Tested by Fire!
This month, I want to teach something more from a message I shared with you in November on building our lives correctly. In light of eternity, nothing is more important than what we do with our lives on this earth — whether we build them correctly, according to God’s design and plan.
In First Corinthians 3:13, the apostle Paul said, “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.”
Often we know things only on the surface. We don’t know the real motivations of people’s hearts — or the hidden reasons why people do what they do. However, a day will come when every one of our works — and the works of others — will suddenly come into view. As we saw in November’s teaching, Build Your Life to Last, no one is exempt from these times of examination. Paul said, “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire….”
Every person’s work in life, at one time or another, will be revealed by fire. We learned in November that the word “revealed” in verse 13 is the Greek word apokalupto, which describes something that has been veiled or hidden for a long time, but is now clear and visible because the veil has been removed. The revealing action that apokalupto describes is like pulling curtains out of the way so you can see what has always been just outside your window. In other words, the curtains will be opened, and the image will become clear to yourself and others. The apostle Paul said fire will pull those curtains apart so that the real picture becomes crystal clear.
The tests of fire come to every one of us. In my own life and ministry, I want what I do to withstand the tests of fire as silver, gold, and precious stones (see 1 Corinthians 3:12). I believe this is what you desire for your life as well. Then when our works are revealed, they will be proven to be works of heartfelt obedience and surrender that will enter eternity with us (see vv. 14, 15).
The words “by fire” in verse 13 can either be translated by fire or in the midst of fire. The language makes it 100-percent clear that fire is the medium that will expose the truth about what we have done and what we are doing with our lives. We are tested by fiery situations or in the midst of fiery situations.
Paul went on to say, “…And the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” The Greek word translated “try” is dokimadzo, and it means to test, to try, or to scrutinize. This word was used to describe the testing of metal or other materials to see if they could stand up under pressure. If these materials had a flaw of any kind, the pressure of this testing was so intense that it would cause those objects to crack or to break into pieces. The purpose of the test was not to hurt the object, but rather to expose flaws that could later cause great damage or harm to people. Putting materials through such dokimadzo tests was intended to reveal the weak, dangerous, hidden flaws before those materials were used.
It was simply a fact that when those materials would later be used, they would be put under tremendous stress. If hidden flaws remained undiscovered, it could prove disastrous. Moving too quickly to use materials that were improperly made could result in the loss of an entire project, the loss of great sums of money, and even the suffering of casualties, including the loss of life.
Like it or not, it’s true that tests come to us all in life. Rather than shut our eyes to this reality, we must allow the Holy Spirit at all times to expose the hidden flaws in our soul, our character, and our work that could later break us when fiery trials come our way. It is up to us to make sure we’re building our lives with materials that will pass life’s tests and not crumble under pressure!
It’s important to remember that the purpose of the fire is not to hurt us, but rather to help us. That’s why Paul concluded this passage by saying, “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.”
We also saw in November’s letter that a fire in the ancient world often consumed everything in its path that was made of wood, hay, and stubble. However, everything made of gold, silver, and precious stone survived. When the fire was done, it revealed what had been built cheaply, hastily, and with perishable materials — and it also revealed what had been built with right materials and by right methods.
That’s exactly what Paul was saying in First Corinthians 3:13 — fire tells us what sort of thing we’ve been building with our lives!
An interpretive translation of First Corinthians 3:13 could read as follows:
“Regardless of you who are, it is just a fact that a day will eventually come when what you’ve done with your life will become visible by fiery situations that arise to reveal the truth about what you’ve been building. When the fire comes, you’ll be so thoroughly tested that, afterward, you’ll have a clear picture of what you were building right and what you were building wrong.”
I don’t know how reading this letter has affected you, but writing it makes me want to lie face-down before the Lord and seek the face God! I want to personally make sure I’m building my life, my marriage, my family, my household, my finances, my ministry, my organizations, and every other part of my life in such a way that they will past the tests of life.
It is just a fact that if you and I build our lives hastily, cheaply, or with the wrong motives, a situation will eventually arise that will reveal the truth. When that day comes, everything we’ve built incorrectly will be burned and go up in smoke, just like a fire that consumes wood, hay, and stubble.
So rather than waste our precious time on works that have no eternal value, let’s be wise by getting before God so He can speak to our hearts. God is more than willing to show us what we need to correct before a fire comes to teach us the hard way!
I encourage you to deeply consider the following questions:
- Can you think of any areas of your life that “went up in smoke” because you moved too hastily, built with the wrong materials, or used the wrong methods to build? What were those areas, and what did you learn from those experiences?
- What have you done differently since you experienced that loss in your life? Take a few minutes to write down your thoughts about what you should do differently in the future to build your life to withstand even the worst fire.
- Do you know others going through a test or trial right now who could use some encouragement? If you remember what it was like to go through a hard time, why not look for ways to comfort those who are hurting with the same comfort you received from God?
Denise and I and our team consider it one of our highest joys in ministry to pray with you and for you about the things that are closest to your heart. We pray for our partners every day, anyway — but hearing from you about specific needs and desires helps us pray even more effectively. God is interested in helping you build your entire life on the solid foundation of His Word and His specific will for you!
We love you and thank God for you!
We are your brother and sister, friends, and partners in Jesus Christ,
Rick and Denise Renner
along with Paul, Philip, and Joel and their families