Do the fires in your life forge you into greatness, or do you fail in the heat?
The Navy Exchange at the base in Rhode Island had a plaque which read, “Some people are lost in the fires, other people are forged in them – Marines.” The finest swords are heated again and again to burn and melt away impurities that weaken the steel, making it brittle, prone to shatter, and worthless for war.
Life is full of fires, including everything from health to money to relationships. The flames of suffering burn throughout every life, waxing and waning as the days pass. No moment is completely free of pain. Ultimately, these fires will consume the mortal coil of every one of us.
During our earthly walk, some people are damaged or are even destroyed by their fires, while others grow stronger. Some fail while others are forged. A few become truly great. What makes the difference? Four factors characterize those who are forged in their infernos.
The following compares how a master swordsmith uses fires to forge a sword with how a champion uses the fires in his life to be forged, under the hand of the Master Creator, into His faithful servant.
A master blacksmith does not transform molten iron into a sword merely to have it rust in his workshop or in a scabbard. He forges a sword that will defend its owner and subdue his foes. The blacksmith earns money to support his family, but also contributes to the defense of his community. He perceives his life as being worth more than money, and he wants his work to have a greater meaning than filling his stomach.
Champions share the blacksmith’s surpassing mission. Their blood, toil, tears, and sweat are expended for others, and fundamentally for God. Heroes move past self-actualization as they transcend Self entirely. Their vision is greater than accumulating dollars, power, fame, sexual experiences, or whatever else the World seeks. Earthly fires do not shake the champion’s mission since his mission does not come from earth. No avalanche of accusations, no tide of terrors, no legion of lies, and no sea of shame can move such a man from his holy work.
A man whose life-purpose transcends himself, as Jesus’ disciples did, will be forged by the most fiery furnaces into the steel of heaven. God will use him to change the world.
The master craftsman forges his sword and hones the blade with care, because he knows that some day, a knight’s life will depend upon the blacksmith’s work. Tired, dirty, and covered with soot, the blacksmith envisions his sword parrying staggering blows from fearsome adversaries, and slicing open the bowels of wicked men. This will be no ordinary sword, but one that will play a mighty role in the victory of good over evil in the world. The master craftsman does not make every implement of war, but does make the one that he is called to make.
The champion sees himself, and other faithful men around him, as tools in the hands of the Almighty, destined to accomplish His glorious purposes. No man can play every role, but each man can and must play one role. The man of greatness fights to the last drop of sweat, and sometimes blood, to perform his personal role for the Lord of History and Eternity. He cannot, and does not, worry about the roles of others. No blaze of suffering can shake the vision of the one who sees himself serving His creator in his unique way.
The man who has a powerful personal vision of his service to God, not worrying about how God will use others, will be forged, and will not fail, when passing through the fires of life.
The master swordsmith has his supplies, his tools, his bellows, his furnace, and even his mind and body built and maintained to craft his swords. He keeps nothing that will get in the way of his work, and does nothing that will waste his time. He constantly strives to improve his trade and his goods. The blacksmith creates his own environment to support his work, and likewise those in his life help him in his endeavors as he helps them in theirs.
Champions order their lives to accomplish the work that God has given them. They identify their mission-essential tasks, figure out how to do them as efficiently and effectively as possible, and eliminate everything that hinders their duties. Champions use the fires that come to identify dross and to burn it out of their lives. They lay aside every weight, physical and spiritual, and run the race that is before them. Family, friends, and others help the champion to arrange his environment to be what he is called to be. When such people are not around, the champion reaches out to find like-minded friends. He then builds strong relationships with them, for the benefit of all.
When God is making a man’s life into a garden, great men and those around them don’t keep a little space for weeds. No one can succeed alone. The man who does not fail but rather is forged in the furnace of life arranges his environment, gets help from others, and helps others to be forged, and not to fail, in their fires.
Confidence in Final Success
From years of experience and a record of success, the master swordsmith knows that his sword will be excellent. His work will command a fair price, and will serve its master well. The swordmaker will face terrible trials, but by his God, he will overcome them all.
Champions know that the battle is fierce. They will face defeat, discouragement, confusion, accusations, shame, pain, and ultimately death. Nonetheless, the true champion does not lose heart. His life’s work and eternity are secured by the One who knew no sin. The champion will face speed bumps and even stone walls in his journey. He will sometimes falter, but he will rise again. Finally, he will complete his journey because the Lord Himself guarantees it. The champion will not accomplish everything that he wants, but will accomplish everything that He wants.
Many falter from the pain, fear, and exhaustion of the inferno that is life. The man of God is forged into a man of honor…a saint fit for heaven.
A man is only partly the master of his success in the eyes of the world, because many factors beyond his control can block his path. Every man, however, has the power to trust and obey God, and therefore triumph in His eyes, which is the only eternal success. A champion lives beyond himself, sees his unique God-given task, arranges his life to achieve it, and is confident of final victory. A few men will not fail but will be forged by the fires of life. Each of us decides if we will be one of them.