The Character Manufacturing Furnace
Nearly every Christian can look backwards in time and say: “Now I understand why God took me through that trial.” Every Christian looks forward to the future with hope that we will improve as people and that things will get better.
It is the present time that we all have difficulty with. Knowing, without a doubt, that we have surrendered and yielded our lives to Jesus Christ, and that the present situations and circumstances in our lives are not an accident but are in the control of God, is a mark of the mature Christian. The mature Christian can apply every line of Psalm 23, along with David, with full assurance and confidence to their lives.
In-the-moment, present-time situations and circumstances is the furnace where Christian character is manufactured (Jas. 1:2-4).
Our self-in-charge natures will not venture anywhere near the character-manufacturing furnace. Self-in-charge is terrified of the risk of potential failure that is associated with this furnace.
In the furnace of present-time, in-the-moment situations and circumstances, the issues are so important according to outward appearances that a real spiritual test is set up.
Is God reliable enough to place my faith in as the Lord and Sovereign King of my life, in the present-time circumstances, or do I have to take matters into my own hands because the issues are simply too important to trust to anyone but myself alone (1 Sam. 13:12)?
This is a fundamental, pivotal issue of faith outlined for us throughout the Bible. Gideon was in the present moment when he went to battle with 300 men against tens of thousands of the enemy. David was hunted by Saul in-the-moment. Queen Esther made her decision to risk personal safety, in-the-moment, in approaching the King and opposing Haman to save her people from destruction.
God told the young prophet Jeremiah not to be afraid of the countenance of the people’s faces when Jeremiah delivered God’s message to them, thus declaring plainly that it took some courage on Jeremiah’s part to be God’s spokesman. This challenge for Jeremiah occurred in-the-moment.
In the New Testament, Peter and John defending themselves before the Sanhedrin in Acts 5:29-32, had the very real risk of being stoned to death like Stephen a few chapters later (Acts 7:58-59).
These accounts are all variations of the central question of the reliability of God’s character in the fiery trial. These people all put their faith and trust in God…in-the-moment of their present-time circumstances…thus declaring that they believed that the character of God was trustworthy.
The Holy Spirit is charged with the task of taking us to the character- manufacturing furnace of personally tailored situations and circumstances, but only if our self-in-control nature is subordinate to the will and plans of God.
Any attempt to skirt around the Christian character-manufacturing furnace is self-deceiving. Certainly God is not fooled. God is only dismayed and hurt that we do not trust Him enough to let go of self-in-control. When we exercise faith and trust in God in the present-time, no matter what is happening or how bleak the circumstances look, we are saying we believe in the goodness and reliability of God’s character.
The furnace of in-the-moment situations and circumstances is always a test of character, both God’s and ours.
This is where the value of a real relationship with the living God rises to the fore. It is not some homogenized, new-age diluted humanistic slogan like “let go, let god.”
People who say and teach these kinds of cleverly reduced, cheerleader-type motivational phrases generally have no actual intention of stepping down off the thrones of their lives and following the Holy Spirit into real-life circumstances that require genuine release and trust in the one living God.
The cross is difficult. Death to self-in-charge is not easy.
Whether it is financial challenges, family issues, health struggles, or the opposition of people to our Christian ministry, God will set up the issues in our lives specifically to create this furnace of character-manufacturing for our spiritual growth.
That is why the outward appearances of some of these situations and circumstances are frightening and terrifying. Without the genuine challenge of real consequences that matter, the decision to follow God would be too easy. If the Christian life went perfectly smooth from beginning to end, we would never learn anything about ourselves, about eternal truths, or about God.
 Bob Mumford, Fifteen Steps Out (South Plainfield, NJ: Bridge Publishing, Inc.) 5-7