Lessons From Forest Fires

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Lessons From Forest Fires

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Again this year, fire has ravaged thousands of acres in California, destroying homes and property in its wake.

Four years ago as my wife and I were traveling home from southern Oregon, her cell phone rang. Her mother's message was brief but dramatic, "We've just been evacuated!"

A forest fire was raging in a state park less than two miles from where we live—a scenic, forested area of Central Oregon. So we understand and live with the ever-present danger of forest fires.

More than twenty miles away, we were sobered by the sight of a huge tower of smoke billowing up thousands of feet into the atmosphere, looking every bit like the mushroom cloud of an atomic bomb. It seemed obvious that our home and property were doomed to perish in flames, along with all of our possessions—except for what we had with us.

A time to take stock

Since we had spent the previous night in a motel, we had a few extra clothes in addition to the ones we were wearing and the car that we were driving. But as we pondered our situation, it dawned on us that what mattered most was that we had each other, that everything else is just "stuff" and that God would take care of us.

Miraculously, the wind shifted and the fire which had come within a mile of our home was directed away from our residential area. We were spared from what seemed to be certain loss of our home and nearly all of our possessions.

But we have never forgotten the lesson that the stark reality of impending disaster carved deep into the core of our minds and hearts. What counts the most is our relationships (with God and each other), not the material things that can so easily become the focus of our lives.

We all enjoy the material possessions that make life more comfortable and enjoyable. But they are temporary and should not be our main focus.

Biblical advice

The apostle Paul writes that we should, "not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18 2 Corinthians 4:18While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
American King James Version×

Jesus says, "Life is not measured by how much you own" (Luke 12:15 Luke 12:15And he said to them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses.
American King James Version×
, New Living Translation).

He also admonishes, "Don't store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust [or fire] destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust [and fire] cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be" (Matthew 6:19-20 Matthew 6:19-20 [19] Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust does corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: [20] But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust does corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
American King James Version×
, NLT).

Tests by fire

Tragedies such as devastating fires test and often strengthen our faith. "These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world" (1 Peter 1:7 1 Peter 1:7That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found to praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
American King James Version×
, NLT).

Ultimately, everyone will be tested!

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 [13] Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. [14] If any man's work abide which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. [15] If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
American King James Version×
(New International Version), "his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames."

The time is coming when all physical matter will be destroyed, when "… the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up" (2 Peter 3:10 2 Peter 3:10But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
American King James Version×

So Peter concludes, "Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?" (Verses 11-12).

What are your priorities?

Each of us needs to ask ourselves: "Do I really understand God's plan for me?"

For an excellent overview of that plan, I recommend two of booklets that thoroughly explain God's priorities. You will learn truths long overlooked by mainstream Christianity. Request or download your free copies of: God's Holy Day Plan and What Is Your Destiny?