It’s fascinating to me how the principles that take place in nature are many times principles that are true in our spiritual lives as well. Forest fires are a good example of this. One of the most intense types of forest fire is called a stand-replacing fire. Stand-replacing fires are forest fires of extreme intensity that have a seemingly catastrophic impact on the ground and vegetation. They will actually kill most of the trees in the stand. While stand-replacing fires seem at first to be nothing but catastrophic, they are actually a necessary and natural pattern of disturbance on a landscape that initiates forest succession or regrowth.
The Jack Pine is one of the trees impacted by these types of high-intensity fires—and the tree that may need these fires the most. You see, the Jack Pine’s cones will remain closed for years, keeping the life-giving seeds within them protected. Even though the seeds are safe, as long as they are in those cones the Jack Pine can’t live into its full potential.
However, when the Jack Pine experiences the extreme heat of a stand-replacing fire, its cones finally open. Though the tree dies, it experiences a resurrection of sorts as the full, life-giving potential of its seeds are released onto the burnt ground around it. Only because of the fire is the Jack Pine able to experience new life and new growth. In other words, it’s not until the fire consumes it that its abundant life comes.
I’ve held on to this image of the Jack Pine for quite a while now because its story contains within it a beautiful spiritual image and principle: death leads to life.
This past week I was thinking back over the seven years our family has spent in Hattiesburg—how moving here was, for me, a very scary, yet courageous, decision. I died to myself in a lot of ways in order to make this move. I died to what I was comfortable with and what I had known for twelve years. This move meant a new phase in my calling. It meant re-visioning the way I do ministry and taking new risks and leaps of faith. It meant being willing to follow God wherever He would lead me, even though I had no idea what was ahead.
As I thought about the last seven years, I realized that God and I have been through a lot of fires—some pretty big fires that I really thought were going to destroy me at times. Fires that made me sick. Fires that destroyed my peace. Fires that brought out the worst in me. I never would have invited these upon myself, but each one of them exposed damaging qualities about myself I didn’t want to see. Each one burned away unhealthy attitudes and insecurities like fear, pride, and anger to name a few.
With every fire I died to myself a little bit more. Did God leave me dead? By no means! Each and every time he delivered me through a brand new resurrection! He healed me, re-established me, provided for me. With every fire He created a new and fresh environment hospitable for my growth.
The fires we go through can be painful and seemingly catastrophic. But when we submit to them and understand the deeper work that is happening within us, we learn to see them for the beneficial work that they are. We can even learn to thank God for these times because we want the growth and maturity to happen more than we want to stay in ease and comfort—living a limited, unhealthy, mundane life that is slowly sapping our passion, joy, creativity, health, and impact. And once we’ve been through these natural patterns of disturbance in our soul enough, once we realize that God is always good—even in the fires—we will soon learn to pray, “Consume me, Lord, with your holy fire. Burn away anything in me that is unholy so that I may continue to grow in you.”
Think about that request, “Consume me, Lord,” for a moment. If you are consumed by something it surrounds you, you are overcome by it, encapsulated within it. Isn’t this what we really want— to be consumed by God’s Holy Spirit? There is no need to fear being consumed by Him because our God doesn’t consume us to our destruction. He does, however, consume us to our death—death to self—so we can be resurrected again and again into richer, fuller life.
This is the picture the Jack Pine gives us. When it is consumed by the fire, its life is brought forth in an exponential way. This is another great principle: When God brings healing and life through your seasons of death, what your life produces as a result is an impact with exponential increase! Jesus taught us in John 12:24, “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
Are there some things in you that need burning away? Are you currently in a fire that you think will consume you to your destruction? Stand strong in the Lord. Don’t fight the work He needs to do in you. Do not fear, but trust that He will bring forth the resurrection you need to see in your life.
I’ll leave you with this link to the music video for the song “The Jack Pine” by the group HEM. It’s a beautiful song and the video is so sweet. I hope you enjoy it. But more than that, I hope it helps you remember this crucial truth: You can’t have a resurrection without a death.
May you be willing to be consumed by the all-consuming fire of the Holy Spirit so that you may be resurrected to new life. And may you rejoice with God over the exponential increase your life will produce as a result.