Can you imagine sifting through the ashes of your home, searching for something of value in the aftermath of a wildfire? This is what many in Paradise, California are doing. In fact, I listened to a news report where a victim said the only possession of his that survived the fire was a ceramic teapot that he had made in high school.
Imagine that … in a moment, this man’s life was destroyed. Everything that he had amassed over the years was nothing more than a heap of ashes. His life was spared, but at the expense of leaving behind everything that he had ever valued and cherished.
Most of us are horrified at the thought of such an experience occurring to ourselves or to a loved one; however, the Bible warns that such a day is coming to every one of us. An inescapable day of reckoning will try the quality of our lives and the motives of our good deeds. A divine fire will consume all that is ultimately meaningless, sparing only those things that have eternal value. Some will be richly rewarded, while others will manage only to escape with their lives as all their accomplishments and everything they had amassed in life is reduced to ashes (1 Cor. 3:11–15).
Moments like this remind us of what is most important in life. Paradise has literally become a hell on Earth, being engulfed by a seemingly all-consuming fire that has burned more than 152,000 acres. Having claimed 81 lives, with another 699 reported as missing, California’s Camp Fire is already the state’s deadliest and largest fire. At least 12,637 residences have been destroyed, along with 483 commercial structures and 3,718 other buildings. News footage of the fire’s aftermath are heart-wrenching, but they are also illustrative of what we will all face in the afterlife’s moment of truth. The Camp Fire reminds us that ultimately, possessions are meaningless, yet we waste so much of our time and resources pursuing possessions. Even our careers are ultimately meaningless, as is evidenced by the countless businesses numbered among California’s ash heaps. Instead, relationships have proven to be the greatest treasure for many of California’s victims, and they will be our prized possessions on the day of judgment.
When our lives’ paraphernalia is burned away on judgment day, how many meaningful relationships will be exposed? What aspects of our relationships will survive into eternity? How much are we investing into others that could have an eternal impact? Put another way, will we be numbered among those who are richly rewarded, or will we narrowly escape the fire with our lives?
Sometimes we need the stark reminder that comes with a force of nature beyond our control. Life is far more than a career, an education, sports, holidays, shopping, politics, or any of our other obsessions. Nevertheless, so many of us choose to “waste” much of our life and opportunities on things that will eventually be turned to ash. As we look with sympathy upon California’s forlorn fire victims huddled in shelters, realize that we ourselves may essentially become the afterlife’s destitute refugees if we don’t take advantage of today’s opportunities to invest into the lives of others something of eternal value. Let’s resolve to be intentional in our relationships, investing into them eternal value. Put another way, let’s fireproof our relationships!
1. Gonzales, Richard. “California Camp Fire Death Toll Reaches 81, Fire Authorities Say.” NPR, November 20, 2018. Accessed November 21, 2018. https://www.npr.org/2018/11/20/669855868/california-camp-fire-death-toll-reaches-81-says-fire-authorities.
4. Kruta, Virginia. “Paradise Volleyball Team Lost Everything in Fires—Their Opponents Come Through in a Big Way.” Daily Caller, November 20, 2018. Accessed November 21, 2018. https://dailycaller.com/2018/11/20/paradise-volleyball-wildfires-opponents-donations-forest-lake-christian/.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.