Can you spell “Laodicean?”

dj lrspellingbee0531 19Recently a young lady from Kansas, Kavya Shivashnakar (which is hard for me to even say, much less spell) won the Scripps National Spelling Bee after spelling the word “Laodicean.” 

Smart kid-especially in a day when we all rely heavily on spell checkers.

If you are not familiar with this word Laodicean it means to have have a “lack of concern for religion and politics.” (Merriam Webster).  It is associated with the apathy and indifference of  a church in the Bible that Christ confronts after he ascended into heaven.

I thought this spelling bee and young Kavya’s winning word was ironic! 

It is reminder of the Bible text found in Revelation 3:14-22 where Jesus Christ says, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

This is a staggering rebuke from God’s Son!

I recall the insightful warnings about this spiritual state proclaimed by men of God in our churches in the past when I was a young convert and they warned us that we should not allow material wealth,  popularity and various successes to be a barometer for our spirituality.  But I think it is much deeper than that-because you can be poor and still be lukewarm toward Christ.

The Bible also warns about apostasy and some believe that it is going to be typical of the “last days” in the “church” but it does not have to be because Laodicea and its ministry were called lukewarm two millenia ago. I am not going to focus on the eschatological settings of this scripture.

Are these persons Christians and their spiritual fire is smoldering and their spiritual life is at a low ebb? I am sure it does apply to that.  As the LBC states, “And though they may, through the temptation of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins, and for a time continue therein, whereby they incur God’s displeasure and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to have their graces and comforts impaired, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded, hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves, yet shall they renew their repentance and be preserved through faith in Christ Jesus to the end.” (Matthew 26:70, 72, 74; Isaiah 64:5, 9; Ephesians 4:30; Psalms 51:10, 12; Psalms 32:3, 4; 2 Samuel 12:14; Luke 22:32, 61, 62).

Are these unsaved or lost people who only appear to be Christians? It can apply to them as well. They are described as the hypocrite or the one who is only a church goer and trusts in their own morality.  Like the Laodiceans they do not know the danger they are in, for they soon perish in hell. “The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” (Isa. 33:14).

Let me attempt to paint a picture about the Laodicean condition.

If a woman cheats on her husband she may be married to him but her affections belong to someone else. She alienates her husband while still married to him because she is indifferent and cold to him and her heart belongs to another. He becomes resentful, suspicious and jealous.

This is what the Laodicean pastor and his church  are guilty of: cheating on the Lord.  That is why God says, “Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you.” (Jer. 3:14).  They are guilty of spiritual adultery because they want the security of being married to the Lord and be in bed with the world at the same time. God accuses them of spiritual adultery and says that anyone who is a friend of the world system is an enemy of God. (James 4:4).   Like Israel they vex and they irritate and grieve his Holy Spirit and “he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.” (Isa. 63:10).

Some are you are incredulous at this statement: God turned out to be their enemy. How could an all loving God be at war with people?

God is a jealous God. I know Ophrah Winfrey does not like that (and she has a twisted understanding of that concept) but Christ has set his armies in array against the arrogance of those who defy his word!  What kind of war are we speaking of? Jesus Christ says to lukewarm church people today that if they do not repent he will fight against them with the sword of his mouth (Rev. 2:16). What does he mean? Hosea answers that: “I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth;  my judgments flashed like lightning upon you.” (Hosea 6:5NIV). Jesus Christ says that he will send the ministers of his Word, who preach the truth and they will come at you with the two-edged sword of his Word until you change your cheating ways!

How can you tell if you are lukewarm?  Instead of going through a whole list describing what this person does, it can simply be summed up in one word-you do not have a whole hearted, passionate, devotion to God. Loving God with all your heart soul mind and strength is devotion (Deut 6:4-6).  Lukewarmers  do not have a strong regard, dedication and love for Christ and the things of God. They think they are devoted to God  because they give some things to God. The read their Bible every once in a while and even pray. They attend church, give in the offering and may even be a small group leader. They say they have received Christ but they are not devoted in any sense but their relationship is much too casual with God. Like Ananias and Sapphira who “kept back part of the price”  (Acts 5:2) when it came to serving God they hold back on their relationship with God.  John MacArthur says, “They’re just hypocrites touched in someway by Christianity but not belonging to Christ.  And there is something obnoxious about them.  They nauseate Christ.  They make Him sick.”

