One thing that every Christian has to struggle with is losing their spiritual fire for serving the Lord. It is easy to become lazy in our Christianity because it always easier to do nothing than something. Before we know it our fire will go out and our love for serving God will grow cold. The devil loves it when this happens to us because it gives him great opportunities to lure us away from God. That it is why itís very important that follow the advice that Paul wrote to the Ephesians.
Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.† 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
When we put on the whole armor of God the devil has no power over us because we have studied our enemy and we know what kind of devices he uses. Having that knowledge gives us the upper hand.
2 Corinthians lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.
However, sometimes people
and entire congregations can allow their fire to go out. The church at
Revelation 2:1 "To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ' These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:† 2 "I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars;† 3 "and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary.† 4 "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.† 5 "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place -- unless you repent.
First of all, you will notice that this church had some good qualities, but they were starting to go down hill and Jesus basically says that they had left their first love. They had reached the point to where they were just going through the motions. As a result of this, Jesus tells them that He will remove their lamp stand. There is no reason for a church to have a lamp stand if there is no fire there for it. Jesus basically tells them they must repent or face the consequence. While it is sad when people and entire congregations loose their spiritual passion, we must realize that it can happen to us. That is why it is important that we test ourselves to see if our spiritual flame is burning hot for lord or is about to go out. This is what Paul tells us to do in:
2 Corinthians 13:5 ††Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? -- unless indeed you are disqualified.
One of the most important things we should posses as Christians is love.
1 Corinthians 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.† 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.† 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
Without love, you can never have the kind of zeal that God wants you to have. A person can do all kinds of wonderful things, but if they do not do it with love it profits them nothing. Let me ask you a question.
Are you on fire for the Lord or are hiding you light under a basket?
†If we do not have a zeal for serving Christ, then He may remove our lamp stand as well.
How many people do we know that used to have a fire for the Lord and they let their light shine, but now their fire is almost out. They are like flashlight whose batteries are almost dead. It is so sad when we allow ourselves to become lukewarm in our Christianity. God never intended for His children to be mediocre. So what I would like to do this morning is examine several principles that will help us to keep our fire burning hot for the Lord.
All of these principles will come from the words that Paul wrote to the Philippians.
Philippians 3:12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.† 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,† 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.† 15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.† 16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.
Our first point comes from verse 12. We need to have the attitude that the apostles did. Notice the verse again:
12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.†
Paul is one of the hardest working men that you read about in the NT. He even makes this claim of himself in:
1 Corinthians 15: 9
For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle,
because I persecuted the
But you see, it didnít matter how hard he labored, he had the attitude that he had not been perfected or that he had attained his goal as being a servant to God. From this we can learn that we must never get to the point where we think we have done enough for the Lord and that we can retire for our Christianity because as soon as we start thinking like that our flame is on it way to going out. Jesus says:
Luke 9:23† "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. †
Jesus makes it easy for us to understand that serving God is a daily event. We must never grow weary of doing good or growing in our knowledge of Godís Word because if you are not growing then you are becoming complacent, which is not a good thing. Whether you are 10 or 90, we must continue to challenge ourselves to grow and become wiser in Godís Word and living the Christian life because it will keep our flame burning hot for the Lord.
Now letís take a look at several things that people like to say that indicates that their spiritual first is fading away.
1. I have studied the Bible for years, so I donít really need study that much anymore.
2 Timothy Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Proverbs 15:28 The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, But the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.
1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
These 3 verses teach us plainly that we should never reach the point where we think we have studied the Bible enough. It doesnít matter how many hours a day you study the Word of God because you will consistently learn new things that you did find from previous studies. It also important to study it to keep it fresh on your mind so that you will know how find things better when you have the opportunity to share Godís Word with someone else.
2. Some might say Oh Iíve prayed enough for a lifetime.
1Thessalonians 5:17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Luke 18:1 Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,
Do we get any indication from these verses that we can get to the point were have prayed to much. Of course not. If we get to the point where we lose our desire to pray to God then we have defiantly lost our spiritual zeal.
3. I have done enough work in the church. So, itís time to let someone else to take over.
1 Corinthians 15:58 †Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
Revelation 14:13 Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, "Write: 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.' " "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them."
