SOMETIMES THE FIRE DIES

Sometimes The Fire Dies

 

The Scriptures frequently comment on living the Christian faith with passion

It is very clear that as believers we cannot be passive

We must embrace the truth and engage with the world for that truth

Jude 3b “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” 

TPT “(I) felt the need … to challenge you to vigorously defend and contend for the beliefs that we cherish. For God, through the apostles, has once for all entrusted these truths to his holy believers.”

“vigorously defend and contend…”

My personal favourite Scripture regarding living the faith with passion – serving Jesus with my heart and soul 

God spoke it to me … planted it deeply in my heart in July of 2007

Romans 12:11 “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord”

TPT “Be enthusiastic to serve the Lord, keeping your passion toward him boiling hot! Radiate with the glow of the Holy Spirit and let him fill you with excitement as you serve him.”

The Message Version: “Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master…”

Amplified Version “never lagging behind in diligence; aglow in the Spirit, enthusiastically serving the Lord…”

You get the idea …

But sometimes the fire dies down – the passion cools

Daily life floods in and overwhelms

Tragedy happens and your focus is elsewhere in the emergency

You have been engaged and involved and just need to step back to catch your breath

A while back I had one of those seasons where the fire was burning fairly low … the embers were still warm but, you know, not for long unless something changed

In my mind there were many valid reasons for the spiritual coolness and lack of engagement

And, one morning in a very dull personal time with the Lord  I heard Him say:

“Stoke the fire or retire”

There is something we need to notice about those who impact their neighbourhood or community (their family and friends)….

They never retire and are always on fire

The fire (passion) for the Lord in their spirit simply won’t let them slow down, sit back, or give up and stop

Even when they are tired and not feeling too victorious and definitely not looking like an overcomer… When their get up and go, got up and went

They realize that they need to do something to regain the zeal and passion to stay engaged and continue vigorously defending and contending for the faith

Paul wrote to his spiritual son Timothy at one of those times and said:

2 Timothy 1:6 “For this reason I remind you to fan into flames the gift of God, which is in you… through the laying on of my hands”

Amplified: “That is why I remind you to fan into flame the gracious gift of God, [that inner fire—the special endowment] which is in you through the laying on of my hands…” 

TPT “I’m writing to encourage you to fan into a flame and rekindle the fire of the spiritual gift God imparted to you when I laid my hands upon you.”

Study the life of any of the men and women who have had a profound impact for God, and you’ll see they were as active as ever right up to the last day God gave them on this planet

Billy Graham has often remarked that the Lord doesn’t give retirement praise and gold watches — and the true soldiers of the Gospel wouldn’t have it any other way because the passion burns intensely within them

I know you are like me — you want to go out with a bang and not a whimper

But if we struggle to keep the passion alive now, how can we do so for the rest of our lives?

I am 74 years old … and hope to live to 94+ so I ask myself what I should be doing to keep the zeal and passion alive

How do I “fan into flames” when the fire has cooled down

1> Stretch beyond your comfort zone

John F. Kennedy once said, “Only those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly.”

Fear and hesitation are among the first factors that will destroy passion within you

Douse the fire that should burn within you – the zeal, the passion

If you worry about failure

If you worry about overextending

If you worry about not being good enough

If you worry about not knowing enough

If you think you don’t have enough

Then you will retire meekly back into your comfort zone … even if you have yet to reach the age of 40 or 50 or 60 or 70…

And the next time you think of leaving your comfort zone it will be much harder to emerge and push out your boundaries

If you are older and use to the hymns sung in the more traditional setting you will find that you were subtly being discouraged from leaving your comfort zone (Listen to the titles…)

      • “O Safe to the Rock That Is Higher Than I”
      • “Haven of Rest”
      • I Have Found a Hiding Place”
      • “The Solid Rock”
      • “Hold the Fort For I Am Coming”
      • “Under His Wings I Am Safely Abiding”
      • “Jesus is the Rock in a Weary Land”
      • “Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me”
      • “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”

We should sing more about the full armour of God

We should be shouting “Onward Christian Soldiers”

We should be rallying behind spiritual march anthems rather than comfort music for weak-kneed saints

We need to “stretch”

That is where the adventure lies – Where we rekindle the fire / Regain the passion

We need to stretch beyond our limited – our comfort zones

That is where the excitement starts and the challenges lie

BUT, what if you settle for comfort and the status quo?

