I will walk through the valley if You want me to

The pathway is broken and the signs are unclear
And I don’t know the reason why You brought me here
But just because You love me the way that You do
I’m gonna walk through the valley if You want me to

‘Cause I’m not who I was when I took my first step
And I’m clinging to the promise You’re not through with me yet
So if all of these trials bring me closer to You
Then I will go through the fire if You want me to

It may not be the way I would have chosen
When You lead me through a world that’s not my home
But You never said it would be easy
You only said I’d never go alone

So when the whole world turns against me and I’m all by myself
And I can’t hear You answer my cries for help
I’ll remember the suffering Your love put You through
And I will go through the darkness if You want me to

When I cross over Jordan, I’m gonna sing, gonna shout
I’m gonna look into Your eyes and see, You never let me down
So take me on the pathway that will lead me home to You
And I will walk through the valley if You want me to
Yes, I will walk through the valley if You want me to.

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You asked for this (Or, The Cost of Sanctification)

Recently, I sat up late at night reading (once again) Tim Keller’s Walking with God through Pain and Suffering. He quoted this hymn by John Newton, and it brought me to tears.

These Inward Trials
By John Newton

I asked the Lord that I might grow,
In faith, in love, in every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek more earnestly His face.

I hoped that on some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining power,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this He made me feel,
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry powers of hell,
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed,
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

“Lord, why is this?” I tremblingly cried,
“Wilt Thou pursue Thy worm to death?”
“Tis in this way,” the Lord replied,
“I answer prayer for grace and faith.”

“These inward trials I employ,”
“From self and pride to set thee free;”
“And break thy schemes of earthly joy,”
“That thou may’st seek thy all in Me.”

I read that and heard this voice reply to all of my frequent inward cries of “Why?” with: You asked for this. Not in the snarky, heartless way those worse are usually uttered. But with peaceful reassurance of the Refiner’s Fire which I’ve asked to be walked through so many times in my Christian life. Even this morning in my prayer time, I caught myself saying, “Lord make me more like You.” I almost laughed. How many times have I prayed that prayer or one like it? Who hasn’t at least prayed, caught up at a conference or camp or after a moving sermon, that God would sanctify her more and make her more like Christ? That is the Christian aim, after all, right?

2cor318I guess in all the years of asking that, I hadn’t really considered how it would be answered. I really did mean it, I just didn’t calculate the cost of sanctification. We make jokes about not praying for patience, because you’ll have to be in a hard situation to learn patience. But now I’m seeing that’s really true about all of the fruit of the Spirit and Christlike characteristics, isn’t it? I mean, what did I think? I would wake up one morning and be like, “Oh good, now I’m wise,” or “Finally, I’m more compassionate,” or the dozens of other things I’m now learning? Surely not.

This revelation has actually increased my patience and lessened my questioning (not eliminated it, but lessened it for sure). I asked for this refining, after all — so I need to be thanking God for His answer to all those prayers, instead of sulking in the delay of a relatively new one.

bgraham

When you pass through the waters I will be with you

For those days when you are desperately wondering where God is in all of this, He says this to His people in Isaiah 43:2…

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.

Where is He? He’s right there with you.

waters

The Refiner’s Fire

I wanted to write a post about the biblical concept of the refiner’s fire. I started to do some research and I found this awesome article from DesiringGod.org, so I decided to just share that with you instead. It says everything just as well as I could, if not much better. The transcript below is the introduction. Please follow the link under it to finish reading. You will also find a 30-minute message from Pastor John Piper on this subject and passage. To add to your reflection, I included a worship song below it, about the refiner’s fire.

He Is Like a Refiner’s Fire

November 29, 1987 | by John Piper | Scripture: Malachi 2:17–3:6 | Topic: Sanctification & Growth

Malachi 2:17–3:6

You have wearied the LORD with your words. “How have we wearied him?” you ask. By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and he is pleased with them” or “Where is the God of justice?” “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years. “So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty. “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” (NIV)

It does not say in verse 2 that he is like a forest fire, or like an incinerator’s fire. It says that he is like a refiner’s fire. A forest fire destroys indiscriminately. An incinerator consumes completely. But verse 6 says, “I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed—you are not destroyed.”

A Word of Warning and a Word of Hope

He is a refiner’s fire, and that makes all the difference. A refiner’s fire does not destroy indiscriminately like a forest fire. A refiner’s fire does not consume completely like the fire of an incinerator. A refiner’s fire refines. It purifies. It melts down the bar of silver or gold, separates out the impurities that ruin its value, burns them up, and leaves the silver and gold intact. He is like a refiner’s fire.

It does say FIRE. And therefore purity and holiness will always be a dreadful thing. There will always be a proper “fear and trembling” in the process of becoming pure. We learn it from the time we are little children: never play with fire! And it’s a good lesson! Therefore, Christianity is never a play thing. And the passion for purity is never flippant. He is like fire and fire is serious. You don’t fool around with it.

But it does say, he is like a REFINER’S fire. And therefore this is not merely a word of warning, but a tremendous word of hope. The furnace of affliction in the family of God is always for refinement, never for destruction.

Four Questions About This Text

Now, to unfold this text, let me ask four questions, and point you to their answers in the Scripture in the time we have.

  1. Who is like a refiner’s fire?
  2. Why must he be like a refiner’s fire?
  3. How can we experience his fire as refining and not consuming?
  4. What is life like in the refiner’s fire?

…To continue reading, please click here: He is Like a Refiner’s Fire