God's Smoke Alarm

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, November 19, 2014 0 comments

by Logan Ames

What is the purpose of a smoke alarm? It’s not to just annoy you to the point that you want to take a baseball bat to it. Its purpose is to get your attention so that you are alerted to a major, life-threatening problem you otherwise wouldn’t have recognized. Sometimes you are in a deep sleep, other times you may be so far away from the fire in your house that you don’t notice it and the alarm causes you to stop whatever else you are doing to take action. If you have an alarm that doesn’t function properly, you may be susceptible to something much more drastic happening to you, your family, and your home. You may also be completely irritated by the constant beeping when there is nothing to be alarmed about!

I’ll never forget the two weeks I spent in the beautiful town of Buena Vista, Colorado in 2011. The purpose for me being there was to go through two weeks of intensive counseling that included a group teaching session, several hours of one-on-one therapy daily, and nightly homework. I was dealing with some personal struggles at that time in my life and had experienced the consequences of my poor choices. I was broken, but was also beginning to see the hope that I have in Jesus no matter what I had done.

Maybe the most impactful part of the group teaching was when my counselor, Pete Kuiper, stood up and taught us that “pain is God’s smoke alarm”. It was impactful not only because it made me think about what I was going through at the time, but also because it has stuck with me. Every time I realize that I’m kind of just getting by in life and not really experiencing the abundant life that God desires for me, and every time I realize that I’m going through a lot of pain because of my choices, I remember what my counselor taught. A smoke alarm has to be annoying. It HAS to get our attention. Otherwise, it’s pointless. We might get so frustrated some day with the annoyance of the alarm that we destroy it. We may take care of the minor frustration, but then it leaves us vulnerable to the much greater problem of a fire. The teaching was that the pain we feel in our lives, whether it be the result of our own choices or the choices of others, is there to alert us of a much greater problem. The pain is what gives us a chance to make a change so that we are not destroyed completely. We may experience the pain or consequences of sin and just do whatever it takes to make the pain go away, but unless we pay attention to the larger problem and take action, we are still in danger. We have to remember that the devil prowls around looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8), and we are most vulnerable when we don’t even know there is a problem.

Think about your own life. Do you realize there is a problem in your life when you wake up and the sun is shining and everything goes perfectly the way you had planned? Of course not! If you feel like everything is going well in your life, you won’t be inclined to change anything. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’”. As human beings, we have a tendency to only look at our present circumstances and if they include pain, we want it to stop and we want it to change. But God sees the big picture, so he may not be interested in changing your circumstances. He might be more interested in changing YOU!

Take a look at Jeremiah 29:1-14 and read it on your own. I will make just a few points about it. Jeremiah was a prophet who was almost always telling someone what they didn’t want to hear, because he was true to God’s Word through him. The people of Israel were in captivity to the ruthless Babylonians. It was one of the ways the Lord punished them for their disobedience and rebellion against him. He had warned them over and over again that this would happen, but when they rejected him anyway they experienced the consequences of their actions. Then, once they were in captivity, it was like they were just waiting on God to deliver them, praying that he would rescue them and change their awful circumstances. And he would… eventually. They even had prophets and diviners among them who claimed to be from God and told them what they wanted to hear, but God himself declared they were lying and that he had not sent them (vv. 8-9). Instead, God told them to get used to living where they were. He told them to stop waiting for him to rescue them and to learn to follow him even in the midst of their pain. He even told them to PRAY for the Babylonians (v. 7). How dare God ask them to pray for their enemies! God then tells them, as we often quote, that he has plans for them to prosper and have hope and a future (v. 11). But what we often don’t realize is that God says this right after telling them they will be stuck in Babylon for SEVENTY YEARS (v. 10).

Friends, seventy years is a long time to suffer consequences for sin. But in the scope of Israel’s history and their future, it was still but a fraction of what God had planned for them. God chose to allow them, as a nation, to be punished for their sins because he still had plans for them to have a future that would include being an example for other nations. Israel’s purpose was to point the rest of the world toward God. Their disobedience was a much greater problem than the pain they experienced because it threatened their very mission on this earth. God doesn’t delight in punishing anyone, but he loves his people enough to send any alarm necessary to get their attention. What “smoke alarms” do you have in your life right now and what bigger problems is God trying to draw your attention to? Rather than asking God to get rid of your pain, try asking him to give you the strength to endure the pain and to reveal to you what you need to learn. He cares about you enough to not leave you drowning in your consequences. Take comfort in verses 12-13 in the passage I referenced above: “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”. Go and seek the Lord!