“KEEP THE FIRE BURNING”                              By Pastor YAU

Text: 2 Timothy 1:3-7                                              September 23, 2007.

 

INTRODUCTION:

1)   Modern time convenience: Modern furnaces have taken the work out of keeping homes warm in cold weathers. We simply set the dial on the thermostat and the home is warm when we get up in the morning. But in the olden days, fire to keep homes warm must be carefully tended and fuel supplies must be closely monitored. Running out of fuel or negligent of the flames could be deadly.

2)   Ancient time rituals: In ancient Israel, the priests were instructed not to let the fire on the altar go out. (Leviticus 6:9, 12-13) This required a lot of work. The least of it was collecting firewood in a land not known for its dense forests. Bible scholars see the fire on the altar as a symbol for the flame of our devotion for the Lord. Spiritual passion is not something to be treated lightly or take it for granted. Unless we keep the fuel supplies bountiful and tend the fire with care, it could grow cold and cause tremendous loss.

 

SYMPTOMS OF SPIRITUAL FLICKERING:

1)    Loss of spiritual appetite: Just as physical sickness causing us to lose appetite for food, spiritual sickness has the similar symptoms. First and foremost, we lose the desire to feed our souls with spiritual food—the Word of God. We become reluctant to do devotional, slow or stop reading the Bible and have deaf ears in listening to anything spiritual at Bible study and worship services.

2)    Loss of spiritual participation: This includes becoming sporadic or complete termination in going to worship, to Bible study and other classes and activities which are designed for spiritual growth. Even if you are there in the class, your heart is wondering somewhere else. You lose the desire to learn, to know and to follow God’s word. You first skip classes and then drop out completely.

3)    Loss of spiritual energy: This is about Christian exercise or service in God’s house for His cause. You feel weak, burdensome or out right hate-it in doing God’s work in His church like singing in the choir or Praise Team, teaching a Sunday School class or leading some Youth program, AWANA group or a Bible study. Anything serving God makes you feel overwhelmed and heavy in the heart. You feel you just “can’t do it any more.” Your spirit is so weak.

4)    Loss of spiritual insights: This is about your value system. You begin to doubt the spiritual values and principles you learned and practiced in the past. Instead you pick up some secular values and see them as something you have missed for so long. Your thought pattern has turned to the world like the non-Christians. You begin to live your life like the rest of the world. You love the world and everything in it more than you love God, His church and purposes.

 

CAUSES OF SPIRITUAL FLICKERING:

1)      Lack of proper fuel supplies: Just as fire needs fuel to continue burning brightly, spiritual passion also needs proper fueling or re-fueling to keep it burning bright and clear. The spiritual fuel supplies are the refilling of spiritual food---the word of God, the Bible. This is not just a routine excuse it is the most important supply of spiritual energy we can find. It is not an “old saying” but is the only food to replenish spiritual energy to get back to normal. Spiritual fire is like a plant. It takes proper nourishment of fertilization and watering to keep the plant growing. When a Christian neglects the intakes of spiritual food, the daily dose of reading the Bible, the spiritual fire will grow dim and flickering.

2)      Lack of sufficient air: Just as fire will die without air, spiritual life will grow weak and eventually wither if there is no spiritual air intake which is prayer. Prayer is not a ritual or unnecessary routine. It is the life line of spiritual connection with God. Jesus asks that we be connected with Him and be fruitful. (John 15:4-5)Some call prayer spiritual breathing for good reasons. A daily time set aside for communicating with God will energize your spiritual strength and understanding of His truth. Make it a natural habit to pray as you have the habit of breathing. Do not suffocate your spiritual life by cutting off that life line.

3)      Lack of sufficient exercise: Physical exercise is a big subject and business today. Many people spent so much time and money to promote good health by doing vigorous exercises. We need to keep it a habit in “doing” spiritual exercises which is doing service for God and His church. As exercise promotes physical energy, service in God’s house increases your spiritual energy as well. The more you do, the stronger you become. You will never see a lazy, never-do-anything Christian a strong and effective Christian.

