Thursday, December 22, 2011



"...The strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are unable to build the wall."  -Nehemiah 4:10

"If a cat sits on a hot stove, he will not sit on a hot stove again. But by the same token, he will not sit on a cold one either."    -Mark Twain

Isaiah prophetically called our age the year of God's favor. This means that God is working by His grace to turn all things to good for those who yield to Him in obedience and faith. He sends the fire to purify. He allows trials in order to "perfect, establish, and strengthen." He applies the rod of discipline to train and to produce holiness. Even judgment itself, which generally represents punishment upon the wicked, is often God’s intense effort to effect repentance in the lives of rebellious people. God deals with His people in His love and wisdom, and intends for them to come through all things in better shape spiritually than when they started. It is man’s negative responses that hinder the plan and cause him to end up burned rather than refined. When men are inclined to rebellion and unbelief, when they do not have hearts to know God, they become burnt stones when they face the fires of life.

The "burnt stone" syndrome happens when a person is overwhelmed by the various troubles he faces. It occurs when one embraces wrong or sinful responses to difficulties and adversities. These wrong responses, left uncorrected, hinder the grace of God, choke out the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and produce spiritual desolation. When a person gets the wind knocked out of him, his primary concern becomes survival rather than service. When a person is standing amid the broken fragments of collapsed walls, he loses heart and hope. How can I give of myself again after all my past investments have gone up in smoke? How can I build again? Why should I build again? Who can I trust? These are questions asked by those who have been disabled by the fires of life.

Below is a simple outline listing numerous symptoms that describe these wounded veterans who no longer serve with joy and hope, and who have forgotten what it is to love and be loved by the people of God. They have decided that church is not a safe place, and so they remain at a “safe” distance from God's people, God's purpose, and often from God Himself.

-grieving at the pain of loss, wounded by people they trusted.
-In shock because of some disappointment of hope, unwilling to trust again, and afraid to try again.
-See themselves as victims. They feel robbed.
-No longer willing to be vulnerable, and unwilling to be exposed to potential hurt.
They say, "I will not be hurt again!" This survivalist mentality is a form of self-centeredness and it produces the inability to risk obedience. The first motivation becomes self-protection or self-preservation which is a form of self-centeredness and a focus on self-interest. The obvious consequence is the inability to have a heart after God's interest. This represents a departure from the way of the cross.
(Mat.16: 24-25, Neh.6:10-14).

Unable to Trust
- Not trusting God or people
-Having lost confidence in God.
-Not trusting fellow-believers.
This ultimately is a loss of faith and trust in God. True faith in God must include the ability to trust His working with other people.

-Superficial faith and superficial involvement with God’s people; withdrawn, independent,
-Detached and isolated. Separated from real church life, having drifted to the fringes and avoiding relationships.
-Drifting along and drifting away.
-Cautious and reserved in approaching God and other Christians.
-Withholding themselves from both God and man. The walls that protect also isolate.

Hardened Heart
-Using problems as an excuse to neglect their spiritual lives.
-Heart hardened through anger, bitterness, hurt, and other unhealthy attitudes.
Ungodly attitudes, when embraced and nurtured, will take their toll upon the Christian's walk with God.
As the heart hardens, the fruit of the Spirit (those good qualities which usually mark the Christian's life)
begin to wither, and the worst tendencies of a person’s heart will begin to grow. Stumbled by tribulation, the heart becomes unfruitful soil for God’s word.

Spiritually Disabled
-Spiritually paralyzed, disabled, and incapacitated.
-Angry, confused, disillusioned, with loss of purpose.
-Living far below their potential, hiding their candles under baskets.

Loss of Vision and Faith
-Failing to see and understand the sovereignty of God.
-Unbelief, lack of hope, lack of faith, lack of vision.
-Not understanding, not having the divine perspective.
When a person refuses to break and be obedient in the dealings of God, he will not be able to accurately interpret his experience. This lack of resolution will cloud his ability to see and understand God's plan.

When we are burned by the fire, we avoid those things which we perceive will get us burned again. We fall prey to isolation, self-protectionism, and a survivalist mentality. A person can not move forward in useful and fulfilling service to God while his life is controlled and directed by this perspective and disposition. One can not build the future while standing in the rubble of the past. The ground must be cleared of the rubble in order to face the future in faith, in obedience, and without fear. The first step in getting out of the rubble and clearing the ground is to clear our own heart. We must ask God to forgive us for our wrong reactions, find grace to forgive others, and then sit in the presence of Jesus to find renewed peace, joy, and courage.

There are many Biblical lessons and principles that help us to find that place of peace, joy, and purpose. It is possible to come through the fires of life without a negative complex and without smelling like the smoke of our last trial. We can be like the Hebrew men who experienced the presence of "the Fourth Man" (Jesus Himself) as they stood in the fire, and come through it with garments filled with the fragrance of His presence. I am reminded of the old hymn, "My Lord has garments so wondrous fine, and myrrh their texture fills. It's fragrance reached this heart of mine. With joy my being thrills."  When we hold to Him in faith we will diffuse the fragrance of His presence and life rather than the ashtray smell of the smoke from our last fiery trial.

Please visit again and look for Part Three in this series.
Scroll down below to read Part One.  - Billy Long


Steve Tomko said...

Mr Lang. These past two articles are absolutely fantastic, I look forward to part 3

Lonnie said...

Wonderful insights Billy! I may have to preach a series out of Nehemiah in the new year because of this inspiration...:>)

Billy Long said...

Thanks for the comments, Steve and Lonnie. I do appreciate it.