Fan the Flame & Pass the Torch
- Friday, September 19, 2003
At this point in our series, we are looking at how a woman who perseveres in her distinctive calling in God will fan the flame of faith in the hearts of many, and will be of great value to the work of God in her generation.
In Acts 16 Paul travels to Philippi. There he meets Lydia, a successful businesswoman who happens to be single. Whether she was ever married, we don't know. We do know that she is "a worshiper of God" (v. 14) and that she received the gospel, becoming the first Christian in that part of the world! Her home became the meeting place for the church in Philippi, and her gift of hospitality became one of the great marks of this church that Paul loved so dearly. Lydia's faith fanned the flame of a church that Paul considered his "partners in the gospel" (Php 1:5). Lydia was a single woman of influence, grace, and passion for God.
Fan the Flame
Don't be content just to keep the fire burning-fan the flame! Disciplines like prayer, evangelism, worship, and servanthood will both increase your zeal and inspire others to greater passion in God.
For example, Debbie is a single sister in our church, and a highly successful manager in a national company. Is she known in the church for her business leadership? No, and she doesn't seek to be. She is known for prayer. She is an intercessor who regularly gathers folks at her home for times of prayer.
Sylvia is a single woman in another church. She is a banker who doesn't let that often dry profession rob her radiant joy. She loves the lost with her life, and attracts them with her spirit.
These women contribute in many other ways, but their primary vision is that the church maintain a burden for the lost and a heart for God. I don't know where we'd be without them and the many others like them. Deb and Sylvia are doing more than tending the fire, they're fanning the flame in themselves, and warming us all in the glow.
Pass the Torch
Hannah More was a woman of extraordinary talents. An accomplished playwright, she traveled in the best circles of London society in the late 1700s. Her faith was sincere, but carefully adapted to her secular lifestyle. The deaths of some of her closest friends shook her and sent her on a quest to understand the faith of her childhood. In time she found her friends changing, and her heart as well. She met people who were serious about applying their faith to real-life dilemmas, and they lovingly challenged her to do the same.
Encouraged by her new pastor, John Newton (who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace"), she caught a vision. God had given her intelligence, gifting, position, and wealth, and she wanted to spend it all for him.
Initially her "consecrated pen" became her ministry, and she produced many widely read tracts, dramas, and essays addressing the problems of the day from a Christian perspective. Her writings helped stem the tide in England of a revolutionary anarchy that had already devastated France. With her longtime friend William Wilberforce she helped overthrow slavery in England. She became one of the most important benefactors to the ministries of John and Charles Wesley.
In time she and her sisters developed a burden for the poor and, venturing out of their comfortable upper-class surroundings, created an education and evangelism program in one of London's poorest areas. Yet Hannah More also was deeply committed to the discipling of young women in the faith, serving them with her pen and her life. She became the most influential woman in England, even though she never held a position in any power structure.
What made Hannah More special? She had vision for a life beyond personal accomplishment. She worked within the biblical limits of her gifting and calling. She had a commitment to her local Christian community that nourished her faith. She was obedient to the promptings of God. She expressed her trust in God through the giving of her resources and life. She took Paul's admonition to "train younger women" (Tit 2:3-4) seriously. In short, not only did she fan the flame in her life and her church, she gave her life to passing it on beyond her generation and social group.
We have a number of Hannah Mores in our church, any one of whom could carve out an impressive individual ministry for herself. But each is having a far greater impact by embracing the womanly call to stir up the fire of God in the midst of his people.
Every Christian single woman has the opportunity to be a Lydia or a Hannah More. The temptations to give in to the culture are real, and the choices you make are crucial. Which world will you live in, which Kingdom will have your allegiance? Let me leave you to ponder this with the hard-won wisdom of Amy Carmichael:
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