4)      Lack of spiritual support: Spiritual growth is never a lonely route. That is why Jesus established the church, the community of believers who worship together, work together, grow together and serve together to lend support to each other. Jesus did not call one disciple but 12 because there is a need of companionship in the journey of spiritual growth. When He sent the disciples out to minister, He sent them 2 by 2. We need other Christians to keep us going and growing. We need regular interaction, fellowship and mutual support to be strong and accountable. When a sheep left the 99, it became the lost sheep and it took the shepherd time and efforts to bring it back. Lone ranger Christians are seldom strong and effective Christians.

 

WAYS TO KEEP THE FIRE BURNING: (Ref. today’s text)

1)     There is someone who cares: “I thank God whom I serve as my forefather did with a clear conscience as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears I long to see you.” (1:3-4)Here is the man who led Timothy to the faith, who brought Timothy up, trained him, installed him to serve the church at Ephesus and continued to remember him in prayers hoping and wishing he will be strong and effective. Don’t you ever forget that there are people who once brought you to the Christian faith, served with you side by side, studied the Word of God with you in class sessions and befriend with you hoping you will continue to grow and serve and be fruitful. Your sliding backward might have caused these people lots of pain and grief. Remember there is someone who cares about your spiritual condition and wants to see you strong and fruitful. Don’t let him/her down. Call him up and reconnect with him. Meet these people again in God’s house.

2)     There is that sincere faith: “I have been reminded of your sincere faith which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and I am persuaded now lives in you also.” (1:5) Very few Christians grow cold at the beginning of their spiritual journey. Most of those who flicker their spiritual life now used to have a strong and bright fire for the Lord. For one reason or another, they grow cold and weak. One way to rekindle that fire is to look back at the beginning days and that fervency and sincere faith you once had, as Paul said about Timothy, and strive forward to keep that sincere faith alive. That sincere faith when you first committed yourself to God needs to be kept alive. We may lose faith in people. But can never lose faith in our God.

3)     There is that vital comeback: “For this reason I remind you to fan into flames the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hand.” (1:6)Apparently Timothy must have been in a low stage of spiritual fervency because of the problems in his church. He must have suffered a burnout or many setbacks and his fire was in a flickering stage. Paul reminded him the spiritual gifts God had given him when Paul laid his hand on him that day. Paul asked that Timothy needs to fan that flickering fire into flame that God’s church and His Kingdom will continue to grow through that region and beyond. Many of the biblical saints suffered loss of faith and power one time or another. But they all had come back and grew stronger and more effective, like Elijah and Peter. To stumble is OK. But to stumble and stay down is not. You need to get up and get going.

4)     There is a powerful God: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power, of love and of self discipline.” (1:7)Human strength, desire, vigor, determination, fervency or any thing else will eventually fail because no man is able to sustain anything forever. But our God can. As Paul said when he was in prison, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens (or empowers) me.” (Phil. 4:13)God never allows us to face a problem without giving us strength to conquer it. We need not to be timid of afraid of any situation or anything. God can never fail and neither can we if we trust His power and spiritual strength. Do not walk the spiritual journey all by yourself. Ask God to walk with you as Moses asked to go with him in Exodus. His power is always sufficient for anything and everything.

 

CONCLUSION:

1)   How is your spiritual fire? Is it burning bright and strong or if it is flickering to die out soon? Be honest with your spiritual condition. Self examine yourself to see if your spiritual fire is burning bright or flickering to die. Do you feel tired, lose spiritual appetite? Are you energetic in His service? Give your spiritual life a true assessment and ask God to help you see the truth.

2)   Find a way to comeback: The importance of a race is not how it first started but how it finishes. It is the same in spiritual journey. If you are feeling weak and weary, seek God’s guidance to find a way back to the starting point. Practice those 4 steps to come back. It is one thing to slow down growth. It is another thing to stop growing. Never give up. Many people are waiting to see you back.

3)   Are you lagging behind: Do you feel life is a burden? Do you want to replenish your life with lasting power? Turn to Jesus who is the ultimate source of power for life. Confess your sins and ask Him to forgive you. Accept Him as Lord and Savior and He will supply all your needs: spiritual, emotional and physical. He will never fail.