I like a cozy fire as much as the next person. Hot cocoa, warm sweater, crackling glow. During a safari in Africa on a cold evening a group of us headed to dinner in the bush. We climbed into several jeeps and drove away from the resort with all its lights, comfort and safety. I was astounded at the inky night sky. The stars were so abundant a milky haze stretched across the expanse. Because the jeep was open I just gazed upward during the 10 minute drive to dinner. Also, since the top was down, by the time we arrived I was feeling the chill, even with the handy blankets they supplied in the vehicle. The meal was to take place entirely outside, so the blazing bonfire I saw as soon as we pulled up was a welcomed sight. Once we were all unloaded, about 12 of us, the guide led us right past the fire to our table at least 10 feet away. I hugged my jacket around me.
“Are we not going to sit closer?” I asked our host.
“Oh, the fire isn’t to keep us warm,” He smiled. “It’s to keep the predators away.”
I hadn’t thought of that. Looking warily into the darkness, the night pressed tight around our small group of diners. The thought of a hungry lion lurking just out of sight made me want to throw on another log. We weren’t in a zoo with the wild animals tucked safely inside cages. We were completely exposed. The fire was not just necessary, it was essential. Two men carefully tended the inferno while we ate. Just as the wood turned to embers and the last bite of dessert was savored, we were ushered back to the jeep and to our resort.
Lions are a threat in the bush, in what you would call “the natural.” But we have a spiritual predator. Peter, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, tells us our enemy “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” The thought of an actual lion devouring is enough to keep me looking over my shoulder. But knowing I have a spiritual lion on the prowl, one stalking my soul, is reason to stay on high alert. A physical lion, I learned, will roar to announce his territory. When we hear the roar we’d best find a new location. Satan has his own territory; his roar can come in many forms. Galatians 5:19 to 21 give us a pretty good list beginning with hatred, jealousy and selfish ambition. The list is lengthy and finishes with “and the like” letting us know it’s incomplete. Satan revels in such turmoil and this is his territory. If we hang out in his turf, we run the risk of being devoured.
Thankfully, while we have a spiritual enemy we also have a spiritual fire. The author of Hebrews tells us God is “an all-consuming fire” (Heb 12:29.) God came to the Israelites as a pillar of fire to defend them against the oncoming Egyptians when they were backed up against the Red Sea (Ex 14:24.) And when God sent the Holy Spirit he deposited that fire within us. But just as Paul warns the Thessalonians not to “put out the Spirit’s fire” (I Thes 5:19) we, too, can douse those flames.
During our early camping trips, my husband and I taught our children how to “dead out” the campfire; to entirely extinguish the flames so that not even heat remains. We use plenty of water and then finish it with dry sand. I know my spiritual fire has come close to being dead. I’ve douse it with buckets of anger, jealousy, materialism “and the like.” I’ve also had more than a few “sand kickers” surrounding me. So-called friends encouraging me down roads where I have no business, whispering gossip, creating distractions, causing arguments. I found tending my spiritual fire was not just about creating a roaring inferno with the fuel of deep Bible study, continual prayer and a body of believers encouraging me. But protecting against anything that could dead out the light within me.
A fire is so much more than cozy. God’s fire refines us, guides us, heats and protects us. But it takes constant attention to blaze bright.