Through The Fire

Through The Fire April 12, 2024

Man Fire Freerange Stock
Man Fire Freerange Stock

    Do you know what I have found out about spirituality? That the less I try to understand it the better I understand it. People historically have tried to conjure up, wind up, pay up and work up something into an image or religion and call what they have invented God for a long time. The reality is true spirituality is not something we can put on the shelf of a church to be taken down on Sundays. True spirituality is something that is best lived out loud in all that we do. Every action, deed and word is a prayer blessing the Creator or cursing him. Our very lives are a constant prayer going up to the Creator. Our sacrament is every food we eat, and every drink that we drink from the fountain of Mother Earth. The spirit of the Creator is in all things and therefore sacred.

“To a man who lives unto God nothing is secular, everything is sacred.
He puts on his workday garment and it is a vestment to him. He sits down to his meal and it is a sacrament. He goes forth to his labor, and therein exercises the office of the priesthood. His breath is incense and his life a sacrifice. He sleeps on the bosom of God, and lives and moves in the divine presence. To draw a hard and fast line and say, “This is sacred and this is secular,” is, to my mind, diametrically opposed to the teaching of Christ and the spirit of the gospel.”
Charles Spurgeon

    I find much of my solace and connection with the Creator in nature. One of the things that connects me is fire. I love building a fire and sitting by it. How often I have felt the companionship of fire and the fellowship of the flame. How often have I felt its arms around me as I warmed myself at its hearth? How often have I peered into its depths and smiled as a story was revealed to my heart? How often have I felt its soothing warmth all about me calming my fears? How often has it driven away harm from my camp while I slept? Oh yes, I have known fire in a way that many have not known. I have always felt that fire is a living thing. There is just something about sitting by a fire. It is such a primal connection that even modern homes have fireplaces in them although they seem to revert more and more to some artificial representation of fire burning. Give me a good ol’ wood fire any day!

Benjamin Raven Pressley
Benjamin Raven Pressley

    Fire warms, provides light, cooks our food, provides security and provides companionship, just to mention the obvious uses of fire. But maybe not so obvious to those living in modern times. These days most never even see a fire unless they light some decorative candle or fire up their grill. Open fire for heat has been replaced by an invisible heating element somewhere never to be seen. A cooking fire has been replaced by a glowing impersonal eye on top of an electric stove.

    As a camper, hiker, woodsman and survival skills instructor I have perhaps experienced fire on levels most will never know. I have made fire by literally rubbing two sticks together! I can tell you firsthand there is nothing like coaxing that coal out of the friction of two pieces of wood rubbed one against another, transferring that coal to a tinder bundle and blowing life-giving breath on the tinder bundle till it bursts into flames. It is such a great feeling when that fire is finally built and you can just sit back and enjoy its warmth, light and protection! You can just look back and declare it was all worth it to have a fire going.

Benjamin Raven PressleyMaking fire with bow drill
Benjamin Raven Pressley
Making fire with bow drill
Benjamin Raven PressleyMaking fire with bow drill
Benjamin Raven Pressley Making fire with bow drill
Benjamin Raven PressleyMaking fire with bow drill
Benjamin Raven Pressley Making fire with bow drill
Benjamin Raven PressleyMaking fire with bow drill
Benjamin Raven Pressley Making fire with bow drill
Benjamin Raven PressleyMaking fire with bow drill
Benjamin Raven Pressley Making fire with bow drill

Life is that way if you think about it. Life often gives us problems to deal with that sometimes feel like friction rubbing us the wrong way, grinding our strength and hope away until it seems we can stand no more.

Sometimes things happen in life that are so painful. I’ll bet if those two sticks being rubbed together could feel pain they would scream out. And there are times in our lives when we scream out for the pain and friction to stop. Yet there is a master firemaker who knows how much we can stand and knows just what it takes to make us into something useful and apply just the right amount of pressure to coax that life-giving flame from our souls. That master firemaker of life is none other than our Creator, God himself. He knows how much we can take.

“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
1 Corinthians 10:13

    I believe the personal trials of life have a purpose and will show us we are stronger than we think we are. I think God wants us to know how strong we really are in him, and that part of the secret is to wrap ourselves up in him and trust him. I feel bad for those who struggle through life without God. I could have never gotten through a bad first marriage, raised two little boys by myself, or got through cancer without him. The fact is whether you are a believer and follower of Christ or not you still have to do life like everyone else. The difference is if God is with you and in you he will be your strength through it all.

    As terrible as the suffering can be, it also is a living testimony of how the Creator can turn that which was meant for evil into good. The conflict is often the source of our greatest strength. Conflict is often the revelation that there is more to us than meets the eye.

Benjamin Raven Pressley exploring cave with a torch
Benjamin Raven Pressley exploring cave with a torch

    Another quality of fire is it makes light for us to see by. Of course, most today use electric devices like flashlights or if you camp you may use a gas lantern but at the core of it is this concept that fire makes light. I have explored caves with torches that were no more than strips of bark or bamboo bound together and lit on fire. Indeed there is a lesson to be learned as your path is lit by a handheld light, whether it be a flashlight, lantern, or torch. They do not light up a whole trail like daylight, they only light up enough of the trail before you so you can take your next step. God is that lamp to our feet and light to our path. Psalm 119:105

    That is the way God leads us. He never reveals what our whole life is ahead of us. Face it, it would scare us to death if we were able to see our whole life before us. God enlightens our next step and our next step and we trust him as we move forward in our lives. He only expects us to trust him day by day and step by step. There have been times in my life when I had to make myself trust him for my next breath. He doesn’t expect us to trust him for 10 years from now. He only expects us to trust him for whatever we can trust him for and that may be our next step or next breath or next heart’s beat. Sometimes that is all we can do. Don’t fret about tomorrow or what may happen next just breathe in his strength every single step along the way. Sit down now and then if you have to catch your breath and he will be sitting right beside you encouraging you along the way to carry on.

