All the Old Testament prophets foretold God’s people going into the refiner’s fire. “I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried” (Zechariah 13:9).
“For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers soap: and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness” (Malachi 3:2-3).
God said to Jeremiah, “Is not my word like as a fire?” (Jeremiah 23:29). And Jeremiah said, “His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones” (Jeremiah 20:9). God is once again sending a fiery, refining Word as hot as the coals on His altar! He is turning up the heat. You will see it more and more as the Lord sends forth holy prophets who are purged messengers. “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven” (Malachi 4:1).
Whenever silver or gold is refined by fire, all impurities, alloys, lesser metals, dirt, little specks of waste and dross come to the surface. Satan comes around when God has you in this purifying process and you are sitting under His red-hot Word. As impurities are brought to the surface and hidden corruption is being separated by fire, the devil says, “Look in the pot and tell me what you see. Dirt and impurities of all kinds. The hotter the message—the more the dirt. Look at you, a refiner’s pot of dirt and corruption! You’re never going to make it! You’ve been under the Word for years and all you’ve got is dirt!”
You answer him, “Devil, see that One sitting beside me? That’s my Master, the Refiner. He’s fanning the flames and it is He who put me in this fire. And, devil, that scum is only surface deep! Below that the whole pot is filled with gold! The Lord is getting us ready. See that thing in His hand? It’s a strainer, and when He’s ready, He’s going to skim off the top of the pot and keep skimming until one day He’ll look in there and smile because He sees His own face reflecting back, right there in me!”
God has given us a powerful weapon to use against any attack on our faith. “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
Get your eyes off those falling around you. Instead, set your eyes on “the great cloud of witnesses” who have already made it to glory! This verse depicts an army of victorious saints of all ages hovering over us, as if seated in bleachers, cheering on the saints still left in the race! Listen to their cry: “Put away that sin; there is victory! We won! We fought to the death and did not fall—because God kept us! Our faith never wavered. Run with patience, move on, the truth works! We are overcomers!”
So a few preachers fall. So a few thousand preachers fall! So those you trust fall! Does that mean the devil is gaining power? Does that mean there will be only a few victorious ones? Look up and see a great cloud of witnesses, all dressed in white!
Was it worth it all? Ask Noah. “All my generation fell! Only eight of us kept the faith, but we held on for 120 years in spite of the violence, rampant sin and mockery. You, too, can overcome.”
Say to the devil, “If sin is so all powerful and you say everybody is a phony, then what about that great cloud? Where did that army of witnesses come from? If sin is so strong, how did so many get free? Look at that triumphant army of witnesses, waving palms, wearing crowns of righteousness. How did they make it?
“Satan, you robbed and spoiled their homes. You sent in your henchmen to throw their children in the rivers. You cut them in pieces; you cut off their heads, thrust swords through their bellies. You whipped and beat them. You cut their throats—and yet they would not bend. Their faith prevailed!”
Beloved, we are in a fierce war that is a life-and-death struggle for our faith. Satan is determined to shipwreck and destroy the faith of God’s elect, and the stronger your faith, the greater his attack against it will be.
When faith is shattered or lost, believers become weak and turn to idolatry and wickedness. Paul warned that some had cast aside their faith. He charged Timothy to fight the good fight by “holding faith and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck [ruined]” (1 Timothy 1:19).
He also warned Timothy, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1). Together with Timothy, Paul warned the church that Satan would attempt to overthrow the faith of some. “Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some” (2 Timothy 2:18).
Peter came under a ferocious attack by Satan against his faith. His faith so enraged hell that the devil asked permission to sift it to see if it would stand. “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:31-32).
A Christian with unshakable faith is marked as “Enemy No. l” in hell and the reason is this: By faith and its released power; kingdoms are subdued; righteousness is born; promises of God are obtained; the mouths of lions are shut; satanic fire is quenched; and there is escape from the sword. Out of weakness the faithful are made strong and become brave in the battle, turning the devil’s army to flight. These faithful ones wake the dead and don’t give in when tortured. They gladly endure mockings, beatings, stonings, and, if locked in jail, they sing.
Faith sustains those who possess it!
As a pastor, I’ve noticed a common problem when most people sit down in my office for counseling. “I’ve failed God’s standard,” they say wearily. “My sin has cut me off from fellowship with the Lord.” They think their sins cause the Holy Spirit to flitter away like a dove and then hover in the air until they get their hearts right.
These are all sincere believers, yet they could not be more mistaken about God. When we sin, that’s when we need Christ’s fellowship the most! Jesus doesn’t abandon us in our sin. He intercedes for us, going to the Father and sending the Spirit to remind us of His grace—a grace based on His shed blood, not our performance.
Yes, the Bible and the Holy Spirit convict of sin. But we are not to be anxious about the outcome of our sin. God’s grace is more powerful than any demon, our sinful nature, or any mountain of guilt. So the outcome of our sin is to rest in Him! We don’t have to reestablish fellowship with Him, because He is already at work convicting, washing and cleansing us. He never leaves us; His godly work in us never stops, even when we stop being godly!
This means you are no longer under the law of sin, but are set free to walk in the Spirit by grace. Your old man is gone; all things have become new. You no longer have to say, “I can’t do what I wish to do.” Your motto now is, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Yes, you can—not in your own ability, but through Christ, who has cleansed you and called you to righteousness by His grace.
“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do” (Romans 8:3). We can’t strive our way to righteousness. God has established His righteousness in us through His Son, “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (8:4).
Are you anxious? Haunted by your failures? Do you wonder, “Is there really such a thing as freedom for me? Does this Christian life even work?” Jesus answers, “You have been set free.” This is the reality that God declares about you.
Pray this prayer: “God, I know You have done this for me, but I’ve lived as if You haven’t. Settle it in my heart now. I can walk in the Spirit knowing You have done all to make me righteous. Amen!”
I will never understand how some people can claim Jesus as their Savior yet live as if they had never experienced His saving grace. How they can ask God to redeem them while living unrepentant, unremorseful lives. How they can talk as if they know Christ when their actions show clearly that they know nothing about Him.
These kinds of people do more harm for the kingdom than Satan could ever hope to accomplish. They are the enemy’s greatest allies in a world that already looks for ways to discount the claims of Christ. Paul tells us, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). For too long Christians have conformed to the ways of the world. We have allowed the world to not only affect us but to completely infect us. To take over our hearts and minds and keep us in bondage to sin, even though we convince ourselves that we are free.
But Jesus promises to bring transformation to our hearts and minds, to renew us, to change the way we think and live and act. If we have not allowed Him to do that, we have not really accepted Him.
“Create in me a pure heart, O God,” wrote David, “and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). These words should epitomize the desire of every follower of Christ. They should be our prayer daily. To ask God for a new heart and a new mind, to plead for a pure life, to strive moment by moment to live with greater mercy and grace and innocence. To become more like Jesus with each passing day.
When the world looks at us, what they see will define their view of God. It will shape how they perceive our heavenly Father, what they think of Him, how they come to understand His goodness and grace. We are ambassadors for the kingdom of God in a lost and fallen world. And our actions, both good and bad, will reflect directly on God.
Nicky Cruz, internationally known evangelist and prolific author, turned to Jesus Christ from a life of violence and crime after meeting David Wilkerson in New York City in 1958. The story of his dramatic conversion was told first in The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson and then later in his own best-selling book Run, Baby, Run.