When You Walk Through Fire

When I was a new Christian, I was taught that it was not God’s will that believers in Jesus should ever suffer.

If you did, it was either because you had sinned, or you didn’t have enough faith. Believers are never really sick, they just have the SYMPTOMS of being sick. I should never say “I have the flu” but “I have the symptoms of the flu.” Then I was to rebuke those symptoms in Jesus’ name, and make a “positive confession”: “In Jesus’ name I am healed.”

Then one day I got really sick. So I kept saying, “In Jesus’ name I am healed” over and over until finally, after doing this for hours, I said, “Oh….I am sick.”

I do believe Jesus heals. I ask him daily to heal family members and friends and I have experienced his healing. But I don’t believe that Christians will never suffer or be sick if they have enough faith, for the Bible promises we will go through trials of many kinds. Yet we should not fear, for God will be with us.

But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life. IS 43.1-5

Note, God says WHEN you pass through the waters and walk through fire, not IF you pass through the waters or walk through fire. As James says,

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. JA 1:2-3

We will meet trials of VARIOUS KINDS to test our faith in order to produce steadfastness or perseverance. Peter echoes James and says we will be “grieved by various trials” to prove our faith and glorify God when he returns (1 PE 1:6-7): It’s easy to believe God is good when everything goes our way. But it glorifies God so much when we trust him when his love and power are not so obvious. Facing pain, we are tempted to fear. So God tells us:

Fear not…

Isaiah wrote this to Israel, who because of their sins, had been deported to Babylon by the cruel Nebuchadnezzar, the kind of guy who’d throw you into a furnace or lion’s den if you crossed him. Can you imagine Israel’s fears in a strange land with a cruel king? Yet God tells them “Fear not…”

Fear involves the future. We may wonder if we’ll ever get married, or where the money will come from or be fearful for our health. And we never graduate. I told my wife recently, “I used to think that when our children were grown, everything would be easy.” But we always carry burdens and hopes for our kids, then add grandchildren. But God gives us powerful reasons to trust him.

First, we should trust God because he created us

But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel

God created Israel to be his “treasured possession” (DT 7.6). Would he not care for them? And God has created us anew in Christ.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 CO 5.17

God says to each of us: “I made you a new creation in Christ my Son. Do you think I won’t protect you and care for you?”

Secondly, God tells us not to fear because he redeemed us

Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.

To redeem means to pay a ransom price to get someone back. God says to Israel:

For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life. 

God says “remember how I freed you from captivity in the past. I punished Egypt, Cush and Seba.” He said, “I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life.” Why did God so love Israel? They were sinners too. God had simply chosen them to be his people, so he gave Egypt, Cush and Seba in exchange for them.

How much more has God done to redeem us: he gave his sinless Son to ransom us. How can we ever doubt his love? THIS is why we should “Fear not” – for he has redeemed us. The more we pay for something, the more precious it is to us. God could not have paid a higher price to redeem us.

Thirdly, we should trust God because he is with us

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you 

God is not far off from us when we go through hard times. I once thought God was probably so busy running the universe he didn’t have time for my little problems. But God promises “I will be with you.” This is where faith comes in – we don’t always feel like God is with us. We can feel like God has abandoned us. But he has promised to be with us.

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble. PS 46.1

Our God is not far away but is “very present” in our hard times.

We “fear not” by remembering God created us anew in Christ, redeemed us and has promised to be with us. He will never let us go.

Mark Altrogge

I’m a pastor at Saving Grace Church in Indiana, PA. I’m married to Kristi, have 5 kids, and a growing number of grandkids. I enjoy songwriting, oil painting and coffee, not necessarily in that order.