In this series, Reigniting the Fire, we’ve looked at what fire requires: Heat, Oxygen and Fuel. We have looked at ways in which we smother and starve the fire.
But the good news is, a fire that has dimmed, dulled, or been completely extinguished can be stoked back to life.
Just because your fire has gone out, doesn’t make you a bad Christian, it makes you human. Martha continued to trust, follow, and host Jesus. David who was far from perfect, has gone down in history as “the man after God’s own heart”. Throughout Scripture, we meet people just like us, human, fallible, and broken who were on fire for God. Then, for whatever reason, they weren’t.
So now we get to the question,
How do we reignite and stoke the fire?
If you’ve experienced the ignition of God’s fire, His drawing close, you will know it is a wondrous miracle. But there will be times in our life, for whatever reason, our fire goes out, or dims. This may or may not be you right now. But it is a rare person who has not experienced the loss at some time.
Stoking the Fire
To help us figure out how to reignite the flame, I’d like us to look at Elijah. He was a great prophet raised to counter the effects of one of the worst kings in Israel’s history: Ahab.
Ahab reigned in Israel for over 22 years. We read:
30 Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. 31 He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. 32 He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. 33 Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him.1 Kings 16: 30-33
And, for a time such as this, God raised Elijah.
A Man For the Times
Like David, Elijah knew what it was to do it tough, to be on the run and in fear of his life from the king. To be in hiding and live off the provisions of God. However, for Elijah, it was a daily occurrence.
His Oxygen was free flowing because his job description was “mouthpiece of God”. Culture, society, and his religion all expected him to be radically different. And he had ample fuel as there were countless opportunities to call out and lean on God because his survival depended on the discipline of drawing close, listening and learning from God. As is generally the case, life and death seem to be a healthy motivation.
In fact, the event that Elijah is probably most remembered for was his challenge to the 450 prophets of Baal. This reminds me of David’s battle against Goliath.
Called to be Radically Holy
A single, unarmed man takes on the might, of not only the pagan prophets, but the king and queen as well. Elijah had proclaimed Yahweh’s judgement on Ahab for his heinous crimes and declared a drought.
For the following 3 years, Ahab hunted Elijah throughout the continent. Just showing his face anywhere was a death sentence. The king wanted him dead. The Queen wanted him tortured to within an inch of his life, then killed. And Israel couldn’t care less. They were so lukewarm to their God, they had completely faded to beige.
Yet, following Yahweh’s instructions, Elijah did far more than show his face. He showed up the 450 priests of Baal. In front of an apathetic crowd who were mutely hedging their bets waiting to see what the outcome was going to be.
The showdown took place on the top of Mount Carmel, which was the site of idol worship. And as we see in 1 Kings 18 , Yahweh had a great victory through the obedience and faith of Elijah. Single-handedly, he turned the tide, wiped out the priests of Baal, and turned the people back to Yahweh in a very spectacular fashion.
After this, one would expect Elijah to be on an incredible high. One might even understand if pride became an issue.
Jezebel sent him a message and kept it real,
“May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”I Kings 19:2
And with that, Elijah was once again running for his life.
3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.1 Kings 19:3-5
Now we come to the interesting bit. Well, the bit that relates to us. Let’s look at God’s response. Did he berate Elijah? “I’ve just given you an incredible victory. I have been watching over you and providing for you every day of your life. I have protected you from every enemy. Get back out there and continue the work you slacker. Toughen up!”?
God’s response was to let him sleep.
Because he understood. Elijah was exhausted. After the insane adrenalin rush he would have experienced, his body crashed and his mind was exhausted. It was a natural human physiological response that Elijah had no control over.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.1 Kings 19:5-6
First, God gave Elijah something to eat, then let him sleep. Our heavenly Father knows us, sees us, and understands what we need. After Elijah had slept, he was fed again and told to go on a long journey.
God led him away from the enemy allowing Elijah space and time to heal and process. I don’t know what he thought about on his walk. But I walk most days and I find it is a time when my mind is free to reflect, pray, listen, and ponder.
I wonder if God was providing Elijah the same opportunity?
After a very long time, Elijah arrived at Mt. Horeb, the mountain of the Lord. He found a cave, and again, was allowed to sleep. The next morning, the word of God came to him,
“What are you doing here, Elijah?”1 Kings 19:9
God was not angry or impatient, he didn’t get all preachy and teachy. He wanted to hear Elijah’s perspective. God knew exactly what was going on. Better than Elijah. But he invited Elijah to join the conversation.
I find it interesting that, after all the sleep, distance, time to reflect, the one thing Elijah focuses on was the negative.
10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”1 Kings 19:10
The majesty, power, and miracle of what has just happened had dissolved.
Watch how God helps Elijah remember.
Reigniting the Fire
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”1 Kings 19:11
Perhaps God was reminding Elijah that whilst He was not in the hurricane, earthquake, or fire, all of nature was under His control. Our Heavenly Father isn’t contained to or restrained within the elements. There is nothing beyond His power and reach. But note how God chose to communicate with Elijah,
And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”1 Kings 19:12-13
God asks the same question and offers Elijah the same opportunity.
Still, Elijah is focused on the negative. “I am faithful, I am alone, I am the only one left who serves you. Everyone else has been slaughtered, and I’m next.”
Elijah had dined on Satan’s lies, but God overlayed them with His truth.
You are not alone
Paraphrase: “Here is my plan and the three people who are going to help you see it through.
In other words (more paraphrasing), “I am Lord, I have everything under control. And not only will you have these wingmen, I have reserved for myself 7 000 –the perfect number– of followers who have not bowed to Baal.”
God knows us, sees us, and understands us completely because he is a good father. He created us, watches over us, and loves us. Not only does he care for us in the physical, psychological and emotional, he especially wants to restore us to the spiritual.
His goal is to enable us to draw close again, to reignite and stoke the fire of passion, and burn brightly for Him. Just as He does for us.
- What can you do to stop developing amnesia for the miraculous in your live?
- In what ways does God draw you close to restore you?
- How does care for you holistically?