In this Bonfire episode, we’re covering the story of Elijah, a prophet who carried, lost, and regained his spiritual fire. Maintaining spiritual practices and disciplines is so important in keeping your fire alive. Today we’re talking about the dangers that can lead to a loss of spiritual fire. If you’ve lost your spiritual fire, seek God’s presence and guidance… He is faithful to lead you. God is the source of our fire.
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- Elijah wants to know God
- Carried the fire, lost the fire regained the fire
- Spiritual temperature
- Courageous conversations
- Build the altar send the fire
- Conviction and devotion
- Harvard study on human flourishing
- America Faith statistics
- Jezebel- opposition to the fire
- Running away
- Receiving from God
- God’s angels
- God’s provision of food, water, sleep
- God’s tender voice
- God’s questions
- The community of faith 7000
- Mentoring someone- Elisha
- Going to heaven without dying
- The transfiguration
- God can restoke the fire- receive His presence and grace
Welcome to The Bonfire. My name’s Jesse Bradley, and this is a podcast about the presence of God. If you are looking for more of God in your life and that’s your desire, this is the podcast for you. If you really want to grow and you want to gather with other people who want to grow, that’s why we have this podcast. Around a bonfire, people come together, there’s stories. I love sharing stories, stories that have inspired me and changed my life.
Today, I want to talk about Elijah. Elijah’s a prophet in the Bible and he’s someone who lived a very memorable life. What I’m going to highlight is that he carried the fire and then he lost the fire and he regained the fire. Now, those are themes we can relate to because we know what it’s like to be on fire in those moments, but then later on things change and we just don’t have the fire we used to have. How do you regain the fire when you go through those times where you’re feeling passive, discouraged, you’re running away?
By looking at Elijah’s life, I think there’s going to be a lot of practical stuff for us today, and it’s going to be an encouragement because if you’ve lost the fire, you’re in the right spot. When you meet with God, God is love, God is light, God is a consuming fire, and God will meet you where you are today. Let’s dive into this topic, the bonfire, and let’s consider the story of Elijah and really focus on regaining the fire.
Now we begin with Elijah carrying the fire. He is someone that has a different spiritual temperature and he looks around at the culture that’s going sideways, it’s going backwards, it’s going the wrong direction, and he doesn’t follow the crowd. He doesn’t conform to the patterns of the world.
He has a lot of courageous conversations. He approaches the king, King Ahab at the time, and Elijah was someone who brings truth where there’s lies. He brings truth where there’s things that are false. He brings truth as he tackles injustice. He’s a truth speaker and he walks in the truth. That’s so important. Truth and fire go together. You’re not going to be on fire if you’re not in the truth. Elijah’s committed to the truth. He has a conviction about truth and he has a devotion to God that stands out during the time where he really served and lived on this earth.
If you have boldness that’s greater than your fears and God gives that, you’re going to have conversations with whoever, wherever and whatever, and that’s true with Elijah’s life. He will go wherever God wants, he will say whatever God wants, and he will talk to whoever God wants him to talk to. That might sound kind of scary. It also includes a lot of freedom because you’re not held back by fears. You’re being faithful.
His goal is to be faithful and trust God with the results, and faithful looks different in your life and faithful looks different in my life and faithful looks different in Elijah’s life. The key is to be faithful, to be listening to God and be faithful because there’s joy in faithfulness. There’s peace in faithfulness, and you trust God with the results. In the book of Proverbs, it says, “We prepare the horse for battle, but victory rests with the Lord.”
We see this theme throughout Elijah’s life. He enters into these courageous conversations, and in fact, sometimes it’s like a showdown. See, at the time, there was this false god named Baal and Elijah calls together the false prophets and he says, “Let’s meet up Mount Carmel. It’s a showdown to see who the real God is.”