The Lukewarmer lives in a state  the Bible calls a “divided heart.” (Hosea 10:2).  James says that these people are guilty of being “double minded” which can mean “double souled”  (James 1:8; 4: 8).  The Bible says they are “double hearted” as well (Ps. 12:2). Thomas Manton says that the Hebrew term for double hearted is that they have “a heart and a heart.”  They struggle between “two opinions” (1 Kings 18:21) and hobble like a crippled man with a cane at a crossroads, not sure of which road to take.  Like ancient Israel, “They feared the Lord and served their own gods.” (1 Kings 17:33).  Imagine that. They worship God on Sunday and bow low to their idols the other six day. Two minds, two hearts and two opinions and it seems like such a understatement to describe them as lukewarm, but not to Christ, it grieves him so he gets ill! 

mooringYou must understand Lukewarmers are hard to catch because backsliding is not an overnight thing it is a slow drift away from God where the knot of the soul loosens its grasp on the cleat and the mooring to the shore of obedience (Heb. 2:1).  They can still say the right things, go to church, give in the offering, even preach behind the pulpit but they make Christ nauseous. That is the difficulty.  They may have a past with God so they feel that they have a present with God. But as the Bible says, “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof…” (Eccl. 7:8).

The thing that most people who I have heard comment on this passage is that they direct its message toward the church-but it is actually directed toward the angel of that church as the other prophecies to the seven churches of Asia.  This does not refer to those spiritual beings who worship God in heaven above. This is another way of referring to the pastor of  that church.  This message is a direct communique from Christ  to this lukewarm pastor and the ones of today.

Some believe this pastor to be Archippus the son of Philemon of whom Paul’s letter to Colosse found its way and was read in Laodicea (Col 4:16). Paul told him to,  “Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it” (Col. 4:17). The Lukewarm Pastor of today needs to hear those words as well. You are supposed to be a man of the Word, a man of prayer not an activities director or pulpit psychiatrist.  They are messengers so it must be implied that their message has become lukewarm, emetic or vomit inducing.  Christ employs the language of the Older Covenant which says, “Ye shall therefore keep all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: that the land, whither I bring you to dwell therein, spue you not out.” (Lev. 20:22). He is about to remove this pastor from his place and he will remove the lukewarm pastor out of his position as well.  God says that he will remove men who do not speak as his messengers-he will spue them out! Christ says, “You pastors who compromise with the world make me sick!”  

Instead of giving all the theological ramifications of this passage let me relate it to you in another way: the state of lukewarmness  is like a steaming bowl of soup that cools off or a cold glass of ice tea that melts and becomes room temperature.  In the same way a person who professes to be a Christian Pastor has either cooled off or become “world temperature”  in their heart.  They no longer preach the word with zeal, pray with ardor, worship with passion, but are perfunctory in their duties.  They will burnout at the church office and play the role of CEO and CFO but they are at a point where they do not know they have lost the sweet sense of Christ’s presence as the one who walks among the churches and all they can do is manufacture churchianity by media, music and motivational topics.

jesus_of_nazarethI am sure they were surprised at Laodicea when this sharp written rebuke came from Christ when all on the surface seemed to be going well. This means they had no spiritual faculty or sense to discern their true condition. They were deceived. The church was flourishing with people, the city was prospering but Christ saw their pastor and congregation as diseased, impoverished and pathetic despite their success and wealth (Rev 3:17). In fact, they could not discern their own spiritual state and Christ has to use this harsh language in order to open their eyes.

