My dear friend,
Do you also feel that everything is just becoming too much to bear? Economics harden, financial solutions become almost impossible and solutions seem to be nowhere in sight. Do you also feel like calling out:
“Lord, where are You?”
“ I call, but You do not answer!”
“ Why are the non-believers better off than I am?”
“What do or did I do wrong that Your promises are not fulfillled to me?”
I think that we can make a very long list of questions like these but instead of keeping yourself busy in this trend, let us look at what the Word of God tells us!
James 1:2 reads as follow: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations”
All joy? Is it possible? No Cobus, you do not know what you are talking about! It is just impossible.”
Do you know friend, to me it also sounded impossible the day that I lost everything and was declared bankrupt. I was furious with God and blamed Him for this mess.
In Matt 22: 29 it is written: “Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.” You see, I also erred not knowing the scriptures and I believed the lie that God brought all these things upon me or allowed them to happen to me.
In James 1: 13-16 we read: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren.”
You see, our Heavenly Father tempts no one. We are being carried away and bound by Satan and therefore God warns us in Ephesians. 6: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
Now, why am I being attacked and tested? We find the answer in 1Peter 1:6&7 “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:”
You see dear friend, because of my faith and focus on Jesus, He will give me the glory and joy to show the world how a child of God reacts when times become hard. The question is: “Where is your focus when these tests and tribulations come your way?”
You may tell me that it is not easy at all, and that circumstances are overwhelming you.
In 1 Corinthians 10:13 God assures you that you will be able to withstand and endure it for the text says: “ There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
Therefore, what I will not be able to bear, will never come my way and challenge me. So, whatever comes my way, I will be able to bear and God will also provide the outcome for me.
So we are back at the question: “Where is my focus?”
Let us look at two examples from the Bible.
The first one is Joseph.
We read in Gen 37:3- 8 the following: “Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours. And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him. And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf. And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.”
I see the following: A young boy who was his father’s favourite, and was also thoroughly aware of it, and who makes it very clear to his brothers that he is untouchable. He actually challenge them to do something bad to him. A young boy hated by his brothers because of his attitude towards them. In our own words today, we will call this chap a spoilt brat.
This hated young brat, is sent by his father to enquire about the well-being of his brothers who were tending to the sheep in a far away district. When they saw him, they then saw an occasion to rid themselves of this “problem.”
We read in Genesis 37:18 and 23-28: “And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.
And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him; And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it. And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt. And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content. Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.”
Can you imagine Joseph, thrown into a pit and sold to strangers as a slave. Can you hear his begging and promises that just fell on the deaf ears of his brothers. Promises like: “I am sorry. I won’t do it again”, helped nothing. He was tied to a camel and just pulled away. Whenever he tried to resist, the camel just pulled him over and dragged him. All his begging was in vain.
Joseph was then taken to Egypt and sold as a slave. Let us read from Genesis 39:1&2 “And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither. And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.”
Here we find Joseph in a foreign country, with foreign cultures and a foreign religion. He understands nobody and is then sold to Potiphar as a slave.
Where, do you think, was Joseph’s focus at this stage? It was on the Lord for the Bible says: “And the Lord was with Joseph.” All that kept Joseph standing, was his focus and his trust in God that he has learnt from his father! His real character that was built into him from childhood, now appears. Not the arrogant selfprotecting one, but the absolute trust in the God of his father. The faith and trust that he had in God, shone from him so brightly, that Potifar appointed him to rule over his household.
Dear friend, you and I are challenged for what we believe in, so Joseph was also tested. We read in Genesis 39:7&8 about it: “ And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me. But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand.”
The ‘bait was cast before Joseph but he refused. Later the offer was repeated and, when he refused again, it had serious consequences for Joseph. Let us look in Genesis 39:10- 16: “And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her. And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within. And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out. And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled forth, That she called unto the men of her house, and spake unto them, saying, See, he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us; he came in unto me to lie with me, and I cried with a loud voice: And it came to pass, when he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled, and got him out. And she laid up his garment by her, until his lord came home.”
