Today’s Reading: Hebrews 12
Today’s chapter ends with the shortest verse of the chapter and probably of the entire letter. It’s about God’s nature: “For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). That’s it, but that’s enough.
God desires to set His servants on fire. He wants to consume them. One man He consumed with passion was Jim Elliot. Elliot was a missionary to a remote tribe of Auca Indians of Ecuador in the 1950s. He was martyred alongside four other missionaries during Operation Auca on January 8, 1956. After his death, his widow, Elisabeth, went on to impact many people through her writings and her biography of Jim, called Through Gates of Splendor and Shadow of the Almighty, which later became a movie of his life called, The End of the Spear. Even though Jim died at age twenty-nine, he wrote. Thank God, Jim wrote. His journal and his biography are filled with spiritual gems, such as these two: “Father, make of me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a fork, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.” And “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
But there’s one statement he wrote in his journal that both challenged and convicted my soul and has affected me since the beginning of my ministry more than thirty years ago. I committed it to memory. It was something he wrote after his morning devotional reading of Hebrews. (Warning! Don’t read this quote if you want to just stay where you are spiritually.)
“[He makes] His ministers a flame of fire,” he wrote. “Am I ignitible? God deliver me from the dread asbestos of ‘other things.’ Saturate me with the oil of the Spirit that I may be aflame. But flame is transient, often short-lived. Canst thou bear this, my soul—short life? In me there dwells the Spirit of the Great Short-Lived, whose zeal for God’s house consumed Him. . . . ‘Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.’”
Jim Elliot leaves us with two huge and penetrating questions: Am I ignitable? And what other things have been asbestos to keep me from being ignitable?
Since God is a consuming fire, I need to be, I must be ignitable. That is why I must bring judgment to everything I do, see, watch, have friendship with to this one standard: are those things asbestos? If I am not on fire for God, it’s not God’s inability to ignite me. So the question always haunts me, “Am I ignitable?”
Every time the fire of God fell in the Bible, it was looking for something to fall on. In the Old Testament, it was looking for an animal sacrifice. But in the New Testament, it was looking for people. Fire fell on people on the day of Pentecost. As Tommy Tenney said, “If you want the fire of God, you must become the fuel of God.”
One of my favorite devotional writers, Samuel Chadwick, said this about the fire of God: “The soul’s safety is in its heat. Truth without enthusiasm, morality without emotion, ritual without soul, make for a Church without power. Destitute of the Fire of God, nothing else counts; possessing Fire, nothing else matters.”
Am I Ignitable?
What things in my life is asbestos to retard the fire of God?
John Wesley said these words about the Methodist church he founded in the midst of revival: “My fear is not that our great movement, known as the Methodists, will eventually cease to exist or one day die from the earth. My fear is that our people will become content to live without the fire, the power, the excitement, the supernatural element that makes us great.”
Content to live without the fire? May it never be for any of us. I want to say with Jim Elliot to our God the consuming fire, “Make me Thy fuel flame of God.”
Jim was right when he later wrote in his journal, “Forgive me for being so ordinary while claiming to know so extraordinary a God.” God is a consuming fire, and you and I need to be His fuel. Let’s allow Him to consume us.