The Furnace Of Affliction

 

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Audio of Sermon: 

This past Wednesday, February 21 2018 the Evangelist Billy Graham went to be with the Lord. He lived 99 years on this earth. He now lives eternally with Jesus in glory, the place where all of God’s Children will one day be. Before Billy left this earth his eyesight and hearing began to fail him. He was wheelchair bound and had respiratory problems. Like most Christians Billy was tried, but kept his faith in the Lord Who saved him and loved him. Billy said:

Nowhere does the Bible teach that Christians are to be exempt from the tribulations and natural disasters that come upon the world. It does teach that the Christian can face tribulation, crisis, calamity and personal suffering with a supernatural power that is not available to the person outside of Christ. Christians can rejoice in tribulation because they have eternity’s values in view. When the pressures are on, they look beyond their present predicament to the glories of heaven. The thought of the future life with its prerogatives and joys helps to make the trials of the present seem light and transient. “The early Christians were able to experience joy in their hearts in the midst of trials, troubles and depression. They counted suffering for Christ not as a burden or misfortune but as a great honor, as evidence that Christ counted them worthy to witness for Him through suffering. They never forgot what Christ Himself had gone through for their salvation, and to suffer for His name’s sake was regarded as a gift rather than a cross. … Christ told His disciples that they were not to count it a stroke of affliction when they were reviled and persecuted. Rather, they were to count it as a favor and a blessing. They were to ‘rejoice, and be exceeding glad’ (Matthew 5:12). Just as Jesus had overcome the world, so they through His grace and strength would overcome the world. Thus they were to be of good cheer.” (Billy Graham, Joy In Tribulation)

I Have Chosen Thee In The Furnace Of Affliction

Following the terrorist attacks of September 1, 2001 Billy Graham spoke to our nation. He said:

I’ve been asked hundreds of times in my life why God allows tragedy and suffering. I have to confess that I really do not know the answer totally, even to my own satisfaction. I have to accept by faith that God is sovereign, and that He is a God of love and mercy and compassion in the midst of suffering”.

When trials come the most asked question is “Where is God in the midst of this?” We wonder if there is a reason for the trial. Yes, dear ones, there is a reason. We may not understand – like why Billy Graham suffered from Parkinson’s Disease – exactly why trials come. We’ll understand these questions better when we enter eternity with our Jesus. It’s like that old song:

Tempted and tried we’re oft made to wonder
Why it should be thus all the day long
While there are others living about us
Never molested though in the wrong
Farther along we’ll know all about it
Farther along we’ll understand why
Cheer up my brother live in the sunshine
We’ll understand it all by and by
.

The Bible addresses trials and why there are trials. But Jesus speaks to His people today offering us a wonderful truth. Read with me our focal text:

Isaiah 48:10 (KJV)  Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.

The Lord Jesus speaks to us through His Israel. He tells us that afflictions have purpose, and gives us who are His two reasons for afflictions (though I am sure these two are not exhaustive).

It is through affliction that Christ chooses us.
It is through affliction that Christ refines us.

The Lord says:

I Have Chosen Thee In The Furnace Of Affliction

Jesus Christ calls His people to salvation through trials and tribulations. Why are trials necessary to draw us to the Living God manifest in the flesh? Because we are born with sin hardened hearts. From the cradle we cry and demand “Look at me. Give to me. Care for me.” The child does not request the bottle, but demands it. The sin nature is fully developed in a child who cannot even crawl. You do not think so? Then think on this. The first words that every new parent teaches their baby is

Da – Da (Daddy)
Ma – Ma (Mommy)

and … wait for it … NO!

You do not have to teach a child “Yes”, for children are born with a “Yes”. Give me that. No! YES! I want it right now. The parent that does not teach NO and does not reinforce NO with suitable discipline will raise a child to be a monster. Children must be taught NO. And NO is often reinforced by discipline.

Children do not have to be taught to lie. Who got in the cookie jar? Not me!

Who broke the lamp? Must have been someone else.

Who put the Playboy under your mattress? It must have come with the bed.

Who stole all my money? A thief broke in the house!

We are born rebelling against authority.
We are born into this world rebelling against parents.
We are born wanting our own way.
It is through affliction we learn obedience.

It is in our first nature to be like Adam who, when he was caught in sin, hid it and then blamed someone else. Our fallen natures are ruled by sin.

Jesus Christ came to this earth to die for our sins so He can save us from our sins.

Romans 6:6 New King James Version (NKJV) … knowing this, that our old man was crucified with {Jesus}, that the body of sin MIGHT BE DONE AWAY WITH, THAT WE SHOULD NO LONGER BE SLAVES OF SIN.

Our Lord is Sovereign. He is able to do anything. The Lord Jesus called out to His Old Testament people, saying:

Isaiah 48:12 (KJV)  Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last.

