Tried by Fire
1 Corinthians 3:12-15
Last week Michelle and I took a long weekend to go to Redding California. It’s an eight-hour drive, and we mainly went to visit Bethel Church and see Amore and Terry, some friends we made in that area just a few months ago. A couple of the days we were in Redding we drove just outside of town to the Whiskeytown National Reserve. We took one of our weekly hikes out there and spent some time around Whiskeytown lake taking pictures.
Some of you may know that this is part of the area that was hit by the Carr Fires last Summer. The destruction left by the fire was so sad to see and yet had a beauty all its own. The burn area went as far as we drove, and further. We later found out that the devastation went on for thirty miles and was twenty miles wide. It was unfathomable how much loss there was. This fire burned 229,651 acres, destroyed 1,604 structures, a total of $1,659 billion in damages, and took eight lives. It is touted as the sixth most destructive fire in California history and after being there to see it first hand, howbeit almost a year later, I can believe it.
But here’s the thing, amongst all that destruction you would come across a structure made of stone or metal that, although being burned, was still standing. Last week we talked about building a good foundation that others could build on. We mentioned how we must make sure it is deep enough and take into consideration the elements it will have to endure, but another thing we must take into consideration is the materials used to build it.
Back in the old west, around the turn of the twentieth century, this was a problem that existed. You see, wood was abundant, and it was a quick way to build. During the gold rush, some of these cities were practically going up overnight. Because of them building these cities almost completely out of wood, fires were a constant problem, especially since that’s how they heated the structures. Wikipedia has a page called, List of Town and City Fires. Take a look at how many fires there were in the 1800s and early 1900s that wiped out entire cities; it’s staggering.
This is the issue that Paul was addressing with the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, when he said, “12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
Paul tells us that one day our foundation will be tested with fire, so we had better take a look at what it’s made of. There’s an old song I love, written in the 1980s by Ron Hamilton, called O Rejoice in the Lord. I got to hear Ron give his testimony of this song in person. He said that he went to the eye doctor for a routine visit and the doctor didn’t like what he saw. He set Ron up for a surgical procedure and told him that if it were nothing, he would wake up with a sore eye, but if it was cancer, he would wake up with his eye removed. Well, after the surgery, Ron woke up to realize that they had removed his eye. Many people would have gotten mad at God at this point. Ron was serving God as a worship leader in his church and loved the Lord with all his heart, and now this. But Ron didn’t react like that, in fact, while laying in that hospital bed he wrote this song:
God never moves without purpose or plan
When trying His servant and molding a man.
Give thanks to the LORD though your testing seems long;
In darkness, He giveth a song.
I could not see through the shadows ahead;
So I looked at the cross of my Savior instead.
I bowed to the will of the Master that day;
Then peace came, and tears fled away.
Now I can see testing comes from above;
God strengthens His children and purges in love.
My Father knows best, and I trust in His care;
Through purging more fruit, I will bear.
O Rejoice in the LORD
He makes no mistake; He knoweth the end of each path that I take,
For when I am tried
I shall come forth as gold.
The story goes on that Ron did come forth as gold. His first Sunday back in church, now with a patch over his eye, a young boy came running up to him and said, “Mr. Hamilton, you’re a pirate now!” From that, Ron launched Patch, the Pirate, and if you grew up in Church in the 80s and 90s, you knew Patch the Pirate, my kids loved him.
Because Ron had built his foundation on gold, silver, and precious stones, when the fire came, he just got better. Had he built his foundation on wood, hay, or stubble, it would have burned up in that fire, and he would have lived the rest of his life, a miserable man, blaming God for his deformity. What did verse 13 say? “Each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.”
Maybe your fire already came, and your foundation burned up. Maybe you’re one of those people who is sitting there blaming God for your problems. If that’s you, then get up and start rebuilding, but this time, use the right materials and make sure that foundation is deep.
If your fire has not come yet, then start inspecting. Just because you go to church once a week and pray before your meals doesn’t mean you’ll withstand the fire. I’ve talked about this before, but if we just tithed our time, if we just gave God ten percent of our time, that’s 17 hours every week. So, ask yourself, do I give God 17 hours a week? If not, that’s a good place to start.