Inside the Furnace


Do you see how well she is teaching these girls? She is so clever and relatable. You are not. These girls are going to be so bored when you teach!

The ugly voice snarled inside my mind and caught me by surprise. I was getting ready to teach the last of three Bible Study sessions to a group of high school and college girls.

And who do you think you are anyway to teach others? You have lots of faults and weaknesses. You shouldn’t even be here.

My mind staggered under the assault. All those flaming arrows were aimed right at some of my greatest vulnerabilities. The enemy knew where to aim. I hate to admit it, but some of those arrows hit their target, even after I just wrote a blog about “Taking Thoughts Captive” a few weeks ago. It all happened so fast that I was in the middle of it before I realized what was happening.

Sometimes, you can be going along in life, and all of a sudden, the enemy turns up the heat. You find yourself inside the furnace, and after you are exposed to the heat for a while, you feel sort of weak and trembly. That’s what happened to me on that Sunday night.

I knew I needed help. I slipped into another room and prayed, “Lord, please help me. I know these feelings are not from you. I know you called me to teach these girls. I am just going to step out and be obedient. I am going to seek to please you rather than people because I am Your bondservant (Galatians 1:10),” I said.

I did teach those girls, and they were very receptive to God’s Word. It thrilled my soul, but I felt shaky part of the time I taught and even afterwards. I had to get alone with the Lord and ask Him to help me process what had happened. Here’s what He showed me:

Condemnation is NOT from God

When we experience thoughts that make us feel horrible, dirty, bad . . . those are not from God. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1, NASB). The word for condemnation is katakrima and means a damnatory sentence. If we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, there is no sentence against us. We are free and “accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6, KJV). There is no charge against us. We are not condemned, because God has justified us (declared us to be righteous in His sight) because of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf.

So when condemnation comes, we have to consider the source. Our salvation cannot be taken from us, but we do have an enemy who would like to make us ineffective for the kingdom of God. In the Bible, he is called “your adversary, the devil” (1 Peter 5:8, NASB), “the accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10, NASB), and a “liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44, NASB). He comes to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). We need to recognize his voice and his tactics toward us.

One thing I learned from my encounter is that he can come at us with an ugly voice, speaking words of criticism and strong disapproval, denouncing what God has called us to do. When this happens, we are called to “stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10, NASB). That phrase stand firm in the Bible is a military term, which means to hold one’s position. So we hold our position in Christ, knowing “in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37, NASB), and we choose to move forward in His power and grace (Philippians 4:13).

Conviction IS from God

In contrast to the accuser’s voice, I have found God’s voice to be gentle and loving. He convicts me instead of condemning me. He guides, teaches, and disciplines me in order to help me. Even when I mess up and sin, He loves me with an everlasting love that never changes based on what I do or don’t do.

When I came out of the side room at the Bible Study, the first teacher was finished. The organizers told everyone to take a break and visit for a while before I started teaching. I ended up speaking with the first teacher. In the course of our conversation, she mentioned something about comparisons, and the Lord gently reminded me, “Don’t compare yourself to other people” (2 Corinthians 10:12).  “I made you unique (Psalm 139:13-14) for My special purposes (Ephesians 2:10). I did the same with her. Be who I made you to be, and leave the results to me (1 Corinthians 12:4-6).”

The Lord was lovingly convicting me that I was walking outside of His Word, His truth (Psalm 119:160). I thanked Him for making me aware of it. I knew He only had my best interests at heart (Hebrews 12:10-11). The Lord is gentle and kind. Through conviction, He seeks a restored relationship with Him, where we know Him better and love and trust Him more. In Psalm 32:8, NASB, He says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” Conviction is a sign of our Father’s great love for us (Hebrews 12:5-6).

So when conviction comes, it is a great opportunity to learn what a loving Father has to teach us. It is an opportunity to draw closer to Him. A wise man in my Sunday School class recently shared, “Condemnation seeks to pull you away from God; conviction seeks to pull you toward Him.” So . . .

Run to God

If I could have done anything differently at that Bible Study, I would have run to the Lord immediately when the negative thoughts started and asked Him to help me. I wasted valuable time trying to fight the battle on my own, when the battle was the Lord’s (1 Samuel 17:47). In Isaiah 41:10, NASB, the Lord says, “I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

When I did go to the Lord, He gave me scriptures to fight the enemy, much like Jesus did in Matthew 4. We are told God’s Word is the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17, NASB), an offensive weapon to use against the enemy. We are also told the Holy Spirit will bring to our remembrance the scriptures we need when we need them (John 14:26). That’s why it’s so important to be in God’s Word–before we find ourselves in a battle.

Finally, the Lord also showed me how we need one another in the body of Christ, His church. Once I got home after teaching, I still felt a little shaky. I picked up a devotion book written by my late friend Phyllis Keels. In it, she said if we are struggling, we should tell someone.  I texted two of my friends, and they both called me. They encouraged me in the Lord and reaffirmed my calling to teach. What a blessing! Two of the young women in the Bible Study also sent me a note that week thanking me for teaching and relating how the Lord had met and blessed them in the study. I was so thankful for their reassurance and their thoughtfulness in taking the time to write to me.

1 Peter 5:8, NASB, says, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Experts on safari have observed that the lions do not go after the pack of animals. They go after the lone creature that has distanced itself from the pack. The one off by himself, alone and vulnerable. We need to stick together as God’s people and help one another.

In Ephesians 6:16, NASB, we are told to take “up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” In Biblical times, shields were as big as doors, and it took several people to hold one up together. Sometimes, we need the help of others to hold up our shields of faith against the enemy’s attacks. When we step in and fight the good fight of faith with and for one another, everyone gets a blessing (1 Timothy 6:12).

When we find ourselves inside the furnace, it is a comfort to know that the Lord and our friends are willing to stand in the flames with us and help us to come out whole, undamaged, and more prosperous from the experience (Daniel 3:25, 30).

“O God, You have refined us as silver is refined” [in the fire]  (Psalm 66:10). May we experience that refinement when we encounter condemnation and conviction and the help provided by the Lord in the midst of them. He is faithful, beloved (Lamentations 3:23). He will see us through and produce something beautiful from the encounter.

Question:  What has the Lord taught you in times of condemnation and conviction? Comment at the link below.


Galatians 1:10; Romans 8:1; Ephesians 1:6; 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 12:10; John 8:44; 10:10; Ephesians 6:10; Romans 8:37; Philippians 4:13; 2 Corinthians 10:12; Psalm 139:13-14; Ephesians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 12:4-6; Psalm 119:160; Hebrews 12:10-11; Psalm 32:8; Hebrews 12:5-6; 1 Samuel 17:47; Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 4; Ephesians 6:17; John 14:26; Ephesians 6:16; 1 Timothy 6:12; Daniel 3:25, 30; Psalm 66:10; Lamentations 3:23

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