Now we have these false prophets and as they set up an altar, they’re calling on Baal. As they do that, they’re cutting themselves. There’s a hint. If any faith or religion is telling you to cut yourself. If any message, if you hear that, cut yourself, that’s never coming from God. That’s an indication because if you have bad theology, then it’s going to show up in your life in lots of ways. They were cutting themselves, thinking and calling on this false God to send down fire onto the altar, and of course, no fire is going to come.
Then Elijah steps up and he’s confident in God. He’s so confident that God’s going to send fire, he says, “Go pour a bunch of water on that altar because as much water as you pour on that altar, it’s not going to stop God. It’s not going to stop his fire.” He’s even taunting, doing some trash talking and trash talking’s in the Bible. He says, “Where is your God? Has he gone to the bathroom? Did he fall asleep? Like where’s this powerful God that you worship?”
Then he calls on the true God, and as he does that, fire comes down from heaven. It’s a clear sign. There’s lots of signs and miracles in the Bible. It always points to God’s presence. Don’t be caught up in the sign. The goal is not to notice the sign. The goal is to see the sign that then helps you see God.
Elijah’s doing this because he’s calling a culture to return to God and he’s bringing a spiritual temperature. He’s bringing a truth. He’s unwavering. He has a conviction. He knows the mountain he would die on. In life that’s so important to have deep conviction to know the mountain you’re going to die on, and his devotion to God stands out. He’s pointing people to return to God.
I believe these are turbulent times today. These are times where people are confused. These are times where people are cutting themselves. These are times where people are desperate and they’re trying to figure out, who is in heaven? Who is this God? Elijah’s name means, “My God is Yahweh,” and Elijah’s sending a clear message.
Now, God makes us in his image. We don’t create a god in our image. That’s called an idol. When you make a god in your image and you’re god and you’re at the center of everything, that’s idolatry. But our goal is to look at the clues and you look around nature and creation. We see God’s powerful and we see that his presence is real. There’s intelligent design.
We read because God gives us scripture. He writes things down. We look at Jesus because no one has that kind of teaching and love and miracles, and we’re intrigued by that. God gives all these different points of revelation, general and special. Why? Because he wants us to know him.
Elijah is someone who wants to know God. If you’re someone who wants to know God, I’m so glad you’re here today. It’s not about your achievement and performance. It’s about God’s revelation of who he is and then receiving that. Elijah was someone who drawing near to God, carried a fire, carried a spiritual temperature because God is fire and walking close with God, Elijah brought a fire in his generation and he brought a message, not what people wanted to hear, but what they needed to hear.
Sometimes in your life, you’re going to need to bring a message, not what people want to hear, but what they need to hear. If you fear people, you’re always going to try to bring what they want to hear. But when you have the freedom and you’re not worried about your reputation, you’re not trying to be liked by everyone. You still love them and care about them. Yes, you want to be close to them, but ultimately what’s important is that you speak truth and do it in love.
Elijah was carrying the fire. He could look back on so many moments where there were breakthroughs. God’s display of his presence was so evident and God’s grace was so good in Elijah’s life. As you think through some of your spiritual highlights, you might look back and there were some moments. Maybe you went to camp, you went on a trip, you had a time alone with God. There were some verses in the Bible that jumped out. There were those moments in worship. There was those times where Jesus seemed right there next to you and so clear. You really learning and growing, maybe your baptism.
There’s moments in your journey, when you decide to follow Jesus for the first time. There’s moments in your journey that are highlights, and Elijah had a lot of those. If you’re here today and you’ve lost the fire, it’s good to remember those and celebrate those. It’s good for Elijah to not lose track of all the ways that the Lord has shown up and moved in his life and blessed him.
In the middle of all those victories, here comes the challenge. Right after a great victory, stay alert because a challenge, maybe an obstacle, a setback. This is how the devil works in the Bible. So often after a victory, that’s when he attacks. People get complacent. You just think, man, I’m on top of the mountain. I’m never going to have to come back down again, and then the devil shows up.
