“I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled (Luke 12:49)!”
Sugar producers have long ago developed a curious method for harvesting their cane fields. When their crops are ripe they set fire to the entire field. It seems counter-intuitive to set ablaze one’s entire crop, but this is the most cost effective method to burn away the undesirable leafy material that accounts for 20-25% of the cane plant. The fires burn hot but relatively quickly and do not actually harm the sweet goodness inside protected by the stalk and facilitates the yield.
It is interesting to note that the Bible presents fire as performing much the same purpose spiritually. Chaff, or what God considers unprofitable, is consumed by fire (Isaiah 5:24, Matthew 3:12). Those that did not please God or serve Him well were burned up in the Old Testament (Psalm 21:9, Isaiah 33:12, Ezekiel 22:21, Amos 1 &2).
Jesus also promoted this concept frequently. He said, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire (Matthew 7:19).” At the great harvest at the end of the age, He taught that the world is a field and the tares, or weeds, representing wicked men will be burned into the furnace of fire (Matthew 13:38-42). Those branches that do not remain attached to Him, the True Vine, will be withered and thrown into the fire and burned (John 15:6). And finally at the final judgement, those whose names were not written in the Book of Life will be thrown into the lake of fire forever (Revelation 20:15).
The fire, the Bible speaks of, destroys those materials that are not desirable for harvesting (1 Corinthians 3:13-15). However, the fire has a very different effect on those who are in Christ. Peter taught that Christians may suffer persecutions that he referred to as fiery trials (1 Peter 4:12-17). He also explained that God puts us through various trials in this world to produce a genuine faith in us that results in the great produce of our salvation (1 Peter 1:6-9). He depicts this process as a goldsmith refining his precious metal in fire to burn away the dross and so to produce pure gold.
When God exposes us to fire He does so knowing it is not to harm His precious harvest but to burn away those things that are undesirable having His eye firmly fixed on the thermostat not allowing the flames to destroy us but to perfect us (Psalm 66:12). As we are protected by Christ in the fiery trials, He is also ever present with us during them. As Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace there in the flames with them was a comforter present (Daniel 3:20-25).
Finally there is a day coming in which the entire world, even the very elements, will be burned up (2 Peter 3:7-12). The chaff will certainly be burned by the flames but those in Christ will emerge safe and shining as the sun in the Kingdom of God (Matthew 13:40-43). Yes, fire burns up the undesirable elements but it also works to yield the sweet harvest that God desires.
“When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you (Isaiah 43:2b).”