We walked through the halls and visited some of the classrooms Monday night. By Wednesday morning, some of those halls and some of those classrooms were destroyed. The staff, shocked and saddened, are hurting from the loss of many years work. Present and former students reflect on their memories. Some view the charred remains with a large lump in their throat. Others have mixed feelings, and some respond positively, with hope for a new, improved facility.
My youngsters attended Fort Saskatchewan High School such a short time, so when the news came on the radio, my mind soon moved from personal distress to the trauma of loss by fire. I tried to feel what others must be feeling. For example, how would I react if my study burned, and I lost 15 years of written work, as some teachers have this week?
Those who experience loss by fire say that it puts life and possessions somewhat into perspective, at least for a time. Desiring a long-range view, I turned to a passage in 1 Corinthians 3, verses 10-15. This refers to the judgment seat of Christ. There, the fire of God will test the works of Christians, those people with Jesus Christ at the foundation of their lives. This fire determines rewards, however, and is not a fire of judgment. His flame will be used to burn out the useless and vain, and even though the Christians will “be saved, yet so as by fire,” all their works will not survive.
I’ve never personally experienced a fire but reading these verses convinces me that certainly one day I will view some charred ruins. They will be the ashes from the deeds of my life that have had absolutely no eternal value. I can easily identify some of them right now: sin, rebellion, disobedience against God . . . all highly combustible material. Others are perhaps less obvious, but nonetheless flammable: aimless pursuits, selfish plans, show-off stunts, little and big things that flow out of a motivation to serve and glorify me instead of Christ, my Savior and Lord.
The fire in our high school is tragic. Staff and students have lost some valuable things this week: projects, notes, homework, term papers, records, personal possessions, mementos. However, the pain of those loses, even though it is real and very difficult to bear, cannot be compared to the anguish of looking back over an entire lifetime that has been wasted. Someday, pursuits that God calls “wood, hay, and stubble” will go up in flames, to be lost forever.
When that fire comes, surely we who are Christians can rejoice that our foundation cannot be destroyed. However, because He gave us that foundation, ought we not be building on it? This week’s fire should prompt us to re-evaluate the architecture of our lives. The bricks should be fireproof deeds of righteousness, cemented together by truth and love, making a building of works that cannot be lost. Hard work and sacrifice are involved in the construction process, but the Lord supplies the needs of His workers, including a clear blueprint, all materials, and strength and courage. When the final building inspection comes, the test of His refining fire, may we have much left standing on our foundation, and few ashes to regret.