How The Furnace of Affliction Teaches Us Obedience

February 1, 2024

Some of the most valuable lessons of obedience are learned in the furnace of affliction. Those who have been through seasons of spiritual pruning or divine discipline can attest to this. The challenge for us believers in Yeshua is remaining faithful in the fire of Yah’s testing. And if our ultimate goal is to navigate this present darkness with biblical fidelity, we must expect to be tested and trust that the Ruach will provide the necessary light to stay on course.

A key to remaining faithful during trials is to remember that:

  1. Embracing and overcoming hardships helps forge resilient and mighty warriors for the Kingdom
  2. Every follower of Yeshua will encounter seasons of testing
  3. The purpose of the test is to guide us toward a profound level of spiritual growth and maturity

Hardships Make for Strong Kingdom Soldiers

Praying for Strength

Times of hardship and soul-crushing disappointments are not unique to believers in the Gospel message. The lives of Moses, Job, Joseph, the Prophets, and Yeshua bear witness to the fact that those who desire to walk the narrow path of righteousness will suffer. This is normal and is to be expected. 

Faithful lives dedicated to the pursuit of righteousness and in service of Yahuah require hardship.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which is taking place to test you [that is, to test the quality of your faith], as though something strange or unusual were happening to you.

1 Peter 4:12 (AMP)

The word rendered “fiery ordeal” here is the Greek word purosis.1 It can mean to be on fire, to burn, a conflagration, or any severe trial. It can also be used idiomatically to describe a major calamity. Metaphorically, it represents a trial that puts one’s faith to the test, similar to how gold is refined through fire. In this context, the fiery ordeal serves as powerful imagery that conveys the notion of how enduring trials test one’s faith and purify our spiritual walk.

Moreover, a righteous person is not promised peace and tranquility in this life.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener. Every branch in me that bears no fruit He takes away. And every branch that bears fruit He prunes, so that it bears more fruit.

John 15:1-2

The Gardener’s special brand of spiritual pruning comes in a variety of disciplines:

  • Discipline administered within a Torah-based congregation  
  • Allowing the person to experience a period of testing
  • Allowing the pressures of life to expose a person’s true character/beliefs
  • Removal of ‘worthless branches’ through death

All true followers of Yeshua who are united to him in faith will devote their time and prayer life to abiding in and drawing from the Vine. 

Theologian Albert Barnes:

Of course, no one in their right mind wants to suffer. Almost instinctively we gravitate toward the twisted mindset of the Laodiceans who presumed that their prosperity was evidence that all was well with them and their Creator. (Revelation (Hazon) 3:17-19)

They were doing the “works” but they lacked enthusiasm — they were just going through the motions.  Their spiritual blindness and the nakedness of their soul were on full display. (Ephesians 1:18) Confession, repentance, and submission were needed to procure true riches from the proper source – Yeshua, our High Priest. 

I advise you to buy from me gold refined in the fire so that you become rich; and white garments, so that you become dressed, so that the shame of your nakedness might not be shown; and anoint your eyes with ointment so that you see.

Rev 3:18 (Halleluyah Scriptures)

The cure for their pride and perceived self-sufficiency could only come from the purifying fire of suffering.

…so that the genuineness of your faith, which is much more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested and purified by fire, may be found to result in [your] praise and glory and honor at the revelation of [Yeshua ha’Mashiah]. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and though you do not even see Him now, you believe and trust in Him and you greatly rejoice and delight with inexpressible and glorious joy, 1 Peter 1:7,8 AMP

Unfortunately the spiritual state of today’s “church” is not much different from the lukewarm Laodicean assembly in Revelation. 

It can be said that many contemporary congregants have a “form” of godliness. They are taught to gorge on grace while ignoring Torah stipulations designed to teach righteousness — the character of the Most High and His Son. They are taught that ‘grace’ absolves them of any responsibility in ‘working out’ their salvation because Yeshua did all the heavy lifting for us. So they sit back and enjoy the ride, believing that since Jesus paid it all there is nothing left to do but wait for the last trumpet to sound. 

Every follower of Yeshua Will Encounter Seasons of Testing

Some assume that suffering is always a sign of punishment from Yah. If this is true, then how do we explain the honor given to those ‘witnesses’ called martyrs who suffer unto death, refusing to bow the knee to religious and political despots? 

They were stoned [to death], they were sawn in two, they were lured with tempting offers [to renounce their faith], they were put to death by the sword; they went about wrapped in the skins of sheep and goats, utterly destitute, oppressed, cruelly treated.

Hebrews 11:37

While faith is often expressed in words, true biblical faith is always validated in acts.

