Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Crucibles Create Christlikeness

God sometimes seems to put us in the vise, and then He tightens it and tightens it more, until we think, in the pain of His sovereign squeeze, "What's He trying to do to me?" We walk closer to Him and even closer to Him. We don't see how we could walk any closer, but still more tests come, one on top of another.

That's where Elijah is, but he doesn't waver. He stands tall and silent in the shadow of God, grounded in faith, confident of his Lord's power. That's humility at its best. He doesn't question God. He doesn't fall apart at the seams. He doesn't lose control.
~ Swindoll

If you walk with the Lord long enough, you will discover that His tests often come back-to-back. Or perhaps it would be even more accurate to say back to back to back to back to back. Usually, His preparatory tests don't stop with one or two. They multiply. And as soon as you climb out of one crucible thinking, "Okay, I made it through that one," you're plunged into another, where the flame is even hotter.
Crucibles create Christlikeness.
~ Swindoll

I don't know about you, but I have come to realize that I usually attempt to determine whether or not God is pleased with me according to what "good" things are happening in my life.

If I am going through test after test and trial after trial I tend to feel as though I am doing something wrong, not pleasing God in some area of my life, that I am just not getting the point.

I have a tendency to judge my own life the way Job's friends judged his. "Well there must be some sin that God is trying to get me to confess, some sin that is separating me from Him so he's putting me through this, something in my flesh that must be crucified, something I am blind to, and He must be trying to open my eyes..."

So reading these quotes by such a great man of faith as Chuck Swindoll, well it helps. These words shared by Swindoll are really truths that I already know, but somehow in the midst of the vise, the test, I forget them.

This is why God tells us to not forsake the assembly (Hebrews 10:24-25).
We need each other, we need to encourage each other, we need to surround ourselves with a cloud of witnesses to the truth of God and the solid foundation of His Word, and to build up one another's faith. We need a Aaron and a Hur to hold up our arms when we grow weary in this battle of life (Exodus 17:12).

since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us,
let us also lay aside every encumbrance
and the sin which so easily entangles us,
and let us run with endurance
the race that is set before us, 
Hebrews 12:1

God has called us to be watchman on the walls. We are to watch out for each other and we are not to keep silent. We are called to remind God of His promises, not that He needs reminded, but we do.

On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen;
All day and all night they will never keep silent.
You who remind the LORD, take no rest for yourselves;
And give Him no rest until He establishes
And makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.
Isaiah 62:6-7 

We are not to sit back and rest in these days, we are to keep watch, to pray without ceasing, to be alert. Jesus said the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41). The weakness of our flesh needs the strength of God and we need each other. Even Christ did not carry His own cross all the way to Calvary. If He didn't why on earth would we think or consider that we can.

We also need to not assume that if we or someone else is going through a time of suffering it is because of sin. Times of suffering do not always mean that God is not pleased with us. God was well pleased with His Son, and His Son suffered more than any man. If Christ learned obedience through suffering why would we think we could learn in any other way?

In the days of His flesh,
He offered up both prayers and supplications
with loud crying and tears
to the One able to save Him from death,
and He was heard because of His piety. 
Although He was a Son,
He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. 
And having been made perfect,
He became to all those who obey Him
the source of eternal salvation,
Hebrews 5:7-9

At any point and time during the sufferings of Christ on this earth in the flesh He could have looked at us and said, "you know what,they just ain't worth this, I'm going back to glory". But He didn't. He took the sufferings with the praise, He took the shouts of "Hosanna" with the shouts of "Crucify" because both were in the will of God. 
The hosanna's alone would never have been enough to bring eternal salvation to man, the crucible is what made Him the Christ, and the crucible is indeed what makes us Christlike.  

A little poem I just penned...

Sometimes the fire is to burn off the dross of sin,
sometimes the fire is to purify the silver within,
but every time it is God who controls the flame,
so no matter the force of the furnace the fire will not be in vain,
the test we might not understand,
the trial may make no sense to man,
but God is He who tightens the vice,
and in His grip we must not lose sight,
that our eyes on Christ must always be fixed,
for this is the reason for our own crucifix,
to take up our cross and follow Him, 
to be conformed to the image of the One who conquered death and sin
let us not view our new life through old eyes of flesh
let us walk by the Spirit that we now in Christ possess
let us not grow weary of doing good
nor prejudge God when He doesn't do what we think he should

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