My sister, brother-in-law and their two sons (my precious nephews) live in Redding, CA. This past few days have been traumatic, but thankfully they did not loose their home to the Carr fire. Many of their friends are sifting through ashes of what’s left of their homes. It’s truly devastating to hear what they are facing.
Thinking about this fire got me thinking about the metaphor of fire in the Bible. John the baptist said:
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Matthew 3:11
There are other references about fire in the Bible like, “Our God is a consuming fire…” (Hebrews 12:29) and “For everyone will be salted with fire.” (Mark 9:49). And in the Christian world we talk about fiery trials (1 Peter 4:12) and the passion and zeal we should have for Jesus being like a fire of worship and adoration burning in us for him. The idea of fiery trials is just that, an idea, until something like the Carr Fire happens to you and destroys your home and all your belongings.
The images I’ve been seeing on the news and social media of the devastation of the fire in Redding make me think about what John and Jesus and the scriptures are trying to tell us about walking with this God who laid down his life for us. He is a consuming fire, and he does put us through a baptism of fire and salt us with fire to destroy even good things that cannot endure the heat of his faith purifying power.
At church today my pastor taught from Romans 8. The passage that we often hear as, “Everything works out for good,” doesn’t say that. It says God is working all things- the good, the bad, the destroying fire, the pain, the loss, the grief, the death, the disease, the betrayal, the sorrow- he’s working ALL THINGS together for good for those who love him. And he’s doing it to make us more like Jesus. That’s fire. That’s God’s fire. Working everything for good to make us more like Jesus might look like the Carr fire burning down every thing we have. It might be a whirlwind killing all our kids and striking us with disease like Job. It may be the hard day-in day-out slow burn of life in the suburbs.
Whatever our circumstances, for the Christian, the holy fire of God’s power is going to destroy what doesn’t last forever. And it’s going to purify our faith which will never be destroyed. The same power that burns our walls, strengthens our hope in Christ.
‘In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. ‘
1 Peter 1:6-9