Moreover, a righteous person is not promised peace and tranquility in this life. To expect this to be true is delusional and misrepresents the Father’s love for us. Unfortunately, this is the message of the apostate church. It is a mindset whereby those who outsource their biblical knowledge and understanding to pastors fall victim to the soulish doctrine that equates blessing with material goods. 

This mindset is pervasive today. We are all too familiar with the heart-wrenching stories of individuals who, despite being bestowed with abundant material blessings, tragically find themselves in a state of spiritual and material deprivation. Their lives of ease led to their ultimate downfall. This is as true of the Moabites as it is of those who adhere to a Laodocean brand of theology.

Moab has been at ease from youth, settled like wine on its dregs; he has not been poured from vessel to vessel or gone into exile. So his flavor has remained the same, and his aroma is unchanged.

Jeremiah 48:11

‘I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! Thus, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am about to vomit you out of my mouth! Because you are saying, “I am rich, and have become rich, and I have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and pitiable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire, in order that you may become rich, and white clothing, in order that you may be clothed and the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed, and eye salve to smear on your eyes, in order that you may see. As many as I love, I reprove and discipline. Be zealous, therefore, and repent!

Revelation 3: 15-19

When we abide in Yeshua our thoughts, dreams, and prayers will align with his desires to bless those following Covenant Torah. 

However, we must be willing to go through the fire of adversity with a heart of obedience. It is the only way we can utter “thy will be done” in prayer and truly mean it when we experience life’s hardships.

If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

John 15:7 

Enduring the Pressures of These ‘Last Days’

Technically, the ‘last days’ began at the resurrection and ascendancy of Yeshua into his High Priesthood. Before departing, he issued this warning:

“I have told you these things so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogues [sacred assemblies]. In fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do these things because they have not known the Father or Me. But I have told you these things so that when their hour comes, you will remember that I told you about them. I did not tell you these things from the beginning, because I was with you.

John 16:1-4

Paul echoed this message in his letter to Timothy.

But understand this: In the last days terrible times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, without love of good, traitorous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Turn away from such as these!

2 Timothy 3:1-5

Paul’s instructions to Timothy apply to us. First of all, we are to draw strength from knowing that even though we are undeserving of it, Yah ( through our High Priest Yeshua) will ‘grace’ us with eternal life and completely pardon our sins in the resurrection. In the meantime, we are not to be entangled with the distractions of this life. This includes a preoccupation with secular civilian affairs such as presidential politics, social media, or entertainment. These are the distractions of the enemy. We must always remember that Yah is the Sovereign of Creation and all outcomes are in His hands. (Psalm 31: 15)

It is He who changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and establishes kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and [greater] knowledge to those who have understanding!

Daniel 2:21 AMP

Secondly, we need to know who the real enemies are: the principalities and powers behind rulers and those in authority who desire to keep us in bondage to a beast system of spiritual, psychological, medical, and financial enslavement.

We have been warned that, as Yeshua’s return draws near, religious hypocrites will be exposed for all to see, and true believers who proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom will be vilified and persecuted. This “falling away” will precede the unveiling of the Man of Sin – one of two personalities referred to as ‘beasts’.        

The Greek word used for falling away is skandalizo,2 which means “to put a snare (in the way), to cause to stumble, to give offense.” Skandalizo is closely related to the word scandalize, which means to speak falsely or maliciously of, or to bring into reproach.

This is exactly what happens when we try to share new insights with professing believers. Many will reject our message and then proceed to scandalize us without ever examining the veracity of what we are proclaiming. This falling away phenomenon has to occur before Messiah’s second coming — so don’t be shocked when it happens.

Let no one deceive you in any way, for it will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness – the son of destruction – is revealed. He will oppose and exalt himself above every so-called god or object of worship. So he will seat himself in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. 2 Thessalonians 2: 3-4

2 Thessalonians 2: 3-4

Enduring Testing Yields A Profound Level of Maturity

As mentioned earlier, testing does not necessarily imply guilt or sin. The Father loves us and wants us to experience the fullness of His Kingdom while still on earth in this mortal body. The goal is to become better saints. The way we get there is by enduring the pressure of the test or trial. The prophets of old understood this all too well.

My brothers, and an example of suffering and patience, take the nebi’im (prophets), who spoke in the Name of Yahuah.

James 5:10 HalleluYah Scriptures
End Time Tribulation

There was no talk amongst them about a pie-in-the-sky ‘rapture’ event that would spare certain believers from the tribulation and stresses of the last days. This brand of religion falsely promises that no one will ever be tested, asked to defend their position or suffer for their beliefs. Instead, they will be whisked away before the really bad stuff hits the fan. In the book Vain Traditions, the rapture doctrine is explained as such:

And indeed, all those wanting to live reverently in Mashiaqh Yahushua, shall be persecuted.

