Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires

I know what you’re probably thinking, isn’t that Smokey the Bear’s slogan? Why yes, it is in fact! It’s a slogan that pretty much everyone in America has heard before, any National Park has a picture of Smokey somewhere warning campers and hikers alike to be cautious with fire. Commercials tell us that just one match can devastate a forest if we aren’t careful with it. I think the same could be said about our responsibility as a leader. Now before you start to question what I’m even saying, I’m not saying that as a leader you need to watch out for setting a fire. What I am talking about is your responsibility to not start a spiritual fire. We live in a world filled with choices and we see people all around us make compromises of what they believe. We often see leaders in high positions misuse the influence they have, treating others as lesser people or speaking painful words over them in order to grow in status. We try to push others down in order to gain a higher viewpoint, but this will only end in devastation. God has given you all a position to lead, he designed you with a purpose. Your purpose is to bring others into the kingdom. If this is our purpose, why do we misuse our power? Instead of becoming the hero who rescues and saves others from falling, we become a villain drunk with power.

I love the letters Paul writes to Timothy. It is such a perfect example of a seasoned leader who is strong in his faith, giving advice to the new and inexperienced leader Timothy. What a beautiful picture for each of us. In 2 Timothy 4:2 it says, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.” Paul is charging Timothy with this, but he is also charging each one of us with this. This is how a leader leads, this is the way we can prevent spiritual forest fires. I think it’s sad when people just decide to be passive, and say things like, “someone else will do it,” or, “it’s not that big of a deal.” If you don’t step up, who will? Everything we do is a big deal. People look up to us, we have the responsibility to take care of what we have. I want to continue key leadership principals, and today I want to share with you how only you can prevent forest fires.

We have responsibility with what we say.

This is such a vital key to leadership that so many miss. Our words have weight, what we say can effect someone for the rest of their life. Positive or negative, our words are so very important. I love words, I think there are certain things one can say that mean so much. With each thing I say, I try my best to be careful. Do I fail? Of course, but I am actively thinking about each thing that comes out of my mouth. This past month in Daystar Kids, we have been looking at the virtue of perseverance, and yesterday we looked at ways to encourage those around us who feel like giving up. You see, our words are a powerful tool. We can encourage others and push them to do more, or we can call them failures and tear them down. Often I have seen leaders talk down to people in their ministry or careers because they feel threatened that this individual may have better ideas than them. Why would we talk down to these people and stunt their growth? Positions we have in this world are temporary, so when someone believes in their ability, we have the responsibility to encourage them and lift them up. This is what humility looks like, elevating others into their potential and not lusting after the credit. We have a responsibility with our words to encourage and lift others up, don’t burn others with words of death. Be careful with what you say, because it could start a fire and end up burning you.

We have a responsibility with what we consume.

I love film and television. I think God uses these mediums as a way to teach us the core truths that are found within story, but we have to be careful. What we watch will present images in our minds, and we need to be careful with what we consume. This doesn’t just go with film and TV, we live in a connected world. The websites we visit, the podcasts we hear, the music we dance to; we need to be careful with it. We need to have accountability with others, you need a guide in your life to tell you that you’ve gone too far or ask you questions of how your consumption affects you. If you did nothing but eat garbage, you would get sick. The same is true for the media we consume, because there are a lot of voices out there. This isn’t me telling you to disconnect completely, I’m simply saying you need to guard your heart, because you are a leader. It may mean not going to that movie, or leaving the room when that Victoria’s Secret commercial comes on. You are a leader, God made you for a purpose, why would you ever want to compromise that fact? Take practical steps. For me, I use Covenant Eyes on my computer, it helps me be accountable as well as block out unwanted images online. If I see an R-rated movie, I look it up and go with someone I trust. If I’m with a group and a commercial comes on or a certain scene starts unfolding, I leave or go to my phone and play some Marvel Puzzle Quest. I want my leadership to no be tainted by something so small, I want to guard my heart for my future wife, and I want others to know they can stand for what they believe in. You have the responsibility with what you consume, because only you can prevent the fires in your own life.

We have a responsibility with how we present ourselves.

Whether you believe it or not, when you are a leader, people watch you. Not in a creepy stalker way, but in a way that they look at how you present yourself. What I’ve noticed while living in such a connected world, people don’t think about what they post. I have made myself a social media policy, it’s not a written down thing, but it’s something I always think about when posting. I ask myself, does it tear someone else down or hurt them? Is this article aligning with biblical principles? Does this picture objectify anyone? I ask myself these questions because I know that people watch me, I’m not lying about what I say, I’m simply being cautious with what I post. I am in student ministry, so I always want to make sure that I’m careful and not promoting something they cannot do. For example, I don’t really drink, but even if I did, I’m not going to post pictures of me at a bar. Why? Even though it is legal for me to have a drink, I never want to have a student that may be struggling with alcohol to misinterpret and believe it’s okay at their age, or to think I would be drinking to get drunk. You are a leader, you need to be careful with everything you say and do, especially with what you post. You have a responsibility with the way you present yourself, because we don’t know someone’s past or the way our actions can effect another person. So do all you can to live above reproach, only you can prevent the fires from a misinterpretation of a post.


You are a leader. God has given you strengths and talents that you can use to influence hundreds of people. You have a responsibility, only you can make a stand. God doesn’t call us to stand back and wait for someone else to lead, he wants each of us to use the responsibility he has given us to lift others up. We live in a world where spiritual fires are tearing others apart, and we are called to lead them into freedom and life. We have a responsibility with our words, with what we consume, and the way we present ourselves. We are called to lead others, so lead with wisdom. Only you can stand up for what’s right. Don’t let the world make you sit back and watch it burn, prevent the fires in your life.

Follow Christ, and you will be able to prevent setting spiritual fires in your life.

-Joshua Thomas

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