Fiery Trials — Why They Come!
The original post in this series posed the question, Grassley Investigation — Demonic or Divine? (If you have not read the first two posts, I urge you to do so.) In the course of the two previous posts I have been indicating what I believe is the answer to that question, which is — both. The Spirit made it clear who our adversary is, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. YOUR ADVERSARY, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).
In order to be able to understand many of the questions of life with definitiveness and complete confidence, a believer must settle the issue once and at the very core of their spirit. God is NOT the believer’s adversary. The adversary is the one who authors and brings forth adversity. This is a huge question in life as we experience the many forms of adversity of which life consists. As long as you are alive on this planet, you will experience adversity. I know that is not a very comforting word, especially if you are going through some adversity right now, but it is nonetheless the truth.
No one is impervious to adversity–believer or unbeliever. It is unfortunate that sometimes in altar calls preachers seem to paint a picture that when you surrender your heart to Jesus, then all your troubles and life’s difficulties will be over and you will experience heaven on earth. Lay-believers often follow that example and paint the same picture to people they are encouraging to give their life to the Lord, as well. But, that simply is not the true Gospel. The Bible never says that. It just is not in the contract, not even the fine print, though we may all wish it was.
In the previous post, on the backdrop of the Grassley Investigation wherein six major Charismatic ministries have come under scrutiny regarding questionable spending of donated funds, I talked about “fiery trials” authored by our adversary, Satan, that believers go through. The question is why do these trials, troubles, and tribulations come in to believer’s lives?
Well, actually there are definitive answers in the Bible to that question, and I will be offering some of those answers in forthcoming posts. But, if you want, or more accurately need, to know those answers now, I would highly recommend you get your copy of my book, Mystery of the Kingdom, which is available both in print form and e-book form for immediate download to your computer or other reading device. Some of what I will be writing in the next few posts are excerpts from that book. In fact, there is one whole chapter dealing with the answers to that question. Now, I will say, though the critics and cynics won’t believe anything I say, my reference to that book is really not at all a promo for my book. Rather, I know there are people reading these posts who really do desperately need answers to the burning questions of life such as this, many of whom are going through some sort of fiery trial right now. And, I know that what I wrote in that book can be extremely helpful in times of turmoil and tribulation such as that.
But, I will offer here the short answer to this crucial question as to why trials, troubles, and tribulations sometimes come in to believer’s lives? In fact, Peter himself wrote succinct answer to that question in his first epistle:
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, WHICH COMES UPON YOU FOR YOUR TESTING, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of his glory, you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
I highly recommend that readers read the immediate context of this verse, i.e., verses 12 to 19. Then read the expanded context, which is the entire chapter four. Then, the full extent of what Peter is talking about is even better understood when connected with the full context of the entire epistle, especially the chapters that precede the cited verse.
Indeed, the entire epistle is addressed to believers who have been scattered abroad following what historians refer to as the Diaspora or Dispersion who are suffering greatly in the Great Persecution that drove most of the early church members out of Israel into the surrounding regions and countries. Peter wrote the letter to encourage the scattered and severely persecuted believers to remain faithful to God and Christ during this time of great persecution and distress they were going through. Masses of these early believers were facing death and extreme social oppression if they were able to escape death as a result of being a follower of Christ. By inspiration of the Spirit, Peter wrote to encourage the faithful to focus on the surpassing hope of the “inheritance” they would receive in heaven rather than the agonizing sufferings they were being made to endure on earth. What these believers suffered makes our present “sufferings” pale into virtual nothingness. Myriads of these ordinary humans just like you and me were martyred by unspeakable manners of death, yet remained faithful to the name of Christ to their last breath, refusing to recant their trust in that Name. In the opening portion of his letter Peter writes:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various TRIALS, THAT THE PROOF OF YOUR FAITH, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though TESTED BY FIRE, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and even though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith THE SALVATION OF YOUR SOULS.
