"On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem…. Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went."
There are certain plants whose seeds are released only after they have been exposed to fire. For example, the jack pine, unlike many other tree species, does not drop all of its seeds as they ripen. The majority of the seeds remain protected in closed cones with a waxy outer coating.
When a fire occurs, the thick cone protects the jack pine seed from the intense heat. Jack pine seeds have been known to still be viable after exposure to heat at 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s that heat, however, that opens the scales of the cone and releases the seed onto the ground where the fire has removed much of the existing vegetation and litter.
And, since jack pine seeds also require contact with mineral soil to germinate, a fire that, at first glance, may seem destructive ends up serving to prepare the seedbed, reducing competition from other plants, and releasing the jack pine seed. It is only through fire that these seeds can fulfill the purpose for which they were created.
This in many ways demonstrates how God can use the "fire" of hard times in our lives. By exposing us to difficult times, the seedbed of our heart can be better prepared to hear the Word of God. Often, too, hard times serve to eliminate the clutter of our lives, clutter that often competes for attention that could otherwise be focused on God. As our hearts soften and clutter is eliminated, we find God has planted a seed of the plan He has in mind for us, a seed that draws us nearer to Him and makes us more fruitful in His service.
In the same way that the fire of persecution of the church at Jerusalem resulted in the fruitful spreading of the Word two thousand years ago, the difficult times of our lives today can also result in glorious kingdom gains not only for each one of us but also for those around us.