The bubbling pot of Greek legends cannot be closed tightly without the mythical Phoenix bird being afforded a cosy space. It is believed that the phenomenal bird lived for five hundred years before setting itself on fire. It would then emerge from the fire ashes as a new bird. It never laid eggs and thus it never had young ones. This mythos alludes to Ancient Greeks’ high level of obsession with eternality of life. The same idée fixe was shared with the Egyptians, Arabs and Romans.
The mention of fire reminds me the Apostle Paul on the Island of Malta (Acts 28:1-3). Paul, together with his companions, arrived at the Island of Malta after a troublesome sea voyage. They were shown extraordinary kindness by the inhabitants of the Island, for they built a fire for them as it was raining and cold.
Keep adding to the fire
Paul did not just sit at the fire and bask in its warmth. Instead, he went out to gather wood so that he could add to the fire and keep it burning. Whatever happened as went about this business is the story for another day. However, we need to learn several lessons from Paul.
- Paul and his comrades chanced upon a fire that had been started by strangers. The God of the Bible is a Provider (Genesis 22:14). He is a God who provides for all our needs (Philippians 4:19). He supplied Paul with fire at the time he needed it the most. His abilities to provide are utmost and unrivalled. He demonstrated His supererogation at the Cross of Calvary. His moral goodness is beyond human comprehension. He is the one who supplies the idea that brings in success. He is the one who brings strangers into our lives. These strangers start fires that dry our rain-soaked apparels and warm our ice-cold bodies. Can you notice strangers around your life that turned into angels?
- Paul went about looking for wood to add to the fire that the strangers had lit for them. He did not settle down in comfort and waited till the fire died down. We need to always add on to what we have received from Him. We are co-laborers with God. The fire that we started with is likely to shimmer if we do not collect more wood and add on it (Philippians 2:12). We grow cold when we do not keep the fire burning. The initial kindness of God should be the bedrock for eternal warmth in our hearts. This warmth should not only warm us but everyone around us.
- Paul went out of the way to collect firewood not just for himself but for the whole company. It is an act of selflessness. Christianity is founded on the message of selfless Christ dying for the sins of the selfish human beings. The Fire Jesus lit for you is supposed to benefit others. We do not collect firewood because others are collecting. We do not gripe if they do not join us. Our lives are supposed to radiate light and warmth that can penetrate even the darkest and the coldest of lives. On the other hand, it is a sign of prudence and maturity to help others collect firewood.
A cold life is equal to a cold heart
A cold life is the one that failed to keep the fire burning. It is a life that was ravished with electrifying beginnings but forgot to take steps to ensure the fire kept burning. A life that lacks the warmth of continuous fire gives birth to a cold heart.
When our hearts grow cold then we tend to be stand-offish, shut-down, narcissistic, self-absorbed, unfeeling, lacking in empathy and compassion, critical and hostile.
A cold heart cannot warm any life around it. It carries despair, discouragement and despondency around. It is one thing to have a cold life and it is another thing to accept it as our normal. Is it possible that we have accepted our abnormalities as our ‘normal’? It is a dangerous place to be when we accept our coldness as part of us. It is incongruous when we embrace mediocre life as our fate. Nowhere do we find fatalism in confluence with abundant life that Jesus preached.
A cold life does fail to understand the workings of a great God. Same-sex marriages become normal; adultery and divorce become acceptable; tribalism and racism can be accomodated. If we can afford to mix our Christianity with such things then it means the fire in us stopped burning sometimes back and we need to retrace our ways back to the Hill of Golgotha (Revelation 22:18-19). The unchanging Biblical truth is the foundation of incessant fire. The Bible does not change but it is supposed to change those who believe in sincerity. The lack of sincerity results in a life that is characterised with fakeness, faintness, facelessness, faithlessness, factionalism and falsenesses. All this is self-deception and utter vanity.
Point to note
Figuratively speaking, fire represents God’s glory, holiness, protection, righteous judgment and purification, divine Truth, Holy Spirit, trial and suffering and the glorified Christ.