These are notes from a young person's group I led. The group was a bunch of young Christian lads ranging in age from 9 to 16.
Let me tell you a story, not about me, not about my father, but about my Grandfather. My father was born just after world war 2. He still remembers food rationing, which went on after the war ended. My father never knew his father, his father died when he was very young. My grandfather was a pilot in the pathfinder squadron.
The pathfinders flew ahead of the bombers when they went on bombing raids. They dropped flares on targets, making it easier for the bombers to see what they were supposed to be dropping bombs on. I say “easier”, they still weren't really very good at it. At the start of the war the average bomb was four miles from its target. That's the average bomb. Hitting the target you were aiming at was very rare. Bombing raids were much better at killing and scaring ordinary people than they were at destroying enemy targets. After the introduction of the pathfinders the accuracy improved so that the average bomb was only one mile away from its target.
Being in pathfinders was a very dangerous job, it involved flying low over enemy targets to drop the flares. Many of them died and my Grandmother spent the war convinced her husband was going to die. He survived the war, and then three years later in a reunion flight, the plane he was in (as copilot) clipped the ground and he died. My Grandmother never really recovered.
One of the bombing raids the pathfinders would have been on was the bombing of Dresden, something many people believe was a war crime committed by the British. The war was nearly over and the Russians were marching on Berlin. They asked the British bomber command to suppress Dresden, which they said was in the way.
Bomber command had discovered a new bombing technique. They had worked out that if they dropped tens of thousands of “incendiary bombs” (bombs containing a mixture of explosives and highly flammable fuel) then they could create fires in cities, with such a force that the fires would whip up hurricane force winds that would pull people into them. This is what they did to Dresden (nearly 4000 tonnes of bombs), which destroyed the city and killed about 25000 people.
This shows the destructive force and power of fire.
We often talk, and more often sing, about the spirit of God being like a fire. “My first love is a burning fire”, “Refiner's fire”, “Burn fire of God”, and many more. How is the spirit of God like fire?
Fire needs fuel to burn, but when it gets hold it's very hard to stop. Anything that gets too close catches fire as well. Fire happens whenever you get great energy focussed in one place. Our God is a burning fire. The way a flame moves, is real but almost intangible, seems like a good analogy for spirit. Our spirit is like that – capable of great force and power.
Being on fire for God basically means being passionate about God. A passion is something that grips you, takes hold of you, brings you life and drives you forward. What are you passionate about?
The world is full of bad advice, but one piece of advice that is interesting is what is sometimes said to people wondering what to do for a job: “find your passion”. Life is much more interesting when you have a passion. You're not bored, just drifting, not knowing what to do and worried that life is passing you by. You have a purpose, a drive, a reason to live.
It's so much easier to do something you're interested in and consumed by desire for. Learning, and doing become almost effortless when you're passionate, you *want* to do things. You don't have to be told to fight for something you're passionate about – you couldn't do anything else!
We sang a song the other day that included the line “I will serve no other gods”. The bible often talks about the dangers of following other gods. That was obviously directly real in the days of the old and new testament when there were a lot more “gods” around. Do you think it's still relevant today – what might be another god?
I think a “god” is anything you let grip your heart and mind. When you're passionate about something you give it your hopes and dreams and you draw life from it. That's no different from worshipping a god. The trouble is, what are you giving your dreams to – what are you serving?
Things people are passionate about: football or sport, money, sex, technology, fame, music. These all inspire great passion and devotion. But what can they give you back, they don't care about you, they won't return your love. They're false gods. It's ok to like things, it's ok to be interested in things, it's ok to want to be good about things. But don't give them your dreams, don't let them grip your soul.
You have to guard your heart. This is a difficult lesson, and it's good to learn it as early as poosible. There's a saying that a man is only as faithful as his opportunities. That's depressing, but there's some truth in it. What you have to do is recognise that we're weak human beings, and when we start to sense danger and see an opportunity to be unfaithful coming (whether to God or to our wife) we need to turn away before our heart is gripped. Once you're gripped it's much harder to escape and takes a huge effort of will to pull away.
These false gods can seem very bright, they're very attractive. Fame and music can seem like they will promise you a happy life and a great deal. But I promise they will eat your dreams. They can't change you, they can't make you happy.
The flip side of this is that our God, the one true God, is utterly faithful and completely worth giving your heart to him. If you can find his light, if you can find “the way” and let a passion for God grip your soul, then he will fill you with life. But like anything worth having, you have to fight for it, search for it. The more hungry and thirsty you are for the life of God the more you'll find it.
And the best thing, if you're on fire for God, like a normal fire – anyone who comes close will catch it too! But beware, it will consume your life and you'll have to decide whether to let go of the things it wants to burn up (like your other passions – this is dying to self), or instead to cling onto them and let the fire of God burn out instead.
So keep seeking God, if that's what you really want.