For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt.–Mark 9:49
This is a crazy verse, friends. As I read it this morning, I had trouble wrapping my mind around the words. Consider this mental image:
You. Going about your daily life. Your creator looking on, caring, concerned. Loving you more than your human mind can ever comprehend. Taking joy in the life He molded and knowing you’ll never reach your full potential if the status quo is maintained.
Hanging from his shoulder, like a messenger bag, is a satchel. A glowing, burning satchel. His hands, still scarred with the price of your redemption, reach into the satchel and pull out tiny rocks of fire. They blaze as He releases them. Sparkling, dancing through the heavens, they land with a painful sizzle on your heart.
They hurt. So bad. You fight them at first, pushing at the offending circumstance, at the hurt before you. But, fire must do its work, and soon–maybe not soon enough–but soon, the fire dies, having consumed all there is to consume. The flammable impurities you harbored deep inside are gone. You are stronger, wiser. You may not understand the nature of the flame, but you are better for having been burned by it.
You have been seasoned with fire.
And now, another being enters. You can’t see him, of course. He’s spirit, like your creator. Only different. Very, very different. Never grasping the full potential of fire, he craves only its power to destroy. From his own satchel, burning bright like the creator’s, he pulls a handful of flaming rocks. Similar, so similar to the fiery salt of the creator. Before he can tip his hand though, before the fire makes its way to your heart, the creator stops him.
“Open it,” He says.
And the evil one does. He has to. Has no choice. As much as he craves freedom, he is still subject to the creator’s will. Finger by finger, the malevolent hand opens, and there, his own brand of seasoning sits, sparking and biting, anxious to consume. The creator sweeps away this flame and that, knowing, ever-knowing the limits of His created. From the hand of evil, your redeemer flicks pains and hurts not intended for you. He understands your purpose. Made you for a reason. This fire is to season, not to kill.
But, there in the hand of evil, He sees a pain that furthers His design for you, for His created order, so He leaves it. Allows it to stay. Were you there, you may question the decision, but it would not be yours to fight. He is the creator. You are the created. Regardless of the hand it comes from, this fire will make you strong.
And so, it falls–this pain, this hurt, this tribulation or trial–into your life, onto the ground of your heart. The evil one smiles at the ache it causes, at the blister that will scar, but your creator knows that fire can only consume the excess, the fat. It cannot harm metal most pure. The process is similar to every other seasoning and in the end, because your creator knows you best, the salt of fire has pulled you closer to perfection.
I’m sure it’s a bit different. I doubt God really carries a satchel full of flaming rocks. But, the idea that every single one of us will be seasoned with fire, that we’ll all face pain and hurt that will leave us scarred, reminds me of the flannel-graph characters I learned about in Sunday school. I’m reminded of Job, who said, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him.”
I’m reminded of Daniel who survived a den of lions because an angel kept their mouths shut.
I’m reminded of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: Three men who were thrown into a furnace for refusing to bow down to the idol of a human king. Their words stir something deep inside me and today I hope they stir something in you. Resolve, maybe. Tenacity. The courage to stand when the world seems to be tearing itself apart at the seams.
To Nebuchadnezzar, they said, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Even if He does not. Did you see that phrase? EVEN IF HE DOES NOT!
Now, that’s faith. Faith that God’s plan is better than our plan. That His created purpose is more important than anything I cling to. Faith that recognizes a seasoning of fire. Faith that trusts God regardless of what my eyes see. Faith to leave my life in His hands, because His purpose is more important.
I want faith like that.
The kind of faith that can survive the fire.