The Rock Hill Fire; God’s Future Grace in the Charred Remains of Yesterday’s Past
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28
Early in my ministry I had the opportunity to serve as Youth Minister at Rock Hill Baptist Church in Lexington, Tennessee. While there, the Lord blessed me with the opportunity to see great things accomplished for His kingdom. Rock Hill has always had a special place in my heart. I began dating my sweet wife Sarah during my time at Rock Hill. It was also where I was as I welcomed in the year 2000. During our church night watch service, the old church bell rung at midnight as we all rang in the new millennium. It certainly was a special memory. Eventually, my time at Rock Hill came to an end, and God called me to my next ministry. However, my relationships with the people of Rock Hill remained. Years later, in 2010, Rock Hill’s sanctuary was stuck by lightning. And in that moment, a building filled with over one-hundred years of memories burned to the ground in just a little over one-hundred minutes.
How can we glean spiritual insight from such a devastating fire? Here are five insights that come to mind…
1. Nothing surprises God. – Though the fire took everyone by surprise, it did not surprise God. God is all knowing, and nothing happens without His permission. From construction, to demolition, He knows how long every single man made structure on this earth will last.
2. The Church is God’s people, not some building. – The church is not constructed with bricks and mortar, but with the people of God. We are the hands and feet of Jesus in service to Him. And whether our meeting place is destroyed by wind, fire, or flood, nothing can sever our eternal security in Him.
3. Everything on Earth will eventually burn up. – Everything will eventually be destroyed by fire (2 Peter 3:10), and that none of our earthly structures or possessions will last. Only the soul of man is eternal, and as eternal beings, we will either spend eternity in heaven or hell (Matthew 25:46).
4. We learn from the past, not live in the past. – Historical church buildings are undoubtedly a wonderful treasure. But they are to only be houses of worship, not objects of worship. Now, I am certainly not suggesting that the people of Rock Hill were guilty of worshiping their church building. They certainly were not. But in the days that followed the fire, I was reminded of how God does not want His people to dwell on the past. In Luke 9:62, Jesus said, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
5. God holds every lightning bolt in His hand. – God has complete authority over all creation; for even the wind and the sea obey Him (Matthew 8:27). This includes every crackle of thunder and every bolt of lightning, and He alone determines where each bolt of lightning will strike (Job 36:32). And so on that cold January afternoon, God the Meteorologist permitted one of His lightning bolts to strike the sanctuary of Rock Hill Baptist Church, for reasons beyond our comprehension. Yet we should still find comfort in knowing that God even controlled the lightning bolt that struck the church.
The fire left its mark upon the hearts and lives of Rock Hill’s people. But as the dust settled in the months that followed, God blessed the church as He equipped them with the adequate tools and resources needed to rebuild. And by the grace of God, they were able to climb out from under the rubble of devastation to become even stronger in their faith and service to the Lord. And so Paul’s words to the church at Rome in our passage above were certainly true for the Rock Hill Church family; God caused all the events surrounding the fire with Rock Hill’s best interest in mind.
Ponder these things today, and let us look for God’s future grace in the charred remains of yesterday’s past.
– Pastor Eric