Jesus said He was going to prepare a place for the faithful in heaven (John 14:1-3). But before the faithful get there, Jesus has prepared a furnace for them here on earth. Do you know why? It is because only a prepared people will be brought into a prepared place in heaven.
See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. (Isaiah 48:10)
As a pastor, I have learned over the years that far too many people in church believe their faith in Jesus is designed to protect them from the difficulties of life. They are caught off guard by the raging seas of suffering. They are tipped over by the storm winds of wilderness wanderings. They are perplexed by painful providences. Yet the Bible makes it perfectly clear that our faith in Jesus will not preserve us from the storms of life; rather, our faith in Jesus assures us of them!
The prophet Isaiah tells us that God uses the furnace of affliction for our good. God is refining us and removing all our dross so that we will be a prepared people for His prepared place:
I will turn my hand against you; I will thoroughly purge away your dross and remove all your impurities. (Isaiah 1:25)
Who doesn’t want every impurity removed—and as quickly as possible? We all know from personal experience that we are sinners, both by nature and habit. We think things we should not think. We speak words we ought not speak. We do things we should not do. And we do it all too often. And that is why God is at work purging away all our disguising and disabling dross through the fires of affliction.
He knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. (Job 23:10)
You see, those who have not trusted in Christ as Savior and Lord simply cannot make sense of the storm winds of life. They see them as random acts of nature and chance events that happen without rhyme or reason. But the child of God knows that nothing happens to us without first passing through His nail-scarred hands. God has ordained our fiery furnace to conform us into the image and likeness of His precious Son, and He will not stop until He finishes what He has started (Philippians 1:6).
Regardless of the fiery furnace you are facing today, personally or professionally, Jesus is preparing you for the place He has prepared for you. Some are focused far too much on the removal of their fiery furnace. To be sure, it is proper to pray that God might take it away. The apostle Paul prayed three times that his thorn might be removed (2 Corinthians 12:8). When it was not, he rested in it, because he knew Jesus was with him and that the grace of God was sufficient to enable him to withstand his trial.
When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into their fiery furnace, to the surprise of the king, four figures could be seen among the flames. Jesus was with them and protected them and brought them out unharmed.
Let not your heart be troubled this day, my friend. Jesus is with you in every fiery furnace you face. He is there for both your comfort and your protection.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!