Benjamin Raven Pressley cancer
Benjamin Raven Pressley cancer

    When I received news in 2023 that I had cancer it was the worst punch in the gut I could have ever imagined. When you get the news that you have cancer it seems like a death sentence. My first thought was How long do I have to live? I believe in a healing God. I believe he could have healed me immediately but when he didn’t I had to decide how I was going to react to it. I could have got mad at God but I didn’t. He didn’t heal me right away but I felt his supernatural peace through it all.

“And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Phillipians 4:7

    I had to trust him every chemo treatment. Month after month just like a light to my path, step by step, day by day he was with me in a way that is indescribable. As my beautiful long hair came off in clumps in my hands due to the harshness of the chemo treatments through my horror and tears he was with me every step of the way. He spoke to me early on to ‘Take it day by day and don’t what if…?’ Fact of the matter is he was walking with me every step of the way through the very valley of the shadow of death but I had to walk through it trusting he was with me every step of the way. Now I can look back and see God was with me every step of the way.

  • I can be thankful the doctors caught it early.
  • I can be thankful that I was never throwing up sick through the chemo.
  • I can be thankful that it was a cancer that could be cured medically.
  • I can be thankful for a wonderful wife, family and friends that were there for me through it all.

    Consider Psalm 23. It is more than just pretty Bible verses we quote as a kid or cross-stitch to hang on a wall. It is about walking with God and trusting him even in the midst of adversity. He promises to defend us against the lions and bears of life when it seems that surely this will be the big one that takes us down for good.

Psalms 23 says “He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters…” I remember many times all I could do was break down and cry and wonder why this was happening to me, after all, wasn’t I a good follower of Christ, why me? And at times when I seemed my lowest he would make me smile, he would give me peace and hope. There were times I felt like I was just laying my head in his lap in a place that it wasn’t logical, considering what I was going through. Indeed, it was like lying in a green pasture beside still waters rather than the troubled waters of worry and fear and ‘what if’ that I could have had had I not trusted in him.

    I didn’t understand why I had cancer at the time but months later I was able to understand, for through it all I have been told what a witness and testimony to God’s power and what an inspiration I have been as they watched me struggle with joy and peace through the whole ordeal. From the start, I decided not to curse God but to ask ‘What do you want me to learn through this experience? It does no good when you are going through hard times to blame God or the devil or anyone else, rather give yourself to letting God teach you through every hard experience. Let him restore your soul, your mind, and your emotions. Make up your mind to trust God and to trust the process he is leading you through. No, I don’t believe God causes sickness or hard times in our lives. The fact is, follower of Christ or not, we all have to do life. We all experience hard times and sickness. The question is will you let it make you or break you?

    How we walk through something determines if it makes us or breaks us. It is said that ‘perception is reality’ and that is true to a certain extent. Our perception may not actually change the reality but how we perceive it will certainly determine how well we walk through it. We can perceive life’s trials as something that will kill us or make us stronger. It is said ‘that which does not kill us makes us stronger’. Do you see the perception change there? Do you see the shift in attitude and how we view a particular situation?

    Another thing fire does is it purifies. One method of purifying water and making it safe to drink is boiling it. Even gold is refined by fire. In times of old gold was heated until all the impurities were brought to the top so they could be removed. The supreme test was when all the impurities were removed one could look into the cauldron of molten gold and see one’s reflection. When we are going through the trials of life it doesn’t feel like refining. When we look at our lives through the filter of pain all we see are the impurities and weakness. Don’t be afraid to look at what the Holy Spirit is revealing to you during times of trial. It may be ugly to view but given time we will be able to look back at that time in our life and we will see a familiar reflection looking back at us as we see Jesus peering back at us and he will be saying ‘Well done!’. We won’t see that weakened impure person we started out as but we will see Jesus reflected in us.

    It often takes going through a fiery trial to show us what we are made of and if we are building our lives with the wrong materials and relying on the wrong things, allowing our time to be spent on worthless things that will not stand the test of time.

  • Sometimes sickness is a wake-up call to start taking better care of our bodies.
  • Sometimes seemingly meaningful relationships fail or cause hurt to show us that they are not a relationship we should be in.
  • Sometimes we find out who our true friends are when we are going through a hard time and people scatter that we thought we could rely on.

….It is a purification, a trying by fire that is going on.

    Are you beginning to see how fire is a metaphor for life? Trials and tribulations are sometimes necessary to form us into what we need to be and to make us useful and helpful to others suffering along the way.

    Think about the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the book of Daniel chapter 3. Three young Hebrew boys were thrown into a fiery furnace heated seven times hotter than normal to die because they would not bow to the king or anyone besides the God that they served. As the king and others looked into the furnace they could see the three of them walking around unharmed and a fourth man that the king said was “like unto the son of God”. The king told them to walk out of the furnace and this they did. It is said not only were they unharmed but they did not even have the smell of smoke upon them and the only thing burned were the ropes that had them bound. Sometimes it takes a fiery trial to set us free from the things in life that are binding us and holding us back and just like the three Hebrew boys God promises to be with us even through the fires and trials of life.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; neither shall the flames kindle upon you.”
Isaiah 43:2

    He still guides his people. He still fights for us. He is still a consuming fire burning up that which binds us and destroys the enemies of our soul!



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