Walking through Fire

My family went through a health emergency last week that came on suddenly and took priority over almost everything else in life. Experiences like this always provide an opportunity to see where we are placing our faith and hope. Faith in God’s presence and provision today is based on our past experiences. Hope for our future is based on His character and promises. Both are essential components of far more life.

My husband and I clung to one of my favorite verses during those challenging days:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, NIV)

I reference this verse in many posts because it is such a great one! We have confidence — that God is working for our good. First, because we love Him. Also because we answered the call to join Him in fulfilling His purpose on earth. We live for His goals, to build His kingdom and show others His love every day. We meet the conditions required for God to fulfill it, and He has! He has not always made our circumstances easy, but He always gives us grace to trust and obey Him. We find far more life, even in challenges like the one we faced this week.

Let us explore a beautiful promise of far more life given to the prophet Isaiah:

…Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior… (Isaiah 43:1-3, NIV)

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you. As we celebrated on Easter Sunday, Jesus paid the price for our sin so that we have the opportunity for a relationship with God. Jesus bridged the gap between our sin and God’s perfection (I Peter 2:24). If you have been redeemed by Jesus, you have no reason to fear God, life, death, or anything else! Far more life faces difficulties with faith and hope in Christ’s redemption instead of fear.

I have summoned you by name. Before the creation of the world, God chose those He would draw to Himself (Ephesians 1:4-5, John 6:44). It brings us peace to know that not only did God uniquely create each of us (Psalm 139:13-15), but He also wrote the names of His children in the Book of Life (Revelation 20:12). He knows each one personally and is intimately involved in their life (Luke 12:7, I Corinthians 10:13). If you have answered His summons, you have access to far more life.

You are mine. We were created with a desire to belong. Although we experience some of this from our loved ones, God fulfills that desire more completely than any human ever can. When we belong to Him, no one and nothing can snatch us away (John 10:28-29, Romans 8:38-39). Far more life has confidence and peace in belonging to Him during hard times.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. Sometimes we feel like we are drowning in the situations we face. But God has promised that they will not destroy His children; in fact, He has promised far more life through them (John 10:10). We still must pass through raging rivers, but He will be with us and provide all we need (Hebrews 13:5, Philippians 4:19). Far more life focuses on Him and rises above the threatening waters.

When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. I think of the fire as the times when our doubt, fear, or pain feels all-consuming. That is when we are in the thick of the battle for control of our heart and mind. We may not be able to see our way forward to get through the difficulty. But just like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego experienced, God will meet us in the fire of testing (Daniel 3). He will not let our troubles consume us (Lamentations 3:22-23). Praise God for the safety of far more life in the heat of our tests and trials!

For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. We have confidence in all of these statements because of who God is. He is Yahweh, a personal God who keeps His promises (Psalm 33:4). He is the righteous and perfect one who protects and guides His people (Psalm 65). He saves us from our own sin, rebellion, foolishness, and ignorance (Romans 5:8). We can trust Him because He has proven Himself trustworthy over and over since the beginning of the world. He alone offers far more life.

For my family, we think the worst has passed, but the situation is not fully resolved. We are still walking through the difficulty day by day. But we are not alone; God continues to stand with us in the fire. Friends and family are lifting us up in prayer and offering practical support. The promises and examples from His Word continue to give us faith and hope. And we praise God for far more life while walking through the fire.

Sisters,
Where do you turn when you find yourself “walking through fire”?
What experiences have strengthened your faith in God? Or cause you to doubt Him? (Talk to your pastor, mentor, or a trusted friend about your doubts. Satan uses difficulties to plant lies in our minds about God and ourselves. But God offers truth and freedom!)
What strengthens your hope in God? What makes it hard for you to hope in Him?
Which phrase in Isaiah 43:1-3 is most meaningful to you? Why?
Walk in far more life through the next fire you face!
-Shari

Taste of Heaven

We want to be comfortable. To have our needs met. We long for a life that is free from the struggles that weigh us down. We desire relief from emotional and physical pain, broken bodies and minds. We want people to value and respect each other. We yearn for justice and equality. We long for peace, safety, and security.

God desires these things for us, too. And He will provide them in heaven. But they are not guaranteed on earth. A pop song in the late 1980s claimed that heaven is a place on earth. It has a catchy tune and appealing lyrics, but they do disagree with Scripture.

The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne. He observes everyone on earth; his eyes examine them. (Psalm 11:4, NIV)

God is in heaven and you are on earth (Ecclesiastes 5:2, NIV)

We want to experience all the goodness of heaven now. But we cannot. We are still residents of this sinful world under Satan’s control (I John 5:19). During this life, we should expect evil and difficulties because people are incapable of upholding God’s perfect standard.

…No one is good—except God alone. (Mark 10:18, Luke 18:19, NIV)

There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12, NIV)

But God has not left His children alone without help or hope to face these struggles. Here are some of His instructions and promises that point us toward far more life this side of heaven.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33, NIV)

If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. (John 15:19, NIV)

Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:25, NIV)

This life — both good and bad elements — is temporary. Our bodies, wealth, riches, success, and struggles will end. God’s Word reminds that far more life looks beyond the present circumstances to our eternal future:

Our bodies are like tents that we live in here on earth. But when these tents are destroyed, we know that God will give each of us a place to live. These homes will not be buildings that someone has made, but they are in heaven and will last forever. (2 Corinthians 5:1, CEV)

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (I Timothy 6:17, NIV)

Don’t store up treasures on earth! Moths and rust can destroy them, and thieves can break in and steal them. Instead, store up your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy them, and thieves cannot break in and steal them. (Matthew 6:19-20, CEV)

The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever (I John 2:17, NIV)

Far more life is not found in earthly pursuits. It does not depend on our wealth, power, influence, accomplishments, or success. Instead it is found in dedicating our lives to God. In striving to love Him and represent Him in all we do. In letting the power of His Spirit overflow in us: unconditional love; lasting joy; profound peace; genuine gentleness; and more. We get a taste of Heaven on earth — and experience far more life — when we yield to God and adopt the mindset Jesus modeled in the Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father in heaven, your name be honored as holy. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:9-10, CSB)

We get a taste of heaven when we honor God’s name. We do this by respecting His character and changing our beliefs, thoughts, words, and actions to match His. We also honor His name by giving Him the credit He deserves. We honor Him by telling others about His love, righteousness, and offer to pay the penalty of their sins. We honor His name through a living, growing relationship with Him.

We get a taste of heaven when we are building His kingdom. Although this world will never reach the perfection of heaven, God is working here. He invites us to join Him in that work by sharing our faith with others. They face the same questions, doubts, and challenges as us; they, too, can find hope and help through a relationship with Him. Jesus is the best solution to every problem humans face on earth!

We get a taste of heaven when we do His will. In heaven, we will be fulfilled by carrying out God’s will quickly, completely, and cheerfully. The most satisfaction we can find on earth is through obeying God in this way. He has a master plan, and we each have a unique part to play in it. Having made us, He knows the best way for us to fulfill His plan and discover far more life.

While we wait to fully experience heaven, remember this encouragement about our time on earth:

And this small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us a tremendous and eternal glory, much greater than the trouble. (2 Corinthians 4:17, GNT)

Sisters,
In what area(s) of life do you most long for heaven?
What is your attitude toward the difficulties that you experience in life?
What do you think about God’s declaration that no one is good apart from Him?
Have you yielded to God in honoring His name? In building His kingdom? In doing His will?
Praise Him for the fulfillment of far more life as you look forward to eternity in heaven!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso