Fit Faith: Burn: Fire-Starter or Fire-Sustainer?

To burn something requires fuel. The composition of the fuel greatly impacts the fire. If you need to start a fire quickly, lighting a fire-starter log is more effective than rubbing two sticks together. When leading a group of scouts for years, I created homemade fire starters with dryer lint and melted candle wax: very effective. I’ve seen other people throw gasoline on a fire to get a quick start. It accomplishes the goal of a big explosion but isn’t sustainable for long.

I recently ate two scrumptious cookies right before working out, and it felt as if I had a heavy lump of dough in my stomach. I’ve eaten the obligatory pasta meal the night before a marathon. I’ve used GU Energy Gel® and candy bars while walking long distances. They have different effects. My daughter ate a large bowl of her favorite chili before a soccer game when she was in elementary school and later decided that wasn’t the best choose for a pre-game meal. What we put in our bodies impacts how our bodies function.

“John answered everyone, ‘I baptize you with water, but there is one coming who is greater than I am. I am not good enough to untie his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. He will come ready to clean the grain, separating the good grain from the chaff. He will put the good part of the grain into his barn, but he will burn the chaff with a fire that cannot be put out.’” (Luke 3:16-17)

I know I prefer to be the grain! However, I have to admit I welcome the fire that cannot be put out. In fact, I want to be a fire that can’t be put out. I’ve lived a lot of my life in spurts. Load up on sugar and sprint. Spend all the fuel I have and collapse in exhaustion or boredom. Grow for awhile, meet some challenges, do some good, then take a break. Consistency is more important. If I feed a constant refining fire, I’ll burn away all that isn’t necessary in my life, leaving only the essentials.

Using the gift God gave me, I laid the foundation of that house like an expert builder. Others are building on that foundation, but all people should be careful how they build on it. The foundation that has already been laid is Jesus Christ, and no one can lay down any other foundation. But if people build on that foundation, using gold, silver, jewels, wood, grass, or straw, their work will be clearly seen, because the Day of Judgment will make it visible. That Day will appear with fire, and the fire will test everyone’s work to show what sort of work it was. If the building that has been put on the foundation still stands, the builder will get a reward. But if the building is burned up, the builder will suffer loss. The builder will be saved, but it will be as one who escaped from a fire. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)

Fire reveals genuineness. Only what’s genuine will survive the fire. We don’t default to genuineness. We’re only as genuine as we are close to God, reflecting his character. God purifies us to get rid of the junk in our lives. In order to invite him to prune, we have to invite him to sustain the refining fire. The invitation we sustain is how we feed the fire.

Consider your consistency. Do you wait until the coals are cold and you’re shivering before you see your need to grow? How often do you wait until you feel the distance between you and God before investing in your relationship with him? Do you reignite burning embers by throwing highly flammable liquid onto the weak fire to strengthen it? Do you jump into every kind of study group and service opportunity when you feel a distance in relationship with God instead of discerning what he wants you to do and when? Do you check the fire throughout every day and build regular maintenance into your life to insure a consistent refining fire? Do you take the warmth for granted?

Be aware of how you’re fueling your relationship with God. Are you a fire-starter or a fire-sustainer?

Out of Gas

I was taught to never let my gas tank get lower than the quarter tank mark. My dad preferred to have a half tank “just in case,” but he was adamant about the quarter tank. I’ve lived my life by that standard – until I got a vehicle with a warning system. A light comes on when my fuel is getting low and flashes when I need to get gas within the next several miles.

The light has rarely come on – probably because of my dad’s firm instructions – but I’ve relied on the warning light several times, particularly when gas prices flunctuate. If I know I’ll soon be somewhere with consistently lower gas prices, I’ll intentionally let the fuel level get low so I can pack as much cheap(er) gas in the tank as possible.

That was the situation when my daughter and I went to a nearby city to shop. The indicator light came on, and I pressed my odometer trip setting to begin measuring how many miles I could continue. The light wasn’t flashing yet; I could easily get to our next planned stop, which would be even closer to home. So, I rationalized, the “cheap” gas would take me farther.

But while cruising on the interstate at 65 mph, the van died. I steered it to a safe location and got help…and learned some things in the process.

How close to empty are you willing to go?

Do your actions match your standards, or do you behave in a way that’s inconsistent to the standards you’ve been taught or that you teach others?

Of course, I’m not talking about the fuel level in your vehicle. I’m referring to your spiritual fuel.

How are you spiritually living? Where would your spiritual fuel gauge indicate you are right now? How often do you add fuel? What level of fuel do you consistently maintain?

God doesn’t want you to have “just enough.”

God doesn’t want you to try to stretch what you have just a little bit farther.

God doesn’t want you to add only what you temporarily need.

In fact, God doesn’t want you to determine the level you need or want at all. He wants you to rely on him for what you need. He knows better than you, because he knows what’s ahead. You might think you know, but your indicator lights are likely inaccurate because you don’t have all the information. God wants you to rely on him for what you want, too. He wants to be the one you want. As you trust God to provide, you’ll embrace his will, and because you most want his will – one bit at a time – you yield your will to his.

When I rely on God, my standard for fuel is to always be full. When I rely on God, I’m only relying on his warning lights, which aren’t only to indicate “nearly empty” but also “not quite full.” And I don’t even need to watch the gas price wars to get the best deal! All I need to do is humbly submit to God, relying on him to provide and guide.

I might run out of gas but through no fault of God. When I’m fully relying on him, I know where I’m going and have whatever it takes to get there.

And I prefer the purposeful journey to sitting beside the road.

Christ’s love is greater than anyone can ever know, but I pray that you will be able to know that love. Then you can be filled with the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:19