What if you hold back?

Time passes, and 20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did

Talk to an elderly saint and he’s likely to tell you that if he had it to do all over again, he would take more risks and less shelter

It is a day-by-day choice

Charge forward or retreat and hide

T.S. Eliot said, “Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

Just be forewarned that risk is – well, risky

When you step outside your comfort zone there is no guarantee that you won’t fail

People who achieve things in life and for the Kingdom fail quite often before they experience a breakthrough and success

So you will fail and you need to decide to push on anyways

You will need to develop tenacity and perseverance 

In days gone by it would be referred to as – to “pray through”

In the end, the storyline is not who among us stumbled because we will all stumble

The storyline is about who got up from the ground one more time

That person is the one who wins the race and the prize that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians

You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.   (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 MSG)

Ask yourself what holds you back from taking risks?

The majority of time the answer is fear

So we need to think in terms of the challenge that is laid before you

Ask yourself what is the worse-case scenario if your take the risk and step out in faith? 

Is the risk really so terrible?

In fact you will find that the regret from not moving forward is worst than any risk you might have to take

And, each time you show courage and take the risk

You gain confidence and experience and boldness making the next time you step out in faith easier … 

The fire grows and your passion increases

Each time you shy away from stepping out in faith

You drain yourself of boldness and passion  … and the fire will eventually die

So, with an active and engaged faith we will stretch beyond our comfort zone

We will always be pushing the envelope – living on the edge

So, God asks me and you – what is holding you back?

What are you hanging on to that prevents you leaving your comfort zone?

Is it worth missing out on a great adventure with the Lord?

At halftime of a football game, the coach of the losing team laid down a two-by-four in the middle of the locker room — a plain wooden plank you’d use for building a house

He asked his team to line up and walk the plank.

They looked at him as if he were crazy, but they did it

Afterwards, the coach said, “Now, how many of you would walk across that same plank If I took it off the floor and suspended it between the windows of two buildings on the 50th floor?

No hands were raised

The coach explained that the difference is the power of fear, the intimidation of risk

Every single team member could walk across that two-by-four when it was on the ground — and they could do so no less easily 50 floors higher

The difference is only in perception

God cares a lot about our perception

He wants us to stop taking counsel of our fears and cross the Jordan into the land of promise He has for each of us

The Israelites were within eleven days from the land of Canaan for 38 years — it was a matter not of crossing a plank but of crossing a river

A generation died with their hopes unrealized because they could not stop thinking about the giants in the land – fear stopped them and they would not risk it

The default setting for most human beings is comfort and safety – freedom from fear and risk

Security and predictability seem to be very attractive and somewhat comforting

I was in that group for a number of years following the example of my father and mother

Going to university to get a business degree

Working towards a nice house in the expensive part of Montreal

Two car garage and a large boat

A country home by a lake

Early retirement

Several things happened in my life that shook me free of all of that and I realized that there had to be more to life than comfort and stability

After I became a believer a second realization – I realized that life is short and that every day is a precious gift from God

And that each day should be received thankfully and lived with passion

That each day should be lived to its fullest with gusto and enthusiasm even in the shadow of uncertainty

I realized that I don’t wish to die until I have really lived – lived life to my fullest potential

So every day I renew my commitment to push the envelope for Christ and live by faith 

I wake up every morning committed to practice the art of wholehearted living by rushing boldly ahead to accomplish what I can

Working hard to never hold back – never to play it safe

Stretching myself to live all of life with passion – on fire for God

Passion for my family

Passion in ministry 

Passion in my relationships and friendships

Passion in my writing

Passion towards everything the day brings my way

And, I have found that when I stretch beyond my comfort zone it keeps everything in my life in perspective

Little things remain little things

Important things remain important things

And that pushing the envelope increases the passion for life and feeds the fire 

So, the Scripture we are looking at…

Romans 12:11 “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord”

TPT “Be enthusiastic to serve the Lord, keeping your passion toward him boiling hot! Radiate with the glow of the Holy Spirit and let him fill you with excitement as you serve him.”

