Abraham, Chuck Swindol illustration, Does your personal faith need testing?, Encourage Me, file, furnace, Genesis 22:2, James, James 1:4, Jesus, Martin Luther quote, metal, nail and hammer, Paul, Romans 5:3-5
If I were to take a survey among Christians asking, “Does your personal faith need testing and trials?” Most would tell me their personal faith is in good shape. Yep, most believe they are in very good shape. James, Paul and Jesus paint a different picture for the average believer. In James we are told…
the testing of our faith … produces endurance, and endurance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:4 )
Paul tells us that
suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
Jesus paints a picture so clear, it cannot be ignored.
every branch (or believer) that bears fruit “he prunes so that it may be more fruitful”.
In reality, most of us are like a nail in search of a hammer. A nail would certainly question the value of a hammer. To the nail, the hammer is a cruel instrument. But what it doesn’t see is that each blow forces the nail to bite deeper and hold more effectively. Without the hammer, the nail would have no purpose in life.
If metal had feelings it probably would question being scrapped by a file and being thrown in furnace. Metal doesn’t want to be shaped and is quite comfortable remaining the same shape. The rough scraping of the file would seem tortuous, but it is necessary to fit the metal for its part. The furnace would be met with screams and dread, but the furnace is necessary to purify and strengthen the metal.
Chuck Swindoll has some great words concerning this illustration.
Heartaches and disappointments are like the hammer, the file, and the furnace. They come in all shapes and sizes: unfulfilled romance, a lingering illness, and untimely death, an unachieved goal in life, a broken home or marriage, a severed friendship, a wayward and rebellious child, a personal medical report that advised immediate surgery, a falling grade at school, a depression that simply won’t go away, a habit you can’t seem to break. Sometimes heartaches come suddenly . . . other times they appear over the passing of many months, slowly as the erosion of earth. Do I write to a “nail” that has begun to resent the blows of the hammer? Are you at the brink of despair, thinking that you cannot bear another day of heartache? Is that what’s gotten you down? As difficult as it may be for you to believe this today, the Master knows what He’s doing. Your Savior knows your breaking point. The bruising and the crushing and melting process is designed to reshape you, not ruin you. Your value is increasing the longer He lingers over you. [Encourage Me p. 36]
Abraham certainly wondered “why”. “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” (Genesis 22:2) Perhaps he felt like a nail being attacked by a hammer. But Abraham also understood that the nail and the hammer were both held by the hand of the Lord. He knew that God knew what He was doing and so he trusted him.