Monday, July 17, 2017, 10:02 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “I Am Willing, Lord.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read various scriptures (in the NASB) on the subject of refining with fire.
Comfort in Affliction (2 Co. 1:3-9)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.
For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.
So, why does God allow suffering in our lives? There are many reasons, some of which we will cover here. One of the reasons is so that we can comfort others in their suffering with the comfort we received from God when we were in the midst of our trials. Yet, this word “comfort” entails so much more than just giving someone a pat on the back, or a hug, or a reassuring word, or a word of cheer. It can also mean a “holy urging,” and it is “used of the Lord directly motivating and inspiring believers to carry out His plan, delivering His particular message to someone else” (1). So, the Lord may have us give counsel, encouragement, warning, or assurance to someone going through trials, and in the same manner as which the Lord did for us when we were suffering. And, this is all part of his plan.
Another reason he allows us to be afflicted is so we learn not to trust in ourselves or in our own resources, but to trust in God in and for all things. When things are going well for us, we may become lazy about our relationships with the Lord and our spiritual walks of faith, and so we need affliction, at times, in order to get us to refocus our attention on what has eternal value and so we turn to the Lord for help, comfort, guidance and direction. We can become too self-sufficient, if we are not careful, and forget why we are here, and why God saved us and called us to his service.
For Our Good (Heb. 12:7-11)
It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons… but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
When we go through life’s difficulties, which we will, it is not because God has no power over our situations, and it is not because God is not paying attention, or that he doesn’t care. He does care about us immensely! And, that is why he sometimes allows us to suffer pain and sorrow, for we were called to suffer for righteousness’ sake, and trials and tribulations are brought into our lives (or are allowed by God in our lives) in order to grow us in our faith, to make us holy, and to conform us to Christ’s likeness.
In other words, although suffering trials and difficulties is painful, it is for our good that we go through these troublesome times. We need them so that we share in Christ’s holiness. To be holy is to be separate (unlike, different) from the world (of sin), because we are being made to be like Jesus. When things are going well, it may be too easy to blend in with the world so that people will like us and not reject us, but trials have a way of causing us to make a stand one way or the other. They help make us strong in our faith, too, because we must rely on the strength of the Lord. When we are trained by this divine discipline, it yields in our lives the peaceful fruit of righteousness, and being righteous has to do with “what is deemed right by the Lord (after His examination), i.e. what is approved in His eyes” (2).
The Fiery Trial (1 Pet. 4:12-17; cf. Matt. 5:10-12)
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
Another reason we go through trials and tribulations is to test our faith, not because God needs this, but we need it. We need it because it reveals where we need to mature, where we still need to grow, and where we need to confess sin, or forgive others, or make things right. This that pruning process that it talks about in John 15. We go through this to cut away the dross so that we can be filled to overflowing with the fruit of Christ’s righteousness, and so we can bear much spiritual fruit for his kingdom.
It is also that we might share in the sufferings of Christ and become more like him in heart, mind, passion, attitude, values, morals and behavior. And, it is so we shine the light of Jesus through our lives even when we are put to the fire, and as a testimony of God’s amazing grace in our lives. Suffering connects us with Jesus, it draws us closer to him, and our fellowship with him becomes much more intimate as we learn to respond with grace, love, patience, endurance and forgiveness towards those who are our persecutors.
Various Trials (Jas. 1:2-4; 1 Pet. 1:6-7; cf. Ro. 5:3-5)
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
We learn a lot about ourselves when we are put to the test; to the fire. We learn where we are still weak, and where we need to be strengthened in our faith and in our trust in the Lord. We see where we lack perseverance, or where we are still vulnerable to giving in to the flesh. Trials have a way of surfacing any stuffed emotions, bitterness, unforgiveness, lack of faith, stubborn wills, or sinful addictions. And, they push us into having to make serious changes in our lives, although not everyone is moved by them, for some people stubbornly continue in their own way despite suffering.
If we respond correctly to our trials, and we turn to the Lord for help, our sufferings will work God’s will in our lives in producing within us godly character, endurance, commitment, passion for service, and spiritual maturity. And, this will result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ, when he returns for us, his bride.
I AM WILLING, LORD / Joni Eareckson Tada
Sometimes when I am down,
And I don’t feel like You’re around, Oh Lord
Feeling so sorry for me,
Not knowing that all the while You’re working to see,
If when I’m put through the fire,
I’ll come out shining like gold,
Oh, Lord, please don’t ever stop working with me,
’til You see I can be all You want me to be.
I am willing Lord, I am willing Lord,
To be just exactly what You want me to be…