In the Hot Flames of Temptation


From Psalm 39

I said to myself, “I will watch what I do
 and not sin in what I say.
I will hold my tongue
 when the ungodly are around me.”
But as I stood there in silence—
the turmoil within me grew worse.
The more I thought about it,
 the hotter I got.

Sometimes my insides feel like the flames in the picture. I feel the hot furnace burning for hours on end, while I try to remain calm and perform my daily duties.

Flames and darkness inside. A firewall of prayer and self-discipline between my inner flames and the unsuspecting world around me. Waiting for God to bring me through. I smell my flesh and inner sinner burning. I leave them on the altar to burn.

  • I don’t blame the pretty woman for my sinful fantasies.

I let temptation’s fire burn.

  • I don’t blame the troublemaker in the family or our workplace for my anger and resentment.

I let temptation’s fire burn.

  • I don’t rise in hatred and rebellion for the injustices all around me.

I let temptation’s fire burn.

  • I don’t indulge in self-hatred because I’m up against my limitations and wish I could do so much more.

I let temptation’s fire burn.

Sometimes when I stretch after a workout and my muscles burn, the coach says, “Try to relax.” Fighting it makes the pain worse. Complaining wastes effort. I need to go through this.

I’ve been following Jesus long enough to know I must pass through many refining fires. They come unscheduled, unannounced, and at inconvenient times. God or the angel in charge won’t tell me what time they will end.

God reminds me only to endure. As Job said, “He knows the way I’m taking. And when he has tried me, I will become as gold.”

Those who are becoming like Jesus have endured many refining fires. I can remain on this side of the fire and become the illusion of a well-managed version of me. Or I can pass through the fire, let God refine me, and become more like his Son.

Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—
how fleeting my life is.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
at best, each of us is but a breath.

How can I grasp the briefness of my time? This life is all I know. Yet each day is a number, and those numbers are numbered. Soon I will pass, just as those who passed before me.

My life feels long, sometimes hot, painful, or boring. To God, my life is a moment, a breath.

Interlude (Selah)

Have you noticed the Psalmist places Selah’s (pause and think about it) at very awkward places?

Stop. Pause. In this clumsy, awkward moment.

This too shall pass.

But when?