Like many in today’s church, Christ is sicknened at their lack of love for him he says that are not hot or,  “fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.” (Rom. 12:11) or “aglow and burning with the Spirit.” (AMP). They do not pray or seek God and do not have the fire of devotion in their lives (Song 8:6; Luke 24:32).   They are not cold or they do not refresh the people of God being like a cold drink of water (1 Cor 6:18; 2 Cor. 7:13; 2 Tim 1:16; Phil. 1:7) and they are dried up wells and clouds without water (2 Pet 2:17; Jude 1:12).

We must also consider what many pastors today are unwilling to consider-that some of these folks who sit in their church, despite the morality, involvement in programs  and positions in leadership are not saved.  Some pastors, elders  and ministers should be questioning their own salvation. John MacArthur says again, “”It is the sickening condition of thinking you are spiritually rich when you’re bankrupt, of thinking you are beautiful when you are wretched, of imagining you are to be envied when you are to be pitied, of believing you see clearly everything when you see nothing.  You are stone blind…a feeling you are clothed in spiritual finery and you are stark naked.” 

They need to start doing business with Christ! There is no other way. Like the foolish virgins they must go to those that sell and pray the door is not closed upon them and they are treated as unwelcome guests (Matt. 25:9-12). He wants to be their spiritual broker and make them invest in eternal gold for he says,  “Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness.” (Prov. 8:18). He sees them like Adam and Eve (Gen 3:21) and desires to clothe their nakedness as their tailor and give them a makeover for their shabby wardrobe  and give them beautiful white raiment for their burned out religious ashes (Isa. 61:3). He wants to be their Great Physician to help with their poor eyesight and give them the balm of Gilead for a  prescription for medicine that will help them see their true state correctly (Jer 8:22). A lukewarm person is oblivious and in a dense fog about their true state before God because they are so busy trafficking in the sinful flesh and the world system they do not not realize are broke, busted and disgusting spiritually.

Jesus warns, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” (Rev. 3:19). Jesus Christ tells them they better be zealous or very enthusiastic in their repentance because he is about to bring his board of education to their seat of understanding! They are lost if they do not repent-period. No repentance, no restoration. Those among that group who belong to him he will chasten, because he will only chastise his own children (Heb 12:6).  They are in desperate need of Christ attentive correction.

Christ tells them that this letter is not just a writing but a knocking on the door of this church that is locked to him.  His presence is not among Lukewarmers. They have form without godliness. In todays’ American Churchianity it seems image is everything but it does not fool Christ. He is not even a visitor. But he gives a final opportunity for them to turn from their worldliness. Christ says that there are those among them he loves. He is calling them out of their apostate starvation to enjoy a meal at the table of fellowship with him. Sit down with Christ today and start discussing your spiritual portfolio over a good meal.

How do you spell L-a-o-d-ic-e-a-n? Do not know how? Then you may want to try the word “I-c-h-a-b-o-d” because the glory departs from people who are not devoted  and are lukewarm (1 Sam 4:21-22).

The Desert Awaits

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 “Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness leaning upon her beloved?” (Song 8:5). In this passage of Holy Scripture we have an allegory of the woman who is a type of the Christian and the king is a type of Christ. We see her in a posture of holding on to and leaning upon her beloved coming up out of the wilderness or desert.  The desert or wilderness seems to be a recurring theme in the Bible and in history with men and women who serve God. I understand that this is a strange idea in this day and age.

What is God’s purpose in drawing us to the backside of the desert (Ex. 3:1)? A desert is a very hot, dry place with no vegetation, water and the rainfall is unpredictable. It is an abandoned place, deprived of resources and lifeless. The picture of a desert is used often as a theme for men of God to separate themselves to hear the voice of God. Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist and our Lord Jesus Christ all spent time from days to years in the desert.  There they would see his glory and guidance in a place where all was barren (Ex 16:10) and be sustained by God’s care (Ex 16:32; 17:1). God brings you and I to this place in order that you and he will be on close terms in hearing his directions and voice in the scriptures. “And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, ‘Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.” (Acts 8:26).  It is a perfect description of when God calls a man or a woman to a place of surrender and abandonment.  It is a place where it is just you and God. There is nothing to do but depend on but God. No other resource will lead you out of this wilderness until you learn to depend on his strength alone, until you hold on to him for your life.