Well, Jezebel was the human instrument and she was the queen. Ahab’s the king, Jezebel’s the queen. Jezebel sees what’s going on and her husband, the king, has been confronted by Elijah so many times and now she decides we’re going to wipe out Elijah. Jezebel says, “Death threat time. Elijah’s going to be dead tomorrow. He is going to be killed tomorrow. We’re going to take out Elijah.” She’s not subtle.
Here’s the prophet who’s had all his victories carrying the fire, and now he runs away. He’s on the run. He’s scared, he’s fearful, he’s intimidated, he’s feeling alone, he’s feeling discouraged, despair kicks in. We’re all human. We can all feel that way and it can happen quickly.
Maybe you can relate to Elijah in that moment. Maybe you can relate to going from the mountaintop to now on the run, literally on the run for his life, knowing that someone wants to wipe him out. When you lose the fire, there’s often going to be someone who comes in and says something, does something, threatens, accuses, but somebody comes in and tries to take away the fire in your life.
What’s interesting as you think about our culture right now, carrying the fire, walking with God. Harvard did some research on human flourishing and they said that when you’re active in your faith, and I’m just calling that carrying the fire, when you’re active in your faith, then there’s more generosity, there’s more service, there’s more happiness, there’s more forgiveness, there’s more purpose, and you’re more fulfilled. All those things are true when you’re active in your faith.
Yet, look at the times we’re living in right now, and in America, there’s been a steep decline. In the last 25 years, I read that 40 million people have now stopped going to a house of worship. That’s about 12% of our population. In this last generation, things are shifting. We just hit a point for the first time ever in America where less than half the people have a house of worship where they go to. They’re connected, they’re a member of like the place they go to worship. People are moving away from church and there’s a lot more nones, meaning no affiliation, no faith. As you look at the youngest generation right now, that’s definitely a trend.
I’m not saying that that’s the final say. I’m not going with a narrative of hopelessness. I’m simply pointing out that the numbers are pointing towards people losing the fire, in many different ways in our country. The spiritual fire. Now, I don’t know what’s going to happen in America. I’m praying for a revival, an awakening and people come alive and that can happen.
In this particular moment in the story with Elijah, he’s lost the fire and a lot of people have drifted and wandered even since the pandemic. A lot of people isolated, doing their own thing, a little discouraged, a little intimidated, a little passive. The numbers are up with discouragement, whether it’s the Center for Disease Control or it’s US Census Bureau. There’s so many major organizations that are pointing towards mental health, people getting discouraged and I’d just say a loss of fire, lost that joy and purpose in life. That can happen to all of us, and it happens to Elijah.
If you look at him, a couple of years before that, you’d say, “Oh, this guy’s never going to lose the fire.” You might be someone who’s lost the fire and people didn’t see that coming. What do you do when you lose the fire? Here’s Elijah in the cave, and I think this is so important. Elijah, couple of things that stand out to me.
First of all, God comes near. God will come near to you when you lose the fire. God is fire and the Holy Spirit, when you put your trust in Jesus, the Holy Spirit is always in you like a seal, a relationship, and this relationship’s forever. You still have the Holy Spirit, but you can put out the fire, you can quench the spirit. Here’s a couple of ways that that can happen.
You start to give in to discouragement and despair. That’s what was happening to Elijah. Jezebel brought a threat and discouragement and despair started to take over. The fire started to fade. Here’s another way that the fire can fade in your life. You get distracted. You just stop reading your Bible. You stop praying. All those habits that build the fire, that stoke the fire, that ignite your soul. Fasting, praying, giving, worshiping, serving, sharing your faith, you stop cultivating those.
Most people don’t just wake up and say, “You know, I’m just going to stop all those vibrant spiritual practices. I’m going to stop all my spiritual disciplines. I’m going to stop all my habits that really help me grow in my faith.” People don’t just wake up and decide that, but what happens? We start to scroll on our phone and pretty soon we’re watching all these reels that didn’t really do anything for our soul or build us up or we’re just starting to get distracted during the day. The stuff that’s most important is the stuff we’re neglecting and the stuff that it’s not that great, but it’s still there. It’s easy, it’s convenient. Maybe it feels good initially, but it doesn’t fuel the fire. Those are the things we choose.
