A spark is temporary, lasting only a brief second before going out. Yet the purpose of a spark is to ignite things, get something started. For example, a spark is needed on a gas grill to start the flame that does the cooking. But a spark in itself isn’t a fire; it won’t cook the meat.
In order to live in the fullness that God intends for our lives, we need a flame that is fueled continually by the oil of God’s compelling grace. David’s life shows us the difference. He had the same spiritual experiences that Saul did, being touched and anointed by God’s hand. Yet the spark that David received was fanned into a flame. “As David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he had brought and anointed David with the oil. And the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon David from that day on” (1 Samuel 16:13, NLT). This last phrase—“from that day on”—shows us the difference in David’s and Saul’s lives. Once David received a spark from God, he guarded it, stoked it and fueled it. He determined, “I want this spark to increase into a burning flame for the Lord.”
When God’s spark comes it may soothe us, but it is also meant to create a fire that refines. The flame of His holiness cleanses us of things that do not belong and as it burns away the dross of sin, it causes us to hate our compromise. It also stirs in us a passion to be holy, so that we say as David did, “Lord, I want to be clean before You and have a right spirit.”
Many Christians resist this. Conviction can lead to change, and we may not be willing to change some of our habits or things we covet. David addresses the resistance of his own heart, pleading, “Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you” (Psalm 51:11-12, NLT).
Note David’s emphasis on obedience in this verse. The apostle Paul could have disobeyed God’s direction and gone his own way in missions. In fact, he was chomping at the bit to take the gospel into Asia, but he speaks of being forbidden by the Holy Spirit to go there. Paul knew that if he proceeded on his own, he would grieve the Holy Spirit. He still would have been saved and loved by God, but he would have quenched the Spirit’s power to move in his life.
That’s exactly what happened to King Saul. As he kept disobeying, the power of God’s Spirit to use him kept diminishing. After a while, Saul no longer heard God’s voice or felt the stirring of His Spirit because he had never allowed the initial spark to fan into a cleansing flame.