Comfort for Christians
by Arthur W. Pink, 1952
TRIED BY FIRE
"But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me I
shall come forth as gold." (Job 23:10)
Job here corrects himself. In the beginning of the
chapter we find him saying: "Even today is my complaint bitter: my stroke is
heavier than my groaning" (verses 1 & 2). Poor Job felt that his lot was
unbearable. But he recovers himself. He checks his hasty outburst and
revises his impetuous decision. How often we all have to correct ourselves!
Only One has ever walked this earth who never had occasion to do so.
Job here comforts himself. He could not fathom the
mysteries of Providence but God knew the way he took. Job had diligently
sought the calming presence of God, but, for a time, in vain. Behold I go
forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him. On
the left hand, where he does work, but I cannot behold him" (verses 8 & 9).
But he consoled himself with this blessed fact—though I cannot see God, what
is a thousand times better, He can see me—"He knows." One above is neither
unmindful nor indifferent to our lot. If He notices the fall of a sparrow,
if He counts the hairs of our heads, of course "He knows" the way that I
Job here enunciates a noble view of life. How splendidly
optimistic he was! He did not allow his afflictions to turn him into a
skeptic. He did not permit the sore trials and troubles through which he was
passing to overwhelm him. He looked at the bright side of the dark
cloud—God's side, hidden from sense and reason. He took a long view of life.
He looked beyond the immediate 'fiery trials" and said that the outcome
would be gold refined. "But he knows the way that I take: when he has tried
me I shall come forth as gold." Three great truths are expressed here: let
us briefly consider each separately.
1.The Divine Knowledge of My Life.
"He knows the way that I take." The omniscience of God is
one of the wondrous attributes of Deity. "For his eyes are upon the ways of
man, and he sees all his goings" (Job 34:21). "The eyes of the Lord are in
every place, beholding the evil and the good (Proverbs 15:3). Spurgeon said,
"One of the greatest tests of experimental religion is, What is my
relationship to God's omniscience?" What is your relationship to it, dear
reader? How does it affect you? Does it distress or comfort you? Do you
shrink from the thought of God knowing all about your way? perhaps, a lying,
selfish, hypocritical way! To the sinner this is a terrible thought. He
denies it, or if not, he seeks to forget it. But to the Christian, here is
real comfort. How cheering to remember that my Father knows all about my
trials, my difficulties, my sorrows, my efforts to glorify Him. Precious
truth for those in Christ; harrowing thought for all out of Christ—that the
way I am taking is fully known to and observed by God.
"He knows the way that I take." Men did not know
the way that Job took. He was grievously misunderstood, and for one with a
sensitive temperament to be misunderstood, is a sore trial. His very friends
thought he was a hypocrite. They believed he was a great sinner and being
punished by God. Job knew that he was an unworthy saint, but not a
hypocrite. He appealed against their censorious verdict. "He knows the way
that I take: when he has tried me I shall come forth as gold." Here is
instruction for us when like circumstanced. Fellow-believer, your
fellow-men, yes, and your fellow-Christians, may misunderstand you, and
misinterpret God's dealings with you: but console yourself with the blessed
fact that the omniscient One knows.
"He knows the way that I take." In the fullest sense of
the word Job himself did not know the way that he took, nor do any of
us. Life is profoundly mysterious, and the passing of the years offer no
solution. Nor does philosophizing help us. Human volition is a strange
enigma. Consciousness bears witness that we are more than machines. The
power of choice is exercised by us in every move we make. And yet it is
plain that our freedom is not absolute. There are forces brought to bear
upon us, both good and evil, which are beyond our power to resist. Both
heredity and environment exercise powerful influences upon us. Our
surroundings and circumstances are factors which cannot be ignored. And what
of providence, which shapes our destinies? Ah, how little do we know the way
which we "take." Said the prophet, "I know, O Lord, that a man's life is not
his own; it is not for man to direct his steps" (Jer. 10:23). Here we enter
the realm of mystery, and it is idle to deny it. Better far to acknowledge
with the wise man, "Man's goings are of the Lord; how can a man then
understand his own way?" (Proverbs 20:24).
In the narrower sense of the term Job did know the way
which he took. What that "way" was he tells us in the next two verses. "My
feet have closely followed His steps; I have kept to His way without
turning aside. I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have
treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread" (Job 23:11, 12).
The way Job chose was the best way, the scriptural way, God's way—"His way."
What do you think of that way, dear reader? Was it not a grand selection?
Ah, not only "patient," but wise Job! Have you made a similar choice? Can
you say, "My feet have closely followed His steps; I have kept to His way
without turning aside"? (verse 11). If you can, praise Him for His
enabling grace. If you cannot, confess with shame your failure to
appropriate His all-sufficient grace. Get down on your knees at once, and
unbosom yourself to God. Hide and keep back nothing. Remember it is written
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and
to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9). Does not verse 12
explain your failure, my failure, dear reader? Is it not because we have not
trembled before God's commandments, and because we have so lightly esteemed
His Word, that we have "declined" from His way! Then let us, even now, and
daily, seek grace from on high to heed His commandments and hide His Word in
"He knows the way that I take." Which way are you
taking?—the Narrow Way which leads unto life, or 'the Broad Road that leads
to destruction? Make certain on this point, dear friend. Scripture declares,
"So every one of us shall give account of himself to God" (Romans 14:12).
But you need not be deceived or uncertain. The Lord declared, "I am The Way"
2. Divine Testing
"When he has tried me." "The refining pot is for silver,
and the furnace for gold: but the Lord tries the hearts" (Proverbs 17:3).
This was God's way with Israel of old, and it is His way with Christians
now. Just before Israel entered Canaan, as Moses reviewed their history
since leaving Egypt, he said, "And you shall remember all the way which the
Lord your God led you these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you,
and to prove you, and to know what as in your heart, whether you would keep
his commandments, or not" (Deut. 8:2). In the same way God tries, tests,
proves, humbles us.
"When he has tried me." If we realized this more, we
should bear up better in the hour of affliction and be more patient under
suffering. The daily irritations of life, the things which annoy so
much—what is their meaning? why are they permitted? Here is the answer: God
is "trying" you! That is the explanation (in part, at least) of that
disappointment, that crushing of your earthly hopes, that great loss—God
was, is, testing you. God is trying your temper, your courage, your faith,
your patience, your love, your fidelity.
"When he has tried me." How frequently God's saints see
only Satan as the cause of their troubles. They regard the great enemy as
responsible for much of their sufferings. But there is no comfort for the
heart in this. We do not deny that the Devil does bring about much that
harasses us. But above Satan is the Lord Almighty! The Devil cannot touch a
hair of our heads without God's permission, and when he is allowed to
disturb and distract us, even then it is only God using him to "try" us. Let
us learn then, to look beyond all secondary causes and instruments to that
One who works all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11). This
is what Job did.
In the opening chapter of the book which bears his name,
we find Satan obtaining permission to afflict God's servant. He used the
Sabeans to destroy Job 's herds (verse 15): he sent the Chaldeans to slay
his servants (verse 17): he caused a great wind to kill his children (verse
19). And what was Job's response? This: he exclaimed "The Lord gave, and the
Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" (1:21). Job looked
beyond the human agents, beyond Satan who employed them, to the Lord who
controls all. He realized that it was the Lord, who was trying him. We get
the same thing in the New Testament. To the suffering saints at Smyrna John
wrote, "Fear none of those things which you shall suffer; behold, the devil
shall cast some of you into prison, that you may be tried" (Rev. 2:10).
Their being cast into prison was simply God trying them.
How much we lose by forgetting this! What a stay for the
trouble-tossed heart to know that no matter what form the testing may take,
no matter what the agent which annoys, it is God who is "trying" His
children. What a perfect example the Savior sets us. When He was approached
in the garden and Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of Malchus, the
Savior said, "The cup which My Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?"
(John 18:11). Men were about to vent their awful rage upon Him, the Serpent
would bruise His heel—but He looks above and beyond them. Dear reader, no
matter how bitter its contents, (infinitely less than that which the Savior
drained) let us accept the cup as from the Father's hand.
In some moods we are apt to question the wisdom and right
of God to try us. So often we murmur at His dispensations. Why should God
lay such an intolerable burden upon me? Why should others be spared their
loved ones, and mine taken? Why should health and strength, perhaps the gift
of sight, be denied me? The first answer to all such questions is, "who are
you, O man, to talk back to God?" It is wicked insubordination for any
creature to call into question the dealings of the great Creator. "Shall the
thing formed say to him that formed it—Why have You made me thus?" (Romans
9:20). How earnestly each of us need to cry unto God, that His grace may
silence our rebellious lips and still the tempest within our desperately
But to the humble soul which bows in submission before
the sovereign dispensations of the all-wise God, Scripture affords some
light on the problem. This light may not satisfy reason, but it will bring
comfort and strength when received in child-like faith and simplicity. In 1
Peter 1:6 we read; "In this (God's salvation) you greatly rejoice, though
now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of
trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold,
which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may
result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." Note three
things here. First, there is a needs-be for the trial of faith. Since God
says it, let us accept it. Second, this trying of faith is precious, far
more so than of gold. It is precious to God (cf. Psalm 116:15) and will yet
be so to us. Third, the present trial has in view the future. Where the
trial has been meekly endured and bravely borne, there will be a grand
reward at the appearing of our Redeemer.
Again, in 1 Pet. 4:12, 13 we are told: "Beloved, do not
be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something
strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the
sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is
revealed." The same thoughts are expressed here as in the previous passage.
There is a needs-be for our "trials" and therefore we are not to be
surprised at them—we should expect them. And, too, there is again the
blessed outlook of being richly recompensed at Christ's return. Then there
is the added word that not only should we meet these trials with faith's
fortitude, but we should rejoice in them, inasmuch as we are permitted to
have fellowship in "the sufferings of Christ." He, too, suffered: sufficient
then, for the disciple to be as his Master.
"When he has tried me." Dear Christian reader, there are
no exceptions. God had only one Son without sin, but never one without
sorrow. Sooner or later, in one form or another, trial—sore and heavy-will
be our lot. "We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God's fellow worker in
spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your
faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite
well that we were destined for them." (1 Thess. 3:2, 3). And again it
is written, "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God"
(Acts 14:22). It has been so in every age. Abram was "tried," tried
severely. So, too, were Joseph, Jacob. Moses, David, Daniel, the Apostles,
3. The Ultimate Outcome.
"I shall come forth as gold." Observe the tense here. Job
did not imagine that he was pure gold already. "I shall come forth as
gold," he declared. He knew full well that there was yet much dross in him.
He did not boast that he was already perfect. Far from it. In the final
chapter of his book we find him saying, "I abhor myself" (42:6). And well he
might—and well may we! As we discover that in our flesh there dwells "no
good thing," as we examine ourselves and our ways in the light of God's Word
and behold our innumerable failures, as we think of our countless sins, both
of omission and commission, good reason have we for abhorring ourselves. Ah,
Christian reader, there is much dross about us. But it will not ever be
"I shall come forth as gold." Job did not say, "When he
has tried me I may come forth as gold," or "I hope to come forth as gold,"
but with full confidence and positive assurance he declared, "I shall
come forth as gold." But how did he know this? How can we be sure of the
happy outcome? Because the Divine purpose cannot fail. He who has begun a
good work in us "will finish it" (Phil. 1:6). How can we be sure of the
happy issue? Because the Divine promise is sure: "The Lord will perfect that
which concerns me" (Psalm 138:8). Then be of good cheer, tried and troubled
one. The process may be unpleasant and painful, but the outcome is charming
"I shall come forth as gold." This was said by one who
knew affliction and sorrow as few among the sons of men have known them. Yet
despite his fiery trials he was optimistic. Let then this triumphant
language be ours. "I shall come forth as gold" is not the language of carnal
boasting, but the confidence of one whose mind was stayed upon God. There
will be no credit to our account—the glory will all belong to the Divine
Refiner. James 1:12.
For the present there remain two things: first, Love is
the Divine thermometer while we are in the crucible of testing—"And he shall
sit (the patience of Divine grace) as a Refiner and Purifier of silver,"
etc. (Mal. 3:3). Second, the Lord Himself is with us in the fiery furnace,
as He was with the three young Hebrews (Dan. 3:25). For the future this is
sure—the most wonderful thing in heaven will not be the golden street or the
golden harps—but golden souls on which is stamped the image of God,
"predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son!" Praise God for such
a glorious prospect, such a victorious outcome, such a marvelous end!