How do we know this is Jesus? Because God tells Jacob and Israel “I am the first, I also am the last”. This is a title that can only be applied to God. In the Book of Revelation Jesus Christ tells the Apostle John (who is also being afflicted):

Revelation 1:11 (NKJV) …. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last …

The Lord identified Himself as “the First and the Last”, but also declared “I am He”. NINE times throughout Isaiah the Lord identifies Himself as “I am He”:

Isaiah 41:4 (NKJV) … I, the Lord, am the first; And with the last I AM HE.

Isaiah 43:13 (NKJV) … before the day was, I AM HE; And there is no one who can deliver out of My hand; I work, and who will reverse it?”

The First and the Last, the I AM HE Who is Jesus Christ said in the New Testament:

Mark 13:6 (NKJV) … many will come in My Name saying I AM HE and will deceive many …

John 8:24 (NKJV) … you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I AM HE you will die in your sins.

Jesus Christ is God manifest in the flesh. He said:

Isaiah 48:13 (KJV)  Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up together.

There is nothing that Jesus cannot do. He Who laid the foundation of the earth and Whose right hand spanned the Heavens can remove any trial any time. But Christ will force no one to salvation. Thus He allows the furnace of affliction that, in the trials, we might turn to Christ.

I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction

God promised of His servant Abraham that from him would come a mighty nation, and from that nation all the nations of the world would be blessed. God would become manifest in the flesh through Israel. But God chose Israel in the furnace of affliction.

Affliction Draws Us To Christ

Not every person who is afflicted turns to God, but affliction draws our attention godward. God’s people are born of affliction. The very first murder the occurred in human history was when Cain slew Abel. Brother kills brother, yet both men were not children of God. God said to Cain:

Genesis 4:10-11 (NKJV) …. The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. 11 So now you are cursed from the earth

The one unharmed was Cain, the child of the flesh. But there is God’s child whose blood is crying out to the Father from the ground. When the young Joseph bragged to his brothers about the coat his father gave him – a coat of many colors – his brothers cast him into a pit then sold him into slavery. Thirteen years a slave Joseph looked to Jesus. Then the Lord spoke to him, and raise him up to plant Israel in Egypt so they could grow into a mighty nation.

Israel in Egypt grows into a mighty nation, and eventually come under the taskmaster’s whip as slaves. God’s chosen are in the fires of the furnace. Did God save Israel immediately? No.

Exodus 2:23-24 … Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. 24 So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them.

Why doesn’t God immediately respond when we are tried? Billy Graham said “We need God’s help – and yet in our pride we refuse to turn to Him, and we try to improve our lives without Him.”

We groan under the burden, yet refuse to turn to God in Christ. We think we can make it better by our own efforts. We try this, then try that. God says:

Isaiah 48:11 … For Mine Own sake, even for Mine Own sake, will I do it: for how should My Name be polluted? And I will not give My glory to another

God will save, Christ will save, His Spirit will empower us but only when we come to God with empty hands. The furnace of affliction burns up anything that we can count on. It takes away everything so that we can come to Christ in faith. Then He and only He will bless us. Who were those that Jesus healed? Was it those who were able? No. But Jesus came to heal the broken, the sick, the crippled, the blind, those afflicted by death, those at the end of their ropes.

God blesses us when He allows trials to crush us so that we will look up. The Bible says:

Isaiah 48:22 (KJV) There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked.

The wicked have a temporary pleasure. They are much like the young man that Christ spoke of in Luke 15:11-32. This young man went to his father and demanded his earthly inheritance. The father complied, and the young man went off to “waste his possessions with prodigal living” (Luke 15:13). When he ran out of money and was starving he found himself a job feeding pigs, one of the worst jobs I can imagine. The Bible says that:

Luke 15:16 (NKJV) And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.

Where was God while this young man ruined his life? God was where God always was. God allowed him to run rampant. God allowed him to ruin his life. God allowed the young man to run to the furnace of affliction, willfully doing the wrong thing. The Christ Who loved this young man said:

Isaiah 48:18 (NKJV) Oh, that you had heeded My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.

But in our arrogance and self righteousness we, like this prodigal and wayward boy, will not heed God. God allows the furnace of affliction until one day …

Luke 15:17-19 (NKJV) … How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.

It is in the furnace of affliction that we arise from our own foolish selves and go to our Father. We look for and find Jesus Christ in that moment.
We look from ME and turn to THEE!

Ezekiel 33:11 (NKJV) … ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways!

