March 27th, 2012

“Faith for my deliverance is not faith in God. Faith means, whether I am visibly delivered or not, I will stick to my belief that God is love. There are some things only learned in a fiery furnace.”¹

While they are true, Oswald Chambers’ difficult words are not likely to gain wide distribution in the Christian market of T-shirts, posters, and bumper stickers. If the God not delivering part doesn’t stop seekers in their tracks, that “fiery furnace” idea probably will. Most people want the assurance that comes with faith and hope. They want security beyond what they can provide or acquire on their own. Yet what many seem to be looking for is quick, easy “faith” that visibly delivers on the spot, eliminates adversity and suffering, and makes perfect sense of all of life, all the time.

The Bible makes no such promises for those who choose to follow Christ. Scripture affirms that faith is a gift God freely gives us, but it likewise reveals that when we accept this gift and determine to live a life of faith, God sometimes takes us to places we would not choose to go on our own, to people we would otherwise not encounter. Faithful living makes demands of us, calling for hard things like patience, perseverance, endurance, trust, gratitude, sacrifice, and love, in all circumstances.

For some of us, the “fiery furnace” parts of our faith journey are occasional, even rare. Others experience them for long stretches of time, facing circumstances that challenge even the deepest faith. When asked how he responds to the hard questions those in harm’s way regularly ask him, military chaplain Nathan Solomon said, “I don’t encourage them to make sense of it. Chaos, suffering, and pain are a consequence of being human. I don’t think God wills it to happen; it’s just part of being alive. It’s not my job to defend God. It’s important for me to acknowledge that there are questions that are legitimate and that I have no idea how to answer.”²

Christian faith affirms not that we have all the answers, but that we know and completely trust the One who does.

The stories of the faithfulness of that “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) encourage those of us in the race. Models of faith for us, they challenge to become models of faith for others and live in ways that demonstrate our confidence that God is love, even when we face life’s fiery furnaces. “Now faith, hope, and love remain—these three things—and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).


2 “Love, Faith, and War,” by Brian Mockenhaupt, Reader’s Digest, November 2011, p. 147.

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