only help my unbelief


Sticks in the fire
July 9, 2007, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Posts

Having grown up in Baptist churches until high school, I went to my share of retreats, revivals and camps. While I will make no judgment on the extent to which the gospel was presented (because I don’t really remember), I do remember one thing that they had in common. In almost every situation, at some point during the last session of the day, week, weekend, there would be some time of commitment. It had different forms, different methods, but the ultimate goal was twofold – 1) If you’re not a Christian, believe in Jesus and 2) If you are a Christian, what area of your life needs to be recommitted to the Lord?

At some retreats, those wanting to make a decision of some sort went up to the front to pray, or to the back to talk with someone. At others, we were sent off on our own to pray by ourselves. I remember at one place we were given notecards and told to write something down that we needed to give up, and then we each went up, ripped up the card and threw it in a big trashcan.

The one I remember best, though, was at a weeklong camp in North Carolina. At the end of the last session, we all filed out of our rows one by one and picked up a small twig. At the back of the building was a huge fire, and we each had a chance to throw our stick in the fire, symbolizing the burning of our own desires or the personal commitment of our lives to Christ (for the first, second, third, eight, fiftieth time).

I mention these experiences not to mock them. God saved me through a revival when I was six years old. And I believe many of the tears I saw shed at these functions were sincere, and I’m sure God used those events to draw many closer to Himself.

However, I think there is great danger in relying on circumstances like these to commemorate some kind of big decision we made for Christ, or in thinking that it takes a dramatic act in order to make that decision more “real.”

This past Sunday, my Sunday School class was studying the end of Acts 18, where Apollos’ ministry is discussed. The teacher was discussing how Apollos was a man mighty in the Scriptures, who had all the resources of secular knowledge at his fingertips. But, he said, Apollos only studied the world’s books in order to advance the gospel better, and the great majority of his time was spent in the Scriptures. From that he issued a challenge regarding our free time and how we use it. He encouraged us to compare our lives to that of Apollos’. How much time do we spend in the Scripture? What do we spend our times doing that won’t profit us eternally?

And there, in the fifth row of the Sunday School classroom, I was convicted about something I spent my time doing that has taken up days upon days of my time over the past six months or so. It is something I have felt small amounts of conviction about before, but yesterday morning, it was as though I heard a voice plain as day in my head saying, “Chelsey, you need to stop doing that.” And almost as clearly, my heart of hearts replied, “Yes, Lord.” When I got home from church, I took the steps necessary to remove that thing from my life indefinitely.

And that was that.

I relate this story not to boast in the depth of my obedience. As I said, I have ignored conviction in the past about this particular use of my time. I mention it in order to encourage those of you who have made commitments to the Lord and have failed in them. Those of you who are waiting for the fire to be lit in your heart about what God would require of you. By all means, take advantage of God-centered events that want you to make a personal commitment and verbalize what’s in your heart, but realize that God can use a Sunday School lesson from Acts 18 to change your life as well.

You don’t always have to throw a stick in the fire.

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2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

i grew up in the PCA, so i didn’t experience any of that revival-type stuff until college, when i went to a baptist school. i probably have a terribly pessimistic view of their merits…i’m not sure what else i want to say…i definitely appreciate the encouragement to heed conviction, though.

Comment by david

Honestly, I’m pretty pessimistic about the merits of them as well – but I don’t want to discount the work of the Spirit in ways that I can’t see.

Comment by chelseykarns




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