When on vacation, my family and I enjoyed studying facts about the area where we stayed. So, at the start of a Gatlinburg, TN vacation, I bought the book “Great Smoky Mountains Trivia” at the visitor’s center.

While our kids had no idea, my husband and I immediately understood the reference to Smokey Bear in a few of the questions. For those of you who are too young to remember, let me educate you on Smokey Bear’s wisdom.

“Only YOU Can Prevent Wildfires”

Smokey Bear started telling people about fire danger in 1944. He was a cartoon bear used by the National Forest Service in a campaign to protect national forests from human-caused fires. In the campaign, Smokey Bear often pointed and declared that “Only YOU Can Prevent Wildfires.”

While still active, the campaign now features a realistic-looking bear, still pointing. However, those of us who remember Smokey Bear likely realize the significant absence of this campaign as compared to its heyday.

“Great Smoky Mountains Trivia”explains that foresters now recognize that fire can benefit nature. Today, park managers decide on a case-by-case basis whether or not to fight fires or allow them to clean the forest.

Additionally, the National Forest Service now educates people on the benefits of fire. They still educate about fire safety and being responsible to not carelessly cause a forest fire that could destroy homes and wildlife, but the finger-pointing pressure seems to be off of “YOU” just a bit. In fact, forest experts explain that fire can significantly benefit forests so much so that they sometimes intentionally start or “prescribe” them.

Prescribed Fires

Known as a “controlled burn,” a prescribed fire refers to:

“The controlled application of fire by a team of fire experts under specified weather conditions that help restore health to fire-adapted environments.”

Forest experts name the following as benefits of “prescribed fire”:

  1. Reduces excess brush, shrubs, and trees that stifle new growth.
  2. Encourages new growth to flourish in space created by burned excess.
  3. Maintains structure for the many plants and animals that need fire to stay healthy.
  4. Reduces catastrophic damage from unplanned fires that destroy homes and other land beyond the forests.

The key with prescribed fires lies with their execution at the hands of experts who carefully plan the fires so they can be used in constructive ways.

The Last Days’ Fire

Forest experts understand the benefits of a prescribed fire, and that understanding transfers well into what Bob Sorge in “The Fire of Delayed Answers” says about “The Last Days’ Fire.”

“The righteous will understand what this fire is all about. They will embrace the fire, and rather than finding it destructive they will discover it to be constructive in their lives.”

The fire Sorge refers to are the trials named in Daniel 12:10.

“Many will be purified, cleansed and refined by these trials… Only those who are wise will know what it means.”

Just like forest experts use prescribed fire to benefit the forest, God also uses fire to purify, cleanse and refine us. He uses it to prepare us as vessels for “honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).

Reducing Excess

Without God’s refining fire, we become overgrown with excess. We become distracted with our lives filled to the point that new growth cannot flourish. Even our basic structures become damaged because we can no longer fit in the fellowship and time with God that promotes growth.

God’s refining fire, his controlled burn in our lives reduces excess. This process purifies and strengthens our love, making us increasingly aware of what Sorge describes as the “apathy, greed, lukewarmness, materialism, and the self-indulgent spirit” of the culture in which we live.

Unlike Smokey Bear, God does not point at “YOU” to prevent fire in your life. Instead, He asks that you look to Him as the expert in refining through fire, trusting that his controlled burn results in healthier and stronger lives.