That young man, hungry, starving turned from his wicked ways. He ran home and there found the Father waiting to receive Him in love. Jesus calls all who will to come to Him. Our Lord cries out to those in the furnace of affliction:

Matthew 11:28 (NKJV) Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

In ease we often ignore the Lord Jesus, but in suffering we are drawn to Him. Draw to Him, Beloved, and be His Chosen Child. The Lord also said:

I Have Refined Thee, But Not With Silver

God does not make us like Christ by giving us money and our heart’s desires. No. He refines us not with silver or gold, but in the furnace of affliction. When God made His Covenant Promise to Abraham, the Father of our Faith, what did God do? God had Abraham make a sacrifice, then cut the sacrifice in two (Genesis 15:10). When a Covenant was made in ancient times both parties of the Covenant passed between the pieces. Abraham arranged the pieces, but never passed between them. Jesus Christ Himself passed between the pieces of the Covenant. We read:

Genesis 15:17-18 … when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces. 18 On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram

When Christ walked between the sacrifice of the Covenant He appeared as “a smoking oven” (a furnace hot and burning) and a burning torch (a light). Jesus Christ is the Light of the world, the Light that God sent into the world:

John 8:12 (NKJV) … Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

His Word is the lamp unto my feet, and the light unto my path (Psalm 119:105). Jesus presented Himself to Abraham as a lit torch, the flashlight or lamp of that day. But Jesus presented Himself also as a smoking oven. Jesus Christ is not only the Savior of His people, He is the Redeemer of His people:

Isaiah 48:17 (KJV)  Thus saith the LORD, thy REDEEMER, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD thy God which TEACHETH THEE TO PROFIT, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.

It is a fact of nature that all precious things must be refined and tried. A found diamond may be worth a million dollars, but it is worth many times more when tried by the diamond cutter. Every blow and every facet formed multiplies its value. Gold too must be tried. In its found state it looks like trash. But placed in the furnace and heated in the crucible the gold separates from the dross. Silver too must be refined. All things of great value must be refined to bring out the best in them.

Jesus Christ saves whosoever will by the great cost of Calvary. He shed his Blood on Calvary to save us and to bring us to God. He hung on that Cross, Precious Beloved of God. He suffered, oh how He suffered, so that we might be justified by His Blood. Our sins separated us from God. The Scripture says:

1 Peter 3:18 (NKJV) For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,

Jesus Christ was sent by the Father and the Spirit to do what no man could do. He came to this earth to endure the furnace of affliction for us. As Jesus addressed us throughout the 48th chapter of Isaiah He said:

Isaiah 48:16 (KJV)  Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit, hath sent me.

The Eternal Christ, the Son of God, became flesh and died for our sins on Calvary. Dying for us, this makes us the most PRECIOUS thing on planet earth. You, dear Christian, are precious because the Blood of Christ was shed for you. And He who died for you refines you through the furnace of affliction. This is why the Apostle says:

James 1:2-4 (NKJV) My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

It is through the furnace of affliction that God the Son makes us sons of God. It is through the furnace of affliction that the dross is burned off, and we become more like Christ. Or as Job – a man well accustomed to suffering said:

Job 23:10 (NKJV) But {God} knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.

The furnace purifies us. The furnace molds us. If we are Christ’s the furnace does not destroy us, but if we are but dross we will burn up in that affliction. Our faith is proved by the furnace. And if our eyes are on Christ, then Christ’s eyes will be on us no matter what.

One of my favorite stories in Scripture is one I love to tell over and over. It is the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, three young Christians imprisoned by an evil king. The king one day decided to create a god, and demand that everyone worship that god. There was only one problem. When he called for all to worship his god, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego refused to do so. The king had them seized and brought before a tribunal. “Have I got this right? You refuse to worship my golden god? Do you want me to throw you in the fiery furnace?” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego did not hesitate to answer.

Daniel 3:17-18 (NKJV) … our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.

The king was infuriated. “Throw them in the fiery furnace!” And they threw the three young men into the furnace. As King Nebuchadnezzar looked into the flames and listened, hoping to hear the dying screams of those brave believers, he saw something that astonished him.

Daniel 3:24 (NKJV) … he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.”

The king said (Daniel 3:25) “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”

Where is Christ when the trials come? Where is He when we are in the furnace of affliction. He is right there beside us. He is with us in the darknesses of life. Lie down in Christ’s arms. Rest in Him. Trust Him. Call on Him. For the unbeliever God promises:

Isaiah 47:14 (KJV)  Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: …

but to His Child by faith in Christ He says “I will deliver. I will bless. You are my precious!” May God touch your hearts with His Word.

About bibleteacherorg

A searching Pastor, I am looking for a people who love the Lord and love one another. Daily I pray for the Church. Most of what the world sees today is not the Church, but clubs pretending to be the Church. God is calling to Himself a people willing to be righteous, not self righteous, serving not served. I am called to pastor God's people, those who want to change the world by willingly and willfully following Jesus Christ. Only God is able to change the world, and we must follow His Christ. He is able! Praise His Name! Come quickly Lord Jesus!
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One Response to The Furnace Of Affliction

  1. This is what people should be reading

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