I'd be willing to bet that pretty much every single person reading these words knows what it's like to undergo a 'baptism by fire'; they might now understand or realize that's what it is, but nonetheless, that's what it is! At this present time, I can almost feel the flames, but I'm pretty sure I'm not experience even half the hardship that many do. As Christians, or those that walk in the footsteps of Jesus, metaphorically speaking, we know that whatever happens to us is for our good, even if it's only in the long run, but while we're going through whatever, it sure burns sometimes!
If you understand anything about kilns, you know that a kiln is made to harden lumps of clay, to make vessels usable for the purpose for which they were formed. Kilns are also used to make certain things more beautiful! Though kilns don't always involve direct flames; whether the purpose is to make a vessel usable, to purify, or to make something more beautiful, fire usually has its intended effect!
At this time, Montana & much of the West is in the midst of its almost annual fire season; while these are, in many cases, horrifying to hear about or witness, but especially to be in the path of, these wildfires do have their purpose! There are certain individuals out there who, whether out of pure meanness or plain ignorance start fires, many acres have been torched by lightening bolts from heaven. Wildfires do have a cleansing effect, burning off old, dead timber and clearing away the underbrush, allowing for new growth. One might call this Nature's way of cleaning house, but I call it the Creator's way of clearing His landscape; it is awful when people, animals or structures ( in that order ) get in the way, but this cleansing MUST occur!
Metaphorically speaking, though sometimes literally, the flames that we often endure in the course of this glorious adventure we call life serve the same purpose! They show us sometimes what we can & can't do without. They have a purifying effect in that, allowed to reach their goal, the fires of hell consume the dross in our lives ( either that or they consume us )! Although sometimes these fires serve as a punishment of sorts, brought on by our own stupidity, they still serve the purpose of showing us that we're on the wrong path; in this way, even though ( especially ) brought on ourselves, reaping what we've sown tends to have a cleansing, purifying effect!
Our Heavenly Father uses such a process with His Creation, with His Children! Although scripturally speaking, hardening of the heart, for instance, had the effect of rebellion, of turning in willful disobedience to one's own wicked or ignorant ways, but in this New Age with the Fiery Presence in our midst, the effect, more often than not, is to purify the one going through the fire, to prove his or her mettle & always, to accomplish our Heavenly Father's Purpose!
We are all more than familiar, in most cases, with the feeling that we are going through a 'baptism by fire'! Even though ( more often than not ) this fire seems to rage because of something stupid we did, this is not always the case; sometimes it occurs to us because of someone else's stupidity & we just end up paying the price! Whatever the case may be, we may be sure that when it does occur, the effect will always be beneficial to us ( usually ) & well as to those around us. As always, we have a choice as to how we endure the fire; will we allow it to take its course & be the better for it, or will we acknowledge or Heavenly Father's cleansing, purifying work & be the better for it?!
Charles Haddon Shank