Let The Fire Fall!

1 Kings 18: 36-39

It had been an exhausting day.
The hot sun beat down on the parched earth.
The crowded had sat under the cloudless sky for what seemed like an eternity.
They were silent spectators in the great contest between Baal and Jehovah.
Jehovah's side was hopelessly outnumbered.
The odds were 850 to 1 in favor of Baal.

They watched and waited and waited and wondered, as the prophets of Baal tried one tactic
after another to persuade the god of lightning and fire to prove himself and send fire from heaven.

  • They pleaded.
  • They appealed.
    Still unsuccessful, they began to cry out more earnestly.
    They began to cajole.
    They demanded that Baal hear them, and send fire.
  • There was still no answer.
  • There was still no fire!
    Undaunted, they persisted in leaping upon the altar, and in cutting themselves until the blood flowed.
    Their desperate and vain attempts to prove their sincerity to Baal produced nothing.

    There was no sign of fire from heaven -- not even a spark!
    Weary with their exercise in futility, their desire turned to disappointment and defeat.

    At this point in this familiar account, we cannot help but notice some striking similarities
    to the church in our day.
  • We are not lacking in activities.
  • Our church calendars are bulging with services, fellowships, retreats, programs, committee meetings, etc.
  • We are making lots of noise.
  • We are busy, earnest, and probably, sincere.
    But still, there is a deafening silence in the heavens.

    There is no fire!
    It is not, that we are not trying.
    We are!

    But, apparently, all of our programs, promotions, meetings, buses, budgets, baptisms, committees,
    and conventions have failed to produce the one thing which we most desperately need -- fire from heaven.
    While the spiritual leaders are busily trying to produce sparks, the average church member
    sits back with the rest of the world -- waiting, watching, and wondering.
    Oh yes, theologically, they know that Jehovah is the only true God of fire.
    Should we blame them for asking within themselves questions they would never dare to verbalize?

    Is God really as powerful as the pastor claims Him to be?
    After all, most members of our churches have never seen anything truly supernatural or unexplainable.
    Most of the "spiritual" results they have seen can be accounted for in purely human turns.

    Now back to Mt. Carmel.
    Into the arena steps a solitary figure.
    For several years he has been a fugitive from the king, whose wrath he had incurred three years earlier.
    Now, here is Elijah calling upon the people to watch and listen.
    By now the people are skeptical.
    But Elijah was always something of an oddity -- a real contrast to the other religious leaders of his day.
  • He has always been a minority voice.
  • His message cuts across the grain of what is traditional and palatable.
    His challenge is to "get off the fence," and take a public stand for either Baal or Jehovah.
    This kind of challenge makes the average person uncomfortable.

    Elijah directs their attention to the altar of Jehovah.
    It had been unused for many years, and it is in a state of disrepair.
    One by one, Elijah selects 12 large stones and constructs an altar.
    He prepares the sacrifice and places it on the altar.
    There is nothing out of the ordinary, yet.

    But then, he did something unbelievable.
    He turns to the crowd and directs some of the men to fill four barrels full of water,
    and pour them on the sacrifice.
    Has he lost his mind?
    Everyone knows that wet wood will not burn.

    They pour 4 barrels of water on the altar.
    Then, he asked for 4 more barrels.
    This is crazy?
    Then 4 more barrels.

    Well, this is not going to burn.
    Water is standing in the trench around the altar.
    Everything is soaked!
    Might as well go home -- the show is over!

    Then Elijah prays a short, simple prayer,... and the fire fell from heaven!
  • There was no kerosene.
  • There were no magic tricks.
  • There was no pretending.
  • This was not an illusion.
    There was real fire from heaven.
    It licked up the water, and utterly consumed the sacrifice, the wood, the stones,
    and even the dust on the ground.
    This was fire from heaven -- fire from God!

    What is the fire of God?
    There is no greater need in the church today than for the fire of God to fall.
    But what do we mean by the fire of God?
  • I am talking about the manifest presence and glory of God.
  • I am talking about the supernatural power of God.
  • I am talking about services that are more than just "nice" meetings with
    "nice" music, and "nice" preaching.

  • I am talking about results that cannot be explained in terms of human effort.
  • I am talking about that which man cannot program, manipulate, plan, or bring about.
  • I am talking about the extraordinary outpouring of His Spirit.
    I am talking about the fire of God.

    What does the fire do?
    When the fire falls, we see God for who He really is.
    How long has it been since you have seen God?
    How long has it been since you were overcome by the awareness of His holiness
    and a sense of your unworthiness before Him?

    When the fire falls, it consumes everything that is unholy, earthly, and temporal.
    The fire of God purifies, purges, melts and devours, for "our God is a consuming fire."
    (Hebrews 12:29)
    God is like a refiner's fire. (Malachi 3: 2)
    This fire brings impurities to the surface.
    It exposes and consumes them.

    When the fire falls, sin is judged.
    Sin is dealt with thoroughly and without compromise.
    All sins are dealt with -- not just the obvious sins of the flesh, but the subtle sins
    of the spirit are also judged.
    Masks of respectability are pulled off, pretense is stripped away, and the souls of men are
    laid bare before the gaze of an all-seeing, all-knowing God.
    Why don't we have the fire?
    In many cases, we don't have the fire of God because we don't think we need it.
  • We are content to serve without it.
  • We are content to teach without it.
  • We are content to sing without it.
  • We are content to live without it.
    The Israelites didn't think they needed fire.
  • They thought they needed water.
  • They focused on their felt need.
  • They were blind to their real need.
    But once the fire came, the rain came!

