When I was a very young pastor up in Columbiaville, Michigan, we had a small country church on the edge of a little backwater village. There were no more than 900 people in the town and it had one blinking stop light on one of the corners. But it was our first church and we have wonderful memories from those days. I “cut my teeth” on those poor people who endured my immaturity and inexperience. They were ever so kind and loved us unconditionally. My first three children were born there. It remains a special place to us today.
In 1985, Cliff Buttermore joined us as the youth pastor. Cliff and I became good friends and worked together all told for about 22 years with Cliff becoming a Berean Elder. He is now working with Jeff McKeever (another former Berean Elder) up at Union Lake Baptist Church. In Columbiaville, we had purchased a 23-acre plot of ground and erected a new church building there in 1983. With that much land we were able to do some fun things on it. At a smaller church when there is a church activity, virtually the whole church attends. One Friday night we had a church bonfire. We encouraged people to bring things from home to burn like brush, old furniture, unwanted wood, etc. We wanted a huge fire.
The night went off well and at the end of it we simply let the fire die down while we all went home. The next morning, Cliff and I were talking in my office and I looked out the window to see a small stream of smoke rising from the bonfire pit. I commented to Cliff that the fire must still be hot. Interested, we went out to examine the smoldering remains. As we stood there and talked, I just bent down and threw a remaining piece of brush upon the nearly expired ashes. In a moment, it caught fire with a small flame erupting. Cliff threw on something else and it lit. Then I threw on more. Before long, we had reignited that fire to be a completely new bonfire. We ended up burning the rest of the available fuel.
There was something intriguing about that smoldering flame. We were loath to let it extinguish. We wanted to bring it back to life for some reason. Perhaps you have had this experience; not wanting something to end, hanging on to the last thread, or bringing something “back to life” like redoing an old piece of furniture. There is just something within us that wants to renew that which seems dead, over with, or beyond hope.
God is like that. Jesus is like that. Isaiah 42:1 says of him, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. 2 He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. 3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench” (KJV) .This is repeated in the NT as being fulfilled in Christ in Mt. 12:20. A bruised reed was a semi-smashed reed that was not totally broken off but was in pretty bad shape. These texts tell us that Jesus would not be one to break off that weak reed that was just barely hanging on. A smoking flax was the smoldering wick of a lamp. Jesus would not be the one who would extinguish the last vestige of the fire that once burned so brightly.
Life is filled with bruised reeds and smoking flaxes. There are many things that once were strong and whole like a healthy reed and burning brightly like a fully inflamed wick. But today, they are hanging on by a tread, they are merely smoldering.
It might be your devotional life. Once it was “reed strait” and “fully burning”. But over the years it has become bruised and smoldering. It is hit and miss. And when it is “hit”, it is not really that meaningful. Your private worship time, when you have it, has become rote, mechanical, simply habitual, or unthinking.
It might be a friendship that has lost its way. Once there was warmth and strength in that friendship. There was nothing you would not do for each other. But something happened. Your fault, their fault, nobody’s fault perhaps, but it is not what it used to be. You have learned to “live without” each other as friends; perhaps the term “friend” really does not fit anymore in referring to them. Your relationship is more on “life support” than anything.
Maybe it is a marriage. Once the picture of health and fiery passion, only the cold embers of what used to be, remains. While you may not be literally “sleeping in separate” rooms metaphorically, you are. You are no longer on the same page. You have slowly yet palpably drifted apart.
Perhaps it is a ministry that once was the passion of your heart, but now…you are just going through the motions. Perhaps, God forbid, but perhaps, it is your relationship to Christ. Once he was the apple of your eye. Once he was everything to you. Once your heart would leap when the Word revealed him to you. But now, it is all so mundane, pedestrian, and routine.
Perhaps there are other areas that come to your mind just now that would qualify as “a bruised reed and smoking flax”. Let me tell you on the authority of God’s Word, Jesus is not the one who will break that reed or snuff out that smoldering flax. You may. But Jesus will not. He is not about breaking off but repairing those things that are broken. He is not about quenching the last ember, but fanning it back to a roaring flame, like Cliff and I did with that “almost dead” bonfire so many years ago.
What is broken in your life? What is only smoldering? Jesus will help you bind up the brokenness. He will fan to flame that “left for dead” thing that was once so vibrant. This is hope. This is a part of the hope of the gospel in Jesus Christ. Don’t give up on that worthy thing because Jesus will not.