The Charcoal Challenge
By Sam Nadler
As it is said, “To keep charcoal burning, all the charcoals must stay together on the grill –for the lone charcoal by itself grows cold.” This illustration is usually followed by the Scripture, “forsake not our assembling together” (Hebrews 10:25), for alone we can each grow spiritually cold. In other words, we need each other’s personal encouragement to remain hot for Messiah. Then came Covid-19 and the quarantined and socially distant lives we now live. How do we remain as hot charcoal on fire for the Lord when we don’t have our spiritual get togethers –attending worship services, group bible studies, etc? This is the “Charcoal Challenge” –can you stay spiritually hot though socially distant?
Most of us need guardrails to stay on track. Society generally provides certain helpful guardrails: “go to work or don’t get paid.” Etc. But with people not going to work or not working at all, those social guardrails are gone, and people are left to live isolated “do-what-you-want-from-9am-5pm” lives. I saw one meme, “Quarantine Rules are Airport Rules, have a drink at 9 am if you want to.” Funny, but maybe not.
The best and only true guardrails for humanity are the Scriptures, as Yeshua warned us: “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). “Lawlessness” (anomia), means not only what is contrary to Torah (is literally instruction, so all scripture is God’s Torah), but it refers to a general state of disobedience, society in chaos. “Lawlessness” has a personal consequence, love grows cold. But why would lawlessness produce love growing cold? Because, when we get distracted, disoriented or distressed, God’s instructions keep us on track to 1) love God and 2) love one another; these are the two greatest commandments, these are our greatest guardrails. For the commands of God are His priorities for us; thus, the commands of God are the security of the saints. But the commands of God cannot be lived out in the flesh. Not at all. Only as we look to, depend on and trust in Yeshua’s sacrifice for us, we thereby die to self as our response mechanism, and then “love of Messiah constrains our heart, knowing One died for all, therefore all died” (2 Corinthians 5:14).
What does all this mean? Lovelessness does not come from social distancing but from spiritual disobedience! If you are saved by faith in the atonement of Yeshua, then God is with you, Immanuel! If that is true for you, then you don’t need a crowd around you to worship Him in Spirit and in truth. I daily listen to worship music on YouTube, and I bless the Lord with all my heart and even with a loud voice! In fact, I have to be careful of having worship music going on while I’m working, or I’ll never get anything else done –praise God! There is no social distancing from God, for Yeshua promised, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). But spiritual disobedience deadens the soul, so that our love for God will grow cold.
When we love God, the result of that is we will love others. For Scripture teaches us, “If you say that you love God and hate your brother, you’re a liar” (1 John 4:20). You’re not a liar about hating your brother; you’re a liar about saying “you love God!” For if you love God, by His love which was poured out into your hearts by the Holy Spirit when you trusted in Yeshua (Romans 5:1-5), will constrain your heart and motivate you to love your brother and sister. You too may have on your desktop the names of many people to pray for daily; prayer for others reveals love for God. Many have texted me notes of encouragement; thank you for loving God! Phone calls from others just “checking in” are always a reminder of God’s love, as well. Your Facebook posts that glorify God always encourage my soul, and encourages me to pray for you.
Love for God and others reveals personal trust in Yeshua the Messiah. But lovelessness reveals spiritual disobedience, not social distancing. Lest we grow “cold or lukewarm” (see Revelation 3:15-16), this is how we individual charcoals stay on fire for Yeshua! Even now, thank Him for being with you through this particular crisis; bless Him for His love for you! This love relationship with God will overflow into reaching out to the whomsoever with the same love that He loves you now and forever in Yeshua the Messiah our Lord!