    For the most part, our nation, churches, homes, and lives today are devoid
    of the glory and power of God.
    When asked to state our needs, we speak of needing bigger buildings, more money,
    more programs, more volunteers, more leaders, more equipment, etc.
    Why can we not see that our real need is for God Himself?
    We have ignored God.
    This is an awful, horrible sin.
    We have sinned against God, and He has withdrawn His manifest presence from us.

    Our eyes have grown accustomed to the darkness.
    We have gotten used to functioning in our own efforts.
    Hardly anyone ever questions the authenticity of our results.
    Someone has said that if the Holy Spirit were taken out of the average church, 95 percent
    of the programs would just keep right on going.
    We have become blind to our true spiritual condition and needs.
    Like the Laodicean church, we think we are "rich, increased with goods,
    and have need of nothing
    ." Why... Why?
    As long as we think we are doing all right, we will never be motivated to cry out to God
    to send fire from heaven.

    Another reason we don't have the fire is that we really don't want it.
    Oh, we say we do.
    But what too many of us really want is the kind of "fire" that will draw attention
    to our church, pack our pews, increase our offerings, and solve all our problems.
  • We do not want the fire that will consume, destroy, expose, root up, and burn.
  • We do not want the fire to arouse us from our comfort zone.
  • We are afraid of what might really happen if God did appear on the scene.
    We want a tidy religious experience that we can control.

    We don't have the fire of God because we don't believe it can happen today.
    In our concern to avoid the excesses and abuses of certain movements, we have denied
    all together the possibility of a supernatural outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
    We don't pray for miracles because we don't really believe that God still does miracles.

    I have seen churches come to the conclusion of revival services, and be very disappointed
    at the lack of visible results.
    The question is: "Well, what did you expect?"
    Usually, we don't expect very much, and that is usually what we get.
    This poem expresses that, and raises our expectation.

    "Filled with a strange new hope, they came,
    The blind, the leper, the sick, the lame.
    Frail of body and spent of soul
    As many as touched Him were made whole.

    On every tongue was the Healer's name
    Throughout the land they spread His fame.
    But doubt held tightly to its wooden crutch
    Saying, 'We must not expect too much.'

    Down through the ages the promise came,
    Healing for sorrow, sin, and shame.
    Help for the helpless, hope for the blind,
    Healing of body, soul, and mind.
    The Lord we worship is still the same,
    With blessings for all who will to claim.

    But how often we miss love's healing touch
    By saying, 'We must not expect too much
    .' "

    The good news is that we cannot expect too much.
    Whatever may be our boldest dream, it is nothing in comparison to what the Father expects.

    "Thou art coming to a King,
    Large petitions with thee bring;
    For His grace and power are such,
    None can ever ask too much
    ."

    Finally, we don't have the fire of God because we are not willing to pay the price to get it.
  • We want an instantaneous, costless, painless revival.
  • We want all the positive results and benefits of revival -- all at little or no cost.
  • We want gain without pain.
  • We want the joy of new life without going through the travail of labor pains.
  • We want spiritual healing, without spiritual surgery.
  • We want joy, without mourning.

  • We want to enter into the power of the resurrection without first suffering the agony of the cross.
  • We want our schedules and programs and institutions to stay intact.
  • We want a minimum of disruption with our plans and traditions.

    Revival involves a process -- a process that requires plowing up the hardened,
    uncultivated ground of our hearts, before there can be planting of the seed, and ultimately, a harvest.
    The plowing is painful.

    We are too busy to listen to God.
    God meets with those who wait for Him. (Isaiah 64: 4)
    We want God to send the fire on our timetable, and He'd better get through by noon.
    God simply will not fit into our plans, our schedules, or our timetables.
    He is God!

    If God is going to send the fire, we must be willing to discard our man-made traditions,
    methods, structures, and programs to make room for Him.
    Those things are not wrong, in and of themselves, but for too many of us, they have
    become gods unto themselves.
    Anything that has become more essential to us than His presence is part of the price He will require.

    There will be no fire until the sacrifice has been offered.
    I don't know what sacrifice God may require of you... of us...
  • God may ask you to surrender your reputation, and what others think of you.
  • He may ask you to bear criticism, misunderstanding, and rejection from those
    whose opinions matter most to you.

  • He may ask you to change your job or your residence.
  • He may ask you to put your checkbook on the altar.
    Ultimately, it is ourselves that God wants laid on the altar.

    Do you want the fire of God to fall?
    How badly do you want it?
    What price are you willing to pay to get it?
    Have you come to the place that you do not want to go on without the fire of God?
    If so, join me in crying out to the God of Elijah, the God of fire:

    "God of Elijah, hear the cry!
    Send the fire!
    Oh, make us fit to live or die!
    Send the fire!

    To burn up every trace of sin,
    To bring the light and glory in,
    The Revolution now begin,
    Send the fire!

    To make our weak hearts strong and brave,
    Send the fire!
    To live a dying world to save;
    Send the fire!

    Oh, see us on the altar lay
    Our lives, our all, this very day;
    To crown the offering now, we pray
    Send the fire!
    "

    "Revive us again;
    Fill each heart with Thy love,
    May each soul be rekindled
    With fire from above.
    "

    Oh, please dear God, let the fire fall!
    Let the fire fall here!
    Let the fire fall on me!

    Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
    Email Dr. White at hleewhite@aol.com

    <.font>