The Waldo Canyon Wildfire, which began June 23 on the western slopes of Colorado Springs, is now the most destructive fire in Colorado’s history. In just a few short days, it scorched 18,247 acres and caused the evacuation of more than 36,000 residents in the Colorado Springs area. It was responsible for killing two people, destroying 346 homes, and damaging 50 more. Miraculously, just two weeks after it started, the fire is now close to being fully contained.
As of July 3, the wildfire had generated a tab of $13 million for the various aspects and efforts of fighting it and had caused housing damages totaling $110 million.
At one point, thousands of firefighters found themselves working 20 hour shifts to help contain the fire, sleeping in makeshift camps on school lawns or on the roads themselves. Unbelievably, that number was reduced to just 117 by July 4.
If you search on the Internet, you will find photographs from this fire that will stagger you. It started as a single plume of smoke rising early Saturday afternoon against the mountainous backdrop. Then, on Tuesday night, with overwhelming quickness, it spread down a hill into a residential neighborhood and became a terrible threat to an entire community. There did not seem to be much hope at all that the firefighters and other agencies involved would be able to stop it or even slow it down before it became catastrophic for the whole city.
But American heroes once again showed their courage, ingenuity, toughness, and refusal to give in, even against such overwhelming odds. And they won.
As you drive through the area today, you can see a burn perimeter around a church that was saved. You see an empty field that was destroyed across the street from a residential neighborhood that still stands. You see one home that was burned to the ground beside six or seven that escaped harm. It is eerie and chilling.
Being overwhelmed is something we all experience at one time or another. How we handle it can tell a lot about us and our trust in the One who centers us.
I realize that, when it comes to the role you play in the pastorate, some of you are “underdogs and undersized.” Some people do not give you much of a chance, and you don’t play in the same league as the “big boys,” but every day you lace ’em up, get out on the playing field, and give it your all. That is why you are a winner. You do not sit around and whine about your situation, but you see every day as an opportunity to give God the glory and to be more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37). I salute you!
Yet, there are others of you who, for some reason, have underestimated your value. You have diminished the significance of your assignment. Let me tell you something important — where you are is where your challenge is. The battle is before you.
A lot of pastors I talk to have given up on the church, the culture, their goals, and even their own effectiveness as leaders in the church. Not me! We may go down to defeat in some battles, but if we do, those who defeat us will bleed before they win. And the Bible tells us that we will eventually win the war! That is why we are called “more than conquerors.” So, hold your head up, my colleague. Balance the good and the bad, and never forget who your leader is — and “what a mighty God we serve!” Be a hero.
“No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).