The desert transcends relationships, denomination, time and profession. It may have been a different job, home and even country. But it does not depend on location. It was not a monastic lifestyle; it was just a place far from their previous life, routine and schedule. It is a spiritual season and it is not based on outward circumstances although it may be reflected in trial. The desert has nothing to do with institutions such as Bible College and seminary. It is a place where God himself instructs you on his purpose and ways from his Word and that instruction can be conveyed to others. You can be married or single and be in the desert. You can be in pulpit ministry or a secular position and be in the wilderness. It does not matter your income or where you live. Time is not a problem because it could be months or years in the dunes of God.  It is a place where God works on his own to fashion his people as “vessels of honor” (2 Tim. 2:21) and he will complete his human project every time (Phil 1:5).

Here the Sovereignty of God is seen and understood. Here you are completely at God’s mercy. Hemmed in and shut up you cannot move unless he enlarges the room of your existence. You are face to face with the only one who can defeat your rebellion, sinful tendencies and liberate you from besetting weights that slow down spiritual progress. You will feel you must go to the sand and without question obey God. You cannot manipulate your way out. You cannot tell God by word-faith formulas to do anything. He will not relent. God asks, “Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counselor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:13, 14). Your will is swallowed up in God’s will, your heart is his throne. We must be ready at all times to be at his disposal to learn his ways.

What he saves he will purify. The dross-like oxidation will come off the silver vessel to make a refined vessel and that which is worthless will be removed from our lives by his work in the desert (Prov. 25:4).  God sovereignly calls people away to pray and seek his face in total surrender all of their thoughts, emotions, words and abilities in order to grow and be trained for ministry. This is not when we attend a conference, retreat or even devote ourselves to extended times of prayer although it may happen parallel to those things. It is an act of Sovereign grace when he calls out, in his effectual call, “Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness.” (Ex. 7:16).  It is an unpredictable time when God calls us away with him in the desert or the wilderness of abandon. For those whom he will test and temper he will use in his service for his glory!

I have heard so many times that God’s people could have made it a shorter trip to the Promised Land, but that is just conjecture. I am not saying that they are incorrect in the distance from Egypt to Canaan but I question why people teach that we can shorten the time when God always has a set time for everything to perfect his work in our lives (Eccl. 3:1-14). We know that no one has ever made it to their promised land unless spending an extended time in the wilderness learning to serve God without the help of man. The journey in the desert was where those people must learn to serve God not in conflict with culture around them (Egypt) but the inner enemies of the heart, namely the flesh. It is not the outward world that is our problem but the inner world. In a day when we are appealing to the culture of the world in order to be more relevant we are neglecting what E.M. Bounds called the culture of the heart, “Our great lack is not in head culture but in heart culture, not lack of knowledge but lack of holiness is our sad and telling defect-not that we know too much but that we do not meditate on God and his word and watch and fast and pray enough. The heart is the great hindrance to our preaching. Words pregnant with divine truth find in our hearts nonconductors; arrested they fall shorn and powerless.” (Power Through Prayer, E.M. Bounds, Chapter 12 Heart Preparation Necessary, pg. 472 (c) Baker Book House Co.). The world will pass away and even Christ prayed that we would not be expatriated from the world but protected from the evil one because that salvation has made us aliens and even alienated from the evil world system (John 17:15-17).  Although the sinful nature has been defeated on Calvary by Christ’s sacrifice, it has a way of masquerading itself in religious activity.  It makes people appear to be something they are not, even like people who seem to serve God but do not (Isaiah 58:1-2). 

Sometimes it is hard to hear the voice of God in the scriptures with people coming and going. Religion is known for its noise and commotion. God is known for a stillness that reveals himself to listening hearts (Psalm 46: 10). Either Christ must still the noise by overturning tables and rattling cages, or he must call us away to learn with him. The noise and activity returns the very next day for those people were only stirred for a moment but their hearts were unchanged. Such is ego centered, religion fueled by the flesh. But Christ will say to his own, “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while.” (Mk. 6:31) and he who was led of the Spirit into the wilderness and returned in the power of the Spirit will by his Spirit subdue all things he desires unto himself in our lives.

