Enlargement By Pressure
Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace
How does the church reach her goal? Only by traveling the pathway from pressure to enlargement, from poverty to enrichment. You ask, “What do we mean by enlargement through pressure?” When three are shut in to a furnace and the three becomes four, that is enlargement through pressure. Some find a furnace rather close quarters for three, so they seek a way of escape: others, accept the limitation, and in accepting it, make room for a fourth. Not to let difficulties shut us out from God, but to let them shut us in to God, that is enlargement through pressure. Some, through pressure, reach God’s end; others come to an end in the pressure. Some die in straitness; others through straitness find fullness of life. Some murmur when trials befall, finding in them only restraint, limitations and death; others, praise God for the trials, and in doing so discover the pathway to enlargement, liberation, and obedience of life.
There are those who believe that the path to attain God’s blessings is an easy one but if they were to ask most of the people whose stories are found in the Bible, they would discover that the path to larger lives pass through difficulties, trials, and are surrounded by stress.
Abraham began a journey as directed by God and as we read his story we discover that he lived a life filled with stress and strife. Not long after arriving in Canaan, his nephew’s herdsmen began to quarrel with his. That resulted in a separation. After God promised him a son and after waiting many years in vain, he chose to take matters into his own hands and have a son by his handmaiden. After Isaac was born there arose a quarrel between Sarah and Hagar. And Abraham found himself in the midst of conflict. Yet after all that and even his failures, we read that Abraham was enlarged and became the father of many and is remembered as the father of faith. What if he had chose to stay in Ur? What if he ceased pursuing the God-given dream? What if he had not found the courage to bring Isaac to the mountain of sacrifice where he passed the test of his love for God? I think he would have faded away into oblivion. Instead, his descendants, both natural and spiritual- Jew and Gentile- honor him as the example of faith.
Moses faced a very uncertain beginning, being hid from Pharaoh, growing up in Pharaoh’s palace, disowning his adoptive family and choosing to identify with the Jewish slaves, he, because of a mistake, became a man without a people. Fleeing into the wilderness, he met God and was sent back to lead the Jews back home. As you read his story, you see that even the people he was trying to help placed enormous stress on him, even his brother and sister attempted to overthrow him as leader. Yet Moses pressed through and became known as the friend of God. Had Moses let his limitations, his beginnings, or his failure to dominate his life, we would never had the Ten Commandments, the Jews would have remained in Egypt, we wouldn’t have the stories of the plagues and the opening of the Red Sea or water coming from a rock to bolster our faith in the greatness of God. True that Moses didn’t go into Canaan with that first generation of Israelites, but let’s not forget that hundreds of years later we find him with Christ and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration which was in the Promised Land. This place of enlargement could not have been experienced unless Moses let the pressure work so that he could overcome and find himself standing in the very presence of God’s Son.
The apostle Paul describes his path to enlargement through the stresses, sufferings, and distresses. What is fascinating is through those things, he was enlarged with a vision of heaven. For him, though, he knew there was more so at the end of his life he cry’s out, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection.” We know that almost two thirds of the New Testament was written by him and again had he let the beatings, stonings, and imprisonments hold him hostage, we could never have benefited from his enlargement.
Stephen, the first martyr, began as a table waiter but he opened his heart more and more and allowed God to enlarge him at a time when the church was being persecuted. His final hours depict a life that was enlarged in his straitness. As the stones smote his body and life was being pounded out of him, he became even more enlarged. His enlargement left such a mark on a young man named Saul that Saul couldn’t escape it. At first Saul-Paul tried to stamp it out but the enlargement of Stephen was too great to eradicate and when it had worked its work, Paul was converted and became the powerful Christian missionary.
In our text today, we find three young Hebrew men facing the trial of their lives. They were told to worship an idol or be cast into a furnace. When they refused, the king in his anger ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter. Bound with ropes, they were cast into the furnace. It was probably pretty tight with the three of them, but in their trial, they found themselves in a place of enlargement. As a matter of fact, it became large enough that they discovered there was enough room for “One like the Son of God.” What a blessed place that furnace became. Facing the fire, heat, and ultimately death, they found in that place the very presence of God.
All of this says to us that whatever place we find ourselves, let us remember that when God takes us into place of stress where the pressure becomes intense, it’s not to burn away or destroy us. It’s so that the things that hold us bound can be removed and we can have capacity to become enlarged. If you find yourself in a difficult place today- maybe it’s because God wishes you to be enlarged so that you will have more capacity to receive His grace and power. Perhaps your place of trial is the launching place for the expansion of God’s work through you.
Dr. John Thompson