This last part is what God is after through the “fiery trials” he allows Satan to bring into our lives–“the salvation of your souls.” When a believer is born again through genuine repentance and faith in Christ and the salvation He purchased on the Cross of Calvary, his/her spirit is instantaneously regenerated and restored to the condition in which the human spirit existed before Adam sinned. That transpires through the spiritual transaction of the Holy Spirit coming to take up residence in that person’s human spirit. Jesus made this clear when He said, “that which is born of the [Holy] Spirit is [the human] spirit” (Jn. 3:6; bracketed explanation added). The human spirit is redeemed, restored, and regenerated at the rebirth or new birth experience. But, the soul, comprised of our mind, will, and emotions, is not automatically, instantaneously, and fully “saved” or restored at the rebirth, but is in the process of being saved or sanctified throughout our life after we are Born Again (c.f., Jas. 1:21). The Word of God is implanted in our heart as the Seed (lit., “sperma“; Gr.) of God, in our human spirits, which is “ABLE” to “save” or “sanctify” our soul, but it is not automatic or instantaneous. Rather that sanctifying process occurs gradually as we yield ourselves to the sanctifying working of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Thus, when we are Born Again, our spirit is saved, but our soul is not, completely, instantaneously, but it is in the process of being saved throughout our life on earth. The trials that come in our lives, come to test and therefore prove, refine, and purify our faith and in turn us; i.e., our soul. That’s the “tested by fire” part Peter referenced. Satan is the adversary of believers, but it is critical to understand that he cannot do anything that God disallows for him to do, because God is still sovereign. Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world. Satan cannot do anything God does not permit him to do. The “fiery trials” come to test or purify our faith, and thereby purge us of ungodly elements in our lives that defile us. The value of silver and gold increases as it is tested in the refining fiery furnace and purified of it’s impurities. God allows those who are part of the remnant church to be taken through the fire in order to “Refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested” (Zec. 13:9), which is by a refining process that consists of “six, yea, seven times through the fire” (Ps. 12:6). So, it is likely that true believers will go through multiple refining fires in their lives, the result of each is more purity.
There is a great example of how this all works in the incident not long before Jesus’ crucifixion when Jesus prophesied to Peter about impending testing in his life. Jesus warned Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan has demanded permission (from God) to sift you like wheat” (Lk. 22:31). I’m sure Peter had the same thought occur to him that does to us when we find ourselves in a “fiery trial” authored by the adversary–why didn’t Jesus merely pray for him and foil the plot of Satan that He foresaw in the Spirit. But, the truth was that He couldn’t, because as He stated to Peter, Satan had “demanded permission” from God to sift him. God’s prosecuting attorney demanded to try Peter because there were some defiling sinfulness concealed in Peter’s “hidden parts” or “innermost being” that gave “the accuser of the brethren” legal right to bring him up on charges and sift like wheat. Sifting is a purging process to separate the grain (the usable part) from the chaff (the unusable part). What Jesus foresaw was a “fiery trial” that was necessary for Peter’s purging of the fear of man, faithlessness, treachery, and self-centeredness that lay hidden in his heart and was spiritually defiling him. But, Satan and all the fiery trials he authors in our lives, are only a tool in the hands of God. If we will respond properly to the purging process of the Spirit, which is by humbling ourselves, admitting our faults, and allowing godly sorrow to produce genuine repentance in us (1 Cor. 7:11), then we, like Peter, receive genuine pardon and exoneration of the Spirit.
Instead of praying to remove the trial that was coming, which would have only foiled the purposes of God, Jesus told Peter, “but I have prayed for you, and when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Instead of praying for removal of the fiery trial that was coming for Peter’s purging and purification, Jesus prayed for and prophesied something of far greater value–Peter’s repentance–and then charged him to strengthen his fellows with the spiritual empowerment he attained as a result of the purging process. And, in the end, Peter did precisely what Jesus prayed and prophesied, for that very reason–because He prayed and prophesied it–which is precisely what especially prophetic believers must learn to do in their relationships with and attitudes toward their fellows. The Apostle Paul described what Jesus did and what we are supposed to do in following His example this way:
Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one shall bear his own load. (Gal. 6:1-5)
God is saying here that it is not spiritual to judge and condemn believers who trespass against God’s Word, even when they are CAUGHT in their trespasses, but rather true spirituality is demonstrated in attitudes and deeds reflective of premise of restoration in which the manner of approach is a spirit of gentleness or meekness accompanied by self-examination and circumspection. Otherwise, we open ourselves up to likewise be tempted by Satan with the SAME sin, or another sin.
Years ago, I was sitting in a cafeteria that was in a mall, eating dinner with my wife and another Christian brother who was part of our ministry. Though the cafeteria was entirely inside the mall, it had several windows to the mall corridor leading to the outside exit/entrance to the mall. As I was eating and talking, the Spirit had me to focus on couple in their late forties who were standing out in the mall corridor by the exit, as if they were waiting on someone. I had never seen them in my life, but they were all dressed up in formal attire as if they were going to a special banquet or something. Suddenly the Spirit said to me, “That couple are both believers, but they are in sin right now. He is a well-known piano player, but he is married to someone else, and has children, who have not heard from him in months. This woman is an adulteress who has seduced him into leaving his wife and family and they have been living together here in (the small town I was living in at the time). They are both being controlled by deceiving spirits. They are not supposed to be together. The woman has visions of grandeur of a life married to this man through his musical talents. Tell those with you what I just told you.” I said to the Lord in my spirit, “Well, that’s pretty fantastical. How am I supposed to know if what I believe you just told me is so?” He replied, “I will confirm it to you.”
