When the Fire Goes Out

If you spend any time around a group of Christians, you'll likely hear someone say, "That person is on fire for the Lord." They are likely talking about their pastor or a friend who is wildly enthusiastic for Jesus. This person cannot contain themselves and shares Jesus and what He's doing in their life with everyone.

It's exciting to be around someone like this, even if you're not a believer. It's even more exciting to be this person! There can be nothing more fulfilling than finding truth in His word, praising Him openly and sharing it with anyone who will listen.

But what happens when the fire goes out? I'm not talking about total unbelief and renouncing faith. I'm talking about feeling "meh" about Jesus and apathetic about His people. Some people feel numb towards God, they don't see, hear or feel Him working and they have little or no desire to spend time with Him. Coming together with other believers is an arduous task. Praise music is nothing but noise and prayer sounds like mumbling.

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I think if every believer is honest, we have all experienced seasons like this. If you've ever been camping you know that a good, roaring fire must be carefully tended to in order sustain it's energy and warmth. Our lives ebb and flow - sometimes we are overwhelmed with life events, illness or stages that pull us away from the word and worship and sometimes we just plain lack the discipline to maintain our relationship with Jesus.

Nevertheless, if you find yourself in a lukewarm or chilly season of your life, there are a few things to remember:

  • Don't beat yourself up or compare your walk to the walk of others. It's very easy to feel guilt because you aren't doing as much as someone else or exhibiting the same excitement. Sometimes churches are responsible for making us feel this way - or our own friends or spouses heap guilt on us. No matter what your church, friends or spouse say, God is not a travel agent for guilt trips. Conviction, yes, but not guilt. His word tells us He loves us with an everlasting love.

  • Stay physically close to the church and other believers. The very worst times of temptation and sin in the Bible were when people were alone. Eve was alone in the garden, David was alone on the rooftop and the prodigal son was in a far off land. Even though you may not feel like being at church or spending time with your believing friends, it's important not to isolate. God warns us not to forsake the gathering of believers (Hebrews 10:25). This is not so we get a gold star for perfect attendance, it's because His Holy Spirit lives in His people and to be near His people is to be near Him. We experience fellowship, friendship and accountability when we are in community. Jesus, himself, was tempted in the wilderness. You may find yourself in an emotional wilderness, don't cast yourself into a physical one.

  • Remember what made you fall in love with God. If you are married and have ever experienced a rough patch, pastors and secular counselors alike will advise you to think back on what made you fall in love with your spouse. So, how did you become attracted to God? Was it particular verses or truth? Was there a hymn which spoke to your heart and brought you to His feet? Read those verses again and listen to those hymns over and over. Reminisce. And like a physical marriage, it can take time to rekindle the spark. Marriage counselors always say, no matter how you feel now, there was something that brought you together. The church is called the bride of Christ because marriage is the most intimate relationship and God is reminding us that Jesus seeks to be so very close to us.

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  • Do what worked before. I have struggled with my weight for my entire life. It wasn't until after I had my second child that I finally had success in nutrition and fitness. Eventually, I found myself running long distances and being the most healthy I have ever been. Since then, I still find myself in seasons of sloth. The results are feeling sluggish and clothing that don't fit. I cannot beat myself up or I will find myself in front of the fridge. I have to remember what worked for me before and engage those practices. If running worked, then I must run not purchase a gym membership. If eating several small meals worked - then I make several small meals, not fad recipes.

When your fire is out go back to what you were doing before. If you were up early reading your Bible, do that. If you were listening to praise music or sermons in the car, turn them on. What works for you may not be the same as what works for someone else. God created each of us in a unique way, so His relationship with each of us is unique and different. I know some people who experience closeness to Him while creating art and others who find Him while serving others. You know deep down what works, just do it. Even if you don't feel like it.

  • Pray. This is not the final point because it's the least important. It's the most important. Admit to God how you feel. Be honest with yourself and honest with Him. He can take it. One of the best prayers I learned from a Beth Moore bible study was, "Lord, change my 'want to'." Sometimes, we just plain don't want to go to church, serve, or be around other people. Ask for God to change your 'want to' so that you might feel the fire again. Also, confide in a friend and ask them to pray for us. God has used intercessors in my life in the most powerful way. I'm positive the most powerful spiritual breakthroughs I have experienced were brought about by others praying for me. Humble yourself and do not be embarrassed, most people feel privileged to be able to pray for someone. You might even be blessing them by sharing your struggle.

Finally, we must recognize that the fire in our lives is ultimately the Lord, Himself. Over and over in scripture, He appears as fire. He was the smoking pot of fire, the pillar of fire and smoke, and the burning bush. God showed up in the fiery furnace and He received countless offerings on altars of fire. He refines with flame and his angels placed a hot coal on the tongue of the prophet of Isaiah. Jesus will come again with eyes of fire to reign forever and ever. The holy fire is always God, Himself and not a making of own. So perhaps instead of saying, "That person is on fire for the Lord", we ought to say, "The Lord is on fire in that person."

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