To all those who have just come back from the King's Church Edinburgh a Students & 20s Weekend Away,
Having led many great weekends like the one we've just had, I'm aware that the weekend itself being brilliant is only the beginning. As I was thinking about this, I thought about the bonfire we had on Friday night, and the image soon applied itself to what God did to many of us over the weekend: starting or stirring fire in us. The question now the weekend is over is: how do we keep this fire burning, and spreading?
First, don't despair. Going online when I got home reminded me with a shock of the contrast between the wonderful things we'd experienced, and the hopelessness of a world without Jesus. But do you remember how dark and cold it was away from the bonfire, and how little impact that darkness and cold had on the light and the heat of the fire?! Similarly, we don't have to be defined by what's around us when God is at work in us. Here are some ways that He will work in you...
John Piper describes the Word of God as the fuel for the fire of our hearts in relationship with Him (Desiring God, chapter five). You were thrilled this weekend by great teaching of truth. This is what God's word does: “The law of the LORD is perfect, revivIng the soul." (Psalm 19:7) There's plenty more where that came from! The example of George Müller, a Christian hero, is worth following:
"I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord... [He realised that in order to do this, before he should pray or do anything else,] the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it, that thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed; and that thus, whilst meditating, my heart might be brought into ... communion with the Lord." (The Life of Trust)
This is how I try to start my days: reading a chapter of the Old Testament and a chapter of the New, and seeing what I learn about God and hear from Him from them. I'm adding fresh fuel to the fire, whether it's already roaring or in danger of going out.
When the Holy Spirit was poured out into the lives of Jesus first followers, it looked there was fire on them (Acts 2:3). Whatever the full symbolism of this, it links to the image we're thinking about and it's definitely true that we need the presence of God at work in us to keep us burning and spread the fire (John 14:16-18, Acts 1:8, Romans 8:11). There may be some things that you can do by yourself, but none of us can do this without Him! He loves us to ask Him to give us what only He can give.
Nor can we keep going by ourselves. To reuse the image yet again, a coal or log burning by itself won't last long, and God has designed us to need each other. "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another"(Hebrews 10:24-25). God's people need God's people: you were blessed by them this weekend and you blessed others too - so don't stop now!
Finally - and here I'm giving up using the bonfire metaphor directly because I can't think of a way to make it work anymore (and, ridiculously, I'm writing this at 1.30am) - faith is so important. There was such a sense of His presence as we worshipped, and part of the reason for that is that so many of us expected to meet with Him. This is a cheesy line but there's truth in it: our expectation is His invitation. Don't only expect good things when you're away for a weekend: believe God wherever you are and whatever you're doing. He works in different ways at different times and places, but what He's looking for is faith (Luke 18:8), for His people to expect Him to work in them and through them (Hebrews 11).
I know this is what many of you want, and I also know that most of you are already feeling the cold and the dark. Remember the bonfire, put in to practice some of this advice, and be encouraged as you remember that Jesus's intent is to work with you to keep you burning brightly as He continues to take His unquenchable flame all over the world.
I look forward to seeing the scorch marks in Edinburgh and everywhere else!
(Thanks to Rachel G for this accidentally highly appropriate photo)