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How do you lose your fire? One is you get discouraged and despair and you just start to say yes to defeat. A second one, you get distracted. Here’s the third one, disobedient. Disobedient, meaning you know what you’re doing. You got hidden sins, secret sins, patterns of sins. You’re going back to the same sins, you’re sneaking sins, whether that’s pornography. For a lot of people, that’s a secret sin that’s just eating them up on the inside. That kind of disobedience. It’s hard to be staring at porn, disobeying God and be on fire, right? Sin and fire don’t go together.
Those are some moments where things have to shift. Say, “I don’t want to be distracted. I don’t want to just conform to the pattern of the world. I don’t want to be disobedient. I’m going to take some steps towards purity. I’m going to get some accountability. I’m going to bring some things into light. I want some healing. I’m going to receive that from God. I’m going to receive his grace and mercy. God’s going to give me a new start.”
Or when the discouragement and you’re tempted to do that, say, “No, that’s not where I’m going to land. I’m not going to keep going down that valley and ditch and end up in a bad spot. That’s not from God.” You’ve got to make some shifts. The Bible says repentance is turning 180 degrees or some shifts. What I’m not saying here is that you go into self-help mode and you just solve it all yourself. No, what I’m saying is, now you make room for God and you receive what God brings.
When Elijah’s on the run, alone in the cave, the most important thing is the receiving. When you lose the fire, you’ve got to receive. You can’t just manufacture or fake it or go up and purchase it. You’ve got to receive it from God. This is how God rebuilds the fire in Elijah’s life.
Couple of things. First of all, God comes near. It’s always going to be his presence primarily. God sends an angel. God sends an angel, and the angel touches Elijah, touched by an angel. You might not always see angels. God sends angels to bless you, protect you in different ways, but it’s unusual I acknowledge that there’s an interaction direct with an angel. You can hear that and think, that’s probably not going to happen to me. It might not happen to you, but know this. In the spiritual invisible space that’s so real, God does send angels. Angels and demons are real. There’s spiritual battles and God loves you and the angels are for you. That’s important because darkness and the devil’s real, evil’s real and the spiritual battle’s real.
God sends an angel to Elijah where there’s a lot of darkness. The angel touches him. God comes near. Then, this isn’t going to sound profound, but I believe it’s spiritual and important. The angel says, “Elijah, eat the bread.” He eats the bread and he eats the food. Enjoy some good meals. When you’re at a low point, just start eating healthy, eating some good food. What else? Drinking water. Drinking enough water for your body’s important. When we don’t drink enough water, I’ve got kids that play sports and they don’t drink enough water, they start to shut down. Eat the good food, drink the good water.
Shelter, he’s under a tree, and then not only that, but sleep. Sleep’s important. When you don’t get enough sleep, and I am so grateful for my wife. I just can’t imagine given birth and then everything that’s required in those early stages, so physically demanding and the loss of sleep, and we both felt it, but she made the far greater sacrifice. That lack of sleep can start to play with how you perceive God, how you view yourself, how you view the world. It can throw you off. A lack of sleep’s significant.
This is what Elijah does. He sleeps, he eats, he drinks water. Those are things you can do, if you’re at a low point in life. You’re starting to get despair, depression, make sure you stay functional and you continue to take care of your body. He took care of his body. The angel brought encouragement. There’s encouragement for his soul.
Then not only that, but he listens to God. Listen to God is so important. God shows up in spectacular ways. God shows up in the silence. Throughout the Bible, there’s the miraculous and there’s the mundane, right? There’s the amazing, and then there’s the everyday. God’s in both, and God moves in both.
