When I recently visited my parents, we went to Carmel, CA. One evening, we decided to have a campfire on the beach which we would use to make s’mores (allow your mout to begin the salivation process now). In order to produce the flames, we went through the standard fire-creating process. We dug a hole in the sand. We placed some small wood as kindling. We inserted some newspaper. And of course, we doused the whole thing in lighter fluid!
When I held the starter flame up to the newspaper, it immediately burst into an explosion of fire as the lighter fluid performed its task. The initial flames were bright. They were impressive. They were noticeable. But they also were short-lived. They were not that hot. And they only burned the fluid that was on the surface of the wood, instead of the wood itself.
After a few seconds, the flame began to look different. It transferred from the fluid to the wood. In this moment, it became steadier. It became more consistent. It became hotter. Though it might not have been as impressive to the eyes, it was more effective for its purposes,
Many of us live the Christian life on the lighter fluid of external experiences. The latest sermon, podcast, blog post or conference gives us a special dose of spiritual intensity. It’s bright; it’s impressive; it’s noticeable. But it’s also short lived and does not make a lasting impact. In order to fan the flame of our spiritual experience, we turn to the next outside source to stoke the fire.
Notice the contrast between this approach to the faith and what Paul calls us to in 1 Corinthians 15:58. “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
Paul tells us the Christian life should be marked by being steadfast, immovable and abounding in God’s work. What a contrast to what is typical in Americanized ‘lighter fluid’ Christianity!
A life that is steadfast and immovable for Christ is rooted in the Spirit. The beauty of the Spirit-filled life is that it is not dependent on the external to fan the flame of passion for Christ. Instead, the Spirit sets a fire in our heart that is consistent and effective for its task—to join God in advancing His kingdom.
While the externals have their place in helping the fire, they merely come along side the work that the Spirit is already doing. When we come to this understanding of the Spirit’s role, we can properly appropriate the use of externals in fanning the flame of the faith. In other words, the externals no longer drive our pursuit of Christ but instead help to strengthen the flames that are already there.
Is your life of faith marked by steadfastness? by immovability? by always abounding in the work of the Lord? If not, maybe it’s time to tend the flame.