Remember when you first trusted Christ and were converted the way the Bible teaches. Matthew Henry says that, “a soul convinced of sin and truly humbled for it, is in a wilderness, quite at a loss and there is no coming out of this wilderness but leaning on Christ as our beloved by faith and not leaning to our own understanding nor trusting to any righteousness or strength of our OWN as sufficient but going forth and going on in the strength of the Lord God and making mention of his righteousness, even his only who is the Lord our righteousness!” You threw the weight of your whole soul on him and were saved! That is how you must live out the Christian life, “As you have received Christ as Lord so walk ye in him.” (Col. 2:6) and lean on him! Real faith lays all burdens and all the problems on Christ!  This is the place where we know our weaknesses but instead of excusing them or letting them cripple us we use them to rest on Christ by faith!  

helpingThe woman of the Song of Songs appears weak and unable to travel so she rests on her Beloved in this difficult walk and is able to come up and out of the wilderness in his strength. This woman does not just want the association with Christ or to have the name Christian and that is where it ends, she makes use of the strong arm of Jesus Christ takes hold of him and leans on Him!  Like John the Beloved she leans on Christ’s bosom for her security (John 13:23).  Jesus can bear the weight of your life; he is strong, so very strong to help you progress in your walk with him. We will never make it on our own. When we neglect him we experience problems that begin to crush us under their weight!

If you are hemmed in and have become the Lord’s guest or prisoner in order to learn his ways. He will take care of you and preserve you. “He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.” (Deut 32:10).  You will be overlooked, you will be unnoticed and humbled in the eyes of God and men and people will look upon you narrowly and with cynicism at times. It is a time that is so personal that no one will understand it but you, although you wish they cold. But they cannot. It is too intimate, it is to secret, it is too much for anyone to understand.

I think of Martin Luther in Wartburg Castle or at the Wartburg (1521-1522). He was an outlaw in where he lived incognito and in exile as Junker Jorge or Knight George for a year. He even grew his hair and a beard. He no longer looked like a monk, but he became if you will a knight as he translated the New Testament. The desert may seem like a prison sentence. “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.” (Gal 3:23).  The law imprisoned people and revealed that unless they are set free by Christ and Sovereign grace they are slaves to sin and under God’s wrath. The desert makes this clear also to the regenerated person. God’s law is written on our hearts but we must time and again over and over be shown our weakness and utter dependence on God and that only trusting, childlike faith get cause us to grow and accomplish the task to which he calls us.

“The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.” (Isaiah 50:4). It is a place where the disciple’s ear and tongue are trained. You must hear and then you must speak as he would bid you! This only happens by the discipline and training of God.  This time does not belong so much as to you but to God who desires to be with you in sweet communion before he takes you out to minister. After these times you can minister anywhere and at anytime because your soul has been tempered by the desert heat and the flesh has been baked dry by the desert sun until it has been weakened in order for you to be able to minister in the power of the Spirit. It was there it was said of John the Baptizer, “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.” (Luke 1:80). God is calling you out of the fruitful, industrious places of man, the fruits of flesh and the byproducts of mans power to a place where you can only hear his voice.

It is time for you to realize that others are not the problem. You are. Don’t fight it, humble yourself under the mighty hand of God that he may exalt you in due time. Encourage yourself in the lord and wait on him and he will strengthen your heart. The Lords servants are the blindest at times they cannot see God working around them. But their eyes will be open even as the hobble to the pool of Siloam and wash their faces and see him who is the Son of man questioning them if they want to know him better. Oh it is the most precious time, embrace it. Let God take you to from dust to glory.

It is the wilderness that God shows his power and glory.  “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose…for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water…” (see Isaiah 35:1-7). God says his direction is found in the wilderness. “I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.  (Isaiah 43:18-21). The way to the wilderness is the way out of the wilderness. The trial is the trail. The wilderness of weakness may not change but you will flourish in power. The desert heart of anxiety cannot wither you because in your heart peace blossoms. Sandstorms of fear may scrape your mind and heart but fear will be sandblasted away. The loneliness and the wilderness may howl around you but the presence of your beloved comforts you as you hear his breath and his chest rises up and down in sacred breath!  How does this happen? You have learned to lean upon Christ and his strength.