As Elijah’s sitting there, a few different things happen. There’s the wind that comes, and then there’s the earthquake that comes, and then there’s the fire that comes. Those are of the more spectacular variety, but that’s not how God communicated with Elijah in this time. In this time, it’s in the gentle whisper of God’s voice. We live in a noisy culture, in a busy culture. Don’t miss the gentle whisper of God’s voice.
I go on walks a lot, and part of that is because I hear God clearly when I’m walking. There’s no distractions. My phone’s not on. There’s not 20 people calling me. I can just get away from everything and walk. I need the silence and it helps me to move around a little bit. But it’s that silence to listen to God.
God, what are you saying? How am I doing? What do you want me to change? How are you directing me? And just receiving his love, enjoying time with God. Going for a walk, walking with Jesus is a phrase, but literally you go for a walk and spend some time with God.
You might have a different way that is meaningful for you. You might go next to a lake. You might have a certain chair you like to sit in or there might be a place you go. But that listening to God’s voice, there’s no substitute for listening. Jesus said, “My sheep know my voice. They don’t listen to strangers. They know my voice. They listen to me.” It’s tuning into his voice, and the more time you spend with God, the more you get used to his voice. The more time you spend and you want that relationship with God. See, Elijah wanted closeness with God. The more you get to know the Holy Spirit. God communicates us and it’s through the scripture, and also through the Spirit.
Spend time on God’s word. Listen to what he’s saying to you and then listen to the Holy Spirit. God brings messages that are full of truth and love to build you up. God is the voice that’s like no other voice. His voice is the voice we need more than any voice. His voice gives direction and conviction. God gives courage and it comes through hearing his voice and listening to God makes all the difference. So don’t harden your heart, close your ears, instead keep listening. It’s in that gentle voice.
Jesus, no one was tougher. No one was more tender than Jesus. He knew when to be tough. He knew when to be tender. You’ll see that to those who have a lot of pride, the religious leaders, he brings a rebuke and he brings his strongest tone. To those who need mercy and grace, there’s a woman caught in adultery. Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you. Now go but sin no more. Go in peace and sin no more.” There’s a tenderness and there’s a tenderness for the voice of Jesus that we all need and our souls need that.
Elijah needs that tenderness. You need that tenderness. It doesn’t matter how tough people think you are, that tender voice and that tender care that comes to Elijah, that’s what he needs. Just that reassurance that God’s still with me. God still has a plan. God still loves me. This is how God rebuilds the fire, restores the prophet. This is something that we want to pay attention to because it’s a lot of receiving.
One other thing that God does, God brings a question, “Elijah, why are you in the cave?” God has a way of drawing us out with questions. Why are you in the cave? Why are you here? What are you doing here? What’s your plan? Questions, Jesus asked them all the time, and they help us reflect, think through the options, the choices, the solutions, and think through what God wants. God asked that question, “Elijah, what are you doing in the cave?”
What he is implying is that this isn’t where I want you. There’s something greater. You’re going to regain the fire. There’s more for you to do. Your story’s not over. What are you doing in the cave? The cave’s a place of isolation, despair, being passive. The cave is a place of being too self-centered. A lot of self-pity. Don’t stay in this cave. This is not your place.
You need to listen when God asks you questions, “What are you doing in this cave? What are you doing in this situation? What are you doing in this relationship? What are you doing in your free time when no one’s looking? What are you doing with your goals? What are you doing in this cave? Because I have something better for you.” When God asks, “What are you doing in the cave?” It’s like, I want to take you somewhere new. I want to take you to a place where you’re alive. I want you to have the fire again. I want to re-stoke what’s not there right now.
I want to review this. This is important. When you lose the fire, how does God show up? He comes near. He draws near. He sends an angel. He starts to win some spiritual battles. He sends light over darkness. God is light. God is love. God reminds Elijah that he is more powerful than King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. He is more powerful than their threats. He is more powerful than their opposition, the mistreatment, the injustice. He is more powerful than all of that. He is God. He sends an angel.