When you look at these 2 verses it should be clear to us that our work does not come to an end until we are not capable or we die. Notice, Paul says that a Christian is to always abound in the work of the Lord and John continues that thought by saying that after a Christian dies then they get to rest from their labors.
It really concerns me when Christians get to the point where they say that someone else can do the work because I have already done that work for many years. We need to be very careful when we start thinking this way because we are setting ourselves up to become idle, and when you become idle your flame grow dimmer and dimmer for the Lord. If you are already in this condition, then the way you relight you flame for the Lord† is by rolling up your sleeves and getting busy for the Lord.
Our next point comes from verse 13 of our text.
Philippians 3:13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
Again, we see Paul making it clear that he doesnít consider himself to have reached his goal as of yet. But notice, there is one thing that he does, and that is keeping heaven as his goal and he refuses to allow the things from his past to drag him down. Just think about everything Paul did before he became a Christian. He hunted Christians down even in foreign cities, and he persecuted them severely. He watched with great joy as Stephen was stoned to death in Acts 7. If Paul allowed himself to dwell on all the bad things he did in the past it would be hard for him to think about going forward. But, Paul understood that once he became a Christian that his past sins were forgiven and forgotten. †God has the ability to forget those things in our past, but sometimes we find it very difficult to forget what we have done, and, if we dwell on those things all the time, it will hinder us and keep us from reaching our goal of heaven.
Hebrews 12:1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,† 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
The writer tells us to lay aside every weight. This would include our past. If want to be effective for God and to have our zeal burning hot for Him, then we must learn to forget those things of our past and keep our eyes on Jesus and the hope of heaven.
Our next point comes from verse 14 of our text:
Philippians I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
The word ďpressĒ in the Greek means to strive intensely. The Greeks used it to describe a hunter eagerly waiting and pursuing his prey. In a race, it describes a person who zealously strove for the prize. This tells us that Paul was striving with ever muscle and ever fiber of his being to reach his goal of heaven. This shows the zeal he had to serve God until the day he died. This is the same attitude that every Christian should have when it comes to serving God and seeking the goal of heaven.
In Mt. 10 Jesus was sending His disciples out on a small mission, and He gave them a warning about what would happen to them, but notice what He tells them in:
Matthew †"And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
This is what it all about. As Christians, we must endure all the hardships and all the temptation of this life by keeping our sight on Jesus and remaining faithful to Him. Jesus states those who endure to the end will be saved, and they will receive the crown of righteousness (Rev. 2:10). In order for us to remain faithful and not lose our fire for the Lord, it takes an inward determination. If you do not convince yourself of how important it is to love God with all of your heart, mind, and soul, how are you ever going to be able to press forward? If we are not on fire for Jesus then how is anyone going to be able to see Christ in us?
Now letís look at remain verses of text:
Philippians 3:15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.† 16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.† 17 Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.
Paul is teaching us that we should have the same mind as he did. We should never have the attitude that we have already obtained our goal, but that we should continue to grow and do as many things for the Lord as we are able to. Notice, we are to walk by the same rule and those rules come from the Word of God.
If anyone would have the right to become discouraged to the point of allowing their spiritual flame to go out, it would be Paul. I want us to look at the summary of what Paul went through in his walk of faith.
2 Corinthians 11: 23 Are they ministers of Christ? -- I speak as a fool -- I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.† 24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.† 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep;† 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;† 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness --† 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.
When have you are anyone know went through half of what Paul did? I cannot name anyone, yet Paul kept his spiritual burning hot even though he went through so many trying things. His example should inspire us to keep our spiritual flame going strong. Even if you have allowed your flame to go out in your life, you can reignite it by rededicating your life to Christ again. If we can follow Paulís example we will be able to say what he said at the end of his life:
2 Timothy 4:6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.† 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.† 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
Notice, he describes his walk of faith as a fight because that is exactly what it is. Day in and day out, we must fight to remain faithful to Lord, and when we do, we can know that their will be a crown of righteousness waiting for us as well.
I hope this lesson has encouraged you in some way to examine your life and to determine just how hot your spiritual flame is for the Lord. As long as your living, itís not too late to rededicate yourself to God and get your flame burning hot for the Lord once again.