Recently, I read some interesting facts about the sequoia tree, which grows along the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The giant tree can grow up to three hundred feet (20 to 25 stories) and weigh as much as twelve million pounds (comparable to a small ocean-going freighter). The circumference of the tree trunk at the base can be over one hundred feet (one-third the length of a football field).
The one thing I found especially interesting is that the sequoia requires fire in order to grow. The small green cones containing seeds awaiting germination grow near the crown of the trees. But if there is no fire or insects to crack open the cone, the seeds remain trapped inside. Fire dries out the cones, so that they crack open and deposit their seeds on the floor of the forest.
Fire also thins out the debris caused by the trees and shrubs which grow around the base of the sequoia. This debris is a barrier, blocking the seeds from reaching the soil. The shade from the smaller trees makes the ground too cool for the seeds to survive. Fire burns out the debris and trees and creates patches of sun and a clear forest floor, which is perfect for the germinating seeds.
Another benefit is that fire loosens the soil, allowing the seeds to fall into rich earth and to gather moisture previously taken up by the larger plants. And lastly, as the forest debris increases again, it protects the seedlings from the cold and seed-eating creatures.
As human beings, we all face fire in our lives – the heat of poor health, not enough money, broken relationships, addictions, wayward children, the loss of a loved one. But through the fire, God is saying “nothing can ever separate us from (His) love” (Romans 8:38 NLT). As born-again believers, we are protected in the fire, covered by His precious blood.
Remember Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the three Hebrew men thrown into the fire because they wouldn’t bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s image? The next morning when the king went to check on them, he said in amazement, “Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (Daniel 3:25 KJV). Just like Jesus stood next to those men in their fire, He’s standing next to you in the fire that burns around you.
In the fire, God reminds us that “I am the Lord who created you; from the time you were born, I have helped you. Do not be afraid; you are my servant, My chosen people whom I love” (Isaiah 44:2 GNT). As God told the Israelites when they faced the sea in front of them and the enemy behind, “…’Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today…The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm’” (Exodus 14:13-14 NLT).
As fire enables the sequoia tree to grow, the fires we face refine us of our impurities and allow us to see the hand of Almighty God go to work on our behalf.