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Friday, February 6, 2009

Today's Walk - Joy in the Furnace

How timely ... In checking out the hundreds of emails, I find this one from Jim Reynolds, former pastor of First Baptist/LaGrange, Mo., who writes the Walk with Jesus column. He and his family have recently moved to a new pastorate in Illinois, but ties remain to LaGrange in more ways than one.

PERSONAL NOTE from Jim: I apologize for the lack of activity lately. I am currently living out of 2 homes as we continue to make this transition to a new place of ministry. And I do not have computer access in my new home yet. Heck, I don’t really even have a new home yet! But, hopefully the decision on a house will be made soon after this weekend.

The February issue of Heartbeat went up last Monday. Click the link to read all kinds of good articles.

My sister-in-law, Debbie Guinn, first offered me the opportunity to write for the magazine. I think she has been with them – as a writer and editor -- since the beginning. Please check out her insight as well; her column is called “Healing The Wounded Heart.” Until things settle in for me a little more – and to give you a taste of Debbie’s powerful testimony -- I’ll be reprinting (in several parts) what I believe to be one of her best articles.

Joy In The Furnace

James 1:2-4 -- 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.”

I don’t know about you, but finding joy in any trial – even the “little” ones – was never an easy task for me. I knew that as a Christian, I “should” look at things that way, but it just seemed to be one of those things that I would never accomplish during my life here on earth.

That all began to change last winter, when I found myself dealing with a debilitating illness. For four months, I was unable to do much of anything from a physical standpoint. However, God used that time to do a work in my spiritual life…mainly teaching me how to find joy in my trials. It was more than simply choosing to be happy IN SPITE OF my trials. It was a time of truly learning to thank God FOR the trials. It was a process of discovering that it IS possible to rejoice in – yes, get excited about – even the toughest, most painful trials.

One day, I was telling God how tired I was of being sick. I was completely overwhelmed with my circumstances. I had so many things that needed done; I couldn’t do anything because of my health; I had nobody to help me with things; I was afraid; I was lonely; I wanted it all to end…. Honesty, I was just having a good pity party that day. I had put on a CD to listen to, hoping to lift my spirits.

A song started playing and two lines from that song really got my attention. It says, “If you lead us to the fire, you will not withdraw your hand; We’ll gaze into the flames and look for you.” God just stopped me in my tracks right there and said, “Debbie, I am IN the flames but you never look for me there.”

He was so right – but then again, He always is. I tend to do one of two things when I am going through trials in my life. Either I look at the “stuff” (situations, circumstances, people) going on in my life – or I decide to ignore all that “stuff” and focus instead on all the good things that God has done/is doing in my life. There is nothing wrong with looking at the good. In fact, God’s Word tells us that we ARE to think on good things. It says in Phil. 4:8, ”Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

It IS good to think on the good – we need to have our thoughts on those things. However, I believe God was telling me that I needed to look to HIM wherever HE is. He doesn’t want me to forget or ignore the good things He has done, but He wants me to follow Him and see Him IN the trials too. If I am looking at the “stuff” – even the good “stuff” -- I can’t focus on HIM and see what He longs to do in and through the trial.

I began to think of trials as being in the fire, comparing the “stuff” to the flames. I was drawn to the story in Daniel of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – the three men who were thrown into the fiery furnace. I began an in-depth study of that story and God showed me so much about what He does during the trials of our lives. I discovered six key principles in this story that have totally changed my outlook on trials. These principles have given me reason to rejoice in the trials and suffering that God brings into my life.

For sake of time and space, I am not going to cite the entire story, but I highly encourage you to read the first three chapters of Daniel. The first two chapters give a little background as to who these three men were, where they came from, and their roles in Babylon. They were of the royal family of Judah – worthy of high honor; they were “perfect” from a physical standpoint, handsome, highly intelligent, and “qualified to serve in the king’s palace”. (Daniel 1:3-4). They were highly respected by the king, so much that he appointed them administrators over the province of Babylon. (Daniel 1:19-20; 2:49)

More importantly, though, is the fact that they were men who loved and served God – and ONLY God. When commanded to bow down and worship the king’s golden image, they refused. Even when threatened with death, they stood firm in their convictions, certain that one way or another God would deliver them. (Daniel 3:17-18)

The first principle from this story is that I WILL have trials in my life. It is easy to think that trials only affect certain people – those from a certain social or economic class, race, etc. Many times, we think that trials only come to people who “deserve” them due to sin or “poor choices” in life. Therefore, if I am going through a trial, I must have done something wrong to deserve it. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had everything going for them – or so we tend to think. They were high class, smart, had found favor with the king, AND lived their lives committed to God. Yet, they were still thrown into the furnace.

The truth of the matter is that EVERYBODY has trials. NOBODY is exempt from them. It does not matter how wealthy we are; how high up on the socio-economical ladder we are; how good or bad we are. It doesn’t even matter how little or great our faith in God is. Jesus says, “In this world you WILL have trouble.” (John 16:33) He is talking to His disciples here – those who have given up everything to follow Him. This tells me that even if I am totally, 100% sold out to Jesus, I will still have trials in my life. They are simply part of life for EVERYONE.

1 comment:

  1. My name is Debbie Guinn...the writer of this original article, Joy in the Furnace, several years ago. I happen to run across this blog in an attempt to find out why my website isn't working right. I was pleasantly shocked to find my brother in-law's WWJ newsletter on your blog. Since it seemed to have ministered to you, I thought I would let you know that this "Joy in the Furnace" article has now evolved into a six-week Bible study, due to be released June 1st of this year...2013. You can find out more information on my website (once I figure out why it's going to another website) or on my FB page "Joy in the Furnace". My prayer is that many will learn to find joy in the midst of their trials, through the truths found in God's Word.
    Thank you for helping to spread these truths, here on your blog.
    Debbie Guinn


"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will direct your paths." - Proverbs 3:5-6