In the lingo of modern sports, Blaise Pascal “had game.” But rather than an impressive batting average or vertical leap, his talent was intellectual. In his world, he was a six-tool player: mathematician, scientist, physicist, inventor, philosopher, and writer.
But being brilliant was not enough. Pascal felt a void that could not be satisfied by mere genius. At the age of 23, he became exposed to Jansenism, a Catholic-based theology grounded in the teachings of Augustine. Seeds were sown and took root. Pascal longed to encounter the living God. But, as is true for many (..and certainly for me!), the fruit was slow in coming.
Maybe you feel this way today. Your past has more seeds than fruit. Or maybe you have sown tirelessly into others but still don’t see the anticipated fruit. Perhaps you even woke up this morning thinking about specific people—friends or family members—who received the seed but lack the fruit. Maybe, like Pascal, they are impressive specimens in their jobs or fields. But their lives seem barren for God.
It’s a slice of life, isn’t it? You want more from God and want more of God for others. You feel responsible yet impotent. Sometimes you wonder whether you were truly called into ministry. On Mondays, the shield of faith feels wafer-thin. Doubts swiftly penetrate your armor moving straight to the heart.
When Fire Comes
On November 23, 1654,
between 10:30 and 12:30 at night, Blaise Pascal had an experience that supercharged the seeds within his soul and defined the rest of his life. This is how he reported it:
The year of grace 1654 23 November, feast of St. Clement, Pope and Martyr, and others in Martyrology. Vigil of St. Chrysogonus, martyr, and others. From about half past ten at night until about half past midnight,
GOD of Abraham, GOD of Isaac, GOD of Jacob
not of the philosophers and of the learned.
Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace.
GOD of Jesus Christ.
My God and your God.
Your GOD will be my God.
Forgetfulness of the world and of everything, except GOD.
He is only found by the ways taught in the Gospel.
Grandeur of the human soul.
Righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you.
Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
I have departed from him:
They have forsaken me, the fount of living water.
My God, will you leave me?
Let me not be separated from him forever.
This is eternal life, that they know you, the one true God, and the one that you sent, Jesus Christ.
I left him; I fled him, renounced, crucified.
Let me never be separated from him.
He is only kept securely by the ways taught in the Gospel:
Renunciation, total and sweet.
Complete submission to Jesus Christ and to my director.
Eternally in joy for a day’s exercise on the earth.
May I not forget your words. Amen.
What Fire Does
This is what happens when the Spirit is poured out upon the seed in the soul. Jesus said, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” (John 16: 7–8)
For Pascal, the Helper came with orders to execute an overhaul. Conviction of sin, awareness of forgiveness, power to apply righteousness, Jesus more captivating and exalted—this was a full and permanent makeover. Pascal would never be the same.
But this is where the story twists. You see, Pascal never relayed this event. Not to a single soul. Ever. He didn’t use it to establish his spiritual credentials or to gain a following. For mature believers, some experiences feel too sacred for words. Meaning can only be adequately communicated by the fruit that follows.
So Pascal sewed the written description above into the interior of his coat. He ensured it was on his body each time he changed clothes. We would never even know of this remarkable account had not a sharp-eyed servant discovered the hidden paper in the coat’s interior after Pascal’s death.
Until the day he died, Pascal kept this account (literally) close to his heart and treasured it in his soul. It was on this day in November of 1654 that the flame of God’s Spirit struck the kindling of truth within him. The result was FIRE!
Fire For Today
Pastor, as you reflect back over the weekend, remember: You are the sower, not the seed. You are the steward, not the treasure. You carry the match, but the fire must come from above. To ignite hearts that burn white-hot for God, we need the flaming power of the Holy Spirit. To walk forward in ministry ablaze for God’s glory, we need the Spirit’s fire to empower and sustain us.
Maybe you woke up this morning feeling like your blaze is smoldering, smothered by critics. Perhaps you feel it is extinguished by events outside of your control. Or you feel there is little heat within your soul.
If so, remember Blaise Pascal. Ask God for FIRE right now. And do so knowing that November 23, 1654—the day Pacal’s life was set ablaze by God—was a Monday.
Have you ever had an experience like Pascal’s? If so, what was it like? If not, have you ever asked (James 4:2)?
What has been acting like water to your spiritual fire in the past one or two weeks? What has led you to be discouraged, perhaps to give up on a particular prayer?
What is preventing you from asking right now for the Spirit to set your heart ablaze?
God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, you who created all things, you are not the God of the dead, but of the living. Please fill me with your Spirit today. Set me ablaze with the overflow of your love. Lead me forth into good works with my soul fired by your Spirit and fueled to follow you sacrificially today.