When Joseph withstood the temptation again, look at what happened: Genesis 39:17-20 ‘And she spake unto him according to these words, saying, The Hebrew servant, which thou hast brought unto us, came in unto me to mock me: And it came to pass, as I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled out. And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled. And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison.”
Potiphar’s wife tells a lie to her husband and the lie was believed. Joseph was not even allowed to defend himself or to tell his side of the story. He was immediately cast into prison– innocently.
Genesis 39:21-23 “But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it. The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the LORD was with him, and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper.”
My dear friend, how many times were you in the situation where lies about you were believed and you were sentenced or you had to suffer? I think that Joseph asked the same question.
What happened to Joseph in the prison and where was God? We read in Genesis 39:21 “But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.”
The Lord was with Joseph. Also in this darkest hour in Joseph’s life, where everything turned against him, the Lord was with him.
Do you know, friend, God is also there for you in your darkest hour and He wants to show His grace to you? He promises in Hebrews 13:5 “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”
Although I may feel that I am far away from God, He assures me that He will never leave me.
Because the grace of God was with Joseph, he was in command of the prisoners.While he was in prison, both the Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker were imprisoned. Genesis 40:2&3 “And Pharaoh was wroth against two of his officers, against the chief of the butlers, and against the chief of the bakers. And he put them in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph was bound.
Both had dreams that they could not interpret and on seeing their despair Joseph came to them. Gen 40:5& 8 “And they dreamed a dream both of them, each man his dream in one night, each man according to the interpretation of his dream, the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, which were bound in the prison. And they said unto him, We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it. And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I pray you.”
Joseph then interpreted their dreams. He said to the butler and asked him as well: Genesis 40:13-15 “Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thine head, and restore thee unto thy place: and thou shalt deliver Pharaoh’s cup into his hand, after the former manner when thou wast his butler. But think on me when it shall be well with thee, and shew kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house: For indeed I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews: and here also have I done nothing that they should put me into the dungeon.
But Genesis 40:23 states: “Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him.”
Every morning Joseph woke up with the hope that he will be freed, and every evening he went to bed with the thought that it might be tomorrow. So the days went by, one by one.
When did the cupbearer remember Joseph?
Genesis 41:1&8 “And it happened at the end of two years of days, Pharaoh dreamed. And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled; and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof: and Pharaoh told them his dream; but there was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh.”
In Genesis 41:14 the promise made to Joseph two years ago, was fulfilled.“Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon: and he shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh.”
Joseph then appeared before the Pharaoh and interpreted his dreams for him. The Pharaoh immediately realized that it was the truth, acted immediately and appointed Joseph for the task.
Genesis 41:38-41 “And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art: Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.”
Then Joseph was in charge of the whole of Egypt, second in charge and just under the Pharaoh himself – a position of authority that God later used to save His children.
Let us now consider the way that Joseph had to walk to come to this stage:
Fathers home = Comfort zone
Pit = Being investigated
Potifar’s home = The fixing and testing of principles
Jail = Strengthened, equipped, trusting and waiting upon the Lord
Palace = Authority and power
Dear friend, this is also the way for us to our position of authority. On this way, however, we have to ask the Holy Spirit of God to guard and protect us and also to comfort us when we get hurt because you have to realize that we, as children of God are not guaranteed protection against being hurt. That is why Jesus says in John 14:16: “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.” If we ask Holy Spirit, He will comfort us, teach us and help us through what lies ahead.
Let us now also look at the road that Daniel and his friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had to walk. According to Daniel 2:49, they were already in a position of authority: “Then Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, over the affairs of the province of Babylon: but Daniel sat in the gate of the king.”
The king had a dream and only Daniel could interpret it. Please read Daniel 2.
In Daniel 3:1-6 we read: “Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.”
This happened just after Daniel had interpreted the dream of king Nebuchadnezzar.
