Recently I was in a group setting with some very focused Believers whom I was meeting for the first time. We were challenged to ask the man seated next to us a penetrating question of some sort, so I turned and asked, “Are you a flamethrower or just a pilot light?”
He must have known exactly what I meant because he grinned and quickly responded, “I was a pilot light for too long, but lately I’ve been fanning that flame into a bonfire!”
Are you confused?
God encourages us to “fan into flame” the gift of the Holy Spirit within us.1
We do this by living out the power of the Holy Spirit with energy, clarity and creativity. By living life with spiritual gusto! Not by suppressing the fire of the Holy Spirit within us, but by “making the most of every opportunity”2 to “shine the light as a lamp on a lampstand … a city on a hill.” 3
When we fan into flame the power of the Holy Spirit within us, we become flamethrowers: of God’s warmth, his power and his Light.
But he also warns us not to quench this fire, not to “put out the Spirit’s fire.” 4
We do this by not listening to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and counsel. By ignorantly ignoring His gentle, but firm nudgings to live out the Light within us.
Or we quench by default, by cramming our lives so full of noise and busyness we cannot possibly hope to hear anything from His gentle, but pervasive voice within.
At Acts 10 we find Peter up on the roof, listening and praying, and seeking God’s presence. God showed up, as he always will, because, well, because he’s already there. Peter had cleared out and cleaned out enough space to be alone with God, and therefore to be able to actually hear God.
The Holy Spirit suddenly speaks to Peter and tells him to get outside his comfort zone, and go see Cornelius the Gentile. The Holy Spirit illustrates this by telling Peter to eat some unkosher animals – anathema to good Jews.
Peter hears the Holy Spirit clearly, that’s not the issue; but “Oh, come on God, I’m not going to do that! I’m not comfortable with doing this. Tell you what God, give me some more of my fellow Jews to convert. I’ll jump on that.” 5
But the Holy Spirit, in that Holy Spirit way, is persistent.
And there’s the rub. Peter heard the Holy Spirit speaking to his heart, but he didn’t want to do what the Holy Spirit was prodding him to do.
Can you relate? Right now some of you are uncomfortably aware of just such an incident in your life. You heard God speaking to you … clearly. There was no doubt about the message. But there was plenty of doubt about your desire to act on what you heard.
A friend related this story to me. “Sam, I was driving down the highway talking on my cell with a young man I was sort of mentoring. I knew God had put me in his life to help him see Jesus. My young friend, Billy, was lamenting that even with two jobs, he was having a hard time covering his college living expenses.”
My friend then lights up and says, “I immediately heard the Holy Spirit say, ‘Give him $500.00.’ I’m telling you it was as clear as you and I are talking now. And I was excited. Yes! That’s exactly what I will do,” he beamed. “I knew God had asked me to do it and I was on fire to help.”
Then my friend frowned, and said, “But that was in my car on the highway. By the time I got back to my office the contest in my head had started. I pulled out my checkbook, and then, from somewhere, I suddenly felt this weight around my neck, and I thought, ‘Gosh, $500.00 is a lot of money. Maybe just $250.00. That will still help him a lot.’
“But I heard God say, ‘No, the amount is $500.00.’
“Then I thought, ‘I know what I’ll do instead. I’ll let my business pay for it.’”
But he looked at me and shook his head, saying, “But I heard immediately, ‘No, I want you to pay the $500.00.’
“My next idea was to let the business pay $250.00 and I would pay $250.00. Aha!
“But again, that persistent voice: ‘No, I want you to pay the full $500.00.’”
Now my friend is boring a hole through me with this intense look. He takes a deep breath and says, “And I knew then I was just dancing with the devil. I had heard God clearly. And at first I was on fire! I was so excited to be doing God’s will. But by the time I was in the middle of the dance with the devil, I had doused my fire of excitement down to a teeny little pilot light of blasé.”
We do this all the time, don’t we? You have heard the Holy Spirit speaking to you. You knew exactly what He wanted you to do – or stop doing. But then the dialogue dance started. And you ultimately quenched the fire of the Holy Spirit, and ended up back with your little C- pilot light.
God says, “Stop! Fan that flame into a roaring fire! Listen to me – and then act on what you hear!”
A pilot light doesn’t require much energy, does it? But it doesn’t give off much warmth. A pilot light doesn’t give off much Light, either.
I bet there is something right now, a convicting voice saying to you, to you, personally and individually, “You know exactly what he’s talking about. You remember just recently when I put it on your heart to go see, to go help, to write that check, to call with an encouraging word, to … shine my Light into their life.”
You heard it, just as Peter did. And you wanted to act on it. At first. But then you didn’t really want to act on it, did you? I understand. Being a pilot light is much easier and requires much less energy, than being a flamethrower.
I know a lot of pilot lights. I know plenty of quenchers. I know only a few flamethrowers. But they are oh so special. They glorify God by accurately revealing just how wonderful and powerful the warmth and the energy and the Light is from his Holy Spirit fire.
You are the thermostat of your life. You can choose this day to either quench or to fan into flame the Holy Spirit fire within you.