All believers are called by God for one special assignment or other for the edification of the Church. Unfortunately, some are doubting if they were called while some have concluded that they were not called at all. In my opinion, every believer is called, first, and is called to preach the Gospel and disciple converts, second (Mathew 28- 16-20). While some callings may be specific like Paul who was called to preach the Gospel to the gentiles and Peter who was called to preach to the Jews, other callings are general commands to preach the Gospel widely.
“Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few’”(Mathew 9:37). I thought that many would have been chosen since there is a scarcity of labor force, why are then few chosen? Is it the choice of God to limit the numbers of the chosen or is it that men are not willing and ready to carry out His assignments? The answer is that God chooses the few in the furnace of affliction and it is only a few that can pass the affliction test. God spoke to Isaiah, saying, “See I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10).
Everyone called by God must pass through this furnace of affliction. How we respond to this divine affliction is what determines whether we should be among the few that are chosen or among the many that are called. This affliction can come as infirmity, abject poverty, rejection, trial, shame and reproach, persecution, and many other unpleasant situations. During this wilderness experience, you are left alone and deserted by those whom you think are always there for you. Jeremiah and Job in their furnace of affliction cursed the day they were born (Jeremiah 20:14, Job 3:1).
A study of all biblical characters who were chosen by God shows that none of them escaped the furnace of affliction. The affliction of Christ who is our role model was so intense that He felt abandoned by the Father. “At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ which means ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’” (Mathew 27:46). In the furnace of affliction, God seems to be far away, and prayers are not answered. It is at this point that many search for escape routes.
As a matter of compulsion, every Christian must arm himself with the mind to suffer just like Christ suffered. “So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin” (1 Peter 4:1).
Paul did not whitewash the message of the cross while addressing his new converts to Christianity. He categorically told them to prepare because there were tribulations ahead that were unavoidable. “Where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Peter encouraged Christians not to be ashamed when passing through the furnace of affliction. “Yet if any man suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf” (1 Peter 4:16).
For believers to successfully come out refined from the furnace of affliction, the comforting role of the Holy Spirit must not be neglected. No man can endure the pain of Christian suffering without the help of the Holy Spirit. He was sent to comfort us in the days of our affliction which will ultimately result in our refining and separation. It was the Holy Spirit who helped Jesus throughout the Calvary experience.
When believers are not discipled after the pattern of Christ, they will find it difficult to embrace Christian suffering. There are many believers in churches today but only a few are discipled. Discipleship produces mature Christians who are groomed to take solid food while elementary doctrines of Christ make believers remain babies and constantly feed on milk (Hebrews 6:1).
Christians are distinguished people, but anyone who wants to be chosen among the distinguished must be ready to pass through sufferings, trials, and tribulations for the sake of Christ. There is no shortcut to the company of the few that are chosen among the many that are called.