Then the simple things. Start to eat right. Start to get enough water. Start to sleep and get a good night’s sleep. Start to take care of your body. You’re going to need it for the journey. That’s what God says. There’s still a journey ahead. If you’ve lost your fire, you need to know there’s still a journey ahead. Your story’s not over. God’s calling you. You’re going to need this food, this water, this sleep for the journey ahead.
Then he asks the question, “What are you doing in the cave?” Start to stir desire. Start to remember, “Hey, I didn’t always sit in a cave. I didn’t always spend time in a cave. God doesn’t want me to stay in the cave. I’m going to keep going forward with God.” Some of the biggest faith decisions are the yes, I’m going to go forward with you, God.
What happens after Elijah leaves the cave? Well, this is what God reminds him. He’s not the only one who’s faithful. There’s 7,000 more. If you’re at a low point, it’s easy to make the whole world all about you. But no, there’s 7,000 more. God has so many other people and resources in the best way that it doesn’t all depend on us. The pressure is not on us. We’re not alone, and we don’t have to get self-consumed. Elijah got a little self-consumed. When you lose the fire, the temptation is be self-consumed. You’re not going to be self-consumed and have the fire, so he’s got to drop being self-consumed, self-focused. We got to drop that. It’s when we die to ourselves that we come alive.
Then God says, “Elijah, go find Elisha, and that’s going to be your successor.” A clear next step. Go pour your life into someone else. Go pass on what you’ve learned. Go mentor someone else. Get out of yourself for a little bit and go find someone else to mentor. These are next steps. There’s 7,000 more, so get connected in the community of faith. Go start locking arms with people who are doing it. You’re not the only one. Get over yourself here. Start mentoring someone else.
Then this is incredible. Elijah doesn’t die. God simply calls him into heaven. Amazing. You don’t see this in the Bible very often, and with a chariot of fire, he’s called into heaven. He doesn’t die, and that fire that he regains in the fire taking him to heaven. In the fire, being around God who is love, light and a consuming fire. The fire is restored in its fullness, and you might’ve lost some fire, but God can restore that fire. You’ve been carrying fire and you know what it’s like to not have fire, and now God is going to help you regain the fire, restore the fire. Let God do that. Receive the fire from God today.
Elijah also shows up in the New Testament, and I’ll close with this picture. He shows up, transfiguration. Jesus in all his glory on the Mount. Well, who’s there? Moses and Elijah. What an honor. What an honor that Elijah’s there with God’s glory, the glory of Jesus. This relationship with God, in his heart of hearts, Elijah wanted to know God more. That desire is so important with the fire, the desire to know God more.
Then the willingness to receive from God. Every blessing, angel, words, questions, rebukes, food, sleep. Start to receive it when you lose the fire and then let God lead you. He’s going to bring back what was lost and it’s going to be even greater than before. That fire that God wants to bring, it’s all about relationship. It’s all about saying yes to God. His presence, the Holy Spirit. That’s what the bonfire is all about.
That’s the passion behind this podcast that we could gather together, we could grow together, and we’d experience more of God’s presence together. Be sure to like this podcast. It helps us so much when you make comments. You also rate this podcast, share it with friends. We want the fire to grow. Embers come together and there’s a fire. God shows up in unity and love when we seek Him, when we’re hungry for him.
If you’ve lost the fire today, remember the story of Elijah because he carried it, he lost it, and then he regained the fire. God wants to refuel and stoke your fire. There’s no limits to what God can do, and if you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus, make the decision to follow him today. God is the source of the fire. We’re not the source, and there’s no greater joy. We were made to know God and Jesus died on a cross for our sins. He’s risen, so put your trust in him and God’s going to baptize you, the Holy Spirit and fire. It’s going to be the greatest experience of your life because there’s nothing greater than God’s presence. His greatest gift is His presence.