Recently I attended a Christian women’s retreat and our evening session was held around a bonfire. While the speaker shared what had happened in her life that caused her to feel like trash, many women threw their own garbage into the fire. What happens when the worthlessness of our lives is combined with fire?
The most obvious answer is that all the trash and garbage is burned up. However, ashes remain. Ashes often symbolize sorrow and repentance for sin committed. Job 42:6 NLT says, “I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” When we toss our garbage into the fire, flames are kindled that burn up the useless things that have happened to us.
Malachi 3:2 describes God by saying, “For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.” When we leave our rubbish and rubble at the feet of Jesus, He becomes our fire who refines us to be pure like silver and gold. In Isaiah 48:10 the Lord says to us, “See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” This concept is expanded in I Peter 1:7 NLT that says, “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.” Once again we see how God uses everything in our lives for good. (see Romans 8:28) Although we may mess up when difficulties arise in our lives, God will refine our trash into treasure when we throw it into the heat of the fire. God has a flame of forgiveness for us.
I Corinthians 3:15 says, “If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” Then Paul goes on to say in verse 16, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” This is possible because of another function of fire. Acts 2:3-4 describes Pentecost and the descending of the Holy Spirit by saying, “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” The Holy Spirit sets us on fire to serve the Lord.
In Daniel 3, we read the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego being thrown into the fire by Nebuchadnezzar, but upon closer look there were four in the fire because God was with them. My Reader, I want to assure you today that if you are in the fire for any reason, God is with you. He will burn up your trash and receive your ashes of repentance. He will turn these ashes into beauty by refining you into someone more precious than gold or silver. He will set you on fire with the Holy Spirit and will live within you. II Timothy 1:6 says, “For this reason I(Paul) remind you (Timothy) to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” I remind you to do the same. Fan the flame of fire within your heart and also fulfill I Thessalonians 5:19 that says, “Do not quench the Spirit.”
The bonfire I experienced at the retreat helped to keep all of us warm on a chilly evening. However, it also provided us with a powerful picture of what the Lord was doing in our spiritual lives that evening.