I did tell them. I showed them the couple, and told them what the Lord told me about them. Of course, they were stunned, and almost in unison asked, “Well, what did the Lord tell you to do?” To which I replied, “Nothing; he didn’t tell me to do anything. Hallelujah!” We all laughed rather awkwardly but were pretty shaken in our spirits by the event.
I tried to just forget about the situation, for fear the Lord would put me to the test and tell me to go talk to the couple and tell them what the Lord showed me. I was hugely relieved when we left the cafeteria to discover that the couple were not longer standing there where I had seen them. So, I said to my wife, “Let’s walk around a bit to walk off this dinner.” I thought I was just walking randomly through the mall, but the first turn we made was in the direction of a piano and organ store that was in the mall. As we approached closer to the store, I suddenly began to hear someone absolutely “tearing up” some ivories, and I thought, “Wow, they’ve got a salesperson in that store that can really play the piano…WELL!” Which usually is not the case. But, then as I walked closer I realized it was Gospel music that was being played, and with that unmistakable Gospel music style, with grace notes and all. Whoever was playing was really GOOD! Then, it dawned on me….no, that can’t be…not that guy the Lord spoke to me about. Sure enough, when I gingerly peered into the store to see who was playing, it WAS THE GUY! Oh My God! Now what? What the Lord said is really true…He DID just confirm what He told me. Quickly I grabbed my wife’s hand and turned her around and said, “We have to get away from here,” and started walking in the other direction. We eventually left the mall and returned home, and I tried to just forget about the incident.
That was on Sunday night. On Wednesday of that week, I was scheduled to take part in a television telethon at a Christian station, I had been helping with for a number of years. I was one of the first singers/speakers during the first part of the telethon as it went on air. While I was on camera singing my first song, the studio doors opened and in walked….yep, you guessed it…that couple…while I was singing my song. I almost messed up the next few lines of the song I was singing as I watched them walk into the studio and stand in the back of the standing room only crowd. When I finished the song, I made a beeline to the opposite side of the studio and propped myself up against a wall. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw this guy motion to the woman to stay there, and watched as he began walking in my direction. “Oh no! Surely he’s not coming to talk to me, is he?” Sure enough, he came right over to me, and whispered, “Sir, I heard you singing that song when I was out in the lobby; there’s was such a power anointing hit when you first started singing that I just had to come in to see who was singing.” I thanked him in a whisper. Then he said, “I am here tonight to play the piano and sing with my wife, also, but God just told me that I need to speak to you, and you are going to minister to me.” I gulped and almost choked, but gathered myself to respond in the calmest and most pleasant manner I could muster up, “Oh, okay, we can talk later then.” Of course, he had just lied in identifying the woman who was his singing partner as his wife. The whole rest of the segment of the telethon I was scheduled for I was trying to figure out what the Lord wanted me to do and/or say. After it was over the guy came back over to talk to me again, and said, “Please forgive me for being so forward, but I believe the Lord told me that I am suppose to ask you if we can come to your house and have dinner with you and your wife Friday night.” “Oh,” I replied as cheerfully as I could sound, “then, I guess I’ll see you Friday night; ya’ll like spaghetti?” We both laughed; he said yes; and I gave him directions to our house.
When they came that Friday night, after some small talk, and while we were eating, he began to tell me the story of his life, and what brought him to the town we were in. He was a child prodigy musically and as a pianist, and began playing at the age of 14 for a number of well-known gospel music groups, first as a fill-in, then later full-time with various groups over the years. Over the current and previous week, he was away on a furlough or mini-vacation from traveling with a famous pentecostal evangelist as his pianist, though the evangelist fronted his own meetings singing and playing the piano as well in a self-taught Gospel-style. But, this man was the “real” piano-player in the background. He said he would be returning to the tour the next week. After telling his story, he then began asking me about my ministry, because he said he had discerned that I had some special anointing in some areas that he was not knowledgeable in and that was very different than all the ministries he had worked with over more than forty years in traveling music ministry, as well as the churches ministries in his denomination. I tried to explain as best I could about my prophetic and deliverance anointing and ministry. What made it even more difficult to explain was that this was back in the early 1980s when these types of ministry were virtually unheard of in most church circles, and anyone who did speak about them were considered heretics or lunatics or both. But, I was shocked when he started zeroing in on the deliverance part in particular, and asking me question after question. And, all during the meal, the woman kept kicking the guy under the table, trying to get him to stop talking about this deliverance stuff and to finish eating so they could leave.
