Do you remember what you were like when you first met Jesus?
Were you full of fire and wonder at how Jesus saved you?
Did you tell everyone you knew about what God had done for you?
When you opened the Bible, did it feel like the words were alive, jumping off the page and into your heart?
For a lot of us, many years and a lot of life has passed since we first encountered the grace of God through Jesus Christ. Over time, our passion for Jesus and our sense of wonder over our salvation have waned like a campfire which has been burning for many hours.
One word for this experience comes from that camp-fire metaphor - burnout. What once was vibrant now feels lifeless. What once had to be shared with others now doesn’t even register in conversations. What once captured our attention can hardly keep it.
Sadly, many of us only realize we’re burned out through a traumatic event that wakes us up or costs us something important.
That’s the case with King David. He once looked forward to leading his army into battle but decided one year that he didn’t need to go. Someone else could lead and he would stay home. That decision led to lust, adultery (or abuse depending on how you read the story), deception, murder, and the death of a child.
The outcome of that process for David was a renewed faith and a restored joy, summarized in one of the most popular and raw chapters in the Bible, Psalm 51.
This chapter is the source of many lines of @David Leonard’s song, “Light a Fire.” The song describes the experience of someone who once had an inferno burning within them for their faith, but over time the fire cools to just warm embers. Without intervention, this person’s heart will look like the lukewarm faith Revelation 2 warns against.
Watch Now: David Leonard - "Light a Fire"
RELATED CONTENT: David Leonard Rekindles Our Joy in "Light A Fire"
When talking about this song in an interview with Jublieecast, Leonard shared his heart for this single. “This song has been my prayer over the last few months - God, renew me. Bring me back to the beginning. This song has become my prayer for the Church. God, we need you to wake us up, light a fire in us that nothing can burn out.”
Sadly, this kind of renewal often takes a David-like failure to occur. After naming his sin, rebellion and guilt, David offers these words to the LORD.
“Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me— now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.”
The passion behind David’s cry for renewal and his plea for restoration is the end result of his own experience with brokenness and mourning. He had to face his sinfulness and the fruit of his evil choices before he could truly appreciate God’s mercy and seek God’s grace.
Verse 1 speaks about the time we often long to recreate.
“Restore to me the joy of my salvation
Take me back to where it all began
Where all I ever wanted was your presence
How I long to be there once again”
Where did our salvation story begin? On the heels of our confession of sin. In the place where we recognized that we’d been seeking soul satisfaction in places, things and people which left us empty, hopeless and dissatisfied.
Maybe we should consider that burnout, restlessness and unhappiness are the fertile ground where restoration and renewal begin. Until we have enough of all the options around us, we won’t discover that Jesus is enough.
Can we really be lit on fire by the spirit of God without first experiencing our heart’s coldness? An awakening of the soul assumes that the soul has fallen asleep, right?
My favorite line in the entire song comes in verse 2 when Leonard sings, “Oh my life is an altar to you.” Throughout the Old Testament, the people of God build altars to worship God. Many times, those altars are built when they stumble on God’s presence unexpectedly. On multiple occasions, a man or a woman is recorded saying, “Surely the presence of the Lord was in this place and I did not know it.”
What if our lives became altars to God not in spite of our lack of spiritual fire, but because of it? What if instead of seeking a fire that the world can’t burn out we admitted that what we bring to a moment of renewal are the embers while God brings the spark? What if we stopped trying to sustain the fire in our own strength and started bringing our imperfect heart to God the same way we did in the beginning?
Maybe the reason we keep losing the fire in our soul is rooted in our stepping out of our role and into God’s. We bring the sin and God brings the salvation. We bring the broken pieces and God makes them whole. We come in weakness and we discover God’s strength. God’s grace meets our failures.
Leonard ends his song perfectly with the reminder, “Lord I need you - How I need you.” If only we could sustain that posture, we would remain in the humble posture of receiving where a fire might endure. When we stop living from an awareness of need and an attitude of dependence, the fire is destined to burn out.
Hit play on “Light a Fire” today and turn wherever you’re listening into an altar. May you stumble into God’s presence as you realize just how far you’ve wandered from where you began.
Scott Savage is a pastor and a writer with the best last name in the world. Scott’s writing helps you laugh, challenges you to think, and invites you to grow. He leads Cornerstone Church in Prescott, Arizona. Scott is married to Dani, an award-winning attorney, and they are the parents of three growing savages. You can read more of Scott’s writing at scottsavagelive.com.