The Inevitability of the Fire

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I remember the first day He spoke to me, so clearly, I can see the house as if it were still standing and its windows still streamed with light through bubbled windowpanes. I can envision sitting cross-legged on the “good” sofa and a red Open Bible on my knees. I was 16-years-old and recently home from youth camp in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. 

Summers on the farm were desert hot, with the thermometer often over 100 degrees in peak hours of the afternoon. Although the jalapeños and cotton needed the temperature for energy, farmers did not. Most I knew siestaed after lunch, and my folks were no exception. 

In those afternoons, while the house was quiet, I spent my time by the hum of the evaporative cooler wandering through the pages of a novel. Sometimes, I found myself in the countryside of Victorian England and other times among the castle ruins of bonnie Scotland. I often traveled this way.

Since the camp pastor challenged us to read through the New Testament, I turned my sight to Palestine. Roaming the shores of Galilee and the hills of Samaria, I arrived on the Mount of Olives. Reading four different accounts on the life of Jesus helped my flannelgraph image of Jesus take life.  

As I followed the crowd through print on the page, He turned and spoke directly to me. “You did not choose Me, but I chose you.” Stunned, I looked up from the text to gain my bearings. I still sat alone on the floral divan, but my throbbing heart was louder now than the fan. Timidly, I re-read the red-letter words from John 15:16.

You did not choose Me,” He repeated, “but I chose you to go and bear fruit….fruit that shall last.” 

Within weeks, my family began to experience financial pressure and health uncertainties. Surely this wasn’t what God had in mind when He chose me. For the next couple of years, I doubted His Word and wondered whether I’d heard Him at all.

As I reflect on this experience long ago, I’m reminded of the subsequent times He’s spoken to me through His Word. Over the years, I’ve watched His Word bear fruit and multiply but discovered that He doesn’t always say what I want to hear. (Colossians 1:6; Acts 12:24; Nehemiah 8:9; 2 Chronicles 34:18–21). Sometimes, the Lord sends His Word to see what is in my heart (Deuteronomy 8:2). 

The Joseph of Genesis knew this well. When recounting Joseph’s life, the Psalmist points out, “Until the time that His Word came to pass, the Word of the Lord tested him (Joseph – Psalm 105:19).” Tested him? Yes, and the gravity of this particular word is significant. The literal Hebrew meaning of ṣārap̄ (test) is a smelter’s word, speaking of an assaying process of refined ore. 

When God gives glorious dreams, as He did with young Joseph, it is not only to reveal His plans but also to refine. Let me say that more plainly. When you hear a word from the Lord, expect a failure before its fulfillment. 

The Word of the Lord will test and refine you. Like the process of smelting gold, your ordeal may involve extreme pressure, heat, and chemicals to separate your impurities. It is the rare lump of gold that doesn’t cry out in agony during this refinement. 

May we be encouraged by the words of Charles Spurgeon. He states, “Men do not put base metal into the furnace, they spend their assaying upon precious gold.” During our smelting, remember that while we endure fire, pressure, and chemical burn, God sees the value of our essence. 

Joseph must have questioned his dreams while his feet remained shackled in a foreign dungeon. During the pressure of Potipher’s wife, the heat of scandal, and the acid of unjust imprisonment, he must have wondered if he had ever heard God’s voice at all. And even if he had, was this testing worth it

Joseph didn’t know that a great “until” was coming. This testing was only “until the time that His Word came to pass” (Psalm 105:19). “The vision is yet for the appointed time, it hastens toward the goal, and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3). 

O friend, may we be more convinced by His Word than the situation surrounding us. The exact dream that once delighted us may now bring us distress. Don’t be surprised when you hear God’s direction and then the pathway to fulfillment disappears almost immediately. This is a routine procedure in God’s revelation. Questions are also part of the process. You can hear correctly and still wonder why. 

Did He speak to you just before turning up the heat? Congratulations. Your Father sees within you a genuine faith that is more precious than gold (1 Peter 1:7). Even though the smelter’s fire tests you now, “God never fails anyone” (1 Corinthians 1:9 WET). Your “until” is on its way. Wait for it. He will not delay a moment more than necessary.