In recent years we have witnessed mega-fires in the West, that have destroyed thousands of acres of forest and cost $billions in property destruction. In addition to climate change, experts now realize that fire suppression methods that protected property and landscapes over the last half of the 20th century actually created the conditions that now feed these huge fires. In the past, fires would burn the undergrowth, but not reach the canopy of larger trees, a natural process of thinning the forest for the healthiest trees to grow. But, those fires were not allowed to burn and dense growth accumulated, fuel for fires that rage out of control. Allowing smaller managed fires that clear out brush is one method of preventing even more catastrophic, canopy-killing fires from breaking out.
Fighting fire with fire. The idea seems to go against reason, at first.
God sometimes uses fiery trials in our lives, friend! If you are in the middle of a difficult situation, if you are feeling the heat of life, ask God to give you strength to endure. In the loving hands of our Father, those experiences can actually help to clear out the clutter and encourage us to mature in faith.
John, the Baptist, offered this shocking statement to the people who came to hear him preach down at the Jordan River. “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.” (Matthew 3:11-13, NIV)
John realized that his baptism, which focused on the act of being ‘sorry,’ of turning back to God was incomplete. Real maturity in faith required something more, and he knew that More was coming in the Person of Jesus who would fill us with the Spirit and, if we let Him, He will use the Spirit’s fire will burn away the distractions, the accumulated weight of other sins. Such fiery baptism is costly to us in terms of comfort. But, in John’s metaphor, it is a means of clearing away the chaff, the outer hull of the grain that is worthless.
Before we become fatalists and just accept all trials as ‘God’s will,’ we must realize that often we create our own troubles with foolish, or short-sighted, or sinful choices. We create the conditions for wild fires in our own life. It is wrong to blame God for those. However, He can use those things to cause us to reach the end of Self and turn to Him. When we do, He is our ‘ever present help in time of trouble.’
So, here at the beginning of this new year, I want to ask you if you are living just in repentance, constantly going back to God asking forgiveness, seeking renewal?
Or, have you been Spirit-baptized by Jesus, made clean by the fire, with fruitfulness in character, and growing to greater maturity?
This word from the Word will inspire. Let it grip your heart and mind today. “You’ve come to Jesus, who presents us with a new covenant, a fresh charter from God. He is the Mediator of this covenant. . . So don’t turn a deaf ear to these gracious words. . . . Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. He’s actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won’t quit until it’s all cleansed. God himself is Fire!” (Hebrews 12:24-29, The Message)
Abba, I humbly place my heart, my mind, my life at Your disposal.
Keep me from just saying words unmatched with desire for You.
If there are things that need to be torched in my life,
Steady me in faith through the fire!
Let me emerge,
Not embittered, but empowered;
Not empty, but full of grace;
Not scorched, but cleansed.
And, help my hope to be found in Jesus,
All other loves lesser, love for You greater.