A Life Filled With Testing

The story is told of the blacksmith known for his strong faith that had a great deal of illness. He was challenged by an unbeliever to explain why his God would let him suffer. He explained, “I take a piece of iron, put it into the fire to bring it to a white heat, then I strike it once or twice to see if it will take temper. I plunge it into water to change the temperature, put it into the fire again, then I put it on the anvil and make a useful article out of it.”

If it will not take temper when I first strike it on the anvil, I throw it into the scrap heap and sell it for a half-penny per pound. I believe God has been testing me to see if I will take temper. I have tried to bear it as patiently as I could, and my daily prayer has been, “Lord, put me into the fire if you will; put me into the water if you think I need it; do anything you please, O Lord, only do not throw me on the scrap heap.”

There are many trials that afflict us in life. The apostle Paul describes the struggles of life in 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 as groaning in a earthly house. Paul knew firsthand the difficulty of suffering as he had pleaded with the Lord to remove his “thorn in the flesh.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) The Lord told him he would have to endure his thorn and allow the grace of God to sustain him.

I suspect that what Paul wrote in chapter five was closely related to what he experienced in chapter twelve. He groaned under the burden of his physical body but he knew that Jehovah had promised a “habitation which is from heaven.” (5:2) To walk by faith is to look beyond the anguish of the test of fire here to the blessing of being present with the Lord. It takes eyes of faith to be able to look beyond the here and now and embrace our citizenship in heaven. “Wherefore we faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Paul had his share of being put in the fire and often was placed in the cool water. These things were of little importance to the life of Paul as he disciplined his body to bring it into subjection to completion of his race in life. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) The Lord put Paul on the anvil of life to make a useful tool of him. “If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward.” (Romans 8:17,18)

Life is not without suffering. The joy of heaven would be diminished if we experienced life without suffering. How meaningful is Revelation 21:4 when we look to the day when God takes away our tears, our sorrows, our crying, our pain and death. It shows the love of God for mortal man as he suffers in the flesh below. While life is sometimes thrown into the fire and sometimes thrown into the cool water, when the Lord finishes with our life on the anvil of time, we will made into a beautiful ornament of His choosing in the eternal home He has prepared. “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he hath been approved, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to them that love him.” (James 1:12)

By Kent Heaton

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