I want us to look at three separate verses today - each carrying a little bit of this vs. that. In other words, if we act a certain way, this is our reward; act the other way and your reward will be quite different. Outcome is often determined by the things we set in motion at the beginning of the course - but not always. It is possible to turn an outcome around, even when you are already well down the path toward a certain outcome. For example, I can determine I want to build a fire. When I do, I set out to find some kindling - small pieces of dry leaves and wood to be the thing which will catch fire quickly when exposed to the source of fire. Then I will find other wood for the fire, in varying sizes because some will need to catch quickly and others will sustain the fire a lot longer. I can stack all of this so carefully, making a nice little mound in the middle of a pit I dig for the fire. If I don't have anything to ignite the fire in the pit, I have set things in motion for a fire, but there is something still quite lacking in my preparation - the actual spark which brings the fire to life. We often determine one course of action, but fail to focus on the one important thing we need to ignite the efforts we are putting forth, don't we? We have all the right stuff, but lack the one important piece which will help us realize the outcome we hoped for.
Live right, and you are safe! But sin will destroy you. Too much pride causes trouble. Be sensible and take advice. If you reject God’s teaching, you will pay the price; if you obey his commands, you will be rewarded. (Proverbs 13:6, 10, 13 CEV)
Life is kind of like building a fire - we set out to enjoy it, but somewhere down the road we realize we don't have anything to really "spark" within us so this way of life becomes productive in the way only the "spark" can accomplish. Have a spark not contained within the "walls" of the fire pit and it can set into motion things we cannot contain! Fire can be quite positive, but it also can be very destructive - depending on where it burns, what fuel it consumes, and whatever boundaries it is contained within. If the fire burns within us, we see ignited within a passion which is quite "burning" - almost motivating us to action in one direction or another. The right kind of fire can motivate us toward the right outcomes - the wrong kind can explode into uncontained frenzy!
Live right - be safe. Sin - be destroyed. If we go back to our fire example, we find the choice to allow only God's Spirit and his Word to ignite the "fuel" within our lives. Those passions we desire are those which are produced by the presence of God within. All other passions are like uncontained fire - creating a frenzy of activity and a plethora of destruction.
Pride causes trouble. Submissive obedience requires a spirit of cooperation and sensibility. One willing to take advice will realize a different outcome than one stubbornly resisting the authority of God in their lives. When we are willing to sit at the feet of Jesus, learning how we should respond to those things which we will encounter in our day, we find the passions we allow to built within are quite different than if we only "fan the flames" of our selfish interests and unreliable desires within.
Obey God's commands - the reward is positive. Reject his teachings - there is a price to pay. Each carries a "reward of sorts", but they are quite different. The fire kindled by God's Spirit produces a different radiance within. The fire kindled by the winds of self desire gets a little too out of control - hot, glowing, but totally uncontrolled and destructive in the end.
Where does this realization of "differences" leave us? We need to kindle the right fires within - not every spark produces the right kind of fire. A forest fire is kindled by a spark, but one which is out of control and "hungry" for fuel - yet not discriminating about the fuel it consumes. A fire carefully managed by the hands of a skilled fire builder will produce radiance and warmth, but it does so with purposeful intent, not wild frenzy. The fire of God does consume the fuel it ignites - it leaves a mark - there is evidence of it in our lives. Not only does the fire produce a radiance of character unable to be achieved without God's spark within, but it consumes whatever is put into it. This may not seem like much at first, but when we apply ourselves toward obedience by embracing God's Word, it takes hold of us in ways which leave a mark. It isn't an indiscriminate "marking" by the fire of God, but rather the purposeful production of beauty from ashes. Just sayin!