Faith Has No Drawbacks

LoveNow the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” (Hebrews 10:38). The writer of Hebrews tells us that the Christian life is marked by the quality of faith. The person who has faith in Christ will never be at a disadvantage or come short. This is not a white knuckled attitude of positive thinking, forced repetitious confessions, but a calm trust in God. Faith is unrelenting obedience that places its confidence in God despite circumstances.

 

But sadly there are those who draw back or shrink back. This “is a picture of lowering the sail on a sail boat (RWP). These people attempt to get where they’re going on their own power and start paddling. They will eventually take on water and sink. Scripture says that these people, “concerning faith have made shipwreck.” (1 Tim. 1:19). They end up in ruins and the wreckage of their lives is horrifying.

 

The Bible teaches us that we should be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18 ) or unfurl the sails of our faith and let the wind of the Spirit of God guide us and supply us with his power to live for Jesus. We are saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:8 ) and we do not depend on anything to save us except what Jesus Christ did on the cross. We live by faith as Christians and we do not live our lives in reaction to gas prices, stock market indexes and global economy. Throw away the paddle of unbelief and live by faith in God and his promises. God says, “My soul shall have no pleasure in him.”  The person who does not have faith will be subject to God’s disapproval and wrath. No one likes a coward, especially God. Unbelief and spiritual cowardice are serious crimes against heaven (see Rev. 21:8). Faith has no drawbacks.

 

All I know is God calls us to act in faith not fear.People are easily moved and confused by the news, but who has believed the report of the Lord (Isaiah 53:1)? What concerns me is that it seems many professing Christians are unprepared for the hard times ahead. They are restless as they are faithless. Christians will go through difficult times. Preaching about people suffering and the necessity of going through trials requires that I have to give some Christians a spiritual Heimlich maneuver because they choke on the meat of the Word. But I have to speak about it.

 

We as Christians are told our faith will be tested by fire (1 Peter 1:7) and we will go though fiery trials (1 Peter 4:12). Nothing strange is happening to you. God’s purpose is to press your life into the mould or image of Jesus Christ (Rom 8:29). Being a child of God does not prevent trials, nor should it. God works through adverse circumstances to gradually change us into the image of his Son. Christ learned obedience by the things he suffered (Heb. 5:8). You are becoming identified with Christ and his sufferings in order to bring praise and glory to God. Faith has no drawbacks.

 

From my studies of the scriptures I find that the true followers of Christ can thrive in times of affliction, hardship and pain. The Bible says of the children of Israel, “But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew.” (Exodus 1:12). Trials are not unfortunate circumstances-they test the mettle of our lives by training and discipline. A black smith is gets his title due to the fact he uses black metals like iron. The word “smith” comes from the word smite or hit. He heats the metal and works in a low lighted area so he can see the color of the metal as he tempers it. He heats that metal to a bright glowing orange and hammers it, then plunges it into a cold bucket of water. He will discover after just a couple of attempts at tempering the metal whether it will last or end up as scrap.

It says Joseph “was sold for a servant: Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron: Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him.” (Psalm 105:17-19). In the Hebrew it says, “His soul came into iron” or “iron entered his soul!” In his hardship he glowed with the heat of heaven’s blacksmith and when the process was over he saved the world of that day. His chosen ones will do exploits (Dan 11:32) because they have been tempered by the Heavenly blacksmith in the iron furnace of affliction (Deut 4:20). He learned that faith has no drawbacks.

