Refined by Fire

God is serious with serious believers.

Genesis 35:16-29 (ESV)

Then they journeyed from Bethel. When they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel went into labor, and she had hard labor. And when her labor was at its hardest, the midwife said to her, “Do not fear, for you have another son.” And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem), and Jacob set up a pillar over her tomb. It is the pillar of Rachel's tomb, which is there to this day. Israel journeyed on and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder.

While Israel lived in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine. And Israel heard of it. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve. The sons of Leah: Reuben (Jacob's firstborn), Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. The sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. The sons of Bilhah, Rachel's servant: Dan and Naphtali. The sons of Zilpah, Leah's servant: Gad and Asher. These were the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Paddan-aram.

And Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre, or Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had sojourned. Now the days of Isaac were 180 years. And Isaac breathed his last, and he died and was gathered to his people, old and full of days. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

No sooner has Jacob completed his transformation into Israel than his whole world comes crashing down all around him. He loses the love of his life, his firstborn son sins massively against him, and he loses his dad. He’s hit from every direction. This isn’t random; it’s how God develops his servants.

His goal is to grow us, not to baby us. We get babied when we need babying, and taught when we’re ready to learn. As soon as Jacob is prepared for real growth, big challenges hit. He’s being refined by fire.

This is the model for life in Christ. Understand that when you pray for God to protect you from trials, you are, in a sense, asking to be taken out of the game. Don’t get me wrong – we’re not supposed to look for trouble – but we’re in a war, and our job is to serve the Lord. Real saints make real sacrifices. It isn’t required that a Christian suffer for Christ, but it’s normal.

This view of life in Christ is what inspired St. Patrick to invent Green Martyrdom. Unable to shed their blood for their Lord, Patrick and the other Irish saints shed virtually everything else. They lived only for Christ, and some say they saved civilization.

St. Patrick didn’t set out to save civilization. He just felt called to do the right thing – beginning with returning to his former slave-master. One thing led to another and he ended up spearheading one of history’s great revivals.

And he was a total nobody! He just followed the Lord’s lead and God did the rest.

Any one of us could be just as great as Patrick. All we have to do is follow God completely.

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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