When God Puts You Up A Tree And Sets It On Fire

Gary Kurtz, the producer of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back said in an interview with the LA Times:

I took a master class with Billy Wilder once and he said that in the first act of a story you put your character up in a tree and the second act you set the tree on fire and then in the third you get him down.

There are times in life when it feels like God has put us up in a tree and then set the tree ablaze. We wonder what the heck God is doing. We wonder why he has allowed our bank account to be stripped, or our health to be decimated, or our marriage to go to pieces, or our boss to be such a tyrant, or our children to wander from the faith, or our singleness to continue well past the time our biological clock has gone silent.

We question.

We struggle.

We wrestle and grapple with the truth we know in our heads and the ache we feel in our hearts.

And we feel alone. Really, really alone.

But we’re not alone. God has been putting his people up in flaming trees for thousands of years. God promised Abraham a son. Then God put Abraham up into a tree by letting Abraham get older, and older, and older. Finally, when Abraham was 100 years old he had a son. Then God set Abraham’s tree on fire by telling him to sacrifice his son.

God promised to rescue the people of Israel from the clutches of Egypt. Then he put them up into a tree by leading them to the edge of the Red Sea. Then he set their tree on fire by causing the Egyptians to chase after them.

God promised Gideon that he would deliver the Israelites from the hand of the Midianites. Then he put Gideon in a tree and set the tree aflame when he told Gideon that his army would consist of only 300 men.

Why does God do this? Is he some sort of sick, sadistic storyteller who enjoys inflicting pain on the characters in his stories? No.

God puts us in flaming trees in order to increase our faith in him. He allows our circumstances to become so desperate that when the deliverance comes we can only attribute it to him. He allows us to come to the end of ourselves in order that we’ll trust wholly in him. This is why God said to Gideon:

The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, “My own hand has saved me.”

God won’t let us do any of the boasting. In his kindness, he knocks out our support systems so that we’ll find our support in him. He breaks down our walls of defense to force us to take shelter in him. He puts us into impossible circumstances to prove that he is a God who does the impossible.

Remember, the third act is coming. Deliverance is coming. It may not look like we expected, but it will come. And when the deliverance does come, God will receive all the glory.

And when we’re tempted to doubt God’s goodness, let’s remember that he put his own Son on a tree and then set that tree ablaze with his wrath. If God would do such an incredible thing for us then he will surely deliver us from our troubles.

Stephen Altrogge

I'm a husband, dad, writer, & Mixed Martial Arts Salsa Dancing Champion. I created The Blazing Center. I've also written some books which people seem to like.

One comment

  • Pastor Altrogge:
    You exhorted us to “honor President Obama” in an excerpt of your book appearing recently on the Crosswalk.com website. The excerpt I read seems to need further explanation.

    You emphasize the need to define our terms, but you do not define clearly what you mean by the term “honor,” as far as I could see. You seem to assume that God placed President Obama in position as our president. That is certainly debatable. God put in place a president who declares publicly that America is not a Christian nation? Who is pushing a Middle East nuclear plan that appears to threaten Israel with destruction, when the Bible says that those who curse Israel will be cursed? I could more easily believe that the spiritually-blind and deceived voters in the nation put him in office despite what God would have intended.

    You give no depth to your reliance on Scripture that you say supports your exhortation–that even the evil Roman Emperor Nero should have been “honored.” Was that statement perhaps extremely pragmatic, to prevent Christians from provoking their own deaths so that the church could continue to grow? Adolf Hitler should have been “honored?”

    You don’t say anything about the duty of Christians to speak out against statements and acts by our leaders that appear to support an increasing apostasy.

    I agree that hateful statements of extremely vitriolic nature are wrong, but there is a lot that could be said to give your exhortation better balance and depth. It would be sad if biased readers somehow used your writing to support the president in his acts and statements with which they should strongly disagree.

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