Tried by Fire

a mini-sermon
by Michael Fischer

I Corinthians 3:9-15 -

9For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. 10According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. 11For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. 14If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
This passage is talking about the judgment seat of Christ. This isn't the judgment of unbelievers, but the rewarding of God's saints. We know that because of verse 15 - everyone at this judgment will be saved. God will test our works by fire, and our reward will depend on how well our works stand up to that fire. Paul lists three things that will withstand fire, and three things that will not withstand fire.

Gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, and stubble. These things are used as examples for us. None of them is of any value to God - He uses precious stones to build His city on, and He uses gold for pavement. Do these six things literally stand for something specific in our lives? Probably not, or else Paul would have told us, because Paul told us everything he knew that might be useful to us as Christians -

Acts 20:20- And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house.
But these six things that Paul lists can be useful to us, because they can remind us of the kinds of things God is concerned about. The kinds of things that will be brought up at the judgment seat of Christ. The kinds of things we ought to be attending to in this life. I am not saying that these things definitely mean what I'm about to say they mean. What I want you to get out of this message is a set of reminders, so when you think about this verse, you'll remember what's important to God and what isn't important.

Gold: I Peter 1:7

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
Gold can remind us of faith. The only things that astonished Christ while He walked among us were great faith and great lack of faith. Do you want to astonish Jesus, and if so, how? Great faith is of great value in the sight of God. So-so faith never even gets mentioned.

But if you want that kind of faith, take careful note of one thing in this verse: your faith will be tried. If you think you have great faith, and you haven't been through some trial that tested that faith, then there are two possibilities: either your faith isn't ready for a sore trial, or your time of testing hasn't come yet. Be assured, it will. It's never anything we can look forward to. But for those who have come out the other side of that trial, their faith will bring praise and honor and glory to Jesus Christ.

Silver: Look around you and you'll see some silver. It's on the heads of some of the saints here, the ones who have served the Lord for a long time. Silver reminds us of faithfulness. Endurance. Staying with the faith over the long haul is very important to God. Consider what Paul said about faithfulness in II Timothy 4:7-8:

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day:
None of us can say that. Why not? Because none of us have finished our courses yet. Just remember, there's a reward for those who keep on keepin' on. For those who don't... we'll hear about them later in this message.

Precious stones: Malachi 3:16-17

Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. 17And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.
The precious stones represent the fruit that you bear for Jesus, especially the souls you bring to Him. God has an agenda for your life, and He has things He wants you to do, and has equipped you to do, like it says in Ephesians 2:10 -
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
I can't understand people who think it's hard living for God. He doesn't make you figure out your own life's plan. He's already got it all planned out for you. He's given you the gifts and talents to do it. He's ordered your life so those good works will be right in your path. And if you do them, you'll be rewarded for it! How much easier can it get? God couldn't have made it any easier for us. He's already done all the hard work. It's like following a trail through the jungle: somebody had to make that trail the hard way, with a map and a machete, but all we have to do is follow the path, and God will reward us at the end of it.

Wood: Wood is not valuable like gold or silver. But it certainly isn't useless stuff. You can make a pulpit out of it. You can make paper out of it and print a Bible. You can warm your house in the winter with it. Or you can build a house with it. What does the Bible say about building houses? Psalm 127:1 -

Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
Wood can remind us of the houses we've built, and they may be very nice houses, but the Lord didn't build them. That is, the things that we do, that are good things to do, but aren't what God called us to do. For instance, (I've used this example before) giving lots of money to missions is good, but if God called you to be a missionary and you gave lots of money instead, that was disobedience and it will be burned up as wood.

Hay: Hay is what you feed to animals; it is useful only as it is used up, and whatever isn't finished off, is of no value. Hay can stand for the good things we started to do, but they are of no value because we didn't finish them. God doesn't give partial credit on His final exam. If He called you to do something, and you started but didn't finish, will that profit you anything in eternity? What did Paul say to the Galatians in Gal 5:7-8?

Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? 8This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.
God is not a God of incompleteness. God is a God of all or nothing. Don't leave your good works unfinished. In the context of this message, hay is the opposite of silver, because incomplete good works are the opposite of faithfulness.

Stubble: Stubble is the leftover reeds and stalks after grain has been harvested. If you've ever seen a corn field in late autumn, you know what stubble is. It is completely useless. Stubble would represent the time we wasted on Earth, doing things that accomplished nothing for God. I'm not talking about sin; if we are saved, our sins have been purged by the blood of Jesus, and we will not be judged for them. Stubble is empty works. Wasted time. Idle pursuits. Vanity of vanities. As an example, the time we spend on personal hobbies will probably be stubble.

Does that mean we shouldn't do anything just for the fun of it? No, God never gave any such command. But if that's where all your time and effort are going, that doesn't leave much that God can reward you for. If you aren't putting God first in your life, you may end up in front of the judgment seat of Christ with an armful of stubble and not much else. And just as hay is the opposite of silver, stubble is the opposite of precious stones, because empty works are the opposite of fruitful works.

So there you have it. Gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, and stubble. What kinds of treasures are you laying up in Heaven? If you're seeing a lot of wood, hay, and stubble in your account, the time to change things around is today.

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