When God Is Like A Forest Fire

Malachi 3:2-3 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. (NIV)

This devotional was inspired by the devastating forest fire at Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada.

Sometimes, God is like a forest fire in how He manages His church. To us, a forest fire is intensely destructive because it consumes hectares of forest. It destroys property and damages the economy, and that's particularly why it is so catastrophic. We primarily consider the loss to ourselves. But a forest fire does not destroy forests it revives them! It cleans the forest floor of debris, opening it up to sunlight and new growth. It removes thick shrubs which take up the water, so the water supply is restored. A forest fire kills disease and insects which harm trees. The burnt vegetation replenishes the soil with nutrients. Some species require the heat to open their cones and release their seeds. Fire is so vital that forest managers use prescribed or controlled burning to reduce hazards and renew the forest.

"Change is important to a healthy forest," ecologists assure us. "Without fire, the trees and plants would eventually succumb to old age with no new generations to carry on their legacy."

That's also true for the church, Christ's body of followers scattered around the world. Its legacy is preserved through fire God's refining fire. But who can endure it? Who can stand through His fire? Such questions imply trials and losses, perhaps loss of privilege, possessions, institutional fixings, and membership and much more through persecution. God's refining fire consumes the "dead wood" and thick "underbrush" whatever is not authentic, what we coddle even if it blocks the Light, prevents new growth, and consumes our resources.

God's refining fire may seem intensely destructive; little is left. But it does not destroy the church. It revives it, like a forest fire revives a forest. Out of the ashes, there arises new, healthy growth, and the church thrives again with vibrant faith, purified as silver and gold.

Jesus promised to build His church, which would never succumb to the forces of death. Its existence has been preserved through the enduring love of God, Who remains forever faithful to His ancient covenant promise. The fires that He permits are never wildfires, but prescribed fires always under His control. As for us, we learn to persevere through the power of His Holy Spirit and an unshakable assurance that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God.

Prayer: Lord, teach us to value Your refining fire in our personal lives and also in the life of Your church through the ages. Help us to regard trials and losses as Your means of refining our faith, that it may be proven genuine when You return, resulting in glory and honour to Your name. Amen.

Diane Eaton
Kincardine, Ontario, Canada

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