Divine Fire as God's Presence


When I was invited to contribute a devotional article on the theme “Hearts Aflame: On Fire for God’s Mission,” I sense a stirring within me that the Lord might be nudging me to share an enduring memory. So, here it is with an emphasis on “Divine Fire as God’s Presence” in the light of Psalm 139.

You see, it was not too long ago that I embarked on a bold endeavour that might be described as ‘a mission on the far side of the sea.’ It was to undertake doctoral studies at Fuller Theological Seminary. You could say that my heart was set on fire by a fabulous possibility. But that fire was quite quickly doused by the fearsome prospect of a long and arduous journey ahead. For who would embark on such an endeavour at the late age of forty-nine, even if the mission was to learn the ropes of spiritual formation in order to make a contribution in the pastoral enterprise. 

So, barely had I begun, even after a full year of discernment with mentors on the promise of this undertaking, that I felt that it was all wrong to have left my pastorate without an ordained minister and that I was probably an unwanted servant banished to the far side of the sea.

So, I felt all alone, in a tiny studio apartment on the back-carpark lot of the seminary, across the Pacific, some 14,000 Km away from home. I was quite literally on ‘the far side of the sea.’ But I was obviously not alone. The Lord who sent me there, went with me and was present with me – “if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

The Lord met with me afresh in that little ‘hermitage.’ He fed me with his Word, in particular, the Psalms, which I read three-times over in that year. 

I needed to know the LORD all over again if I were to have anything at all to offer to others. Certainly, I also needed to know myself, for that comes with the knowledge of the Lord. But more than anything else, it was the sense that God was interested in me and wishes to know me, that sealed the sense of God’s presence as divine fire – “How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!”

The experience of God’s presence impacted me in two primary ways: It refined me, for the fire of God’s refining Word brought me to repentance. It also recommissioned me, helping me to believe that God was working out something rather unique in the autumn of my life; that though feeling cast away on the far side of the sea, I was by no means dispatched from the presence of God. On the contrary, he was doing a deep work within me for a mission that awaits those whose hearts have been set aflame but not consumed.

Reflection: Do you feel cast away and far from the presence of God? Perhaps Psalm 139 might remind you that there is no place that is too far from the presence of the Lord.


REV DR JIMMY TAN is chaplain and lecturer of pastoral and practical theology at Trinity Theological College, and is particularly involved in the work of Christian spiritual formation.


40 FRiends of SCGM have been invited to take part in our 40-Day Devotional Project to help raise funds for SCGM’s 40th Anniversary. Each day starting 20 November 2020 to 31 December 2020, SCGM will publish one devotion written by our 40 FRiends in our FundRaising effort and celebration of God’s goodness and provision over the last 40 years!

Through their devotional reflections, we pray that our FRiends of SCGM40 will bless and encourage many to reflect upon God’s Presence, Protection, Provision, Purification and Power in Missions.




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