I spent last Saturday sifting through the ashes and broken pieces of a couple of Colorado Springs families’ burnt-out houses looking for something, anything, of value. On that particular day, more than 160 of us volunteered with Samaritan’s Purse to come alongside homeowners who had lost everything in the recent fires. It was tedious work. Teams of 20 or so people were assigned to the rubble that once had been someone’s house and home. Half of the team shoveled blackened fragments into buckets while the other half poured the contents of the buckets onto large screens, then sifted through them, looking for anything even remotely recognizable.
In an entire day’s work, this is what I and my partners found: a handful of quartz chess pieces, fragments of ceramics and pottery, an intact but thoroughly melted wine glass, two marbles, some bottle caps, a barely recognizable charm bracelet, a house key, and a charred page from a French textbook. Not much to show for a day’s work—much less, years of living.
I thought of my own house—what would last if it were to burn? Hardly anything, I’m sure. The fires reached temperatures of more than 2,000 degrees. Not much survives that kind of heat. And even if it did—would I ever be able to find it?
My mind turned to 1 Corinthians 3:13-15: “But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss” (NLT).
What am I building spiritually that will survive the test of fire? I thought of the things I pray about; if God answered the prayers I most frequently pray, would the things I’d prayed for survive testing by fire? I realized that some would—prayers along the lines of “the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Mt. 6:33)—but others, sadly, would not.
I was starting to feel discouraged. God, I want my prayers and labors to last. I don’t want them all to be destroyed so I have nothing to show for my life! I was surprised by what happened next. In my mind’s eye, I saw Jesus with a sifting screen standing next to a burnt-out house, like the ones I’d worked at Saturday. I realized He was sifting through my house—my life’s earthly work and prayers. At first I was crestfallen—I was sure I had accumulated a lot of wood, hay, and stubble that would vaporize under extreme heat. But I looked again and was amazed. He searched with loving intensity. He was seeking out treasure—and He wasn’t going to overlook anything. To my astonishment, He actually was sifting things of value out of the ruins. He’d find something, smile with delight, blow the ashes off of it, polish it with His hands, then lovingly set it aside in order to resume His painstaking efforts.
I marvel at His love. I am amazed at His resolve. I am in awe that He so painstakingly would seek out the best in me, sifting through bucket after bucket of ash in order to find a few treasures.
My heart is moved by that picture—His love compels me. I want Him to find something valuable when that day comes. Jesus, help me to lift my eyes to “things above” (Col. 3:1-2) and help me to lay up—and pray up—“treasures in heaven” (Mt. 6:20). Give me Your prayers—ones for Your kingdom and righteousness—so that on that day of fire-testing, You will find things that last. I want to give You that joy and pleasure, Jesus, for nothing would give me more joy.