I was recently listening to a podcast which featured a firefighter whose mission was to educate people about the benefits of conducting intentional and routine forest fires. Despite the obvious destruction it could cause he states that one of the best things for the health of the forest, is a fire. True to the audacity of this argument is a similar one that the Lord refines us in fire. How does something so hot, so destructive, so sweeping in magnitude produce something valuable?
As I stroke these keys, I’m in that fire. Isaiah 48:10 states, "Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction." Many days I feel like one of those burnt smoldering sticks poking out from the ground. A forest of charred fragments of what once was. When I find myself here, in the fire, what I can’t see is the life to be lived beyond this moment. I can’t because I’m engulfed; fire is lapping up around me, and the smoke has limited my view. Just as a forest is powerless to extinguish its flames, so am I. We must burn. . .
#ForestTruth: even in extreme fires, a whole forest doesn’t burn. There are always fire “refugees” due to temperature and moisture areas. These refugees aid in producing the seeds that will regrow the forest. #HisWordismyTruth: 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, "We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed," but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. God is not absent in my fire, rather He has ordained it and is watchful to burn what needs to be burned and protect what needs to remain. He, like the firefighter, controls the burn. God is faithful to burn out my sin, my idols, my ownership, in order for new life to grow in its place. He is, after all, our restorer.
#ForestTruth: forests need fires in order to open their canopies. Without sunlight reaching the forest floor delicate saplings can’t survive. Once the canopy is opened those saplings have years of growth and establishment. #HisWordismyTruth: "And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope" (Romans 5:3). I am a new creation. I am constantly being transformed which results in saplings of new growth. Growth in surrender, growth in trust, growth in patience…without the fire my canopy isn’t open enough to allow His light to reach the floor of my heart. He wants my sapling characteristics to grow.
#ForestTruth: fire clears out forest clutter and disease. A fire so intense will remove old logs, dense undergrowth, leaves, diseased trees, and insects. The heat releases the nutrients and minerals which go back into the soil making it more fertile for new growth. #HisWordismyTruth: "To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified" (Isaiah 61:3). Sometimes the only way for God to get our soil fertile is to let things in our lives burn…. whatever I’m holding onto that seems more valuable than Him, must burn. In this blazing fire He heals my disease and clears out old dead logs from my heart. What remains are microbial sized nutrients and spiritual minerals that will fertilize His work until I’m found standing like a tree of righteousness.
#ForestTruth: Don’t be fooled by the gray post-fire landscape, there’s a lot of life in there. #HisWordismyTruth: "Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have shared in Christ, if we hold our first confidence firm to the end" (Hebrews 3:12-14). Similarly, to the Trinity, I do not live in isolation. I am one tree within a forest. While I feel like a charred fragment, I’m food for another living thing. My fire is necessary for my own growth and others. We are our own ecosystem in Christ where nothing is wasted, and all is laid bare before the One who is sovereign over all things. To believe that my fire is singular in focus reveals how little I know of God. The God of all creation is at work here for my good, for His glory, and for the benefit of His children.
Christian, trust your Father. As we stand ablaze let it be seen from space. Allow His fire to refine you, to press you, to char you, until the world sees more of Jesus in you. When the new buds push through the burnt remains give Him the glory for the work He has done.
We must burn. . .