Updated: Jul 14
Dr. RB McFee
“Keep the fire burnin’
The world will keep on turning
And let us not stop learning’
We can help one another be strong
Let us never lose our yearnin’
To keep the fire burnin’”
©Lyrics from Keep the Fire Burnin’ sung by REO Speedwagon, written by Kevin Cronin
Driving to church, enjoying the lovely scenery along winding rural roads, mellowing out to the music, all of a sudden a long lost song rarely heard on the radio started playing….Keep the fire burnin performed by REO Speedwagon.
Ever have the experience where the lyrics speak to you as if a whisper from God; as if He was trying to show you something?
For me the lyrics challenged me to face the tug of war between wanting to burn brightly Christ’s love light in a world needing it, pulling against a period of mental, physical and spiritual fatigue. Put bluntly, I was tired. Maybe beyond tired! Talk about Jesus’ immortal words paraphrased ‘the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.’
And yet I wanted to keep the fire burnin’ His Fire burning - I just didn’t know how; I was low on fuel.
Then the song by Styx “Show me the way” popped into my head. The lyrics are a prayer of sorts – a bedtime lullaby inferring a petition for God to show us the way. Yet how often do you or I just stop, and in likewise fashion, sing, pray or simply ask God to show me the way?
Even Jesus understood fatigue and asked the Father to show Him the way.
The Gospels are full of examples when Jesus needed some restoration after He kept the fire burnin’ doing herculean tasks – feeding the multitudes, healing innumerable sick folks, preaching, pushing back against the oppressive Pharisees and Sanhedrin, teaching, and raising the dead. After long days of walking, and interacting with sometimes thousands of people, even Jesus faced the dilemma of rest or burning the light just a little bit more.
At those times, He found a quiet place to pray. He, too, asked the Father show Me the way.
And Jesus frequently taught us where to go when burning brightly came perilously close to burning out – Consider Matthew 11:28 “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
But rest isn’t a permanent naptime. It is recharge and restoration time. Even in Psalm 23 the time for restoration gives way for our time of action. And as people of faith we are charged with action.
There is a reason that the symbol of the Holy Spirit is the flame – it is the same One God gave the Israelites to guide them upon their exodus from Egypt, and it is the inner One we feel when we are attuned to the God who guides us today.
The visible Flame of God that mortals of antiquity could see as a daily reminder that the Almighty is indeed Present, and of the mission He set forth for them to do has changed. Through Jesus, we now have the Holy Spirit, and from the New Testament onwards, people see the Flame of God brightest through His people.
God’s Presence is known when we are His candles of love, kindness, compassion. And Jesus reminds us keep the fires burnin’ brightly as examples of His love, His light in a darkened world.
Sometimes easier said than done! Though the Flame is the Holy Spirit, we are a team, and sadly the mortal half of that team gets tired. Sometimes that fatigue is physical; often it is emotional and spiritual.
So how do we recharge to keep the fire burnin’?
Prayer for starters! Take Jesus at His word – He will give you rest. Take God at His word in Psalm 23 where He promises to restore us.
Then there is our faith family. We are the jump start cables for our fellow believers.
We can and should be the folks someone in our midst can come to and share their faith journey – even when their fire flickers. Sometimes it’s from fatigue, or crisis of faith. Sometimes it is having a dream or mission that the Holy Spirit put on our heart, and not knowing where to go with it. And sometimes it comes down to needing someone else on a faith journey to share the path.
Each one of us has at different times on our spiritual journey faced full tank and riding on vapors.
If you are running out of gas – reach out to Jesus, take time to pray, to recharge, and reach out to your pastor, to someone you trust amongst your faith family.
If you have extra fuel to keep the fire burnin’ then be ready to offer some of it to those in need of some. Most of all always be ready to ask, to offer – how can I encourage or be there for you?
In a world where it seems everything is fraught with strife, darkness, war, deprivation, and challenges seem to abide wherever we look, how do we “keep the fire burnin?” How do we reflect our indwelling Flame of the Holy Spirit, bring healing and hope where despair seems to have taken root?
It was no different 2000 years ago. Jesus lived what we lived, only without social media, and television. The Chosen – then and now – were tasked with keeping the fires burning by reflecting light in a dark world, all the while facing persecution, hunger, imprisonment, poverty, and so much more than most of us face as Jesus’ followers.
And it is no different for others. If we feel it, others likely are experiencing it, too. But as important as it is to keep the fire burnin’
Perhaps that is why we as members of a church family are essential – just as Jesus intended it to be. His church – a body of believers to encourage and support one another. To keep the fires burnin through mutual love and caring, inspiration and assistance. We are by profession of our faith a partnership with Christ and each other.
The Holy Spirit burns brightest in the world, in our neighborhood, in our workplace, in our church, in our home, when we keep the fire, His Fire burnin.’ We all get tired. But that is temporary if we allow God to restore us.
The most important way to keep the Fire burnin’ is wanting to. Then enlist the Holy Spirit, and watch His Flame burn brightly through you.