians 6:19]. 

     His! Does that apply to us? Have we realize that our body is not our own, but His—“the temple of the Holy Ghost”! Have we realized that our hearts and affections are not our own, but His? If so, we shall be careful over inordinate affection. Have we realized that all the ambitions of life are His? We are out for one thing only, for Jesus Christ’s enterprises. …  

     “Since you have kept My command to endure patiently” [Revelation 3:10]. This is not the patience of pessimism, nor of exhaustion, but the patience of joyfulness because God reigns. It may be illustrated by likening the saint to a bow and arrow in the hand of God. God is aiming at His mark, He stretches and strains until the saint says—“I cannot stand anymore,” but God does not heed. He goes on stretching until His purpose is in sight, then He lets fly, and the arrow reaches His mark. … 

     It takes the endurance which comes from a vision of God to go on without seeing results. We are not here for successful service, but to be faithful. Had Jesus any results? Before we go into work for Him we must learn that the disciple is not above his master. We cannot be discouraged if we belong to Him, for it was said of Him—“He shall not fail nor be discouraged” [Isaiah 42:4]. Discouragement is “disenchanted egotism.” “Things are not happening the way I expected they would, therefore I am going to give it all up.” To talk like that is a sure sign that we are not possessed by love for Him, but only by love for ourselves. Discouragement always comes when we insist on having our own way. 

From So Send I You

Can Jesus say of you that you are His? Are you trying to make your own way, or are you simply following Jesus? Are you letting God stretch you until He is ready to release you, or are you becoming exhausted and discouraged in the waiting? Is your love for Jesus absolute, or does it come with conditions?

%d bloggers like this: