Well my parents used to go away every summer and when we were old enough, when I was in college, usually I was out here taking courses to catch up with whatever courses I needed so I wanted to graduate on time. And one summer I was home alone taking college courses while my parents were away, and the rest of the family was away, there was just me, myself and I alone at our home. And it was Sunday afternoon and I went home from church and I thought boy a broiled tomato just sounded so good. And I picked up a beef steak tomato and I sliced it in half, sprinkled a little parmesan cheese on it and stuck it in the broiler.
And the next day I was driving home from college. It was noon time and I’d gone from my physics class and I was driving home and I thought to myself well you know what I think I’ll make myself the other half of that tomato. I’ll put that in the broiler today and maybe I’ll add a little bit of olive oil and some fresh basil or something because yesterday’s was so, what did I, don’t remember eating that broiled tomato yesterday. Oh my gosh! Is it still in the broiler?
I went running home terrified that maybe the house was on fire. Had no idea what to expect. I kept hoping my mind was playing tricks on me, but no, no, no the broiler was on. I opened it up and instead of a nice beautiful red tomato there was this cremated pile of ashes, black. Fortunately I did not set the house on fire.
Well many of us today are in fiery tough, tough times and I know we keep preaching on it because we know you guys keep needing it as do we. And when we’re in the fire, when you’re in the fire, we do not want you to get burnt to a crisp. In fact God promises that you won’t. That instead of being burned to a crisp you’ll be fired up. And today you will leave here today fired up. No matter how hot that furnace is that you’re in today. In fact here’s from Isaiah, dad read it earlier, a promise of God. “When you pass through the waters, I God, will be with you. When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire you will not be burned. The flames will not set you ablaze,” Isaiah 43:2.
What a promise, what a promise and a promise that I cling to and a promise that you can cling to. We tend to look at fiery times and go I don’t want the heat. I’m tired of being on the hot seat. I’m tired of being in the fiery furnace. Lord, take this away from me, I’m tired of it. But men and women I’m here today to encourage you and to let you know that there’s a positive flip side to this fire, because fire works. And fire works miracles.
In fact fire strengthens, just think of steel. Tempered steel is steel that has been strengthened by putting it in hot, hot flames and that fire, what that does is it removes those potential fissures and it makes it malleable, pliable and so it’s less likely to be brittle and to snap under pressure. You know, wouldn’t you want a building that is built out of tempered steel? You wouldn’t want to build a building with steel that hasn’t been tempered, that hasn’t gone through the hot fire because you could not trust that that steel would be strong enough in an earthquake or a tornado or a hurricane. When you walk through the fire it gets hot, boy it gets hot in the fire, but you will not be burned and the flames will not set you ablaze.
Not only does fire strengthen it also brings out beauty, beauty. My husband loves art and he’s taught me so much about art and he has shared with me about glazing and specifically pottery. Back in the Ming Dynasty, they would take these big beautiful pots and they would sweep it in a white chalky bath and it would come up white. And the glazes aren’t like the glazes children use today. The glazes were white. They had no color. So they were decorating white on white. How difficult that must have been to see until the potter took the vase and put it in the kiln and fired it up. And the fire of that kiln brought out these beautiful, beautiful blues against the white.
You know our spirits and our souls, our personality, our character can become that much more beautiful because we’ve been through the fire. Arrogance; you won’t find arrogance. You will find love, you will find humility in people who know what it feels like to walk in a hot fiery furnace and through a firestorm. “But rejoice in as much as you participate in the sufferings of Christ so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.” His glory will be revealed in you because of the hot fires. Your true colors, the glaze of Christ will shine through you when you go through the tough times.
Fire also purifies and refines. Did you know there’s a story of a silver smith who had a young apprentice and the young apprentice was learning how to refine silver; had to get all the impurities out to make it really beautiful. And how they did that was the silver smith put the silver in a hot fire. He put it in the hottest part of the flame. And the silver smith said to the apprentice now you’ve got to make sure you keep your eye.. do not take your eye off this silver when it’s in that hot flame, not even for a second because it can be destroyed just like that. So you’ve got to sit there. You can’t walk away, you can’t leave, you’ve got to keep your eyes right on that silver at all times.
And the apprentice said well if it can disintegrate and be destroyed so easily and so quickly, how will I know? How will I know when the silver’s completely purified and refined? And the silversmith said oh that part’s easy. When I can see my image in the silver then I know it is pure, then I know it is refined. Wow. What a great example. You know when we’re in the fire, God is the great silversmith. He will not leave us. He promises us He will sit there with you, sit there with you, sit there with you. He will not sleep for an instant. He will not take his eyes of you because He knows, He knows you’re in the hottest part of the fire. But oh the price is worth it because then when people look at you, they will see the image of God reflected back. Wow, its worth it, is it not?
In Malachi the scriptures tell us “He will be like a refiner’s fire. He will sit. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” He will not abandon you. He will not take His eyes off of you for one second.
Today if you’re feeling the heat of the fire, if you’re feeling the heat of tough times, remember God has His eye on you. He will keep watching you until He sees His image reflected in you. He allows fire in our life because fire works. Fire works; fire works miracles.
Fire ignites new life. I loved it when I went to a museum of natural history and I saw this display and I learned about forest fires. And we often hear about the devastation of forest fires, but you know that there are seeds that lie there under the vegetation. Seeds that will lie completely dormant, will not have any life. They will not germinate until the intense heat of a forest fire sweeps through and that’s what they require and then those seeds spring. Life is ignited in them and they spring to life. Wow. New life, new life is possible because of the forest fire. Things change, things are transformed.
