On Fiery Ordeals (Part One)

Anna Spindler

I spent my high school and college days living in Iowa, and if you know anything about presidential elections, you may know that the state of Iowa gets the very first crack at choosing the nominees for an upcoming election. Iowans take this very seriously and so do candidates. You can often find them at small town parades, county fairs, and town hall meetings eons before the first vote is ever cast...shaking hands, patting backs, and rubbing shoulders. Back during the 2000 caucuses, I remember spying Elizabeth Dole at church in my college town. Around that same time, I also spent an evening waiting in a dive of a restaurant for another candidate to come in and shake our hands, until he was a no show (what was his name??).

At the time, politics felt heated. We were young, we were making decisions apart from our parents, yet we still had their voices in our minds. This was the time of hanging chads and close votes. Yet, 9/11 was still just a day in September. And airports were safe. Social media had not even been dreamed up. And we had to go home to get phone messages. We barely had the internet.

Doesn’t life feel crazier now? Sort of like a fiery ordeal? On Tuesday I found myself googling Super Tuesday, Coronaviris, and Nashville tornado many times throughout the day. 20 years ago, I would never have guessed that the world would seem (and maybe BE) this much scarier and this much angrier. And if I’m honest, it freaks me out a little bit. It feels like many of us are being run ragged by frenzy and fear.

But as believers, our response matters.

At The Gathering Well, we are passionate about the Word. We are passionate about growing toward Christlikeness. What does God’s word say when it comes to the world and how crazy it feels?

Fact. The world has always been a hot mess. When we first meet Jesus, he is a baby and King Herod is already after him. Not only this, when Jesus and his family flee to Egypt, Herod looks for all the baby boys under two in and around Bethlehem and has them murdered (Matt. 2:16)! That feels a little fiery, yes?

Throughout the ministry of Jesus, He is constantly threatened, chased, argued with, targeted, and eventually executed as a criminal upon a cross. Also. Fiery.

Church history continues thus. Up and down, legal not legal, thriving, dying (seemingly). We are a motley crew, Christians. Plagued by ordeals. Our tendency, like the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, is often to grumble and complain. Or, we fight back (perhaps, like the Crusaders)-demanding our rights or what seems right.  Sometimes, we try to control the ordeal with worry.  What does scripture say about the state of the world…the world that has always been messed up and scary?

Let’s look at 1 Peter 4, verses 7-13 (ESV).

The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.  Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.  As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:  whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

Our response to the world around us can be a lot of things, but Peter spells out a few ways it SHOULD be.

  • Be prayerful (v.7)-when we see a world that rattles us or scares us, prayer is our first line of defense! There is not one time in which believers are admonished to worry or control. Paul doesn’t say “Be anxious for almost nothing, (unless it’s politics or coronavirus).” Jesus does not say, “Therefore do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, but do worry about other things that are scary that you think you can control by posting about it on the socials.” They say “Be anxious for NOTHING,” “Do NOT worry about your life.” This is an all-encompassing lifestyle and it is HARD and requires practice. I have been scared of tornadoes since 1988. But God is the Sovereign King of the very atmosphere swirling above my head. I am practicing practical atheism when I worry about the weather. I am practicing faith when I submit to him in prayer.
  • Be filled with earnest love (v. 8)-When our feelings overpower us, can we remember to lead with love. In doing so, we will point people to Jesus. John 13:35 reminds us that people will know believers by their love for one another. When the church bickers within the body, it is a tragedy. A tragedy as heartbreaking as disease. This commandment to love without hypocrisy is seen over and over again in scripture. To neglect it is disobedience.
  • Practice gracious hospitality (v. 9)-The New Testament church in Acts is a wonderful example of the pursuit of hospitality. It is not an occasional thing, it is a lifestyle. In so doing, we aren’t to grumble but lovingly open our doors, lives, schedules, to others.
  • Be useful and glorifying to God through our gifts (v. 10)-What if we replaced worry with a job? Not just a job, but the gift we all have in serving one another. The job that we were designed to do?
  • Do not be surprised (v. 12)-I have thought about this last point a lot. Do not be surprised. Jesus does not send us into a world that he himself did not also walk through. We see this also in Hebrews 2. The author says in verse 10 (NIV), “In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.” Leaving an eternal Kingdom, he was born a man, lived a servant, died a criminal. If our God experienced trials, why would we assume we won’t?
  • The world around us is full of fiery ordeals, be they political, marital, familial, in the workplace, environmental, or bodily. Our Savior knows and also identifies with us, because he lived it, too! When we experience the fire, we may feel alone, but it is a chance to rejoice with Christ in his sufferings. It is a chance to draw near to a compassionate King and Savior.

    *This post is filed under our #seasonsseries. What seasons are you walking through? How does the Lord teach you about himself through the fires you may encounter? We will continue to explore the topic of fiery ordeals next month in Part 2.