The Source Of Our Fiery Ordeals
"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; (1Peter 4: 12 NASB)."
Scripture is clear ALL who identify and execute the post (after) salvation spiritual life WILL experience persecution (2Tim. 3: 12), satanic (1Pet. 5: 8) attacks and will have to deal with demonic (1Tim. 4: 1) influence.
Accordingly, the absence of such adversity suggests that a 2Cor. 13: 5 self-examination is in order.
If one is moving forward in the plan of God, there will always be the next hurdle to overcome along the road to reaching and maintaining spiritual maturity.
If you have been born again, there is nothing that the devil can do to undo (Romans 8: 1) the regenerating (Titus 3: 5), sealing (Eph. 4: 30), work of God. The only thing he can do to is to try to deny God the glory by trying to stop a born again believer from moving forward in the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship.
The devil has two primary strategies to accomplish these objectives.
Strategy number one is to raise doubts concerning the integrity of the salvation (Romans 8: 1) that you have ALREADY received. Strategy number two is to destroy the PRODUCTIVITY (Mark 4: 19) of your post salvation spiritual life.
Human viewpoint would have us believe that overt prosperity and the absence of adversity are indicators that God must be pleased. Human viewpoint would have us believe that when adversity comes, it is because God must be displeased. This was the logical but WRONG conclusion assumed and expressed by Job's visitors (See Book of Job) in the midst of Job's extensive loss and suffering.
Even in midst of great loss and intense physical suffering, Job had the spiritual discernment to acknowledge that both blessings and adversity can come from God (Job 2: 10).
Granted, there ARE times when the adversity that God sends or allows to take place IS the result of divine discipline (Hebrews 12: 6) in response to our sinful thoughts and actions. But we should not err, as did Job's visitors, by automatically assuming this to be the case. Advancing disciples can face intense adversity for doing what is RIGHT, as well.
The adversity that God sends or allows to take place can also be for the purpose of refining the "gold and silver" that advancing disciples possess in their edified soul structure (Matt. 7: 24 - 27)!
Human viewpoint has "an" answer for everything, but not having God's answer(s) for oneself or others BEFORE there is a need (1Pet. 3: 15/Matt. 7: 24- 27) is one of the consequences for our disobedience to the 2Pet. 3: 18 command to "grow" (an ongoing process) in the knowledge of the Lord.
I believe that one of the reasons that God sends or allows adversity is to bring this disobedience to our attention. For those who do possess "the" answer(s), adversity provides us with the opportunity to demonstrate our willingness to apply the knowledge we already have.
Military and law enforcement trainers are well aware that in a volatile situation, their personal will respond in accordance with the equipment, training, and experience they have previously received. No or improper training will likely result in an inappropriate response.
The same principle applies to advancing disciples in the realm of spiritual combat. They too, must be equipped (Eph. 6: 11- 17) and trained. Each battle experience prepares the advancing disciples for the more intense conflicts (fiery ordeals) that lay ahead.
As in the case of military combat, success requires both offensive and defensive ability.
When gold and silver in the natural realm is subjected to intense heat, the dross (inferior or unwanted material) is removed, improving the quality of the gold and silver that remains. In the spiritual realm, when the existing gold and silver (Bible Doctrine) is refined in the fiery furnace of adversity, the dross (false or inaccurate doctrine) is removed, purifying and strengthening the doctrine that remains, better equipping the believer for future service.
It is in the midst of these painful, humiliating, exhausting, wearisome, fiery ordeals (adversarial circumstances) that the quantity and the accuracy of our doctrine, AND our willingness to apply it, is put to the 1Pet. 4: 12 test.
It is relatively easy to be a Christian when everything is going our way. The testing of our metal and our willingness to apply it comes in the day(s) spent in the furnace of adversity.
Discipleship not only calls for the ongoing intake and refining of Bible Doctrine (2Pet. 3:18), but for its application (James 1: 22), as well.
Discipleship (the study and application of the Word of God) is initially intended for the edification and spiritual advancement of one self, but with the long term objective of serving others (1Cor. 12: 7).
Like a runner in a torch-relay race, one can not be used by God to pass along to others what he/she has not first taken possession of him/herself.
When born-again believers are satisfied with the amount and the accuracy of the doctrine they already possess, they can bask in the comfort of such things as their eternal security (Romans 8: 1) while avoiding the inevitable challenges associated with discipleship. Many believers become disinterested in "taking it any further," stunting their own forward progress in the plan of God. In this the devil is well pleased.
God does bless e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e (Matt. 5: 45) in many ways. Many of these ways are taken for granted. Consider, for instance, what would happen If God decided that our next breath would be out last, or if He took His controlling/sustaining hands off of the laws of nature that He ordained to sustain the order of the physical universe.
Because of His permissive will, God is not the only source of Earthly prosperity (Luke 4: 6) or adversity (1Pet. 5: 8/John 11: 53).
It's no secret that one can obtain much more earthly prosperity and get it a lot sooner by conducting him/herself in the ways of the world. Paul (1Cor. 15: 19), speaking under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit (2Tim. 3: 16), concedes that if what discipleship brings to born again believers here on Earth is all that Christianity has to offer, then the people of faith are to be pitied the most among men!
But as Jesus taught by example (Hebrews 12: 2), we are to endure all things here on Earth in light of the eternal joy ahead.
Advancing disciples live in the reality of this world (John 17: 18), but with an eye on eternity.
Sad to say, but for many who claim to be followers of Christ, their priorities and outlook on life is no different than the worldly viewpoint held by their unbelieving counterparts.
The devil will be right there to offer whatever assistance he can to encourage independence from the plan of God. Earthly prosperity is the most common bait (Luke 4: 6). One of the differences between God and Satan is that the devil never mentions are the consequences for garnering earthly prosperity his way (Matt. 16: 26).
One might ask, "What has the devil got to gain by prospering me?"
The answer is that by doing things by the ways of the devil's (Luke 4: 6) world, we deny God the glory that He deserves. Our "little" moments of unfaithfulness, when added to the sin of the world's population each and every day throughout the course of human history, adds up to a lot of glory being denied God.
Christ atoned for the entire world's sin debt on the cross (1John 2: 2), but don't forget that our individual sins were a part of that debt. In the background of each and every sin we commit, the ears of an edified soul can hear the clanging of the hammer on the head of the spikes that were driven into His hands and feet. There is no such thing as a "little" sin (James 2: 10) when one considers what it took for Him to atone for it.
A blizzard would not exist if we're not for the presence of each individual snow flake.
Self denial (Matt. 16: 24) and suffering for the cause of Christ (Phil. 1: 29) go hand in hand with disciplship.
The absence of adversarial experiences being sent from the devil could be an indication that the one pleased is the devil. Having successfully distracted and removed the born again believer from the life of discipleship, the devil is willing to tolerate a little religion as long as it keeps the born again believer out of the spiritual battleground.
End of Part One