Saved in the Furnace

Bob RoaneSafety and Security in Christ

I know whom I have chosen….Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. (John 13:18; Isaiah 48:10)            

Note: This is adapted and expanded from C.H. Surgeon’s Morning and Evening for March 3.

Chosen and Tested

Comfort yourself, troubled believer, with this thought: God says, “I have tested (chosen, refined) you in the furnace of affliction.” Jesus’ word comes to us like a soft shower, quenching the flame’s fury. Yes, it is an asbestos armor, against which the heat has no power. Let troubles come. God has chosen me in Christ. Poverty may come in at my door, but God is in the house already, and He cares for me. Sickness may intrude, but I have God’s remedy ready. He has chosen me in His almighty, saving love. Whatever happens to me in this valley of tears, I know that the Lord Jesus has chosen me, and He will bring me safely home.

Thomas Taylor’s hymn refreshes our memory:
I’m but a stranger here, Heaven is my home.
Earth is a desert drear, Heaven is my home.
Danger and sorrow stand around me on every hand.
Heaven is my Fatherland. Heaven is my home.

A Case Study

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (642-562 BC) was a violent, wicked, narcissistic king with a hot temper. He set up a gold statue of himself and insisted that everyone worship him as “god.” Most people complied, but three Hebrews, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, refused to bow. Nebuchadnezzar blew his top and threatened to throw them into a raging furnace. Would they obey God who commanded, “You shall have no other gods before me” and face the fire? Or would they dishonor the true and living Lord and pay homage to a cruel human leader to save their skin? They chose to trust and obey God and He miraculously delivered them.1

So also, the Lord Jesus is just as able to rescue us from whatever fire we face. Christ is competent and eager to help us today, regardless of our struggle.

More Comfort

If we still need more to cheer us, let’s remember that we have the Son of Man with us in the furnace. In that silent chamber of ours, He sits by our side, the One we have not seen, but whom we love. And oftentimes when we don’t realize how, Jesus makes a resting place in our affliction and smooths our pillow for us. Even if we are poor, the Lord of life and glory is a frequent visitor to our house. He loves to come into desolate places, that He may relieve us. We can’t see Him, but we can feel His support. Christ is our Friend who loves us at all times, who comes to help us when we need Him most. Fickle people fail us, but Jesus is the Friend who sticks closer than a brother.2

Listen to Christ’s voice in Scripture. Even in the valley of the shadow of death, He says, “So do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”3

Christ is Stronger Than Caesar

One time Julius Caesar and his soldiers were sailing to a battle and Caesar was secretly on board a small vessel. When the boat was in danger of being overturned and the boat’s pilot wanted to turn back, Caesar revealed himself and said, “Go forward, my friend, and fear nothing. You carry Caesar and his fortune.”4

Christ is better! He says: “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows….Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”5 Spurgeon says: Fear not, Christian. Jesus is with you. In all your fiery trials, His presence is both your comfort and safety. He will never leave anyone whom He has chosen for His own.

Jesus says: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”6 God the Holy Spirit protects Christ’s followers too. All through this life, He convicts us of our sin, comforts us, guides us, gives us spiritual gifts and the desire to obey God. And He enables us to pray and to understand God’s Word and live by it.7

The Lord is Steadfast

1 Corinthians 10:13 says: “God is faithful to His Word and to His compassionate nature, and He can be trusted not to let you be tempted and tried beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure.” Warren Wiersbe writes: “When God puts His own people in the furnace, He keeps His eye on the clock and His hand on the thermostat. He knows how long and how much we need. If we rebel, He may reset the clock. But if we submit to the Lord, He will not permit us to suffer one minute too long.” Eugene Peterson says: “God will never let you down. He’ll never let you be pushed past your limit. He’ll always be there to help you come through the troubling times.”

The Psalmists often remind themselves and us to rely on God: “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?…In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid.”8 The Book of Hebrews asserts the same. God has said, “Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper. I will not be afraid. What can mere people do to me?”9

Our faith in Jesus Christ does not always get us out of hard places or change our painful conditions in the short run. Often the Lord reveals His faithfulness to us in new ways in the midst of our dangerous situations.

To be continued

Notes (various Bible translations): 1 Daniel Chapter 3.     2 Prov 17:17, 18:24.     3 Psalm 23:4; Isaiah 41:10.     4 Plutarch, “Life of Caesar.”     5 Luke 12:7,32.     6 John 10:28-29.     7 The New City Catechism #37.     8 Psalms 27:1, 56:3-4,11, 118:6.     9 Heb 13:5-6.