"I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! (Luke 12:49 NIV)
There had been a prolonged drought that summer. The Rescue Service had issued several warnings. The danger of fire was high. We were free from work and enjoyed the sun in the garden, but gradually discovered that we were disturbed by noise from helicopters buzzing around the area where we lived. We detected the smoke and fire when fire trucks drove by on the sidewalk at our house, and we knew that there was a fire burning nearby. It was a major forest fire that had ignited in the woods just behind our house. With concern, we followed the development throughout the day. From our rooftop, we saw the smoke from the fire and we carefully observed the wind direction. We saw how water was bombed in.
The fire was extinguished the next day and we went out to see the devastation. A large area was affected by the fire. Firefighters said the fire spread along the ground, but it also jumped from treetop to treetop. It still smoldered in the ground.
It was a frightening experience, but Jesus uses the image of fire to describe how He wants everything and everyone to be affected by his Holy Spirit and to be reached by the Gospel. Once the fire is well started, it simply spreads to everything that's nearby. The fire spreads in the direction of the wind and to all that is dry.
So it is with the Gospel. Wherever the Holy Spirit blows and where there is a combustible material - people who thirst, the Gospel spread.
If one wants to stop the spread of a forest fire one must cut down a fire trail so that there is a distance between the lit area and that not yet ignited. The spread of the Gospel is also stopped by distance. We Christians must have the courage to live in close contact with people who have not yet been reached by the fire so that the Gospel fire will continue to spread.
O that the fire be already burning,
That you Lord Jesus long to ignite,
O that all the world were already yearning,
The Peace that in God’s Kingdom burns bright.
(G.F. Fickert, 1812)