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                           “When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;                             the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:2)

The famous Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is a spiritual pilgrimage for many. For others its fame grew because of Victor Hugo’s classic novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, cementing its place in literary history. When a massive fire broke out on April 15, 2019 – it destroyed the wood lattice-work roof of the 850-year-old building and caused the spire to collapse. Before the blaze, the church had been undergoing an extensive multi-million-dollar renovation. Notre Dame Cathedral housed some of Christendom’s most sacred religious relics, including the preserved crown of thorns said to contain fragments of the original circle worn by Jesus Christ. Only a week before, sixteen bronze statues from the 12th and 13th century were removed from the spire. A trio of round-stained glass rose windows from the 13th century, a single Holy Nail and a fragment of wood  believed to be from the True Cross on which Christ was crucified, and the great organ dated to the Middle Ages all survived amid significant overall damage to the structure itself. It’s indeed a blessing that there were no lives lost, and through time the cathedral will be restored.

Restoration comes in many forms. While man can never fully restore something which has been consumed by fire . . . God can! In His Holy Word, the Book of Daniel tells the story of three Hebrew teenagers, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who refused to worship the golden idols of their king. He had the young men brought before him and said to them, “I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace” (Daniel 3:15). Their response: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty” (Daniel 3:17).  The ruler was enraged and had them thrown into a fiery furnace where they should have died. But while they were in there, the king saw something he did not expect.  “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods” (Daniel 3:25). The passage says that when they were released from the furnace, “Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched. They didn’t even smell of smoke!” (Daniel 3:27). They came out with no sign they had been in the fire, and their faith passed the ultimate test.

There are applications here for all who love the Lord. The first of these is that, when you are in the fire – you can be assured that you are not there alone. God shows up in fiery places. The second lesson is that when we have an attitude of faith – God works with us through the difficult times. In doing so, we experience the third lesson: It’s part of God’s plan to get us to where we need to be. There is purpose in His allowing us to go through the fire. The psalmist spoke these words: “Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once more” (Psalm 71:20-21).  You may be facing a fire in your own life. However, you need to convince yourself that the fire is not going to burn you. I used to hear some older folks use the expression, “I feel like I’ve been pulled through a knot hole backwards” when they were having a really bad day. As I grew in years, there came a time when I understood what they meant. Facing times of trouble and tribulation is not unusual as evidenced by examples of godly men and women throughout the scriptures. Their stories can serve as inspiration to us, because the same God who was faithful to them will also be faithful to us. Peter tells us that we are grieved by various situations that “have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:7). When gold is refined by fire, it becomes even more valuable. When God sees one of His children worthy of refining, they too should be prepared to be tested by fire.

REFLECTION: Consider a time when you were tested by the fires of life? How genuine was your faith? Was it built upon the underlying character of God, or fixated upon the changing circumstances you were facing at the time?  How does the way we handle our trials and tribulations serve as a witness for others who are not grounded in the faith?


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