This is a direct attack on the beliefs of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, their faith and their trust in God. If they do not worship the image that the king has made, they would be cast into the fiery furnace. The furnace was already burning and everybody could see it and smell the smoke from it. It was a terrifying sight for them to see.
Then the trumpets and all the other instruments blew!!!! Everybody bowed before the Image. Everybody except Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They stood upright while all the others lay facedown, flat on the ground before the image. There was nowhere for them to hide.
When the king saw them standing, he called them and asked them in Daniel 3:14-18 “Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego actually said to the king “We refuse to compromise on behalf of our God, even though it may cost us our lives.”
Dear friend, how often do we compromise when we are under pressure? How many times do we focus on our circumstances, instead of focusing on God?
Daniel 3:19&20 “Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated. And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.”
The furnace was so hot when Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego were cast into it, that those who threw them into it was burnt to death.
Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego fell into these furious flames and heat. Do you realize, that you and I sometimes also have to go through fire? You may ask: Why through fire?
I read in 1Corinthians 3:11-13 the following: “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.”
While Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego were in the fire, we read the following in Dan 3: 24&25: “Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”
The moment that the works, the lives and characters of Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego were tested and found to be pure, Jesus, the Son of God was with them, visible also to all outside the fiery furnace. Then king Nebuchadnezzar called to them as follows: Daniel 3:26 “Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire.” They were recognised as “servants of the most high God,”
I also read the following, regarding ‘fire’ in the Bible: Matthew 3:11 “I indeed baptize you with water to repentance. But He who comes after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire;”
John, the Baptist speaks here of Jesus Christ that will baptize us with fire. Why does Jesus have to baptize us with fire?
In the times of the Bible, gold- and silversmiths had to melt and refine the gold and silver themselves. They used heat for the purifying. Today we have chemical means to test the purity of the metal. In the days of the Bible, the metal was pure enough when the smith could see the image of his face in the molten gold or silver. If the image was not clear enough, it was not pure and he had to increase the heat to expel the impurities.
I read in Genesis 1:26&27: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”
Today, God still creates people in His image and likeness. He still creates people to rule and He wants to see His image in me and you when He looks at us in the melting pot.
I ask you friend, what does God see when He looks at you. Does He see the perfect image of Himself, or is there still too much of yourself for Him to see you? This is the question that only you alone can answer.
Should we not perhaps ask God to increase the heat of the fire that we are in?
“What?” do you ask, “Make it hotter? Increase the heat? I have it difficult enough under my circumstances?”
Do you know that God rewards us when we are pure before Him? James 1:12 says: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”
I pray that the Holy Spirit of God will write this message in your heart and will empower you to go through the fire. I now invite you to pray the following prayer with me. It is a prayer in which we ask Father to make the fire even hotter so that His perfect stature and Image will be visible in me.
“Father, I now come to You in the Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. I confess that Jesus is the only Name on earth through which I can be saved. I declare today that I have accepted Jesus or that I now accept Jesus as my Saviour and my Redeemer. I confess now with my mouth and I believe in my heart that Jesus Christ died for me on the cross, was raised from the dead and sits at Your right hand. I thank You that I know on account of this confession, that I belong to You and that I am Your child. Our Father, I come to You now to confess all my transgressions, iniquities and sin. I also confess as sin that I have taken my focus away from You and focused instead on myself. I also confess that the worldliness came to the foreground in me, that I murmured and grumbled against You and I ask You to forgive all my sin.
I also now forgive everyone who transgressed against me so that my own sin can be forgiven. Thank You, Lord, that I could do this with the power of Jesus. I ask You now , O Lord, here, where I am in the fire, that You will make the fire hotter and purify me even more. I allow You to transform me to Your will.
Thank you, that I may know that You will send the Holy Spirit to comfort me, teach me and equip me to be serviceable for You.
I ask all this in the name of Jesus Christ.
Dear friend, I pray that Father will bless you and protect you, will make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
Cobus van Heerden