The word “fire” automatically brings to mind something that is not comfortable. In some cases, the word “fire” strikes fear into the heart; fire is known for its ability to bring destruction and damage to structures and loss of lives and everything in its path; fire is no friend to the flesh because of the pain and agony that it inflicts.
The right kind of fire destroys everything in its path. A look at California where fires swept through the state leaving mass destruction is an example. Fire burns … as some of us have had to learn the hard way; it can leave scars that we have to carry with us for the rest of our lives.
Having watched a sister experience the anguish of being burned by fire, I know the devastation that fire can bring. We’ve heard all too often how fire has destroyed homes, lives of people who could not escape the fire; whatever fire comes in contact with it consumes; it is the one thing that we have to watch when using.
Unless it is contained, it can spread and cause untold damage.
My community friends, I think all of us have had an unpleasant experience at one time or another with fire. It can be a rough way to die — it is no wonder then, that when we want to describe something in the worse way, we use fire as a means to describe it. All we have to say is, “I’m going through the fire right now” … and everybody automatically knows that you are going through a very rough and tough time.
Over the last few weeks, with the heatwave sweeping our country, it is a testament as to how hot it really is. But it reminds us of something else too — that there is a place much hotter than this; a fire that will never be quenched and the worm never dies (Mark 9:46). In fact, there’s brimstone there as well, and no rest day or night (Rev. 20:10).
That’s why we thank God for Jesus Christ, who because of what Hee did on Calvary, the shedding of His precious blood, we the Christian believer have escaped such a place through our Lord and Savior.
Community, nobody likes to be burned, and nobody likes to be in the fire; spiritually speaking fire is what God uses to refine his children; to burn off the elements about us that are not like him. God uses FIRE to chasten us when we stray away from him (Heb. 12:5-11); and then God uses fire to keep us on our knees, to bring us to a place in him where He can use us for His glory.
We ought not to complain all the time when God puts us in the fire, because it is this place, the place of fire, that God has made some of His most faithful saints. Ask anybody that has done great things for God, somebody, that God is using in a mighty way, and they will tell you that it was “IN the fire” that they saw his glory … it is there, IN the fire that God lifted them up!
See, elevation comes through preparation and preparation comes through being IN the fire! The way UP is IN the fire! We often tell the Lord, “Lord, I want you to use me!” when we pray that prayer we had better be ready to go in the fire!
Friends, we’ve got to “stand IN the fire!” Now I realize as I write this, that somebody is in the fire now and it’s burning you up! But I want to encourage you when I say, “it may be burning, but it will not consume you!” You all read that right here! I do not care how hot the fire is raging in your life … you will not be burned up! In fact, you will not be burned at all!
In referencing His people in Israel God spoke to them and said, “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called you by your name; you are mine.” The Lord said, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you walk through the FIRE, you shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon you (Isa. 43:1,2).”
How many of us can say amen because, just when you were about to lose your mind, in the fire, God blew it out! And you came out unscathed. The reason you sang the way you sang; and serve the way you serve, and worship the way you worship is because you have been IN the fire! People may see your glory, but they don’t know your story!
And let me tell somebody today that we need “fire” to keep us straight. Without it we would live any kind of way; we would walk around with unforgiveness in our hearts, mad with people; and that’s not like Christ. Our prayer life would be nonchalant; when all churches were open, some believers did not go as they should; and now the fire of this coronavirus has somewhere they can’t go … and now they are complaining.
In the Bible, King Nebuchadnezzar had three Jews thrown into a fiery furnace for refusing to bow to an idol god. But when he looked into the furnace, he saw four men “walking IN the fire (Dan. 3:19-25).” And the fourth man looked like the Son of God.”
Community, sometimes God will not deliver us FROM the fire, but He will deliver us IN the fire.
The Rev. George Ellis is the pastor at Union Grove Missionary Baptist Church.