After recently attending our church’s annual conference, a new fire for God was reignited within me.
However, from my previous experiences of going for conferences, I knew this feeling was only temporary – a kind of post-conference high. Eventually, routine sets back in and the motions of work and studies take over. The fire for God slowly dims and life is back to… well, normal.
In times of normalcy, it’s easy for faith to grow cold. But something that evangelist Reinhard Bonnke said in the conference left me feeling woke.
He said: “Flies can only sit on a cold stove.”
This made me realise that my faith hadn’t grown cold because my life was too “normal”. Rather, my life felt “normal” because I allowed my faith to grow cold.
I failed to keep watch and guard my heart properly. I didn’t fan the flames even when I saw them dimming. I brushed away the warning signs, mistaking a fading flame for the normalcy of life.
So how can we remain alert to what causes our faith to grow cold?
Looking back at my own life and the learning points I took away from the conference, I’ve come to find these five things to be wet blankets that dampen our inner flames.
5 SURE-FIRE WAYS TO QUENCH THE FLAME
1. We choose to remain comfortable
At the conference, Faith Community Baptist Church’s Senior Pastor Daniel Khong said: “You cannot fulfil your calling in your comfort zone.”
He then posed this question to the audience: Have we been giving excuses and avoiding the hard work of following Jesus? Honestly, I would say yes.
Following Jesus is hard. It takes up enough time and energy that after a while, choosing to follow Jesus becomes increasingly more difficult, especially compared to the other comforts of life we can easily choose to indulge in instead.
Watching Netflix becomes more attractive than reading the Bible, sleeping in with my family becomes more enticing than going to church, and meeting friends for drinks becomes more enjoyable than going for cell group.
Doing ministry is no longer a love expression towards God, but more about “just doing it”.
Probably the first and most obvious warning sign of a dying flame is when I see myself losing the motivation and joy in wanting more of Jesus. I become satisfied with the minimal amount I’m already giving, and settle within that comfort zone of routinely attending cell on Friday, serving on a Saturday and attending service on a Sunday.
The familiar is a very easy place to remain in. Though at the same time, it’s also a place that dissuades growth.
God is infinite and His love is deep. There’s no end in discovering more about who He is. So if we were to stay at where we’re comfortable, we’ll miss out on experiencing even more of who He is.
2. We become too busy for God
I’ve also come to realise that the opposite – busyness – can be just as detrimental. There are seasons when I just want to stay home and do nothing, but there are seasons when I don’t even have time to breathe. The fire for God can get lost amid other priorities, buried by work and other demands of life.
One of the conference speakers, Pastor Oriel Ballano from the Philippines, shared about a dinner he recently attended. During the dinner, he got too preoccupied over appetisers that he ended up being too full for the main course. He likened this to how we similarly allow the appetisers of life to fill us up, leaving no room for the main course, which is Jesus.
Such appetisers include our position and possessions in life, or where meeting deadlines takes precedence over meeting God. Daily life becomes a flurry of productivity in order to achieve good grades or please bosses, a scrambling to accomplish one thing after another.
The appetiser of personal excellence can end up becoming a distraction from the main course that is God. In busy seasons, I need to caution against allowing my busyness to fill me up that I no longer have room for Him. I must intentionally carve out time to calm and quiet my soul (Psalm 131:2).
It’s a fine line between striving for excellence at work and prioritising work over God completely. This can even be the case when doing ministry work. We can easily confuse our piles of responsibilities for showing affection to God.
We end up letting our work run ahead of our hearts of worship, when instead our work should be the outflow of our worship for God.
3. We hold on tightly to our rights
A huge part of our struggle to put God first comes from our ego. We cling on to our rights to be comfortable and our rights to fulfil what we want and desire.
Colombia-based Pastor César Castellanos raised an interesting point about our ego. Reading from Exodus 3:5, he highlighted how God had asked Moses to first remove his sandals.
The reason for this, he suggested, was that Moses’ sandals were symbolic of his own ego, reflecting how we also need to put aside our egos before we can approach Him.
Shoes represent the ego because they carry our whole weight and also help us go where we want to go. For Moses, sandals were an integral part of his lifestyle and identity.
Similarly, the rights that I hold onto are an integral part of who I am. They make up a key part of my identity, and I often stubbornly hold onto them because letting go feels like I’m letting go of parts of myself.
Letting go of my ego means I choose to lose control over my reputation, my desires and my ambition.
Pastor César shared: “God wants us to die to ourselves because that’s what’s keeping us from doing the will of God.”
If we want to approach God and burn for Him once again, we must first remove our sandals.
4. We feel defeated by our fears and failure
Whenever I receive criticism or judgement from others, it’s always very deflating. After a friend rejects my invitations or what I share, I tend to retreat out of fear and keep silent. I would even be deterred from sharing again in the future, assuming the results would be the same – getting criticised and rejected.
But Pastor Lee Seung Bang from South Korea reminded us how Paul faced persistent persecution and criticism as he travelled to preach the gospel. He was stoned in Lystria by the Jews (Acts 14:19-23) and imprisoned by Romans (Acts 16:16-24) as described in 2 Corinthians 11:16-33.
Looking at the Apostle Paul’s life, he faced much harsher treatment and yet he persevered to the very end. And he was able to do so because he placed his assurance in the power of God. Paul knew that when he took the path of Jesus, there would be hardships. But he also knew that he lived not by his own power but by Christ’s power.
When we’re left battered and bruised, defeat seems to be the inevitable end. But there’s a greater hope – we can always move from a place of victory as God has conquered the grave.
Like Paul, we too can continue fanning the flames in our heart knowing we have the same access Paul had to His power. That through Him, we too can put our fears and failures to death instead.
5. We lose sight of the end goal
Finally, the most obvious means of motivation in life is to remember the reward that lays ahead. For work, we can motivate ourselves when we look towards a goal – a raise, a promotion, a holiday or a good grade.
But rather than setting our minds towards earthly, perishable rewards, Paul reminds us in Philippians 3:14 of a greater prize – the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
At the inescapable end of our lives, what account will we be presenting before God? I often think of this question and wonder whether I’ve been living my life to the fullest – not in terms of YOLO travelling, chasing riches and accolades – but a life lived fully as a good and faithful servant.
At the end of the day, we can’t rely on a conference, a sermon or even an inspirational quote from the Bible to keep our fires burning. It truly lies in an excavation of our hearts to see whether we’re choosing to enthrone Jesus today.
Am I able to recognise that putting God first reaps a far greater rest and reward than finishing any Netflix series, getting in that extra two hours of sleep or punching in those extra two hours of OT at work?
The race isn’t easy and the end is unpredictable. Nevertheless, “let us lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
- Do you feel like your love for Jesus has become colder?
- What are you currently prioritising in your life?
- What are some steps you can take to make Jesus your top priority today?