2 Timothy 3:12 HalleluYah Scriptures

Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has been tested, he shall receive the crown of life which the Master has promised to those who love him.

James 1:12

Practices Essential to Enduring Suffering

What are the keys to enduring suffering? There are several.

First, we must begin with prayer and trust in the promise of 1 John 5: 14-15:

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. and if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

The ‘whatever’ in this passage is limited by ‘anything’ that lines up with Yah’s will for us individually. It has been said that faith is a “relational” response of trust. All relationships have their idiosyncrasies or behaviors unique to each individual. As we spend more time in relationship with the Father through prayer and study, our petitions line up with His. We then are confident in whatever, whenever, and however way He decides to answer, we are going to be alright.

Secondly, we must abide (remain) in the Vine that is Yeshua.

Remain in Me, and I [will remain] in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself without remaining in the vine, neither can you [bear fruit, producing evidence of your faith] unless you remain in Me.

John 15:4

Abide is an Old English word signifying progressively to “await,” “remain,” “lodge,” “sojourn,” “dwell,” “continue,” “endure”; to remain stable or fixed in a state.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

In our times of awaiting an answer to prayer, we often experience restlessness, exasperation, and even hopelessness. We want the pain to end or the problem solved now. So we are tempted to fix the problem using our limited carnal wisdom and strength. Instead, we must resist. And in resisting we allow the fire of the Ruach to burn away our fleshly emotions and carnal attempts at solving the problem. We must trust that the Ruach will help strengthen and guide us until the season of testing is complete.

Thirdly, we must believe that this testing is not meant to hurt but to heal and bring us to a greater level of spiritual and relational maturity. On the other side of the test, when the answer has been provided, we will possess the very thing in our spiritual arsenal to help others who are facing the same situation.

Finally, we must take responsibility for knowing what the Scriptures say and obeying the written Torah.

Study and do your best to present yourself to God approved, a workman [tested by trial] who has no reason to be ashamed, accurately handling and skillfully teaching the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15 AMP
bible study

The only way to know Father and Son relationally is to spend time in the Word. The only way to be shielded from “end time” deception is to love the truth of Yah’s Word as revealed in the totality of the Scriptures. This includes some extra-biblical texts that were removed from most Bibles. 

…because they did not welcome the love of the truth [of the gospel] so as to be saved [they were spiritually blind, and rejected the truth that would have saved them]. 11 Because of this God will send upon them a misleading influence, [an activity of error and deception] so they will believe the lie, 12 in order that all may be judged and condemned who did not believe the truth [about their sin, and the need for salvation through Christ], but instead took pleasure in unrighteousness.

2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 AMP

A New Testament-only focus will keep you in a state of partial scriptural blindness. The Ruach ha’Kodesh (Holy Spirit) left us the first half of the Bible for a reason. The Biblical canon of 66 was meant to be studied from front to back — in its entirety and in context. Simply defined, context is the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed. It is derived from the Latin contextus (a joining together).

Uncoupling First Covenant (Old Testament) study from Renewed Covenant (New Testament) study has led to profound biblical illiteracy and the tendency to rely solely on the pastorate to guide our thinking. Yahuah’s set-apart Spirit — His Ruach — was given to help believers understand what the Word is saying. Yah’s set-apart Spirit is never wrong, however, men are apt to make mistakes or champion false doctrine.

Fast and pray for understanding. Remember, the people who will be deceived in these last days will be those who reject the truth. 

Own Your Faith

We have been blessed to live in a time when technology has put a myriad of study materials at our fingertips. It is the individual’s responsibility and duty to show themselves approved through prayer, study, and endurance.  

It is never too late to start owning your faith. A good starting point would be to learn how to study your Bible. Ask the Father to lead you to a Spirit-led community of believers in Yeshua. Build up a library in your home so you can research independently of technology in case the grid goes down. Memorize the Scriptures so you can pray effectively. Learn what it means to walk in Covenant obedience with the Most High. 

Expect to be challenged and pray for the courage necessary to remain faithful until the end.

___________

Main image by Stocksnap from Pixabay

FOOTNOTES

1 G#4451: a burning, calamities or trials that test the character, the burning by which metals are roasted and reduced. (Thayer’s Greek definitions)

2 Strong’s #G4624

Vain Traditions is a not-for-sale paperback book published by vaintraditions.com. It is a compilation of information collected from a variety of sources.

Brenda Ross
Brenda Ross

Brenda Ross is a co-author of the book, “The Gospel Worth Dying For.” She is a former major market radio and television broadcaster who has served as Single’s Ministry Director at one of Houston’s Memorial Drive-area churches, a Jews for Jesus staff volunteer, and participated in mission outreach activities in Costa Rica, Mexico, and China. Urban mission experience includes volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity and catering to the homeless in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district.

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