OBSERVATION: Do you remember “Smokey the Bear”? As a child I grew up with the campaign of Smokey the Bear reminding all children (and adults) – “Only you can prevent forest fires!” Then the camera would pan to the devastation that a fire had made in the forest showing animals running for their life. It put a healthy fear of “fire” into one’s heart, and made you think twice about any type of practice that could cause such damage.
As individuals we don’t view the “fires” of life much differently. We all desire to live a life that is marked by peace and tranquility. Throw some fire into the mix and we are not very happy. Yet, the Scriptures are replete with examples and reminders of the role of “fire” in our lives. While this is not exhaustive, there are three types of “good fire” that come to mind when I read this verse from Proverbs.
First, there is the “fire” of God’s presence. This is the “fire” of His holiness. John the Baptist proclaimed as he saw Jesus approaching him at the Jordan river,
- “I baptize you with water so that you will change the way you think and act. But the one who comes after me is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to remove his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:11 GW)
And in the book of Malachi we read,
- “But who will be able to endure the day he comes? Who will be able to survive on the day he appears? He is like a purifying fire and like a cleansing soap. He will act like a refiner and a purifier of silver. He will purify Levi’s sons and refine them like gold and silver. Then they will bring acceptable offerings to the LORD.” (Malachi 3:2-3 GW)
The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is the active working of the fire of God’s Holiness transforming us degree by degree, day by day, purifying and molding us into the image of Jesus Christ. He daily reveals the areas of our lives that need to be changed, and like fine silver and gold He works to purify our lives of sin, self, and anything that opposes itself to the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
This brings us to the second “fire”, the fire of God’s Word! God’s Word is a fire that burns away the dross of our hearts. It peels away the layers of sin and self that hinder the purifying work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It reveals the subtle difference between the thoughts and intents of our heart. It lays us bare before the Lord, and brings us to repentance and transformation.
- “Isn’t my word like fire or like a hammer that shatters a rock?” asks the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:29 GW)
- “God’s word is living and active. It is sharper than any two-edged sword and cuts as deep as the place where soul and spirit meet, the place where joints and marrow meet. God’s word judges a person’s thoughts and intentions. No creature can hide from God. Everything is uncovered and exposed for him to see. We must answer to him.” (Hebrews 4:12-13 GW)
And Paul speaking of the effect of his epistle, God’s Word to the Corinthians, writes,
- “But I’m happy now, not because I made you uncomfortable, but because the distress I caused you has led you to change the way you think and act. You were distressed in a godly way, so we haven’t done you any harm. In fact, to be distressed in a godly way causes people to change the way they think and act and leads them to be saved. No one can regret that. But the distress that the world causes brings only death.” (2 Corinthians 7:9-10 GW)
Finally, and the one we most dislike, is the “fire” of trials. No one wants to go through trials and difficulties. Yet, in all honesty, it is the very crucible of these trials that draws us closer to the Lord, opens our hearts to the Holy Spirit’s work, and brings us to the place where we can honestly and openly receive the Word of God into our lives. Like a grain of wheat we many times have to be broken in our hard outer shell so that the life that is within can come forth.
Peter writes in his first epistle,
- “Dear friends, don’t be surprised by the fiery troubles that are coming in order to test you. Don’t feel as though something strange is happening to you, but be happy as you share Christ’s sufferings. Then you will also be full of joy when he appears again in his glory. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed because the Spirit of glory—the Spirit of God—is resting on you.” (1 Peter 4:12-14 GW)
And James also writes,
- “My brothers and sisters, be very happy when you are tested in different ways. You know that such testing of your faith produces endurance. Endure until your testing is over. Then you will be mature and complete, and you won’t need anything.” (James 1:2-4 GW)
Fire in the hands of an arson produces destruction. Fire in the hands of a metallurgist produces a metal of clarity and purity. Fire in the hands of a loving God never destroy, but only burns away that which keeps us from the fullness and blessings that He has for our lives.
Lord, help me to turn from the fires of sin and self, but run freely into the fire of Your Holiness and Your Word. As I go through the various trials of life, may I experience Your power and strength, and may I be purified and changed into the image of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
In Jesus Name!