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Storms happen in life. Just when things are looking good, life takes a left turn. Our response to these storms reveal a great deal about where we are in the process of being refined into the image of Christ. This Series is inspired from an e-mail conversation I had with my brother in the Lord, Mark Fox. (See His blog page here.) We were discussing a storm we (Perkins House) are going through. In the conversation, Mark made the comment, “God must have something amazingly special for you… to put you through this much “fire.” We know that the testing of our faith produces Godly character… but it must be amazingly difficult to see that truth in the midst of such a raging storm.”
I also thank Chuck and Jan Harrington whose love and prayer encourage us through this process.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30 NASB)
One thing’s for sure, if you don’t really want to serve God, don’t tell Him you do, and don’t answer Him when He calls. Another thing is for sure; If He plans on using you for His purposes, He will make sure it happens. One way or another, God will prepare you for that call. The question you have to answer is: Will you allow God to prepare you?
Why I Write
If you have been reading this blog, you know the whole reason I started writing is in answer to a call to write. You know that this call to write is not some narcissistic desire to focus on me, but an attempt to be a “live” testimony to the power of the Grace of God. The testimony is that, in spite of my incredible predilection to let God down repeatedly, the power of God’s grace and the strength of His love means that He never tires of shaping me into the image of His Son, Jesus. The idea is that if God is tirelessly transforming someone whom all others would give up on, then there is hope for others out there who know they are called, but dropped the ball on that call, and have no idea how to get back to that call from where they are.
This series is my attempt to highlight five things God develops in the people He chooses.
Jesus made it clear that many are called, but few are chosen. Getting from the call to the choice is hard. It is hard because we have to learn to rest in the completed work of the cross. It is hard because we tend to get in the way of God. It is hard because we have a tendency to think we can be chosen and still live as if we are not.
We are not chosen because we are learned men or women, or because we are something special, or because we have something God needs. God uses the cast-offs and the rejected, the scorned and the unlikely to accomplish some of the most incredible wonders in His Kingdom. God has chosen you because you have acknowledged His call, and have decided that, one way or another, no life but the life of the chosen will do for you.
Nothing reveals our walk with God like our circumstances. Circumstances are a refining fire, revealing both the purity of the object, and the flaws in the object. Sometimes the fire is brought on by our own foolishness. Sometimes the fire is brought on by others. Sometimes, it is some combination of both. Some circumstances are simply life being life.
The beauty of our bad circumstances is that God will turn even this into a blessing. In order to take you out of your own way, and change you into the like ness of Christ, God, in His wisdom, will allow things to come along in your life He could have easily prevented in His power.
All circumstances exist so that one thing is revealed in the life of the called and chosen; the depth of Christ-likeness that exists in our life. This does not happen in a vacuum, or in a classroom, or off in a corner where no one else gets to see it, either. Circumstances happen right in front of the saint and sinner, and reveal what character may exist in each of them.
This fire exists to help the called decide if they really want to continue into the call. This fire exists to purify the chosen. This fire exists to reveal the truth of our testimonies before all mankind.
In the end it becomes less important as to why you are in the circumstances you are in, and more important that you learn to see where God is in the midst of the fire. When you can see that God is standing with you in your circumstances, and learn to see the circumstances the way He does, you will grow in refinement to be made into the image of His Son, Jesus.
It is easy to see the finished product and admire it, unless you are the finished product. The vessel is beautiful now, but you didn’t see it get pulverized and ground up, and smashed, and mixed up, and forced into a mold, and baked and broken and glazed and painted and finished.
You just see the vase.
The wine is delicious, but were you there when the grape was torn from the vine, pulverized, poured out, and bled to death? You just taste the wine.
It is also easy, looking from the outside in, to see someone get mangled, crushed, and reshaped, and wonder what in the world that person did wrong. It is easy to not recognize that God is doing a work on another believer. It is not our place, then, to judge, or evade, but to encourage, and support that vessel. That is also, part of the refining process.
As Children of God, we all want to be like Jesus, or at least we say we do. But are we willing to go through the hard work of the refining fire? Are we willing to have the dross burned out, and be sifted? Are we ready to have our character exposed to the world? Are we ready to become chosen, or will we walk away at the first sign of the refining fire?
The secret to becoming refined is understanding that YOU do not do the refining. God does. Just as with every aspect of the redeemed life, you have nothing to do with the process. It is God who created us. It is God who redeemed us. It is God who called us. It is God who chooses us, and it is God who refines us.
Our only part in this is that we have to be willing to go through the refining fire. We have to be willing to yield, and then we have to submit. There is a reason it is called “laboring to rest”.
The result of God’s refining fire is a vessel that can be used on earth to fulfill that which has already been accomplished in Heaven. The following five things will be true of you:
- In emptying your cup of you, He will fill you with Him.
- You will become absolutely aware and assured you are in the plan of God.
- You will be absolutely willing to be a channel through whom God blesses others.
- In feeding daily on the promises of God, you will deliver the bread of life to the hungry.
- You will acquire a reckless abandonment toward the will of God so that you will dare to act on what God says regardless of how you feel or regardless of your circumstances.
A vessel in the Kingdom of God is not a museum piece, to be set on a shelf and admired. It is a tool designed to get right in the deep end of life and get dirty, and dig the fallen out of the mire of the world they have chosen to wallow in.
This is what Jesus referred to when He talked of Fruit. Many are called, few are chosen. If you want to bear fruit, you have to get pruned and refined. You can chose to hang out in the garden, fruitlessly living your life, or you can allow God to prune away all that is not His, and bear beautiful fruit.
I hope you enjoy this series.
Let’s be about it.
I love you,
David G. Perkins