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Published On: 12/01/17||0 Comments||Categories: James' Journal||

The title is a reference to one of my favorite passages of scripture. Found in Daniel chapter 3, the writer unfolds for us an epic tale of faith and trial that always leaves me in awe of God’s power. Any time I teach on this passage I do so in conjunction with the book of Job which then leads into the story of the cross. My affinity for this passage is deeply rooted in the last 7 years of my life. It is no secret that these last several years have been a raging storm for me. I have walked through many trials, fires, and storms that I felt in some moments were going to destroy me. However, here I am… Still fighting and persevering. If you find yourself in a similar season, there is hope! Here’s how I, with God’s grace and help, endured the fire and came out not smelling like smoke.

Wrestling With God

This concept may seem counterproductive, but it is part of God’s transformation process. I am not recommending that you get into a WWE brawl with God because that will only leave you splattered on the mat. What I am talking about, is the process of wrestling with God’s attributes and character as He gives us new glimpses into His nature and being. Every storm and fire that I have walked through post-salvation came as a direct result of some moment that re-shaped my perspective of God.

Think of it this way… Your trial, storm, and/or fire is the cocoon that God uses to transform you more and more into the likeness of His Son. Just like we see with the butterfly, we have to wrestle our way out of the cocoon. The result is not only a more beautiful transformed creature, but a stronger one that is better equipped to face the trials to come.

I wrestled with God for a good year after the death of baby Emma. I struggled to understand God’s goodness in the midst of such pain and grief. I struggled so much that I almost walked away from the faith altogether. However, God brought me to a small passage of scripture in John 6:25-71 that literally transformed me. You can read more about this in my blog post, “Where Else Would I Go“.

Wrestling with God is very important to our growth as believers. It strengthens our faith and transforms us into world changers. Embrace the process and trust that He is working out a good purpose in you for the sake of His glory and the redemption of souls.

Worshipping in Spirit and Truth

This part was even more difficult than wrestling with God. When we are broken and weary from the trials of this life, finding joy and desire to worship God can be hard. If you’re like me, putting on a fake smile and going through the motions of worship is something you just do sometimes.

I believe our “christian” culture has somehow taught us to do this. Especially when it comes to leadership. Leaders are expected to have it all together and be the perfect example of faith and trust. Though the idea is noble, it is a lie. This idea only creates white-washed tombs. I have spoken with so many people that have suffered in silence behind fake smiles.

Yes, we are to persevere and endure our trials. Yes, we are to consider it pure joy when the storms come. However, we are also called to mourn with those who mourn. We are called to bear the burdens of others in love. We are called to confess and pray one to another so that we may find healing. God does not call us to be fake. He calls us to be honest with each other and with Him about where we are. In being honest about where we are at emotionally, physically, and spiritually- we can then unlock the gates of God’s grace and mercy.

When we are honest through our acts of worship, we enable the Spirit of God to fill us. Which then brings comfort, correction, peace, joy, and every other aspect that the Spirit brings. The enemy wants you to suffer in silence. He wants you isolated and separated from God’s truth. When this happens, just be honest with where you are at and watch God change your mourning to dancing.

Trusting His Promises

In my opinion, this is by far the most difficult part of the process. I mean… I am speaking of a figurative fire in our lives, but God literally had three guys walk through a very literal fire. A fire so hot and consuming that when the furnace doors were opened, the blaze burst out and killed the guards charged with throwing the prisoners in. However, as the story shows, the three did not waver in faith. They trusted in God’s promises. They knew that one of three things would happen; They knew that God would either deliver them from the fire, by the fire, or through the fire.

They trusted in God’s promises of protection for the righteous. They knew that should it be God’s will, He would deliver them from having to walk through the fire at all. In our lives today, I think that these moments often go unnoticed by us. How many times has God delivered us from car accidents, diseases, and other seemingly “bad” things? I am sure that the number is to high to count. He is our protector, our shield, our fortress, and refuge. You can trust in these promises.

They trusted in God’s promise to deliver them unto eternal life. They believed that even if the fire consumed them and took their life, that they would still be delivered. Heaven is our goal and our hope is that life does not end at our physical deaths in this world. That is a promise that we can trust in because we have a risen savior that has testified to this hope. We should no longer fear death for death is the gateway to something better. If we really believe this then the possibility of death should not cause us to waver in our faith.

The third reality is the same as the first. They trusted in God’s protection. I think we all to often think that God’s protection only means that He will protect us from harm. However, the Bible depicts more often than not that God’s protection manifests itself more through the fire than from the fire. God still protected the children of Israel in the midst of His wrath being poured out on them all throughout the Old Testament. God protected Job’s life in the midst of the Devil’s attacks. God protected the disciples in the midst of intense persecution. We can even see God’s protection over Jesus as He walked the Earthly path to the cross. God protected Jesus’ character and reputation as Pilot announced that he found no fault in Jesus. I mean… Do I need to say more? Join me in repeating the words of Job, “Even if he slays me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15).

Do You Smell Like Smoke?

Think back on your life. Recount all the storms, trials, and fires that you have walked through in faith. Do you smell like smoke? If you find that you are still carrying the baggage, scars, and emotional trauma from those times of your life, could it be that you are still wrestling with God? Maybe you are finding it hard to truly worship in spirit and truth? Or maybe there is a promise of God that you are struggling/refusing to believe?

No matter the reason for your current state of faith, there is a good, good Father that wants to deliver you through the fire. He wants to burn away the ropes that bind you. He wants to be glorified as He transforms you in the cocoon. Our joy and peace rest not in the circumstances of this life, but in the grace, mercy, and goodness of a Father who’s ways are above ours. “We must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us” (Hebrews 12:1). “We [can] rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). The result… You will stand before others giving testimony to the fires that God has brought you through and He will be glorified because there will not be a hint of smoke on you!

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