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November 19, 2017

Many years ago Wanda and I moved to a town in Northern B.C., as I had accepted an offer to be a youth pastor. Before we had an opportunity to settle, the senior pastor scheduled a retreat at a remote cabin for all three pastors on staff. When we arrived, they made a fire and smoke filled the cabin. Without my Ventolin, which was still unfortunately packed, I had a major asthma attack. The senior pastor put me in his truck and with the other pastor sped towards a nearby hospital. As I was losing consciousness, they casually talked about church matters. I vaguely remember the hospital and then waking up in ICU much later. I learned something critical that day; for me personally, smoke is life threatening.

I am very allergic to smoke of any kind. I constantly have to have my asthma medicine around to keep me from having an attack when I smell it. Since that time in my youth I have learned to be very careful whenever I smell smoke nearby. For me the smell of smoke is a danger sign in the natural realm; but it is also a danger sign in the spiritual realm. Just as I am allergic to natural smoke, I am also allergic to spiritual smoke. And just what is spiritual smoke you might ask? Well spiritual smoke is the smell we give off when the ‘self’ nature is alive and well within us.

I have been around many people in my life and can always tell when I am in the presence of a smoker; they smell of smoke. People who smoke are not aware of the stench because they have become so desensitized to the smell themselves; but non-smokers can smell it. Likewise, those that still carry their ‘self’ nature also have a unique smell that they cannot smell themselves because they too are desensitized to it. Those who are actively trying to put down their ‘self’ nature, gradually learn just how bad they smelt before as they are increasingly cleaned up by Jesus in the wilderness. It takes a long time; but as you become clean, the better you smell in the spirit. The question is, why does this happen?

Let’s take a look at a curious piece of Scripture in Daniel chapter 3. Now in this passage we read that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up an idol for all to worship. All people did obeisance except for three Jewish men who stood up to the king; they would not bow down to, and worship, his idol. When threatened with death, these faithful men stood their ground in faith. Finally, King Nebuchadnezzar exploded emotionally and had the three men thrown into a very hot fire. Miraculously, or expectedly, King Jesus appeared with them in the fire and they were not burned. King Nebuchadnezzar demanded that they come out of the fire; which they did. Now we read a very curious part of the passage in verse 27, “And the satraps, the deputies, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered around together and saw these men—that the fire had no power upon their bodies, nor was the hair of their head singed; neither were their garments scorched or changed in color or condition, nor had even the smell of smoke clung to them. Then Nebuchadnezzar said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who believed in, trusted in, and relied on Him! And they set aside the king’s command and yielded their bodies rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.

These three men are a testament and an example to the power of living faith. When faced with a decision, between death or faithlessness, they chose faith. This is exactly the type of decision you will encounter in the wilderness many times. It is a stark, black and white choice that you will face and cannot escape from. You must choose just like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did. Now the result of that choice will either place you in the fire, where you might lose your life; or in the unenviable position of having to bow to a god other than King Jesus. If you are in the wilderness, or preparing to go there, I can tell you your choices will put you in the fires of testing.

Before you go and decide that testing is not for you, let me make something perfectly clear. If you are a believer, you will not be able to avoid testing. The Holy Spirit will make sure it is presented to you. You see His goal is to mature you and your faith. And the primary means He uses to mature you is testing. Since there is never any way to avoid these tests, the best option is to make the right decisions. Too many believers today do not understand this principle and capitulate; making decisions early on in their spiritual life against faith, well before they get to the life-threatening stage of testing faith. This is why so many believers today are pretenders, hypocrites, weak and immature. Remember that any decision including avoidance, indecision and procrastination, against the Holy Spirit to present you to Christ full grown, will ultimately torpedo your faith walk. You will NOT be given the blessing of being led to the season of the wilderness; you will stay in Egypt and stay immature if you continually make the wrong decisions.

For those that do want to walk the path of faith and maturity, I can guarantee that a full course of spirit led testing will be included in your schooling, until the Holy Spirit is satisfied you are learning. The tests of faith the Holy Spirit will give you will start small, as they always do; until you reach a point where your faith is mature enough to handle life and death challenges. These tests will place you in fires you could never imagine surviving, and you couldn’t survive if it wasn’t for the abiding presence of Jesus walking beside you. He faces the test with you, protecting you. You see Jesus never ever promised to keep us from the fires, BUT He did promise that He would be with us in the fire; just as He was with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. It is His presence alone that guarantees that we will survive the test and not be destroyed.

But why all the testing? Why is it so necessary to go into a wilderness with God and have to face such hardship, suffering and testing? This is where the smoker comes in. Remember that the smoker has no awareness of his smell. We too have the ‘self’ nature within us and yet we are likely not aware of the odor it gives off. God however smells our stinky smoky ‘self’ all too well and it reeks in His nostrils. Now when something or someone smells pretty bad, the only option is to give them a good scrubbing in a bath. Just like all good parents, God the Father does the same for us; except His bath is the baptism of fire we must endure in the wilderness. The design of the wilderness is to scrub out of us the ‘self’ nature and its nasty smell so we can be acceptable and perfumed as the Bride of Christ. If you thought there might be another way to be cleansed of the ‘self’ nature, I am sorry to have to disappoint you. The Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever; and so is the season of the wilderness with its purpose to dethrone self.

When we DO allow the Holy Spirit to perform His cleansing work in us through the testing, we will emerge from the fires as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did; without the smell of smoke. This basically means that the ‘self’ nature has been burned out from within you, and what is left is the sweet, pleasant aroma of Jesus. The smell of Jesus is easy to recognize in anyone who has been through the wilderness. It is the smell of humility, brokenness, love, tenderness and simple joy. Although hardship has tested them thoroughly, there is no escaping the sweet aroma.

Just as there is no smell of ‘self’ coming from those who have endured the testing fires of the wilderness, there also will be a distinct smell coming from those professing believers who have chosen ‘self’ instead of spirit and faith over time. Their smell is not hard to miss. Everything will be about them; how they were hurt, how they were wronged, how they suffered, etc., etc. ad nauseam. People around them will eventually get sick of these believer’s constant focus on themselves, as well as their bitterness, self-pity, maliciousness, selfishness, anger and the like. Stay far away from these believers; they are separating themselves from God daily and have rejected the path of faith laid out by the Holy Spirit.

Testing is never easy to endure, and I do not envy those who are in a wilderness season, for it is a very difficult place to be. However, Wanda and I can testify with proven experience that if you choose faith in the tests ahead, Jesus will be with you through them. He will be with you always and make sure you come out the other side without the smell of smoke.


Homer and Wanda