Tested By Fire

Beloved of the Lord, it seems that the more I write about the apostate American Church the more my personal circumstances descend into chaos. :-) The time that I normally have to research, pray, and write is continually being consumed by other "more urgent" things. This, of course, brings to mind that book The Tyranny of the Urgent that brings to light how the urgent things in our lives can consume all of our time so that we are pulled away from the best of things, which, of course, is spending time in the Word, praying and seeking our Lord’s face. I always thought that if I wrote and shed light into the darkness all around us that the attacks would be more of a physical nature. Instead, it seems that God is allowing the most frustrating of things to come into my life, even though they are important and somewhat urgent, to keep me in a mental and spiritual state of desperation. That desperation is one of deeply desiring to be God’s servant, to write and present cutting edge yet Biblically accurate posts that the Holy Spirit uses in the hearts of those reading them to bring glory to God foremost and to edify the reader. The crux of the problem is that my idea of doing that is one of solace, peace and plenty of time to research, pray and write. Instead, I have to desperately put together these posts by just asking God to speak through me as I write. I never seem to have the time to "do it right." Of course, I’m sure you see that my idea of how it should be done is more of a self-edifying thing even perhaps an ego building thing. On the other hand, the way it has been going for the last several weeks, even months, is more of a hectic, last minute dash. Here is what I have ended up doing. I "listen" to my circumstances and relationships and my heart all day. Then when it’s time to get a post ready, I simply ask God to help me. Using the background of information I have been accumulating all day, I attempt to find a theme or passage in the scripture that addresses this. More often than not, I completely fail at this. In fact, I can’t remember one time that I have been able to write a post like this. What happens is that, as I read scripture, a passage will strike my heart somehow. I will then use reference material to find related passages. Then I pray for guidance. Then I start to write. Sometimes it works very smoothly from there, but usually I have to do more research. My desperation is finally ended as a post is put to bed, but then, of course, the next day dawns and it all begins again. What is so amazing to me is how God uses this despite me and my failings. It has become so hectic that I cannot imagine how I ever found the time to write four books. Oh well, I believe that God is using "Possessing the Treasure" in far greater ways than He has or ever will use my books. I often wonder why He had me write them, but then I see all of that research and time in prayer and Bible study it took to put those manuscripts together and then it all starts to make sense. I am no different than you. I am totally useless to God and the Kingdom in myself in my own inherent abilities. It is only as God uses me despite myself that it works. He puts me in the fires of desperation so that I will be forced to wait on Him and rely on Him to make it work. Praise be to God! – Mike Ratliff

by Martin Luther

Do not be surprised a the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12-13)

Peter uses unusual imagery to remind us what Scripture says about suffering. Throughout the Bible, suffering is described as a hot, fiery oven. Elsewhere, Peter says that these trials test our faith just as fire refines gold (1 Peter 1:7). In the book of Isaiah, God says, "I have tested you in the furnace of affliction" (Isaiah 48:10). In Psalms, David says of God, "You probe my heart and examine me at night…you test me" (Psalm 17:3). And regarding Israel, the psalmist says, "We went through fire and water" (Psalm 66:12). So the Bible speaks of suffering as being engulfed in fire or tested by fire. Peter says we shouldn’t become upset or think it’s strange when we experience this fire. We are tested by fire just as gold is refined by fire.

When we begin to believe, God doesn’t abandon us but lays a holy cross upon our backs to strengthen our faith. The gospel is a powerful word, but it cannot do its work without trials. No one will discover its power unless they experience it. The gospel can show its power only where there is a cross and where there is suffering. Because it’s a word of life, it must exercise all its power in death. If dying and death are absent, then it can do nothing. No one would discover that it’s stronger than sin and death.

Peter says painful trials come on us to test us. This fire or heat is the cross and suffering that make us burn. God inflicts this fire for no other reason except to test us, to see whether we’re depending on his Word. That’s why God imposes the cross on all believers. He wants us to experience and demonstrate God’s power.

From Faith Alone – A Daily Devotional - General Editor James C. Galvin

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4 thoughts on “Tested By Fire

  1. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” Aren’t we blessed that God took the time to write us encouraging love letters? He knows all our needs before we know them and has prepared a way to use us for His glory. “Even though we fail Him, He will not fail us because He cannot deny Himself”…I believe that is also a Scripture. There are so many of them! Bless you, Mike. I think you are also in the heat of the fire and God wants to show you like He is showing me that we can’t do anything…He does all the good work through us. God is so wise. When you think of a vessel, which is what we are, it doesn’t do anything but sit there and show off the handiwork of the maker and hold whatever the maker puts inside of it. What a perfect analogy of us.