For some of you the worst part is that you are in the dark about what is going on. Like the blacksmith shop, you world is dark around you.  But without his work you will never make it.  God asks you today, “Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God.” (Isaiah 50:11). The dark times are the times we are confused, aimless and feeling useless. God seems to put dense fog in front of us and slows us down. We ask, “What do you want me to do Lord?” God says, “Nothing…only believe…all things are possible to him that believes.” People here right now are in a place where they can do nothing but trust. Be confident that God is at work in your life despite the darkness and that true faith expects that He is true to his promises and “performeth all things for you.” (Psalm 57:2). One old sage says, “There are blessings which we cannot obtain if we cannot accept and endure suffering. There are joys that can come to us only through sorrow. There are revelations of Divine truth which we can get only when earth’s lights have gone out. There are harvests which can grow only after the plow has done its work.” Without tribulation we have no ability to endure, we will be weak and unusable.

I hear preachers today talk about abstract faith not concrete faith. Abstract faith is a shortened version and theoretical version of faith. They don’t tell you the whole story. Concrete faith is a solid tangible faith. Churches cheer-lead people about how God will save them from all their trials. But we can rejoice “when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” (Romans 5:3-4NLT). It is the same faith that sees deliverance from trial and the same faith that sees deliverance in trial. Faith has no drawbacks.

“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me.” (Psalm 138:7). The Hebrew wording there is “As I go on in the middle of trouble he will revive me.” When you decide to go through it is then he will revive you!  In your trouble you must decide that if you cannot be delivered from it you will go on despite it. That is when he refreshes you and gives you new strength. God’s people have many problems and are not immune to trials because they are Christians. Most of us know that when God did not save us from hardship, pain and trouble he saved us in it, “He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.” (Ps. 91:15)! No matter how hard, no matter how long it takes I know that faith has no drawbacks!

Tried and true Christians are like oak trees, “lofty, strong, and magnificent, distinguished for uprightness, justice, and right standing with God, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:3AMP). God equips us by the storms. Some storms are sudden, unexpected crushing defeats, bitter disappointments. Others storms start slow and then overwhelm us. His tree will make history. God may shake your branches and let the rain beat down on you but by the time he is done your roots will be deep and you will stand stronger and more powerful by his grace. While those who refuse to believe are like windblown dust the person of faith, “shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” (Ps. 1:3).

People need to return to the simple, concrete faith that says. “Lord I believe you!” If it means my death I do not care for I have sworn an allegiance to the King of Kings! As you resolve to go on, as you decide no matter what comes and say, “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid!” (Isaiah 12:2) as you declare, “I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD.” (Psalm 71:16) it is then he will refresh your spirit, invigorate your mind and regenerate your body by the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead and dwells in you (Rom 8:11).

We are “to build up our most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep ourselves in the love of God, and wait anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 20, 21). We are to build our faith by praying according to the Holy Spirits wishes. Notice how prayer and the experience of God’s love are vitally linked. We should constantly think of the love of God and firmly believe. We should be waiting with eager anticipation of Christ’s mercy. God loves whom he wants to love. “We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). In trial some people are like Israel that said “the Lord hated us.” (Deut 1:27). That is unbelief in its worst form. You must know he loves you!

Arthur Pink says, “God did not love us because we loved Him, but He loved us before we had a particle of love for Him. Had God loved us in return for ours, then it would not be spontaneous on His part; but because He loved us when we were loveless, it is clear that His love was uninfluenced…God’s love for me, and for each of “His own,” was entirely unmoved by anything in them. What was there in me to attract the heart of God? Absolutely nothing. But, to the contrary, everything to repel Him, everything calculated to make Him loathe me—sinful, depraved, a mass of corruption, with “no good thing” in me.” No human standard of love can measure the breadth, length, depth and height of God’s love. I believe that he loves his own.

But now because of the Holy Spirit I believe that he loves me. Despite my trials I must believe he loves me. Despite the glowing iron of my soul where I feel I cannot bear my hardships anymore, I believe he loves me. Despite the storms and my soul swaying back and forth where my strength seems tested beyond its ability to endure, I believe that he loves me. When there dark all around me and I cannot see him who my soul loves, I will not lose hope because the sun of righteousness will arise with healing in his wings and I believe that he loves me. I must keep myself in the love of God and build up my faith by spirit empowered prayer because faith has no drawbacks.