I have refined you in the furnace of affliction. (Isaiah 48:10)
Some Christians believe that redemption is the end of God’s great work of salvation. That is simply not true; redemption leads to refining. We have been redeemed to be refined, and God will not stop His work in us—conforming us to the image and likeness of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ—until He has completed it.
God saved us just as we are—dead in our trespasses and sins. But He steadfastly refuses to leave us in the condition in which we redeemed. Redemption’s goal is to refine us into the image and likeness of our Redeemer. It doesn’t happen in a day; God is refining us little by little, day by day, removing the sinful self and replacing it with the sinless Savior. And we must remember that God has promised to accomplish this through the furnace of affliction. God uses the fiery furnace to refine us, and if that furnace must be heated seven times hotter to accomplish the task, so be it! But we can be confident that our Lord is right there in the fire with us, just as He was with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3:25).
It is far better to be refined by God and rejected by the world than to be refined by the world and rejected by God. In the beginning, God created us in His image. But when sin entered into humanity, that image was marred. When God raises us from death to life by giving us the gifts of repentance and faith, He begins the process of refining that distorted image into the very likeness of His Son. And what God starts, He always finishes, which means that He who began this good work will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6). But that simply will not happen without time spent in the refining fire.
So . . . what fiery furnace are you facing today—personally, professionally, or relationally? Remember, when Jesus prayed for you in His High Priestly Prayer, He did not pray for you to be taken out of this world; no, He prayed that you would be protected from the evil one (John 17:15) while you remain in the world. We are here in the world to witness for our Savior; God often calls us to live out that witness in the furnace of affliction—not the furnace of affluence!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!