Monday, April 9, 2018

A BLACKSMITH

My brother and I were discussing our spouses, who are both battling cancer, when he said, "Life is boot camp! It either refines us or it does us in—our choice." He then shared a story about a blacksmith, of which I have written a condensed version:

A blacksmith had surrendered his life to the Lord and was living a godly life, yet it seemed that from the time of his conversion, more troubles, afflictions, and losses showed up at his doorstep. One day a friend, who was not a Christian, stopped by to "sympathize" with the blacksmith's trials and said, “It seems strange that so much affliction comes to you, even though you are a sincere Christian who trusts God for help and guidance. I can’t help but wonder, 'Why is that?'” 

The blacksmith did not answer immediately, for it was evident that he had pondered the same question. Finally, he said, “See that pile of raw iron. Do you know what I do with it? I take a piece and heat it in the fire until it is red, almost glowing white with heat. Then I place it on the anvil and hammer and shape it, as I know it should be shaped. I then reheat and hammer it, repeating the process numerous times until I have a finished product. But sometimes a piece of iron won’t yield to the hammering, tempering, and shaping. Therefore, I have no choice but to throw it out. I have discovered that just like the heating, pounding, shaping, and tempering of those raw materials, God has been holding me, an unfinished work, in the fires of affliction. I have felt His hammer upon me, but I don’t mind as long as He makes me into what I should be."

I watched several YouTube videos of blacksmiths and was amazed at the exacting care and attention given to crafting, shaping, and molding a raw piece of iron into a serviceable product. That is what God does with us. He is meticulous in His attention given to us, which often requires submitting us to the fires (affliction) until we bend and yield to His hammer (His will and His Word) so that our faith is tempered (strengthened). 

Life is difficult. God allows us to pass through the fires of adversity to purge any dross (worthless rubbish) that we have accumulated throughout our life. Often we don't recognize dross that holds us down and prevents us from receiving all that God has for us. But if we submit to Him, He will use our trials, tribulations, disappointments, and delayed answers to prayers to refine and conform us to His perfect will and purposes for us.  

I often reflect on the first 25 years of my life as a non-Christian. I had many of the same challenges that I have today. However, the major difference between now and then was that then, I didn't have the hope of Christ, which I have today. I didn't know God as Friend with whom I could share my concerns, needs, questions, fears, brokenness, hopes, and dreams. Instead, I viewed God as an unreachable and vengeful entity, who would squash me like a bug if failed to live a good life. 

Thankfully, a Christian shared the Gospel with me, and I learned that Jesus is the Door, for He said, "I am the Door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep" (John 10:9-11).

That snowy night, I accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, and my life radically changed forever. I became a "new creature in Christ. Old things passed away and all things were made new" (2 Corinthians 5:17). When I said, "Yes" to the LORD, I surrendered to His authority. In doing so, I said to Him, "My life is no longer my own; it is Yours." I was instantly overwhelmed with a sense of joy, freedom, and peace in my soul, as I felt His love envelop me like a warm blanket on a cold winter's eve.

Many find it frightening and intimidating to surrender their will to the power and authority of God, because our carnal nature wants to retain control. However, we have God's wonderful promise, that if we lay our lives on His anvil, He will shape and mold us into people He created and designed us to become. 

God never promised Christians a life of smooth sailing, and I can testify that I have been through the fires of adversity many times since becoming a Christian. However, our Lord said, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). Therefore, I hold on to His promise, "I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20 NKJV).

We are not to be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon us, as though something strange were happening to us (Peter 4:12). Sometimes God tests the strength of our mettle (convictions and strength of spirit). 

When King Nebuchadnezzar threatened Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they responded, "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty's hand. But even if He does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up" (Daniel 3:16-18).

When the executioners looked into the raging furnace, they were shocked to see four men unhurt and walking in the midst of the fire, with the form of the fourth like the Son of God (Daniel 3:25 NKJV). They came out of that furnace untouched by smoke or flames as a testimony to God's merciful, delivering power. 

If you find yourself in what appears to be a hopeless situation, know that God is walking with you. Never view it as punishment or that God is turning a deaf ear. Instead, ask God what can be learned in the trial. Though the heat of affliction may increase, don't despair, because like the blacksmith, God's watchful eye and guiding hand are continually upon you, shaping and molding you to emerge victoriously from the flames of adversity. 

PRAYER:
FATHER, You are LORD of my life. Forgive me for any disobedience to Your will. I ask You for the gift of faith to trust You in every situation. I surrender to Your refining, tempering, and shaping that I may be all that You designed me to be for this life and the life beyond. In Jesus name, amen.


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