The Fiery Trial

1 Pet. 4:12.---' The fiery trail among you ' [RV].

What is the purpose of ' the fiery trial '? What is the meaning of this permitted ministry of suffering?

Well, in the first place, it tests character. It discharges the purpose of an examination. An examination, rightly regarded, is a vital part of our schooling. It is a minister of revelation. It unfolds our strengths and our weaknesses. And so it is in the larger examination afforded by the discipline of life. Our crises are productive of self-disclosures. They reveal us to ourselves, and the revelations are usually creative of surprise. In the midst of the fiery trial we are filled with amazement at the fullness and strength of our resources. When the trial is looming we shrink from it in fear. We say one to another, "I don't know how I shall bear it!" And then the crisis comes, and in the midst of the fire we are calm and strong; and when it is past, how frequently we are heard to say, "I never thought I could have gone through it!" And so "probation worketh hope"; the heavy discipline is creative of assurance; the terror becomes the nutriment of our confidence.

But the fiery trial not only tests by revealing character, it also strengthens and confirms it. Hard trials make hard and much-enduring muscle. The water that is too soft makes flabby limbs; it is not creative of bone. And circumstances which are too soft make no bone; they are productive of character without backbone. Luxuriousness is rarely the cradle of giants. It is not unsuggestive that soft and bountiful tropics are not the home of the strong, indomitable, and progressive peoples. The pioneering and progressive races have dwelt in sterner and harder climes. The lap of luxury does not afford the elementary iron for the upbringing of strong and enduring life. Hardness hardens; antagonism solidifies; trials expose and confirm. How commonly it has happen that men who, in soft circumstances have been weak and irresolute, were hardened into fruitful decision by the ministry of antagonism and pain. ' Thou art Simon '---a hearer, a man of loose hearsays and happenings; ' Thou shalt be called Peter '---a rock, a man of hard, compact, and resolute convictions. But 'Simon' became ' Peter ' through the ministry of the fiery trial. The man of ' soft clothing ' ' is in the luxury of kings ' houses; the hard man with the camel's hair and leathern girdle is away out in the hardships of the desert. ' We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.'

Suffering and sorrow appear to be necessary to the growth of great souls. People nursed in ease and comfort are apt to be soft-fiberd and flabby, and they grow into strength and nobility only as they are cradled in hard circumstances and rocked by storms. Great souls nearly always wear crowns that have been fashioned in the fires of great sorrows. Even the highest art springs out of the soil of suffering.

But the fiery trial not only reveals and hardens the character, it also develops it by bringing out its hidden beauties. Use the word develop as the photographer uses it. You know how he brings out the lines of his pictures. The picture is laid in the vessel, and the liquid is moved and moved across it; it passes over the face of the picture, and little by little the hidden graces are disclosed. ' All thy billows are gone over me.' That is the Lord's developer; it brings out the soft lines in the character. Under its ministry we pass ' from strength to strength,' ' from grace to grace,' ' from glory to glory.'

In Christ, timothy. maranatha