by Mike Ratliff
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (1 Peter 4:12-14 ESV)
I suppose the best example of a fiery trial in the Bible would be the Book of Job. Job was a righteous man whom God tested by allowing Satan to strike him by taking away his children, his possessions, and his health. In the end God vindicated Job as he repented of questioning God’s love for him during the trial. God also addressed Job’s accusers who had misrepresented God by declaring that Job was suffering because he had sinned.
After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the LORD had told them, and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer. (Job 42:7-9 ESV)
This walk is not always easy. Sometimes what we desire to do, thinking we are serving the Lord in it, is actually a work of the flesh. Other times our enemy will entice us to say something or do something that “seems oh so right,” but it ends up being a snare unto a stumble. The end result is that we find ourselves having to pay the consequences of this by having to endure not only demonic attacks and attacks from his seed, but we also become stressed and the Joy of the Lord seems very far away. This usually leads to a spiritual “dry spell” in which we can almost sense the presence of our enemy pursuing us, laughing at us, and lying to us about our true relationship with Christ.
However, the most disturbing times that we suffer in the fire is when we find ourselves falsely accused when we are actually working in our ministries and obeying God in all we do. These accusations sometimes come from those close to us. Other times, they come from those we are actually trying to help in their relationship with Christ. It is during these times that I believe we find ourselves partaking in the same suffering that our Lord and the Apostles endured before us.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”(Matthew 5:10-12 ESV)
I spent much of today trying to reason with a fellow who claims to be a Christian, but he has a great deal of bitterness and anger toward me and others in the CRN network. Here is a sample of what he told me today when I told him that the price to continue to be able to post comments on my blog was that he had to read my post. Have Mercy O Lord. The reason I wanted him to read it was because it was about reconciliation and repentance and forgiveness. Here is his response.
“Thank you, Mike. This will be my last comment as I will not be bullied into reading your writing. You are correct, your heart is showing. You crack me up Mike. I don’t hate KS, or you. I pity you. You over-estimate yourselves. Your action in this very matter shows how arrogant you are. My unwillingness to read your stuff reveals I’m unteachable? That is unbelievable. Who do you think you are? Do you have some special revelation from God that makes your writing “necessary reading”? You don’t know anything about me or who I am. I think (emphasis on think) that you are a bitter man, who is angry because he had a bad experience with a PDL pastor. Now, I have read enough of your stuff that I could use your own words to “prove” that, but I realize that you and I have never met so before I start making sweeping conclusions about you, I’ll let God sort it out between us. Personally, I think you’re an offense to the Gospel.”
Well, I guess that didn’t work out so well did it. However, am I imagining things or is this person dealing with bitterness and anger? What is the only way to deal with that? Isn’t it to repent and forgive? Is this how a Spirit-led Christian responds to another Christian? I guess Christians do behave badly at times, but not those who are are growing in Christlikeness.
I think the one thing in that comment that bothered me the most was his statement that I am an “offense to the Gospel.” The enemy really pounded me as I read that one. Am I arrogant? I pray that I am not., but I know I am not perfect. In any case, these accusations are not pleasant. How should I respond? I must start by asking God to show me the truth and repent of what He reveals to me. I must also forgive this person, which I have done. I have asked God to forgive him as well. I have also asked God to cleanse me of any of these things that may be true.
All this time while dealing with this fellow I have been quite non-plused because I have never treated him badly at all. When I talk about the Gospel and how we must not be ashamed of it, he starts accusing me of all sorts of stuff in an angry belligerent way. He has never given me any reason for his anger. He just expresses it in a very un-Christlike way.
In any case, my brethren, God has seen fit to allow a fiery trial for some of us during this time. We must draw near unto Him, seeking His face and His will. We must forgive all those who God brings to our minds whom we are holding in anger and hatred in our hearts. We must spend some serious time in prayer and repentance seeking His wisdom.
Soli Deo Gloria!