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We were driving across the state of Kansas, and I was reminded again of what a panoramic view you have there no matter which way you look. Those plains just seem to stretch as far as the eye can see, and your eye can see just about everything - not many hills or mountains to hide in. If you know that terrain, you can understand how quickly an unobstructed wind can carry a fire across that prairie, destroying everything in its path. A Kansas farmer told us that at the first sight of smoke, every farmer and rancher who can see it leaps into action; some in pickup trucks that are loaded with tanks of water, others with tractors and farm equipment. They're all determined to stop that fire before it really gets started.
When you're dealing with fire that could do a lot of damage, it's smart to attack that fire while it's small, before it blazes out of control. That's not just a good strategy for prairie farmers. It's a way for all of us to keep from getting burned, along with people we love and things we care about.
God provides a clear example of that in Ephesians 4:26-27, our word for today from the Word of God. He says, "Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." In short, stop the fire of your anger before it spreads and consumes any more ground. Don't ever let your anger, your resentment, or your hard feelings last longer than a day. When you bury them and when you harbor them, they grow and you might as well fling open the front door on that relationship and say, "Devil, come on in and burn up whatever you want."
But this "fight the fire when it's small" principle applies to many potentially combustible areas of your life. Like potentially divisive feelings or attitudes that might be coming up among people you know or live with, or work with, or worship with. Just don't wait for that smoke to become a fire before you jump into action as a peacemaker. Bitterness, misunderstandings, miscommunications, wounds, they can't just be left there to smolder. You may not like confronting them. Very few of us do, but you're really not going to like what happens if you don't confront them.
You need to quickly go after moral fires, too. Satan is more likely to bring you down through small compromises than major collapses. That's why all of us have to be alert for the little cracks in our convictions, our integrity - the smoke of that first flirtation, that first wandering thought, that first experimentation, that first lie. By the time you've made a few more compromises, well, that fire could well be out of control and hurting things you don't want hurt.
Those prairie farmers actually have a lot to teach us about containing all those kinds of fires in our lives. See, fires just seldom burn out on their own; you have to attack them. And you can't wait to fight fires until they're raging out of control. It's too late then. You have to mobilize immediately to fight the fire with everything you've got, and you have to do it at the first signs of smoke. The alternative, well, you're going to see a lot you care about go up in smoke.
Learn three secrets to loving what you do from Ron Hutchcraft's message, "How to Love Your Job No Matter What." This complimentary CD provides new perspective on how your boss, your pay, and your hard work can help you love your job.