The Message Version: “Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master…”

Amplified Version “never lagging behind in diligence; aglow in the Spirit, enthusiastically serving the Lord…”

2> Spend time with kids

The next time you are feeling like someone sucked all the passion right out of you, find the nearest five-year old

What you need is a healthy dose of innocence and vitality

And no one is more filled with wide-open passion than children

Have you ever seen a little boy catching fireflies dispassionately?

Have you ever seen a little girl whose eyes didn’t sparkle when she told you about her dolls?

Children wake up excited in the morning, and they fight bedtime because the vitality is still bubbling in them

They can still think of fifty perfectly good uses for this day, so why have bedtime at all?

We can take a cue from children by …

Asking lots of questions

Laughing as often as possible

Never walking anywhere we can run

If you lived this way, other adults would look at you suspiciously at first

Then it would occur to them that you’ve found …

Something to be excited about

Something to learn

Somewhere to go

And they might even eventually join you

We don’t want to be childish — but we do want to be childlike

Remember, Jesus held up little children as examples of faith

Matthew 18:2-4 “And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’”

Their gift is seeing life in its simplicity rather than making everything complicated.

3> Seek out exciting experiences

Passion is sustained in our heart by the experiences we have in life

Experiences here at home when sharing the love of God with others …

As we learn and grow in our ability to impact people with the Gospel

As we see God move and touch people’s lives through our prayers and when we minister in the power of the Spirit

Experiences when on short-term mission work

Several of you have had the opportunity to travel with me overseas and have first-hand experiences – always life-changing

Each time I go outside in my neighbourhood doing every day life…

Each time I go to another city or town in the province …

Each time I head to Manitoba or Montreal …

Each time I go overseas to one of many nations …

I am changed – mentally, emotionally, relationally, and especially spiritually

I am stretched

I am challenged

I learn more about myself

I have my heart broken

I have a fresh understanding of the nature of God

I engage and embrace different cultures

I wrestle with new ideas

I work within a culture totally different than what we experience here

I end up with a wider perspective and a better view of the Kingdom and what God is doing

Passion is increased – fanned into new flames – when we seek out exciting experiences

Most of the time “exciting experiences” will not find you

You have to intentionally go looking for them and put yourself out there 

It involves moving out of our daily routine

It involves, at times, leaving your comfort zone

It involves, at times,  a bit of risk – even a lot of risk

It will always connect you to other people – heart connection

4> Surround yourself with passionate people

Passion is contagious

A passionate person gives off sparks of excitement and energy and it can bring passion – anticipation, excitement, enthusiasm – into the lives of others

But I learned early in my ministry that the opposite is also true

Dispassionate people can pull you down and drain you of your passion

I learned that I could not afford the luxury of being exposed to people who demotivate me

I’ve learned  – and sometimes need to relearn – to take care whom I’m around because of what I can catch from them

True story – Eric Liddell …. The movie Chariots of Fire (watch video on You Tube)

It was exactly one year after winning the Olympic gold medal that Eric Liddell went to China as a missionary with the London Missionary Society. 

By bicycle and by foot, he carried the Gospel of the Kingdom to the back country of China, building on the foundation Hudson Taylor had left.

After Japan invaded China and World War Two broke out, Liddell was classified as an “enemy national,” and in August 1943 he was sent to a prison camp. 

He was one of 1800 prisoners housed in a dormitory that provided a room three feet by six feet for each man.

While a prisoner, Liddell accepted the challenge of his situation and organized athletic meets, taught hymns, and ministered God’s Word.

David Mitchell was a child who was interred along with Eric Liddell.

He later remembered the influence this Christian and national hero had upon everyone in the prison

He said, “None of us will ever forget this man who was totally committed to putting Christ first, a man whose humble life combined muscular Christianity with radiant godliness”

Just months before he would have been liberated, on February 21, 1945, Eric Liddell died of a brain tumour. 

