by Bill Effler
Last month in "Revival Fires" one certain fact about fires was identified: Fires, once set, will go out if not tended to, or "revived." People with "flickering revival fires" have: 1) stopped doing the things they did when they were first "on fire for God," 2) lost vision, 3) lost a sense of purpose and, 4) have decreasing convictions about passions they once held.
This month I want to identify four signs of an authentically renewed life, a life that is on fire for God.
In 2 Corinthians, Paul's more personal letter to the people of Corinth, the apostle identifies numerous practical aspects of leadership, which in fact are characteristics of a renewed life. He begins chapter 10 by modeling the fact that a revived life is a transparent life. Paul "urges, pleads" (v.1), with "gentleness," "meekness," and with "confidence" (vv. 1,2). His transparency leaves little room for guesswork as to what he thinks or how he feels. When Paul parted from the Ephesian leaders for the last time, both he and they wept (Acts 20:22f.), out of love for each other and a sense that they would never see each other again. This is transparency! With this transparency, Paul is "hot" with the fire of his desires for the Ephesian Christians. God's desire for His people is that we would be unmistakably transparent. We know God desires this level of authenticity for His people (see, for example: 1 Pet. 2:22; 3:10; Rev. 14:5).
Paul tells you and me that a renewed life is a spiritually empowered life. The spiritually empowered life is increasingly concerned for the lost and equally loses interest in the world's symbols of success. The renewed life knows there will be difficulty and knows that difficulty can have its root in the spiritual realm. Because of this, the renewed life must be spiritually empowered. The renewed life relies on "God's mighty weapons, not mere worldly weapons" (v. 4) A daily reliance on God's presence and His people, and our praise will increase individual revival fire.
The renewed life is an encouraging life. Paul says the renewed life does not tear people down but rather, "builds people up" (v. 8). Could it be Paul was thinking about God's indictment in Ezekiel 34 against false shepherds that "abandon their flocks...don't search...don't care... don't feed...they do not bring healing " (34:1-9). Or perhaps before his Damascus Road experience Paul had heard Jesus say to the Pharisees that leaders who do not encourage often "don't practice what they teach they crush with impossible demands they do everything for show ignore the important things " (Matt. 23).
Second Corinthians 10 instructs us that the renewed life has eternally-based values. Paul says, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord" (v.18a). Paul acknowledges, "it is the Lord who commends" (v.18b). Having eternally-based values, being acknowledged by the Lord one day as a "good and faithful servant" has a price. In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul tells the Corinthians the opposition he faced when his values based on eternity were challenged. He willingly risked natural disaster, financial shortfalls, and lack of sleep, faithless religious leaders, and the risk of losing his life. At the end of his life Paul would instruct the young pastor Timothy, saying: "Endure hardship like a good soldier of Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 2.3). Jesus' own brother, James, wrote, "God blesses the people who patiently endure testing they will receive the crown of glory" (James 1.12). The crown of glory is the commendation to which Paul refers.
Do you feel as though your fire is flickering? I encourage you with D. L. Moody's testimony: "I cried out as never before for a greater blessing from God. The hunger increased God revealed Himself to me, such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand."
William B. Effler is assistant professor of Pastoral Studies at Lee University.
He is the author of Turning the Church Inside Out.