Last week, I heard our bishop note that “the early Methodists were on fire for Jesus Christ.” I thought about that during a time of prayer a couple of days ago, and as I thought about it, I remembered something I learned way back in a physics class.
In physics, I learned that heat travels from hot to cold.
The way I’ve always remembered that is if you open the front door in the winter, you are not letting cold air in, you’re letting warm air out. Another way to think about it is that if you touch a hot stove, heat travels from the hot stove to your cooler hand.
But I’ve been thinking about this in the context of the church, especially long-established churches in need of spiritual transformation and renewal, that tend to have a larger amount of people who have grown comfortable in their walk with God; that is, they’re lukewarm or even cold. In those settings, it’s easy for people who are on fire for God to become discouraged.
But this law of physics, or the spiritual law that mirrors it, encourages me. Heat travels from those who are on fire for Jesus Christ to people around them. Fire spreads. Passion is contagious.
The problem is that as the heat travels to colder surroundings, the heat dissipates. In the church, those who are lukewarm can simply drain the heat of those who are on fire for God to the point where everyone is the same (less than hot) temperature.
So, those who are on fire for God must stay close to the source—the “consuming fire”—as they continue to live among the cold and lukewarm so that they don’t lose their fire!
That’s the challenge of the spiritual life—to stay close to God and to impact others. We can, and must, do both!