What was it about Liddell that had such a great impact on David Mitchell and many other prisoners?

Here is the answer to that question in David Mitchell’s own words: 

“What was the secret? He unreservedly committed his life to Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. That friendship meant everything to him. By the flickering light of a peanut-oil lamp, early each morning, he and a roommate in the men’s dormitory studied the Bible and talked with God for an hour. As a Christian, Eric Liddell’s desire was to know God more deeply, and as a missionary, to make Him known more fully.”  (Passionate – on fire for God)

God is always looking for someone who is available… whose heart is passionate and totally sold out to Him

2 Chronicles 16:9a “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” (KJV)

“For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth so that He may support those whose heart is completely His.” (Amplified)

“GOD is always on the alert, constantly on the lookout for people who are totally committed to him.”    (MSG)

Like Eric and others, those who are difference-makers in life, are always people of passion

They exude an enthusiasm that inspires others – it is contagious

They live and breathe their life’s passion 

They see life as an adventure and a challenge and just keep going regardless of circumstances

5> See the big picture

Passionate people see beyond the temporal to the eternal

They dream big, knowing that God is always up to something great and wonderful

As long as this world continues to spin, God will be working through people of passion

He will be implanting dreams and visions in people — dreams and visions that bring people closer to Him so that non-believers can come to know Him

People of passion see the world as God sees it — unlimited by time or space and governed by His eternal purposes

You might say, “That sounds great, but I’m just a little person. I’m no visionary. What difference could I make?”

Know that the size of your particular role in God’s plan is not important

It is the passion for that role that counts! 

So, let’s summarize and not get caught up in all the verbiage

1> Stretch beyond your comfort zone

2> Spend time with kids

3> Intentionally seeking out exciting experiences

4> Surround yourself with passionate people

5> See the big picture

Passionate people see the big picture – they see the Kingdom

They see the castle in the air > possibilities

Then they start to build the stairway … plan a path to take

Before the journey begins, passionate people set concrete goals

      • Where are you going?
      • How are you going to get there?
      • By when?
      • What are the steps on the stairway, and in what order?
      • Who is going to join you on this passionate journey? 

You pray

You draw as near to God as possible

You trust Him to inspire the best plans possible

All the while, of course, you remember that there will be periods of three steps forward, two steps back

There will be bursts of full-steam ahead and complete breakdowns 

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9)

“Within your heart you can make plans for your future, but the Lord chooses the steps you take to get there.” (TPT)

Your plan is a subset of God’s plan

And you can be certain that what seems like a failure or a setback for you is still, always, eternally something He will use in His grand design

Romans 8:28 TPT “So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose.”

That’s why it is so critical to remain passionate and on fire for God?

Setbacks and all, you are on the journey of a lifetime

Passion is your fuel

Dreams and visions – God’s call on your life – is your steering wheel

When you leave the land of predictability where you are safe, secure, and comfortable

When you step out in faith — your passion will never die

The fire will never go our because you will be living life by faith

You step forward into the relative unknown and set a course for eternity

What was it that Peter Pan said as he launched into the sky?

“Second star to the right, and straight on ’til morning.”

Yes, there are going to be risks

Yes, there will be moments when you question your own sanity for having set out

But, you know in your heart that God has called you to dream big and do wonderful things on His behalf

And it feels great to be doing it – it feels passionate

It feels like a life lived wide open to all possibilities and every adventure that will come your way. 

So God said to me, “Stoke the fire or retire.”

I have chosen to stoke the fire…. And passionately follow Him and continue serving Him with my whole heart

Let’s just review the lead Scripture one more time…

Romans 12:11 “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord”

TPT “Be enthusiastic to serve the Lord, keeping your passion toward him boiling hot! Radiate with the glow of the Holy Spirit and let him fill you with excitement as you serve him.”

The Message Version: “Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master…”

Amplified Version “never lagging behind in diligence; aglow in the Spirit, enthusiastically serving the Lord…”

You get the idea …