Occasionally I see funny memes on social media that ask questions that begin with “How old were you when you realized that...” and then they reveal some little known fact about a well known item or commonly used phrase. Readers are often shocked to realize that they’d gone so long without knowing the now-disclosed information and jokingly respond, “Today years old.” With that sentiment in mind, I pose this question: How old were you when you realized that the lid of a jarred candle can be used for extinguishing the flame?
My answer: Today years old.
I’m sure you’re probably laughing or rolling your eyes because you’ve always known such things but I guess I just grew up blowing candles out the old fashioned way and haven’t stayed up to date on my fire extinguishing techniques. But the other day, I watched my friend, Carter, put the lid on a jarred candle that was burning in our church office. I watched in naive amazement as the flame slowly died away. It makes sense of course - deprive the flame of oxygen and it can no longer burn - but I guess I just had never thought to put it out this way. Anyway, I was slightly mesmerized watching the flame grow dimmer and dimmer until there was nothing left to see. A few short seconds with the lid on and the candle was out. No more flame. No more fire.
As the people of God, we are commanded to “be fervent in Spirit” (Romans 12:11) - in other words, we are to keep the spiritual flame burning within our own hearts and within the body of Christ. As believers, we are to encourage, uphold, and support the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of other believers and in the Church as a whole. But often, we act more like that glass jar lid sitting atop the candle. Instead of feeding the flame, we stifle it. We suck the air out of the Holy Spirit’s work in us with our grumbling and complaining. We focus too narrowly on what makes us uncomfortable or forces us outside of what we’re used to. We’re quick to point a finger, find a flaw, and throw the first stone. But that harsh criticism amongst believers will always extinguish a spiritual fire.
Paul speaks directly against this kind of attitude in 1 Thessalonians 5 when he says, “Do not quench the Spirit.” The word for quench in the Greek literally means extinguish. In short, don’t put out the Spirit’s fire. Paul recognized this tendency in the people in one of the earliest churches, and we certainly still need the reminder today. It’s super easy to get caught up in legalistic details of our differences, take sides and divide the body of Christ over petty things. But Paul’s instructions to “be fervent in Spirit” and “do not quench the Spirit” remind us of our personal role in keeping the Spirit’s flame burning. Rather than extinguish the flame, we are to feed it. Rather than stifle it, we should be fanning it. Causing it to grow. And spread. If we are to fulfill our Great Commission calling (see Matthew 28:19-20), we must choose to focus our attention on those things that help spread the gospel and grow the Church.
Let’s ask the Lord to help us refocus our attention to the things that matter most - to the things that support the ongoing work of the Spirit...the things that keep the flame alive. And we can trust that as we fan the flame, the Holy Spirit will work and move in the hearts of His people and in the life of His Church. We certainly don’t need any more jar lids in the body of Christ.
It’s my prayer that we would never again put out the Spirit’s fire. Instead, let’s pour a little gasoline on the thing and watch it grow like wildfire.
Let’s choose today to set aside our fire-extinguishing tendencies once and for all.
Let’s work together to keep the candle burning.