  2. Sarah,

    Yes it is! We don’t produce the fruit, we bear the fruit of the Spirit like a grapevine or apple tree bears grapes and apples that the creator causes to grow. We are a vessel that He has made to be used according to His will. When we try to call the shots then we struggle. I must do that way too much. :-)

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  3. Hi Mike, I actually thought that you spent a lot of time making these blogs, and I thought that because they are so meaningful and deep. I am surprised to know that its done in such a short time and all glory to God for that. Its a great testimony that even when we are weak God can work wonders through us. Even if we look back into history none of the people of God were perfect. I mean some were sinful, others had trials which make them cry to God but in everything there was something which really burnt the heart of God’s people. But in everything we see the grace of God being sufficient and that through the strength of God all of children were kept safe and even today their lives are a testimony to how God can bless his children even through trials and sufferings. There is a sermon by Spurgeon which really touched me deeply on these trials which we have in life and it was called “God’s people in the furnance” and it was based on the same verse Isaiah 48:10. and I just wanted to share a part from that sermon which really touched me a lot.

    “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” Isaiah 48:10 – I chose thee before thou wast here; yea, I chose thee before thou hadst a being, and when all creatures lay before me in the pure mass of creatureship, and I could create or not create as I pleased, I chose and created thee a vessel of mercy appointed unto eternal life: and when thou in common with the whole race, hadst fallen, though I might have crushed thee with them, and sent thee down to hell, I chose thee in thy fallen condition, and I provided for thy redemption: in the fulness of time I sent my Son, who fulfilled my law and made it honourable. I chose thee at thy birth, when a helpless infant thou didst sleep upon thy mother’s breast. I chose thee when thou didst grow up in childhood with all thy follies and thy sins. Determined to save thee, I watched o’er thy path when, Satan’s blind slave, thou didst sport with death. I chose thee when, in manhood, thou didst sin against me with a high hand; when thy unbridled lusts dashed thee on madly towards hell. I chose thee, then, when thou wast a blasphemer and a swearer, and very far from me. I chose thee, then, even when thou wast dead in trespasses and sins: I loved thee, and still thy name was kept in my book. The hour appointed came; I redeemed thee from thy sin; I made thee love; I spake to thee, and made thee leave thy sins and become my child; and I chose thee then over again. Since that hour how often hast thou forgotten me! but I have never forgotten thee. Thou hast wandered from me; thou hast rebelled against me; yea, thy words have been exceeding hot against me, and thou hast robbed me of mine honour; but I chose thee even then; and now that I put thee in the furnace thinkest thou that my love is changed? Am I a summer friend fleeing from thee in the winter? Am I one who loves thee in prosperity and doth cast thee off in adversity? Nay; hearken to these my words. thou furnace-tried one, “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” Think not, then, when you are in trouble that God has cast you off. Think he has cast you off if you never have any trials and troubles, but when in the furnace, say, “Did he not tell me this beforehand?”

    “Temptation or pain?—he told me no less:
    The heirs of salvation, I know from his word,
    Through much tribulation must follow their Lord.”

    O blessed reflection! let it comfort us: his love does not change; it cannot be made to alter; the furnace cannot scorch us, not a single hair of our head can perish; we are as safe in the fire as we are out of it; he loves us as much in the depths of tribulation as he does in the heights of our joy and exultation. Oh! thou who art beloved of friends, “when thy father and mother forsake thee the Lord will take thee up.” Thou who canst say, “He that ate bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me,” “though all men forsake thee,” saith Jehovah, “yet will not I.” O Zion, say not thou art forgotten of God; hear him when he speaks—”Can a woman forget her sucking child that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I never forget thee.” “I have graven thee upon my hands; thy walls are continually before me.” Rejoice then, O Christian, in the second thought, that God’s love does not fail in the furnace, but is as hot as the furnace, and hotter still.

  4. Paul,

    Yes, the time spent writing these posts varies. When I first started doing this I would write a post and work on for days. Last summer I was about three days ahead of schedule and I had several all lined up ready to go, but it seems that God has taken all of my time away to do that. Now, I must trust Him to give me the Word from His Word. :-) It is like driving home from work on an ice covered road with people all around you driving crazy and out of control. However, if I am very cautious by fixing my eyes where they need to be watching out for out of control cars, but fully concentrating on keeping my pickup under control, never varying then I make it home. If I let emotion or rage or fear or distraction affect me then I am in trouble. In writing these posts it is very similar. If I rely on emotion then I make a huge mistake. If I rely on my intellect alone then I make a huge mistake. If I rely on my writing skills, such as they are, then I make a huge mistake. However, if I fix my eyes on my Lord, seek His will ALONE and not write a word until I know what the crux of the message is then I am on the right track. Then as the message is developed I am usually very surprised by how it is so much deeper or focused than I thought it would be when I started. I take no credit for that. That is God. It is all for His glory.

    Also, AMEN brother on your exposition of Isaiah 48!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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