You may remember my post from right around Easter called “Weight on the cross.” In that post we looked how much weight the cross could carry. Maybe you even took the time for some self-examination to find out if there was any baggage you were carrying that needed to be laid down at the cross.
For many people, laying our baggage down at the cross is the easy part. Not picking it back up . . . that is what we really struggle with.
There is no shame in admitting you have baggage. We all have baggage. I struggle with anger, codependency, control, resentment, and other things. I laid them on the cross, but battle daily to not pick those things back up. Some days I win the battle. Some days I do not.
At Celebrate Recovery recently we each took a piece of paper and wrote on the paper the things we wanted to nail to the cross, the things we wanted to lay at the feet of Jesus. It was a remarkable representation of not just the things we knew we could ask and receive forgiveness for, but all just how much weight the cross could bear. Addiction, adultery, lying, stealing, anger, resentment, abuse . . . and the list goes on.
But it didn’t stop there. This past Friday night we had a fire. It was intention, and it was once again symbolic. It was much like writing a letter to someone who has hurt you and then destroying the letter. Sometimes you just have to get the negativity out of you so it can’t control you any longer.
Fire . . . it can be a tool of great destruction. Look at the Chicago Fire of 1871. 300 people were killed. 100,000 people were left homeless. 3.3 square miles of Chicago were destroyed. And one of the rumors as to how the fire started . . . a cow kicked over a little lantern.
But fire can also be a tool for great purification. Iron ore in its raw state is very unrefined. But put that iron ore in a smelter with enough heat, and those impurities will be removed. What is left is steel, a metal stronger than the iron ore was to begin with. But it had to withstand a little heat.
We all have impurities. We all have those little spots within us that are our weakness, that keep us from being as strong as God wants us to be. We endure fire in our lives. With family, friends, in our job, in our life in general. Too often we avoid that fire because we don’t think we can withstand the flames to get through it. Too often we shy away from the flames because we are afraid to see what is on the other side. It may seem easier to stay in our safe little world, and avoid the risk that the fire brings. But by avoiding the fire we are denying God the opportunity to work in our life. We are taking away from God the opportunity to purify us for Him.
Our own free will brought the impurities into our life, but we are given a path to be clean, strong . . . through salvation in Jesus Christ. The path was never guaranteed to be easy though. Those flames can be tall, bright, and hot. But Philippians 4:13 gives us a comforting reminder in times of fire, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me,” just as iron ore is strengthened into steel when the impurities are removed. You will not be left alone in your flames. You will not be thrown into a smelter while God watches idly from the sidelines. Deuteronomy 31:6 tells us to, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
He will never leave you nor forsake you.
You may feel like you are surrounded by flames. You may feel like you are having the worst day ever and wonder if it can get any worse. We know it can always get worse. But no matter how hot the flames burn, no matter how completely those flames surround you, you will never be alone. Those flames are purifying you. They are making you a man or woman who will be stronger instrument of God.
Daniel 3 tells the story of King Nebuchadnezzar. He decided to build a huge golden statue that he commanded everyone to worship. People from all over his kingdom fell before the statue and worshiped it as Nebuchadnezzar had commanded. All except for 3 men. Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego. They refused to worship a golden idol, knowing that they could worship the only true God.
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”
They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”
25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”
So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.
28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not afraid of the furnace. They were not afraid of the fact that they had been tied together. They did not fear the fact that the furnace had been heated seven times hotter than normal. They had faith. They had faith that God would protect them no matter how hot the furnace got, that God would be with them in their time of distress, and they never lost that faith. God saw them through without one hair on their heads singed, and not even the smell of fire on them.
Is your faith that strong?
You may not stand in a fiery furnace, but you will withstand trials and difficulties. But will God ever leave your side? No. He will protect you. He will stand by you, and he will see you through the flames.
And once you’ve come through those flames you will notice a new flame within yourself. A passion that God has laid in your soul. Maybe it will be a passion for helping addicts find their way out of addiction. Maybe it will be a passion to teaching children, or sharing the gospel. Maybe it will a passion for helping the poor, or being the best spouse or parent that you can be. Whatever your passion is, it will start small, like the cow that kicked over the little lantern in the Chicago fire. But once you recognize it, it will grow. The flames will burn bright inside of you.
Colossians 3:23 reminds us to, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
Yes, fire can destroy. But fire can also purify you and make you stronger. And that same fire will fuel your passion in the world.
What impurities are you ready to put in the fire?
What are you passionate about?
Take a moment to think about what impurities, what sin, you may still be hanging onto. What are you ready to let go of that you haven’t yet?
Now think about what you are passionate about. If you could go anywhere, do anything, in service to God what would you do? What talent or skill would you love to be able to use for the glory of God? How is God already calling you to serve Him that you don’t even think you can do? Remember, God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called, and He has called you for a reason. So what is holding you back from putting that passion to work in your life? Are you afraid of the flames, or do you trust God to protect you in the furnace?
Get a slip of paper. Think about what you need to let go off, and think about how God wants to use you. On one side of the paper write down what you are ready to let go of, what baggage you are ready to turn over to God. On the other side of the paper write down what you are passionate about, how you would like to see God use you. If you don’t know what you are passionate about, but know that you are ready to God to use you as an instrument for His kingdom then just write down the word, “Yes!” You are putting your “yes” on the table and letting God know that you are willing to let him guide you to where he wants to use you.
Now fold that paper up and burn it.
God will use the flame to burn away your impurities, and then He will turn it into a flame that will fuel your passion. And besides you can pick up baggage that has been destroyed, and you can take back a “yes” that you have given to God.
Make the decision to longer let your baggage have power over you, because you are flawless, my friend, and you are called by God.
Let God do the work in you to continually remove whatever he sees as an impurity. And keep your eyes open for the spark of passion that He will grow in your life.
Do you have your slip of paper ready? Then what are you waiting for?
Until next time . . .