The Bible is a book that is full of heroes of the faith. As we turn the pages of Old Testament and New we find stories of men and women who placed their faith in the LORD and who chose to act on the basis of that faith. And we also see that the LORD not only gives genuine faith, but He also tests genuine faith. This is because faith can be real and genuine and received from the living God, but faith is only proven (“justified” – James 2:21, 24) and revealed when it is tested. It is the test that displays the presence or absence of faith. So the LORD brings tests into the lives of His people so that their saving faith can be demonstrated, both to themselves and to the watching world so that God is most glorified.
Thus in Daniel chapter 3, we see the three Hebrew men who have faith in the Most High God facing the test of the furnace of blazing fire. Before Nebuchadnezzar builds his golden image, and before he stokes his furnace of blazing fire, and before he makes his idolatrous decree, and before all the music plays on all the instruments, these three “rulers of the provinces,” Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, have a solid faith in the one true and living God of the Hebrews. At least we strongly suspect that this is so based on their prayer life (chapter 2) and their friendship with Daniel, but the truth of their faith is largely hidden, only suspected, but not tested and proven.
How is the genuineness of their faith to be revealed? The LORD, the Most High God, ordains a golden image and a furnace of blazing fire so that the faith of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego can be boldly displayed and so that the LORD can display His power and His glory as He personally goes into the furnace with His people to deliver them from Nebuchadnezzar’s hand. The furnace revealed the faith. Through the furnace of testing, the faith that was hidden is revealed in blazing brilliance.
But this is the case throughout the Bible. Heroes emerge from the furnace of testing. Trials and tests reveal true faith and prove that what is professed is actually possessed. Abraham believed God (Genesis 15:6), but his faith is proven in the test of Genesis 22. Job is declared righteous and blameless (Job 1, 2), so we know that Job has saving faith, but the LORD ordains a long and difficult time in “the furnace” to prove that Job’s faith is not in word only, but that he possesses the genuine article of a faith that cannot be shaken. In the end, Job comes forth as refined gold (23:10). The heroes of the faith endured the furnace of testing: Joseph, Moses, David, Elijah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Paul, Peter. Our Lord Jesus Christ, even the Lord of glory, “the author and perfecter of faith,” suffered more than any man, yet His glory was never diminished and He perfectly endured the furnaces that the Father had ordained for Him. The point is that the LORD ordains furnaces in the lives of His people to reveal genuine faith and to display God’s worth and glory.
When we understand this principle, then we are prepared to endure and even welcome the furnaces that the LORD places in our lives. If I am to walk as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6) and if I am to follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21-24), then I am to expect that my faith will be tested. I will not ever be mentioned in the Bible, but if I am to imitate the faith of the great cloud of witnesses, and if I am not to shrink back, and if I am to prove the infinite worth of Jesus Christ, then I must endure the trials and shine forth as gold.
The trials (“furnaces”) will take varied forms, but we are to endure the trials until the LORD decides to deliver us. This is the subject of a future blog, but there is often a temptation to take the exit of expedience rather than enduring the furnace until the LORD has ordained its end. Divorce is easier than persevering in a difficult marriage. A difficult boss or a miserable job can be relieved if you quit, but that is not the path of heroes of the faith. The LORD ordains our tests and it is the LORD who determines their end, because He is the one who knows when deliverance is appropriate. Our flesh loathes physical suffering, but we are putting the flesh to death (Colossians 3:5, etc.) and are enduring the trial so that our spirit can be strengthened. Therefore, it is not automatic that even physical suffering is to be relived.
In fact, it could be said that the existence of furnaces in our life gives evidence to the hand of God in our life. We desire to be conformed to Christ and God uses furnaces as shaping mechanisms to bring that about. If we lack furnaces, does it mean that we are illegitimate children (Hebrews 12:8)? As we approach maturity, we as believers embrace trials and tests as demonstrations of God’s love, for He has personally designed and has now personally brought into our life a furnace to drive away the dross of sin. Is it not appropriate to rejoice when the God who spoke the universe into existence and who made man out of the dust of the ground personally touches and directs our life?
The principle, then, is that the believer is to embrace the trials the LORD brings into his/her life because these are the way that God reveals and makes visible genuine faith.
SDG rmb 10/10/2018