Helpless. Devastated, but alive. The heat of the flames force him to stay back at a safe distance and watch all of his possessions serve as fuel for this great fire. With smoke in his eyes, burns on his skin and soot in his hair, he stands on at a safe distance while the walls begin to fall. What will remain when the smoke clears? What can be sifted out of the ashes after such a searing heat? A lone tear streaks his face as he ponders the possibilities.
This home was more precious to him than anything else. It took a great many years, but he built it with his own hands. A skilled laborer, he methodically put it together piece by piece to finish the design and accomplish his architectural masterpiece. It was the vision of his life, a monument to his great skill – and he personally set every nail, cut every board and rolled every square foot of paint. Sure he received guidance, advice and opinions as he went, but when it came to the work his timecard was the only one punched.
The tragedy started slow, a small wisp of smoke in the back bedroom delicately working it’s way up to the ceiling, swirling to & fro – harmless & playful, like a lone flute playing in front of the orchestra at rest in the massive concert hall. The heat source not even visible. Laughable really, easily disarmed like a child with a knife if he had the power to intervene at this stage.
Hypnotic was it’s dance, and now growing in power. Soon the wisp was joined by another right nearby and together they rippled like a flag in the wind. Below them the darkness was pierced by a dim amber light – so small & faint, but enough to begin to cast an erie malformed shadow of the bed on the wall.
The wisps were now plumes, darkening to a thick black and rolling up the walls and across the ceiling. The flames grew – quiet & elegant at first, but they crackled with intensity as their hunger took over. So dry. So much to consume; so ready to burn.
One massive pop jarred the man awake from his dead sleep. A quick look and he knew instantly what was going on – and how helpless he was to do anything abut it now. The doorway was overwhelmed and the hallway seared with heat. A flaming bit of curtain streamed down in front of him and settled on the bed. His feet shot out of the covers and landed on the ground in a brilliant leap.
His eyes were pierced with smoke and soon the world turned to a rain-soaked windshield – a blurry version of his familiar surroundings. There was no time to save anything; he had just enough time to get out alive. The window he left cracked by the bed would be his only chance.
Dark with soot & raging with heat, his bedroom was ablaze. His hands screamed at him when the flames licked the hair from his arms at the window sill, but he had to press on. In a quick motion he threw the window open and tumbled onto the front lawn, just as a large piece of ceiling fell on the bed.
Shallow breaths were all he could muster as he slowly rose to his feet and stumbled further away from what remained of his home. He had his life, but everything he had spent his days working for just went up in smoke.
1Co 3:12-15 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
If we are a true believer, we are redeemed by Christ, bought with a price and guaranteed an eternal life with him (John 6:40). The condition of our arrival, however, is not guaranteed. The Bible indicates that despite being saved completely by grace and grace alone, our works will give an account and either offer reward or shame for us on the Day of judgment when God reconciles all accounts. (Rom 14:10-12)
We are designed to work – we have been given time, materials, talents & a desire to build. One way or another, we are going to pour ourself into labor in this life achieving goals, building dreams and accomplishing the tasks before us. The real question is, what materials are we building with? Are we building with gold, silver and precious stones – those works that will bring eternal fruit (Gal 5:22-23), or are we spending our time building with 2x4s, hay & stubble – the world’s goods that will all eventually burn?
If we are going to set ourselves to backbreaking labor regardless, why not do that which will please the Father and reap eternal treasures and joy?