One of the poignant moments in the conversation was when he told me that just before he left the tour, he asked the evangelist for some time to talk to him. During that conversation, he shared with the evangelist some personal battles he was having and actually had struggled with his entire life, though he had been saved when he was 13 years old. He told the evangelist that he felt God had been revealing to him recently that it was demons that were driving him to the compulsions he was experiencing and seemed to have little control over even thought he had confessed and repented over and over again, and was greatly convicted about and remorseful for his behavior. The evangelist replied in anger, and told him there was no way a Christian could possibly have a demon, and that if he had these problems, he would just have to either get help and get rid of the problem, or the evangelist would have to fire him. The evangelist told him to take a couple weeks off, and return to the tour, if he had dealt with the problem and essentially “fixed” it.
After we ate and retreated to the living room to talk a little more, he stayed on the subject, asking questions, until finally the woman said, “Well, honey, we need to be going, because we have to get up early in the morning.” Finally, he acquiesed and they excused themselves politely, and left.
Over the next month, I received a number of phone calls from this man on my answering machine, but every time he called I wasn’t there to receive the call, and he would never leave a number for me to call back (this was before caller ID). Then, one day, I was in prayer in my study in my home, when I thought I heard a car pull into the driveway, and then heard a car-door shut. Then, my doorbell rang. When I opened the door, this man was standing on the doorstep with his baggage and I saw a taxicab driving off. He said, Pastor Steven, I just got fired last night, and God told me to fly here today, and stay here until I am delivered. You are the only person I know who can help me. Will you?” Of course, I said I would and invited him in. After putting his things away in a guest room, we began talking. I told him the story of when I first saw him in the mall through the cafeteria window, and he verified that he was there that day and playing the piano in the store. Then I proceeded to tell his “real” story and what God had showed me about him, past, present, and future, and that God only reveals in order to heal, and that the only way he could be healed was through deliverance. The long and the short of it is that the guy stayed with us for the next three weeks while God miraculously and dramatically delivered him from the demons that were controlling him. Three weeks later, on Saturday morning, the first thing he said to me when I saw him in the morning was, “I have to call my wife and kids, and tell them where I am, where I’ve been, and hope that they still want me, so that God can restore our family.” I told him, now I knew he was totally delivered. He called that morning and that family was powerfully reunited. I’ve seen him a number of times since over the years on various television programs…along with his wife. Praise the Lord! God is good!
But, my point in telling this story is that the man who camped out on my doorstep and repented, and cried out to God for deliverance, God delivered. But, the famous evangelist who was enraged by his piano-player’s belief that God had showed him there were demons at work in his life, and fired him, was himself publicly exposed in a very publicized sin scandal as being demonized by the same kinds of demons the piano-player was troubled with and controlled by the SAME kind of sin. I’ve heard that evangelist’s theology regarding demons and Christian’s being troubled by them has drastically changed, indeed, reversed. I believe this public exposure happened because the evangelist did not treat the trespasser with a spirit of meekness, looking also to himself in self-examination, and that gave the evil spirits he had also been troubled with since childhood legal right to ramp up their activity in the evangelist’s life until his sin could no longer be concealed. Sadly, the evangelist’s ministry has never been the same. I venture to say that few people, if anyone, knows the real cause of his precipitous and unfortunate fall from grace.
Self-examination, godly sorrow, repentance of revealed sinful attitudes, and graciousness toward our human accusers is the only right response to accusations of wrongdoing that have some basis of truth to them at some level, whatever that level may be. On a personal basis, as long as we are trying to resist the accusations of the accuser of the brethren by defending ourselves and declaring our goodness, he has legal right to continue to accuse, prosecute, and judge us. Jesus admonished, “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison” (Mat. 5:25). Peter made it clear our ultimate adversary is the devil, Satan (1 Pet. 5:8). As long as we are denying the charges Satan makes against us, we are in a prison of one sort or another. If we agree with the charges of the adversary QUICKLY, confess our sins, seek forgiveness, and repent, then we will receive the full pardon Christ provided through His sacrifice and be released from the prison cell in which we’ve been confined.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9). The only kind of sin or wrongdoing that can be forgiven and pardoned is CONFESSED sin or wrongdoing. I would urge every minister and ministry in the days of Spirit-compelled circumspection that are now upon us, in which God is purifying the sons of Levi [church leaders] (Mal. 3:1-3) and testing the building materials of every ministry (1 Cor. 3:10-15), not to be so quick to resist and deny the accusations of the enemy out-of-hand without sincere self-examination to determine if there is any semblance of truth in the spirit realm to the prosecuting attorney’s charges. If there is, consider it a merciful and gracious purging by the Spirit. If not, no harm, no foul.
Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God. (1 Cor. 4:1-5)
In the next posts, I will be addressing what I see as being the real causes and spiritual context behind such matters as the Grassley Investigation, and convey some prophetic revelations about other workings of the Spirit in the purification and perfecting of the Church.