Those times are not unlike Jesus’ parable of the seed and soils. There, Jesus describes how we receive God’s word in the same way that different types of soil receive seeds. Based on the type of soil, there are different end-results of fruitfulness or lack thereof. When the stresses, fears and confusion of daily life become too great, they can eclipse the light of God’s presence. We decrease in passion for Him and, as a result, we lose our fruitfulness in Him.
Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica: “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). The Apostle was urging this young church to continually stoke the fires of their passion for God.
Paul’s words first remind us of our need to not actively resist God’s work in our life. There are some of us who, through our strong longings and active pursuits, push against God and His work in our lives. Although we know that Jesus said the way leading to life is narrow (Matthew 7:14), we do not choose to live in that way. In our thinking, speaking, and living, we instead choose the broader way that is not life-giving. We resist the ways of God as revealed in Scripture and, thus, put out the Spirit’s fire and our passion for God.
Secondly, Paul’s words remind us of our need to become active in our pursuit of the work of God in our life. There is a resistance that is active and there is a resistance that is passive. Active resistance is like putting on the brakes when driving a car; you resist the momentum of forward progress. Passive resistance is like coasting to a stop; you don’t necessarily resist but you allow momentum to expire over time. Paul makes no room for the steady expiration of momentum in our life with God. Paul does not give space for us to just let the fires slowly die out. Instead, he is calling us to actively work with God in our pursuit of His ways and purposes in our lives and the world.
When we live with God, we must continue to stoke the fires of our passion for Him. When we make a campfire, we stoke the fires by continually adding the fuel of oxygen and wood. We stoke the fires as we push around with a stick to create space in the burning flames for the oxygen to readily ignite the wood.
In our daily discipleship, we stoke the fires of our passion when we add the fuel necessary for growth. This fuel takes on the form of any number of practices or spiritual disciplines:
- we provide fuel when we read the Scriptures with the goal of an encounter with the living God
- we provide fuel when we allow the words of Scripture to sink into our souls and we gaze lovingly on our gracious Father
- we provide fuel when we take an active role in community with others for growth and worship of God
- we provide fuel when we take steps to move away from old patterns of living and thinking
We also stoke the fires when we create space in our lives for God to truly ignite the fuel we have placed in our lives:
- we create space by getting away in solitude for prayer and meditation
- we create space when we fast, or skip meals, to express our longing for God more than the food of earth
- we create space when we draw away into the company of others who will speak God’s truth into our lives.
So, are we stoking the fires of our passion for God? Are we adding the fuel? Are we creating the space necessary for the fuel to ignite?
May we be the sort of people who actively seek to ignite – not put out – the Spirit’s fire in our lives.