When you go through the fire, you’re not the same when you come out the other side. You are a different person. Organizations that go through the fire do not come out on the other side the same organization. They come out a new organization. God can take us and He can transform us into something amazing.
And you know I love chemistry and the carbon which has the atomic number C, carbon. Everybody’s heard of carbon, right? That chemical element carbon? Did you know that every time you use a pencil that pencil led is actually pencil graphite and it is comprised of carbon, pure carbon. Nothing but carbon. You know water’s H2O. It’s got a hydrogen and oxygen but graphite is just carbon alone. Simple. But it’s very soft, carbon’s very soft. Graphite is very soft. That’s why it’s call graphite. Graphite is Greek for “to write.” And so graphite is so soft, it’s one of the softest minerals. It’ll leave a mark on a piece of paper. It’s kind of dark and opaque. Nothing beautiful.
I want to ask you if you were going to propose to the girl of your dreams, would you buy her a ring with a beautiful setting and put a hunk of graphite in there? I don’t know that she’d say yes if you tried that. You take carbon and carbon, when it is subjected to the intense heat and pressure similar to that found near a volcano or deep down in the earth’s mantle, pure carbon is also a diamond. A diamond; the hardest mineral, the most beautiful of all minerals. And the Greek word for diamond means “adamas,” unbreakable. Unbreakable. Endures forever. Graphite, diamond, graphite, diamond. Which would you rather have? Well you don’t get the diamond without the intense heat and pressure. You get graphite.
You will not be the same after you go through the fire and I testify to that out of personal experience. When I was asked to provide leadership to this ministry, I really truly felt like I was going into the fiery furnace. I’ve had people say, Sheila how did you dare step in that hot, hot, hot, hot furnace? How did you dare sit on that hot, hot, hot, hot seat? And people, it has not gotten any cooler.
Well I was so encouraged and I find encouragement all the time from Daniel three, the third chapter in Daniel where it talks about Daniel’s friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. And Nebuchadnezzar built this great big huge, huge idol and he said every time the music sounds the trumpet goes doo too doo, I want you to bow to this idol. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said we will not bow. The king heard about it and he said you bow or I’m going to throw you in the fiery furnace. And they played the music doot too doo doo and they refused to bow.
The king was furious. He said fire up that furnace. I want it seven times hotter and I want these guys bound, I want their hands tied behind their backs and I want them thrown in that furnace. That furnace was so hot; it says in scripture that the men who threw them in were killed instantly by the heat. King Nebuchadnezzar looked inside that fiery furnace and he said I threw three men in there but there are four of them. Who’s that fourth one? Looks kind of like an angel. And they’re walking around unbound. Get them out of there, he says, get them out of there. Suddenly he became really afraid that maybe he had offended the true God and indeed he had. When they were removed from the fiery furnace they did not even have the smell of smoke on them our scripture says. Imagine going through such a hot fiery furnace and not getting burnt to a crisp, but those guys came out fired up. They were given a promotion and they were able to teach all of us even today that we can go through the fire and not even smell of smoke.
As I have walked in a fiery furnace for the last year, I have said this and it is true. God promised me, He said Sheila if you go in this fiery furnace, I promise you I will send angels there with you and He has. Who are those angels? Those angels are you. Those angels are you. Those angels are all the people who write to me, who send me emails, who pray for me. I hear from so many people all over the world, Sheila, I’m praying for you. Sheila, I’m praying for that ministry. And I feel it. I feel those prayers. And I don’t feel burnt to a crisp, I feel fired up because the hotter the fire, the sweeter the spirit and that’s what I have learned first hand. When you pass through the waters, God will be with you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned. The flames will not set you ablaze.
Most of you know I love to bake and so I thought in honor of my parent’s anniversary today, I would bake some cupcakes and I know that red velvet is one of my dad’s favorites so I baked some cupcakes. In fact, they were in the oven and that oven was pretty hot and they were about halfway done, I was waiting for the buzzer to go off and all of the sudden I heard from my oven, I kid you not, ‘Sheila, get me out of here. It’s hot in here. Take me out. I don’t want to be in this oven for another minute.’ So I peaked inside that oven and there they were, these cupcakes screaming at me, ‘Sheila, I’m tired. It’s hot, it’s hot, get me out, get me out.’ So I took them out. I took out these half-baked cupcakes. Now I don’t know about you, but I’ll bet if I offered one of these to you, most of you would pass on it. None of you want a half-baked cupcake, do you? No, you don’t. I promise you. And there are times when I’m tempted to say God get me out, get me out. But He says no, I’m not taking you out when you’re half-baked, Sheila. I want you well done.
So I put another tray of cupcakes in the oven, the second time. I let them cook all the way. I did not listen to their cries and I have here cupcakes that are well done and don’t they look much better? They’re going to taste much better and I got them in honor of my parents because I want to say to them well done good and faithful servants.
Before they go, I wanted to add this one little bit, someone sent me this. This is on Facebook. Dad and mom wrote this years ago, “Tough-minded faith for tenderhearted people.” The word diamond comes from the Greek “adamas” meaning unconquerable. The fire in the diamond reflects the flame of love plus diamonds can be crushed but never destroyed. They break into many pieces but the fire in the many pieces lasts for an eternity. Diamonds endure to the end. Sixtieth anniversary is the diamond anniversary as is the seventy-fifth, so happy anniversary.
Lord Jesus, God Almighty, when we go through the tough times, we count on You that we can come out the other side, not burnt to a crisp but fired up. Oh Lord, use the fires to make our colors shine, to strengthen us like tempered steel. Use them to refine us so when people see us, they see Your image. Use the fire, oh Lord, so that we too can come to our latter years in life and being able to hear from You well done, well done good and faithful servant, amen.