To be “on fire” is often how we term someone who is visibly passionate for God, and the ones who seem consumed by working for God’s glory. It’s a good term. Rewind about 15 years, and you’ll find little teenage Jenny (as I was called then) sitting on her bed reading of the heroes fo the faith, and asking God to make her “on fire” too. I wanted to live out God’s purpose for my life with passion, all in and whole-hearted…on fire. But how does it actually happen?
I don’t know much about building fires, but I do know that you can’t rush it if you want it to be long-lasting. Sure, you can get a lot of heat quickly by grabbing anything flammable, pouring gasoline on top and lighting it. Will it last? Probably not. A truly good fire takes experience to construct. It needs the right kind of wood, kindling and design. Our lives are the sticks for the flame. God has created us with passions fit for a purpose in His Kingdom. The potential for flame is there and often the desire for it too. The problem with passion and wanting to be “on fire” comes when we rush God’s purpose or try to arrange our lives on our own. We feel a nudge towards our calling, and feel as though it must happen immediately. I sense God’s calling, so I want to pour gasoline on everything. I want the sticks to light. I want to see a tangible result in burning brightly. It’s easy to think God should make our flame start quickly. We’re passionate, after all! We want to follow the Lord’s calling on our lives. And then we look around us and don’t see it happening how we envisioned. Our sticks aren’t arranged how we think they should be. Maybe we question, “Surely my calling can’t happen here?” Or perhaps we look at someone else and think our fires should burn like theirs. We can easily presume that we know the way God should light the fire of our lives. We can go after things in our own strength, but we’ve all seen how that turns out: burn out. Lasting fire comes when we first let God arrange the sticks of our lives and light them in His time.
Take the Apostle Paul for example. He had a radical life change when he met the Savior. He said in his testimony before King Agrippa that “I did not disobey the heavenly vision” and passionately gave himself to God’s purpose for his life. But let’s look closer. Did he immediately become the evangelist we read of in his many epistles? Not exactly. There are 14 years that we don’t know much about. He spent three years in Arabia being taught by Christ, then another 11 years teaching primarily in Tarsus and Antioch. Let me refresh your memory of the other name Paul was known by: Saul of Tarsus. Yep, you read that right. After that blinding vision of Christ Himself and three years of being taught by Jesus, he returned to his home town. Yep. His home town. That’s where he ended up after hearing God’s incredible purpose of proclaiming the gospel to the gentiles for his life. And he stays there for years and years, doing ministry wherever he can. It wasn’t until he returned to Jerusalem to bring a famine relief offering that he and Barnabas were commissioned to go on their first missionary journey. God was slowly equipping him to become the incredible, “blazing” minister for Christ who boldly proclaimed, “But I count my own life to be worth nothing to me; I only want to complete my mission and finish the work that the Lord Jesus gave me to do, which is to declare the Good News about the grace of God.” He gave God the sticks of his life and let Him make the fire how He saw fit.
Here’s the key: We need to become wholly passionate about the Person of Christ, not merely passionate about the purpose He has for us. The purpose will flow from the Person. Like Paul, we need to let Jesus, our Master, choose the sticks from our life. He knows where to place each one for His purpose. After all, He’s the one who knows the exact reason for which He created us. He knows what we need and when we need it. It is a beautiful thing to want to be “on fire”, but we’re not the fire-builders. God is. We simply give Him the sticks we have and let Him arrange it how He wills.
So we have the sticks, the fire-builder (reminder: it’s not us), so what is next? Well, all good fires need kindling for the flame to really take light. What is it? The kindling is our obedience. Our purpose and our flame will come out of obedience to Christ. We cannot give Him our lives, then not obey His words and expect much of a flame. Sacrifice without truly loving and obeying God doesn’t really amount to anything. Obedience is the best kindling; faithfulness keeps it burning. What is the fire? The fire is His Spirit. Passion alone is not enough if we are not in fellowship with the Spirit of God. Perhaps we don’t even know we’re not obeying because we’re so busy trying to build our own fires for Him. At times, we try to call God’s attention to the things we’re doing “for Him” instead of walking towards Him with our eyes fixed on Him, and letting Him decide what should be part of our journey. If we want His fire, we must come back to His way. Our goal is to give Him all and simply obey whatever He says. When we start taking his Word seriously and start obeying His will (not just agreeing) that is when change happens. His Spirit comes. The sticks burn. The fire grows. We don’t know what kind of flame God has for our lives to become. Maybe it’s small in our eyes, but we give Him our little sticks, put in the kindling of our obedience, and let Him build a flame for His glory. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. Like Paul, when our passion and focus is Jesus, our lives will blaze from the glory of knowing Christ. The souls that burn the brightest are ones whose eyes are fixed on the glory of God that outshines everything else. It must be less of me; more of Him. Nothing else matters more than Jesus - no person, place, circumstance, pain, joy, sacrifice, gain, or even ministry.
The secret is simple: The sticks are the parts of our lives. The kindling is our obedience and faithfulness. The fire is His Spirit. The lasting flame is for His Glory. Maybe you’re like me, with armloads of passion, a glimpse of God’s purpose, and a heart eager to see these fleeting days alight for God’s glory. We cannot ask for God’s fire and do things our own way. I know what it is to try to build my own fire, so I remind myself to put down all my sticks. Let us lay everything before God, and let Him arrange the days and times. Drop it all at His feet, and look up. If Jesus is truly the only passion of our lives, we will obey from hearts full of love. Simple. Difficult. Everyday. Moment by moment. Let your obedience (in big and small) be the invitation for the fire of God to fall. This is my aim for this new year. May we all be so consumed with passion for Jesus that we don’t even notice when the sticks come and go or when our lives truly become a blazing flame for His glory.