I looked out the window as we wound our way up the mountain at Sequoia National Park in California. So many dead or dying trees. I was saddened by the drought and obvious signs of past destructive forest fires that had certainly left their mark on the landscape.
Before we started hiking, we stopped at the Giant Forest Museum to get familiar with the terrain. I learned that the grandaddy of all the Sequoias, The General Sherman, holds the the title of not only being the largest living tree in the world but also the largest living organism, by volume, on our planet. To put it in perspective, here’s some pertinent facts on General Sherman:
- Age: 2,100 years old, which means it was on earth when Jesus was living!
- Weight: 7 million pounds.
- Height: 275 feet tall.
- Width: 100 feet wide at its trunk.
I then stopped by a display explaining the Life Cycle of a Sequoia tree and was amazed to find the positive role fire plays in the life of these giants.
Fire Cycle=Life Cycle
Fire affects sequoias at every stage of life, and periodic fires actually serve to produce a healthy grove with trees at every stage of life (seedling, sapling, spire-top, mature, and monarch). I learned that it is only the hottest of forest fires that can kill a Sequoia because they are so mammoth that many of them survive the fire and continue growing to their life expectancy. Besides that, fire has a “friendly effect” on the trees, as this photo I took points out.
As we hiked along the trail, I thought about a phrase I’ve read in the Bible, refiner’s fire. In light of what I had just learned about the trees, I now better understood verses, like Malachi 3:2-3
“For who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer the Lord an offering in righteousness.”
Hidden Potential of Life
While what I saw was a tinder-dry landscape desperately in need of rain, God saw something else: the hidden potential of life. As we learned in the sign above, it takes heat to open the cones of sequoias so that they can then release their seeds and life can spring forth.
And the same thing is true for us.
- Sometimes God must apply fire to our lives to get our attention and open us up to what he is trying to do.
- Our lives can get cluttered with things that may be taking the place of what we really should be doing. In that case, God may need to burn off the insects and fungus, the chaff, in our lives. This process is not usually pleasant, but if we persevere and cooperate with Him, we will emerge from the refining fire a far healthier person.
- The seeds God wants to plant in our lives will then have a rich soil in which to take root and grow. In the long term, we can burst open with new life, new ministry, new healing.
- And just like with the Sequoias, once we have been through the refiner’s fire, that area will be much less flammable, giving the “young plants” of God’s work a good start.
It could be that the tough time you’re going through right now is not so much an attack from the enemy as it is a refining fire from the Lord. Ask God in your prayer time if there is something in you that needs to be burned off so that He can use you even more so than He is now. And if the Holy Spirit reveals something to you, cooperate with Him in removing it from your life.
Like the Sequoias, you’ll emerge from the fire stronger for it and ready to disperse new seeds of life.