It’s always a surprise at first, but every spring here in Arizona, right when it seems like we were just hearing forecasts of cold, and rain, even snow (though we don’t get much of that here) there come the "heat contests."
You know what we're talking about. On television and radio, there are contests about when we’ll experience our first 100 degree day of the year. And soon thereafter, along with the rising of the temperatures, we’ll start hearing stories of brush and forest fires.
And that's when we know. Once again, it’s the season for heat and fire.
The Bible has something to say about heat and fire too. And in it, God tells us that there will be seasons of heat and fire in our lives. Check out what the apostle Peter writes:
“Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad - for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. (1 Peter 4:12-13, NLT)
Notice what’s laid out for us here? It’s vitally important stuff -
- Don’t be surprised about fiery trials in life. Yes, they burn. But the burn is worsened when we expect life to be easy. It isn’t. And it won’t be. Trials are not something strange. They are a normal part of life. Even for a Christ-follower. Especially for a Christ-follower.
- Trials allow us to partner with Christ. Jesus underwent trials willingly because he wanted to save us. When we have a passion to serve our Savior, we can know that we will follow in his footsteps. When we have a commitment to love the lost, as Jesus did, we can expect to suffer as Jesus did. We are called to “lose our lives” just as Jesus lost his.
- Trials ultimately lead to joy. One day Jesus will return and on that day, his power and authority will be revealed to the whole world. And those who were called by the Spirit to trust in him will bask in the light of his glory. That will be one happy day. Frequently, God doesn't even make us wait that long. More often than not, God allows the joy to come later the same day, or week, or month, or year.
The great reformer Martin Luther once wrote about these words of Peter. He said something really beautiful, and something that is truly encouraging:
“When we begin to believe, God doesn’t abandon us but lays a holy cross upon our backs to strengthen faith. The gospel is a powerful word, but it cannot do its work without trials. No one will discover its power unless he experiences it. The gospel can only show its power where there is a cross and where there is suffering. Because it’s a word of life, it must exercise all its power in death.”
Heat contest? I think we’re already signed up for that! If we’re alive, Peter says, it’s our season for heat and fire. So don’t be surprised.
Don’t be surprised in the least.
And especially, don't be surprised at a God whose love will lead you through the fire. In Christ, you are Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego all wrapped into one. Read Daniel 3. He got those boys through the heat and the fire. And he will get you through it too.