The Furnace of Affliction

James has spent time with me telling me what he meant when he said “Consider it pure joy when you face trials of every kind.”  Many have asked how things are going as they notice I have been unusually quiet. While I generally relay exactly what happened and then share the lessons learned, in this case, I cannot.  The illustrations shared have come as a result of being tested in the furnace of affliction.  Important to realize in order to burn brightly, our lives must first experience the flame.

giving more than you can bear

There is a completely false concept some people reference when they are in trials and they say something like “God won’t give you more than you can bear.”  This is NOT in the bible.  Quite the opposite.  God will indeed give you trials and tribulations in order to refine you and grow you and shape you to the purpose for which you were created.  Many of these trials are indeed beyond what you can bear without the support of Christ.

In case you want to know the scripture that is are mis-quoted and mis-understood, it is 1 Corinthians 10:13  “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

ease and smooth sailing

lake-boatA number of folks also believe that once they have accepted Christ as their Savior, that He should make life smooth sailing and eliminate all life’s difficulties.  Another false belief.  Poverty, hardships and misfortune have propelled many to a life of spiritual completeness.  God has chosen trials as a catalyst to our faith and development.  Where would our faith be if not for trials to test it.  How would patience be developed without endless opportunities to endure.   Faith grows during storms – it is in the atmosphere of conflict that faith finds its most fertile soil.  We want the blessing while it is still green but the Lord wants to wait until the fruit is ripe, delicious and sweet.

So back to the story of how things are going…

persecuted but not abandoned

I had the opportunity to see what happens when a promise is made that gets rescinded. Memories became conveniently fuzzy sort of like when Hillary Clinton is being questioned and she “simply cannot recall.”  The Apostle Paul and I have now shared the experience of a private firing squad in a public place with all manner of threats being hurled.  Paul describes it this way “we are hard pressed on every side but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed.2 Corinthians 4:8-9  Being Christ’s follower means serving others even when they do not measure up to our expectations. We are all frail and fallible jars of clay.  When we think we are at the end of our rope, we are not because God never abandons us.  It is my job to let people see Christ through me.

I prayed and put it all in God’s hands.  I did not defend my honor.  He knew the truth.  He was there.  He fought my battle.  And in a few days, He showered me with a blessing of continued provision.  It was quite hilarious how I got the message.  A text message came that was meant for someone else.  I danced around ecstatic at being vindicated.  Sometimes God even controls the re-routing of a text message that can make your day even if it was not meant for you!

everything offended

In an effort to make a good impression and promote a positive outcome in a certain situation, I unknowingly created a multitude of serious offenses to another.  I was chastised publicly, then privately, then again two weeks later.   Each time I accepted that I had been responsible for offending someone.  It was anything but intentional.  I offered no justification or defense.  I offered calm sincere apology.

During this two week period there were two National Conventions to nominate the President of the United States.  For some unknown reason I watched both of them.  I saw clearly how the same event could be perceived as black by some and white by others, some events were perceived as pure evil and the same event through the lens of a different prescription made the event admirable.  I also see also how blood is thicker than water.  I even learned what it might feel like to be a slave, to be owned with no freedom where you as a person do not count except for performing the labor requested of the master.  I also learned how to humbly get down on my knees and ask for forgiveness.  No matter what I thought of the situation, in another person’s eyes, I had offended him.  I will own that and my only recourse is in sincerely asking for forgiveness.  No other behavior was appropriate.

I was also on my knees in prayer.  In my entire life I had never offended the masses as I much as in just two weeks time.  People who know me and my character are dropping their jaws in disbelief.  Allies are convinced they could never just accept the tongue lashings and chastisement that came my way.  There was no question, I had to do this God’s way.  Immersing myself in Him, He gave me the strength to do what I could not do in my own strength.   He didn’t have to but He did bless me by seeing a changed heart from the person I had offended.

Humbling ourselves means recognizing that our worth comes from God alone.  To be humble involves working with His power according to His guidance, not with our own independent effort.  Although we do not deserve God’s favor, He reaches out to us in love and gives us worth and dignity despite our human short comings.

prickly packages and difficult people

Can we still be kind when others are treating us unfairly?  God wants to make us mature and complete – NOT keep us from pain.  Thank God for promising to be with you in rough times.  Ask for help to solve or the strength to endure.   The Holy Spirit will give us increasing power to monitor and control what we say, so that when we are offended, the Spirit will remind us of God’s love and we don’t react in a hateful manner.  When we are criticized, the Spirit will heal the hurt and we won’t lash out.  When the Holy Spirit purifies a heart, he gives self-control so that the person will speak words that please God.

Beautiful jewels are often delivered in prickly packages by very difficult people. So trust Him and never push away the instrument He is using or you will miss the result of His work in your life.

The fire gets hot in order to purify gold.