In Smothering God’s Fire we looked at the elements of fire: Oxygen, heat and fuel, and what happens when we remove the oxygen from our relationship with God. Today we’re looking at how, at times, we remove the fuel and starve our relationship.
Most of us, firsthand or screened, have seen the effects of bush fires. Once they take hold, fire fighters can’t get close enough to control them, let alone put them out. There’s no way they can cut off the heat or block the oxygen. So, they remove the fuel by back-burning.
Think about that for a moment.
A raging inferno can be put out by removing the fuel.
If there was ever a man who had passion for the Lord like a raging bush fire, it was David. Perhaps it was cultivated during his time isolated in the wilderness as a boy caring for his father’s sheep. Maybe it was here he had the opportunity to spend quality time in genuine relationship, drawing close to God.
Whatever the source, we saw at around the age of fifteen, David single-handedly, without armour or significant weapons, took on an opposing giant so intimidating that even the hardest, seasoned soldier wouldn’t confront him.
It turns out that David’s skills on the battlefield were developed from an early age taking on bears and lions to protect his flock. These skills were enhanced during his time as a soldier in Saul’s army and more so when he was on the run from Saul. Leading a group of rebels and outcasts during his time at the top of the Philistines Most Wanted would also have helped train him as a leader. But each time David entered a battle he drew close to God and was given the opportunity to learn.
He learned he could trust and depend upon his Heavenly Father in all circumstances.
The more he learned, the more he loved. The more he loved, the closer he drew and the more he listened. Time and again, God reached down and rescued David, provided for him, hid him, and gave him victory. Each struggle fuelled the fire until he was a burning inferno for God’s glory.
Until he wasn’t.
A Bit of History
Israel rejected Yahweh as their King and asked for a human replacement. They wanted to be like everyone else in the region. When God relented, He made it clear, Israel’s king was to be His servant. Saul was pulled from obscurity and anointed but failed due to his ego and pride. However, David’s battles, struggles and hardships appear to have provided a more thorough preparation for the throne.
In the Ancient Near East all wars were holy wars. All kings were earthly representatives of their god. It didn’t matter how big the army was–how skilled they were, or what weapons they had–it was all about how powerful their God was. That’s why David was able to stand before Goliath and take on the whole Philistine army. It had nothing to do with him. It was all about his God.
David didn’t identify as a shepherd boy taking on a giant. He saw himself as Yahweh’s representative defending God’s glory. When Goliath fell, the Philistine’s God, Dagon, suffered defeat, so the Philistines ran. Israel’s God was victor, and from that point on it was just a matter of mopping up.
Starving the Fire
When David was king and engaged in wars, it wasn’t just to broaden his boundaries, raise revenue, and maintain control. It was to keep proving that Yahweh was more powerful than any other God.
Yet, we see at the beginning of 2 Samuel 11, during one season, David stayed home whilst all the other kings went to war. On a particular day each year all the kings set out for battle. It was a bit like the start of the rugby season. It’s just what everyone did. Except this particular year, David didn’t go.
He may have had a good reason to stay home: illness, state affairs, trade difficulties, kingly duties that required his presence at the palace. Having a daunting reputation and a capable general allowed him this luxury. As well as the fact at this stage of his life things were relatively easy.
- His rule was established
- He was the dominant king in the region
- Had allies all over the continent
- Was wealthy and well equipped to defend his territory
But for whatever reason David was at home and not at war. And when he wasn’t at war his need for God lessened and the distance between them increased.
Christians are constantly at war.
When we say “yes” to Christ, we are not joining the fight, we are merely changing sides.
We are born into a sinful world with a sinful nature. It is who we are, our culture and our worldview. When the Holy Spirit stirs and opens our eyes, we see our sin in relation to God’s perfection. We understand there is a chasm between us, and we learn that reconciliation is possible. If we accept the gift, we no longer identify as “the world’s”, we identify as “God’s representative”.
And most importantly God identifies us as His. When Jesus rose out of the water after his baptism, God declared from the heavens,
17 … “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”Matthew 3:17
After this, the Holy Spirit led Him into wilderness for a long time.
Here, Jesus was able to withdraw from the world so He could draw near to God, to listen and learn more of who His Father was, who He was, and what His role was to be. But we also read that during this time, he came under attack from Satan.
It is no different for us. When we say yes to Christ, we are saying no to Satan. We identify as God’s child: His representative. And He identifies us as His own thus declaring and sealing our defection. There is no escaping this battle, we’re either at war with sin, the world and Satan, or at war with God.
The good news is, as children as God, we identify in Christ–in whom we have the victory.
But we need to remember the battle is not about us. Like the young David fronting up against Goliath, it’s all about the glory of God:
the truth of who God is and what He has done.
We engage in the war two ways; actively and passively.
- Passive: When the attack comes at us through life circumstances beyond our control – look at Job for a great example.
- Active: When we strive against our sin, the world and Satan – look at Paul for a demonstration.
Ours is a never-ending battle, we don’t get a day off. And yet, one of the toughest times to keep fighting is when we don’t see the enemy, when we don’t feel the attack, when things are going well, and life is good.
I suspect, like me, when times are tough, you don’t need a lot of encouragement to draw close to God. The question is,
How do we keep fuelling the fire when we’re tired or when things are good and easy?
Possibly David fell into sin with Bathsheba not because of what he’d picked up, but because of what he’d put down.
The heat of the fire was still there–God was still present, still a significant part of David’s world. There was plenty of Oxygen as David’s role of King was doing exactly what he had been called to do.
But in the ease of life, without the fuel of struggle, had he taken his eyes off God, and created distance?
We can’t know exactly how David was travelling in his relationship with God, but I know for myself, when things are easy or when I am tired and distracted, is when the battle is hardest of all. In these times, to keep fighting, to keep close, to keep working away at the discipline of drawing close to God, making time to listen and be open to learning, is the battle.
It’s the difference between a job and a relationship. We don’t take a break, have a holiday, or retire from a healthy relationship; we invest.
In the fire of our relationship with God there will always be heat because there will always be God. When we connect with Him, His heat blossoms in our heart as a brand claiming us as His own.
But we can put the fire out by smothering it–picking up too many things, or by removing the fuel–putting vital things down. Both creating distance from the heat.
Our God is a God who not only listens but speaks and connects with His children. Ask Him to be specific about what you need to pick up and put down so that you can draw close and ensure your fire is healthy and strong. Then, regardless of what society, culture or church has to say, be prepared to be radically holy so that you can burn like an inferno for God’s glory.
- What does active and passive battle look like in your life?
- Where do you find fuel for God’s fire in your life?
- How is your fuel supply?
- What do you need to do to stay close to God?