This was the last sermon of a short personal series, coming out of our experiences of quenching the Spirit, or how we have learnt to keep on fire with the Spirit. I have struggled with busyness, especially distractions. This is another area I have struggled with, an acceptance, let alone embracing of the patterns of life, seasons of life.
The key to surfing is not fighting the waves but embracing them, being aflame with the Spirit is about embracing God’s pattern, doing and seeing what the Father is doing. Quenching the Spirit is fighting the waves, not embracing what God is doing.
There is a pattern of creation.
Day; week; seasons
Sleep and activity; Work / rest
Pruning / growth
Historically it has been a battle to accept God’s pattern in my life.
In my early zeal as a new Christian faith was new and exciting. I wanted to be used, but God wanted to make me useable.
I was motivated by some good motives but I needed to learn about God’s pattern, rhythms of life, investing in the long haul. Not always helped by teaching I received – e.g. better to burn out than rust out.
My drivenness resulted in periods of lowness, feelings of inadequacy, fighting the wave, rather than embracing it. Quenching the Spirit. God spoke into that one time. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to bear fruit – fruit that will last.” I started to embrace God, his calling, his purposes.
Fruit doesn’t just happen, it is the climax of seasons of activity.
We experience the spirit, acknowledge the spirt in both doing and resting. God rested. Jesus rested. Balance of activity and rest. Different seasons, where different things happen, Summer and Spring, Autumn and Winter. Daffodils starting to show signs of life – feel Winter will give birth to Spring. Can’t rush it but will happen.
What relevance is this for our series – keeping on fire in the Spirit? Not quenching the Spirit?
Not understanding the rhythms of God’s creation meant I quenched the Spirit. Didn’t have the rest I needed. Fought against God’s plan. Impatient.
I misunderstood what it meant to be aflame on fire with the Spirit. Didn’t realise I could be on fire in God whilst resting! Or being pruned. On Fire in the Spirit is different in Winter than in Summer.
General principle – accept the rhythms of life. Find the Spirit is in them all.
So, lets nail it. Truths I didn’t know but now do.
God walked in the evening with Adam and Eve following a day of labour.
Sabbath rest in same list of murder, idolatry etc.
Need to have a balance in life – daily, weekly, annually. Pattern of creation – seasons.
Fruitfulness and abiding. Rhythm. John 15. ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. Growth is result of right rhythm.
Picture of vine – 3 years before bore fruit. Before then cut back until branches strong enough to bear fruit. Pruning important. We must learn when it is pruning time.
God was with me in pruning times– and I didn’t know it. We get it wrong – think we have quenched the Spirit and but haven’t – just a different part of the rhythm. So important. We must embrace fully what the Spirit of God is doing in us.
Seasons – the party, the desert. Summer, Winter.
Party or Summer – times of abundant blessings of God. An overflow of gifts from him. More than we can ask of imagine. E.g. Sending out of 12 and 72. Luke 10. Heaven is open.
It happens to individuals and churches and the church in a nation. It is undeserved, often due to the prayers of others! At times of feasting it is easy to trust in goodness of God, the presence of Holy Spirit is obvious.
At these times our focus is on receiving and thanksgiving; giving; learn to handle power; maintaining unity – resisting pride, sense of superiority; storing memories.
Praise God I have experienced times like this in my life. Church in history has experienced times like this. Mountain top experiences but can’t stay on the mountain top.
Spending time in the desert, winter, valley – hardest place to be, especially after a party.
Many different Biblical images. Desert, wilderness, valley, exile even prison. Jesus driven by the spirit into wilderness not by Satan, although he met Satan there. Moses 40 years in wilderness before confronting Pharaoh, then another 40 years before promised land, Joseph in prison. David, Elijah, Paul, John the Baptist all had winter periods in their lives.
The point of the sermon – the lesson I have had to learn is that God is with us here as well. In the wilderness the Spirit can be with us. Just feels different. Doesn’t necessarily mean we have quenched the Spirit, or something is wrong.
Most Christians, at some point in their lives, find themselves left out of the party, and stuck in the desert. Can feel isolation – even abandoned and rejected. Pride hurt – the things rely on for security – money, friends, reputation, social standing, or responsibility taken away.
We face different fears and temptations in the desert. We receive our daily bread but nothing more. Existing not thriving.
We will grumble and complain until we realise God is doing something he can’t do if we stayed in the party all the time. See I am doing a new thing, do you not perceive it?
We may feel weak and vulnerable but are being made stronger and freer.
Discipling – discipline for our good not because we have been bad. God is a good, perfect coach. Heb 12v7. Endure hardship as discipline: God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?
I received a prophetic word along these lines a few weeks ago. That God had been disciplining me, refining me to make me more effective in the ministry he has for me.
Our problems come when we lose sight of God’s love and believe that we have been abandoned in some way. That is why the writer to the Hebrews wrote what he did, to a church going through difficulties, a church that concluded they had therefore lost their way, lost the presence of God, were quenching the Spirit.
Times in the desert will be times of deep healing and releasing, but it will feel like the healing of a surgeon’s knife. It can be horrible and painful, but necessary. We will be healthier and stronger, even if we are left feeling scarred for a while. Like my experience of actual surgery.
Times of disciplining and refining are times when we are freed from sinful patterns of behaviour, fear, and pride: the stumbling blocks to faith and freedom. Produces humility. We should find we are less dependent on others for our sense of self, and less needy of approval and affirmation. Purged from fear of failure. Grow in patience. Unfortunately for us, the only way to learn how to be patient is to experience being constantly thwarted and frustrated, which in itself is infuriating!
One of the great problems for us in learning how to respond to different circumstances is that it is very difficult to break a mind- set that tells us that obedience leads to blessing and prosperity, and disobedience leads to misfortune. That is not what the Bible teaches.
So being on fire in the Spirit may not always feel as we think it should. We need to be able to recognise the seasons of the Spirit. Give ourselves to the season we are in. As individuals but also as a church – different sermon.
Some else also wrote to me a few weeks ago.
I think it is said and I believe that great wisdom only comes as a result of pain. So, I’d like to say that I am indeed sorry for any and all pain you might have gone through that makes you so qualified to speak so much truth.
Have you misunderstood what being on fire in the Spirit looks like? Fought against it?
Let us see what the Father is doing, embrace it rather than fight it.
As a church – He is laying the foundation of being a diverse church, able to accept and celebrate lots of different cultures, including the poor and people from a Muslim background.
We are facing financial challenge and the challenge of people leaving who have been with us for a long time. It is all part of what God is doing. Making us rely on Him, trust Him. You may be experiencing your version of that.
Written by Tony Thompson