The last few weeks have been characterized by hot weather and smoke-filled skies caused from all the wildfires burning in the west. We haven’t been able to enjoy the grandeur and beauty of the mountains all around us and the famous “Big Blue Montana Sky” because the smoke settles in the valleys, blocks the sun, and causes some pretty nasty air conditions. We pray for a strong wind or rain to clear the air and put out the fires so the smoke will recede. In contrast, when it comes to our spiritual lives, the Holy Spirit’s fire (which is a good fire) doesn’t need smoldering or “quenching”, it needs rekindling…we need an all consuming wildfire burning at all times to be effective in God’s kingdom.
A couple of weeks ago when I was reading a book by David Jeremiah called “God in you”, a book about the Holy Spirit’s role in our lives, he made a point that we quench or grieve the Holy Spirit any time we don’t do something we know to do or do something we know we shouldn’t be doing. Conviction came like water to the desert when I read that I wouldn’t be as effective in life and ministry if put out the Spirit’s fire in my heart and drown him out when ever I’m disobedient. It’s kind of like the man described in James 1:22-24 which says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.”
One of my specific struggles has always been not using my words build people up. I’ve been nudged many a time by scriptures like Col. 4:6, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”, Mat. 12:36, “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.”, and Eph. 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ouch!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read these things and heard a small voice saying, “Josh you really need to look at this area and do something about it”. Most of the time I would pray for God’s help, make a small effort to change, and then slowly return to old habits, quenching the Spirit’s power in my life. The realization that God’s power and Spirit wasn’t fully alive in me if I kept ignoring these nudges finally convinced me to make a real and lasting change.
With the conviction fresh on my heart and mind, I asked my wife and daughter to help me by reminding me when I fell into old habits. Let me tell you that old habits don’t die easily. I got defensive a couple of times and made some excuses, but with God’s help I have made some changes. I have also noticed that since I’ve allowed God’s Spirit to make these changes, my joy has been more complete, I’ve noticed other areas I’ve been hiding from the Lord, and I have a renewed sense of passion and energy that I know is the Spirit finally being able to produce more fruit in and thru me.
Kind of like the smoke from the smoldering fires, habits and sins can get deep into the valleys of our lives making it difficult to clear out, but take courage in knowing that God will rain down and refresh you if you will only surrender and allow His Spirit to be president and not just a resident in your heart.
Grace be with you, Pastor Josh