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Surviving Your Wilderness - Tip#4 - Build A Fire

Another priority for physical survival in the desert is building a fire. The fire’s heat can dry wet clothes and keep the body warm in cold conditions. It can also purify water by boiling it. Experts say that fire even has the psychological affect of boosting morale during a survival situation. Its warmth and light give comfort and restore confidence. This helps the stranded person calm down and think more logically.

We need these advantages of fire for our spiritual lives also. Wilderness seasons make us vulnerable to negative attitudes. Sorrow can soak us like a cold rain. Anger can sneak in and contaminate the thoughts we drink. And the desert’s big danger, disillusionment, can blind us to the hope of the Lord’s faithfulness that leads us out to the Promised Land. But God’s fire consumes these dangers. It dries out sorrow, boils away the impurity of anger, and emits a glow in the desert night that restores faith. Divine fire brings revival in the wilderness.

But what does it look like practically? What is God’s “fire” for a personal desert? The story of Israel’s time in the wilderness again provides the answer.

As we saw last time, Israel’s desert period was God’s appointed time to establish His presence with His people. “So Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Exodus 40:33-34). That’s the moment when God took up residence among His people. But that was just the beginning. God was establishing even more for His people during their formative time in the wilderness.

Once He established His presence among them, God had to institute a way for His people to approach Him. In other words, He had to teach them how to worship Him. And what was at the centre of the worship He gave them? Fire. “Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting. When they came out and blessed the people, the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. Then fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the portions of fat on the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces” (Lev. 9:23-24).

What, therefore, is our “fire” during a personal wilderness? It is passionate, sacrificial worship. Trials or dry spells are not the times to allow the flames of devotion to cool down. Those are the very times to burn the brightest. Whole-hearted, sacrificial worship is what keeps our gaze fixed on the beauty and truth of Jesus Christ during difficult times. It keeps our hearts ablaze with love and adoration. That is the fire that keeps sorrow, anger, and disillusionment out of our hearts. What coldness or impurity can withstand the flames of divine love? What demonic predator dares come near a saint torching the night with an inferno of worship? Fiery devotion terrorises our enemies and acts as a defense against desert dangers. Most of all, though, it pleases God.

It’s important to remember, however, that Israel did not start its own fire. The Lord did. Those stranded in a physical wilderness without matches or a lighter must start their own fire with the raw materials nature provides them. That can be a challenge for those without experience in survival techniques. But this is one challenge that does not carry over to the spiritual wilderness. We never have to worry about lighting our own fire. Just as fire came out from the Lord’s presence for Israel’s altar, so does He ignite the flames in our hearts. Father God already gave us the Holy Spirit when we were born again. The Lord Jesus then baptises us in the Holy Spirit by grace. The spirit of worship comes from God as a gift. We don’t have to look to our surrounding circumstances for inspiration. We can look to the Lord and rediscover the great fire that burns within.

Yet it is our job to keep that fire burning. God starts it, but commands us to maintain it. “The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out” (Lev. 6:13). We must partner with the Lord as stewards of worship in the desert. Paul tells us, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1). Later he adds, “Boil in the Spirit, serving the Lord” (Rom. 12:11). God gave us the Spirit, but we are responsible to stoke His flames by worshipping in Him during hard times. Thus Paul exhorts believers to activate the Spirit’s existing flame: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:18-20).

Worship touches God’s depths when it burns from our depths. The Lord did not wait to establish Israel’s worship until they settled in Canaan. He set them on fire in the desert, before the Promised Land. He could not afford for them to learn to worship only after gaining public success and identity. He had to teach them to worship in order to forge their identity. Otherwise their worship would be “strange fire,” a selfserving religious facade without presence or substance – without God Himself.

Israel’s character had to be tempered by fire while suffering in Sinai’s badlands. They couldn’t light themselves on fire once they arrived. They had to emerge from the wilderness already ablaze with God. For this reason the Lord appeared privately to Moses in a burning desert bush. He was symbolising His people’s essential identity. Israel was a bush in the desert flaming with God. God took that bush as it burned with His glory, and planted it in the Promised Land.

It is the same for us. God brings us into the wilderness to set us on fire. Then He can bring people into their destiny that have learned to worship – truly worship – Him with loyal, fervent hearts. We cannot become pure sacrifices of love if we learn to worship only under the most ideal conditions, during exciting services, to the coolest music, and with the best musicians. We must learn to worship in the wilderness. If we won’t burn for God in the desert, then we won’t burn for Him at all. Conversely, if we will worship in the obscurity of the wilderness, then God can use us in public. For then our flames consist of white-hot glory, rather than carnal passion. This is how God creates true worshippers. So don’t waste your wilderness. Make it a temple of glory.

If you’ve lost the sense of His fire amid the harsh conditions of your personal desert, then turn to God again. You possess God’s flame burning inside you. Fellowship with the Spirit within, and find again His zeal to glorify Jesus and adore the Father. Open your heart in spite of your circumstances and natural feelings, and allow adoration to flow out of your mouth. Remember His amazing grace, His steadfast love, and His gift of Jesus Christ to you. Give thanks with passion. Worship with affection. Not because you feel like it, but because the Lord is worthy – especially in the desert. When you put yourself on the altar like this, God’s flames will consume you as a living sacrifice. And the resulting fire will protect your heart, nurture your soul, and illumine your night. Engulf your wilderness in a blaze of worship!

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