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

All I Know

…All I know is this: I used to be blind, and now I can see. (John 9:25, NTE)

The man who made this statement had been called before the religious leaders to explain who Jesus was and how He had healed him. The leaders’ desire was to uncover sin and have justification to discredit Jesus. But the healed man had no idea who Jesus was; all he knew was what Jesus did for him. As the story continues, the religious leaders ask him to tell what happened…again. I think this confuses the man:

He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?” (John 9:27, NIV)

We sometimes find ourselves in confusing spiritual conversations. Is the other person seeking to understand? Are they looking for a safe person to open up to? Do they simply enjoy arguing and debating? Are we pushing our perspective on someone who is not interested? Or are they interested and want us to share more? It is important to remember that our job is not to convince people of God’s truth; that is the job of the Holy Spirit. We do not need to “sell” God. Or defend Him. Or be experts on spiritual matters.

What is our role in introducing others to Christ? As I researched this, I discovered the New Testament gives four similar-yet-distinct instructions: proclaim, share, tell, and witness. The intention is the same: God wants us to communicate who what Christ has done for us and who He is to us. But the method varies based on the situation.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “…proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ (Matthew 10:7, NIV)

This was near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. The Greek word used for proclaim is kēryssete, which means “to be a herald, to proclaim”. Jesus wanted to draw attention to His presence and power, much like a town crier drew attention to the king’s actions and decrees. Since He wanted everyone to know about the salvation He offered, Jesus instructed His disciples to proclaim His message boldly. Those who were receptive had the opportunity to experience God’s power at work. At times, far more life is proclaiming, “All I know is the message Jesus gave me.”

…Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. (I Thessalonians 2:8 NIV)

The Greek word translated as share is metadounai, which means “to give a share of”. Rather than being isolated or closed off, we are to introduce others to Christ by sharing our lives with them and developing genuine friendships. As we live side-by-side, our words and actions show how our relationship with Christ impacts who we are and what we do. Far more life shares the message of Christ by sharing “All I know…” in words and through actions like forgiveness, generosity, kindness, patience, and more.

Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him. (Luke 8:38-39, NIV)

This man was set free from demon possession through a personal encounter with Jesus. He then instructed the man to tell his family what happened (diēgou), which means “to relate fully”. I think Jesus wanted the man to tell how his thoughts, feelings, and beliefs were changed by Jesus’ actions. According to the text, the man did not just tell others, he proclaimed (kēryssete) it all over town. I think his response was so big because Jesus radically changed every aspect of his life! Far more life is being ready to fully relate the changes produced by your personal encounter with Christ: “All I know is how Jesus changed me.”

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, NIV)

When you think of a witness, what comes to mind? I think of a person telling what they observed or experienced. We most often hear witnesses associated with court cases; their testimony supports the case of the one who called them to the stand. This verse instructs the disciples — and us — to be “martyres”, witnesses, for God everywhere we go, starting in our hometown and extending as far into the world as our influence reaches. Sometimes witnessing means calling out evil. At other times it means doing what is right when others choose sin. Witnessing can mean sharing what God has told us about the future and why we believe Him. Far more life testifies “All I know is I have seen His power at work and I believe what He says.”

Far more life proclaims, shares, tells, and witnesses. Putting Jesus’ instruction into action can open doors to wonderful conversations with those God is drawing and sweet fellowship with those who are already following Him. Far more life rests in our willingness to include Christ in our interactions, not in the other person’s response. A mindset that looks for opportunities to communicate, “All I know…”, enables us to join the Psalmist in declaring:

My mouth is filled with praise for you. All day long I will talk about your glory. (Psalm 71:8, NIRV)

Sisters,
What has God done for you? How has He changed your life?

Do you agree it is your role to communicate about God and God’s role to draw people to Himself? If not, consider John 6:44 and 63-65.
In what situation would you…proclaim? …share? …tell? …witness?
Pray to recognize opportunities to communicate “All I know…” this week so you can experience the blessing of far more life that accompanies obeying your Heavenly Father!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso