Word on Fire

Paul writes to Timothy

'I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you'
(2Tim 1:6)

so, to help the church with this, we offer this brief word, because

“Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord'
(Jeremiah 23:29)

Delayed Fire?

Regular visitors to this site will know well enough the scripture from Hebrews 1:7 which tells us “he makes … his servants flames of fire”. The promise is made in connection with his “angels” or ‘messengers’, as the Greek can also be translated. But what is God doing, or what is happening, when the fire, meaning in this context the passion, power & presence, is not – or doesn’t appear to be present? What’s happening when the message, or the messenger, doesn’t seem to be empowered or enabled to go where ‘needed’? How do we understand this? Maybe you, the reader, are in this situation and can’t make sense of the apparent delay? I’ve just been there, for just short of 2 years, waiting for a visa to enter the place where, as yet, God’s promises remain only in part fulfilled for me.

For 2 years since making a visa application, anti-Christian forces have delayed the decision. A normal visa application takes just days, if that. But we knew we were chosen for something bigger – something that needed to be done properly, with glory to God. We’re not ‘spiritual tourists’, so we sought a visa for a Christian Charity. A bold move! This is what caused the delay, as the application was sent out of the UK for ‘MI5-style’ enquiries to be made. For two years the application was filed under ‘Do Not Touch’! We could gain biblical insight into this by looking at Joseph, Daniel or Elijah, but instead I invite you to look at the apostle Paul. ‘Apostle’, as you know, means ‘sent one’. The apostle Paul on a number of occasions found himself prevented by God from doing what he felt as part of his calling he should be doing! We need to understand this if we are to have peace when ministry is being held back. Is God weak? Is he (and are we) engaged in an evenly-matched battle in which the outcome or timing is uncertain? NO!!!

Let’s look at Paul, beginning with Acts 16:6-10

Paul and his companions travelled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Prevented already from entering Asia, Paul and his companions try to enter Bithynia. Are they being impetuous or impatient, Saul-like before the offering is due? The name ‘Bithynia’ means ‘a violent rushing’. The answer can only be speculation, but the brothers are left to pass time in Phrygia and Galatia before moving on Troas. ‘Phrygia’ is a ‘dry, barren place’ (it’s meaning), whilst Galatia (‘land of the Gauls’) can perhaps best be understood as simply being someone else’s territory: it’s not home! ‘Troas’ means ‘a Trojan’ which has come to be a byword for perseverance in our language. Being prevented from continuing the ministry that Paul knew to be his, he was left in an uncomfortable, relatively unfruitful place where the only way forward was perseverance! The desire to minister is not enough. Even calling and anointing isn’t enough. God’s timing is needed. 2 Tim 4:2 doesn’t tell us to ‘preach the word in season and out’, but to ‘preach the word: be prepared’ in season and out’.

Let’s look now, more briefly, at another couple of examples from Paul’s letter to the Romans.

Romans 1:11-13
I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong - that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.

Again we see that Paul’s desire and even his calling and anointing to “impart some spiritual gift” is not enough. Understandably, you may agree, Paul is eager for “a harvest”, - send us revival, Lord! - but this wasn’t in God’s timing. The time for the visit to Rome wasn’t right.

Romans 15:17-22
Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done - by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way round to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. Rather, as it is written: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.” This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you.

Here we see that the “hindrance” to the intended ministry – called, anointed, and willing ministry still – was the “foundation” of other ministers. Christian ministers! A“foundation” isn’t a foundation unless it is true, and that isn’t in question. The foundation laid by previous itinerant preachers wasn’t false, it just was incomplete. The foundation laid for the ‘house’ or temple – the people of Christ – seemingly wasn’t ready (to use a construction term, it wasn’t ‘cured’). The foundation wasn’t sufficient, or had not had enough time to settle, for the ‘building’ (the believers) to be ready to move on to the next stage of building. Paul’s’ stage. Maybe it was because Rome wasn’t ready for Paul’s power ministry? One day in heaven we may know!

After the glorious achievements that Heavenfire Ministries and our partners had been empowered to accomplish in the years 2000-05, the wait for a visa was a tremendous frustration to us all. Our local partners continued the harvest whilst we in the UK were limited to giving encouragement and oversight by internet and telephone, and through or continuing financial support. Although sometimes tempted, we did not lessen our certainty of our calling and anointing, nor our desire to continue bearing fruit with them. But it’s not as if the intervening time here at home has not produced fruitful ministry! It has however been different (readers of the emailed news updates will know about this).

Now the door is open! In opening the door again, the Lord God Almighty was always present, and at work. On my last visit to the harvest field he introduced me to a beloved brother, who shortly after my need arose was promoted to a position of Government Minister in his home land. As the struggle against the opponents of the Gospel who were hindering my visa continued, this brother was able to introduce another Christian brother who – perhaps “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14) was able to take the battle on. This brother is a Director in charge of a vast proportion of his nation’s infrastructure and economy. Through him, personal influence drew into the picture another Director, this time at the highest possible level of influence over the decision concerning my visa.

From the point when this man (not a Christian) pledged his support to my cause (like Cyrus to Ezra, Artaxerxes to Nehemiah, or Potiphar to Joseph) the outcome was drawing closer. Notice that I said the outcome was ‘drawing closer’, not ‘was certain’. Despite the scepticism of some brothers and sisters who perhaps could not see so clearly, the outcome was always certain! Only God’s timing needed to be met. More than two years ago, in a taxi returning from an outreach event, the Spirit brought the word to me “you’ll not be here for 5 years!”. I responded silently“Lord, surely not! If it needs be, then make it 2 years!”, to which he replied “Two years, and then some”. This is my confession: like Paul, I tried to hasten the time! Sorry Lord! Truly, he makes no delay!

So what happened to Paul? In all cases the delay, I think, was because a greater harvest awaited. From the Bithynia border Paul went to Macedonia, and Philippi, its leading city. Here his fruit included the planting of a new church at Lydia’s house; the deliverance of the slave girl from the ‘python’ spirit; and the salvation of the jailer and his family after Paul and Silas had been supernaturally released from prison. Later, Paul did enter Asia, and “all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord” (Acts 19:10). He testified to the greatness of God their, as promised by God that he would (Acts 23:11), as a prisoner, before dying a martyr’s death. Greater harvests awaited God’s timing, for the fulfilment of his calling and anointing.

I know that a fruitful harvest awaits both me and those who join with Heavenfire Ministries – much fruit (John 15:8)! Exciting times lie ahead! Perhaps this message will help you to understand – and to rejoice in – the circumstances which you see around you now? Remember that God’s promise never fails, and his purpose never goes away. Be prepared! Keep your fire ready! Your time may be drawing near!