James and John asked Jesus: " 'Lord, would You not have us call down fire from heaven to destroy them?' He (Jesus) turned toward them only to reprimand them" (Lk 9:54-55). On another occasion, Jesus proclaimed: "I have come to light a fire on the earth. How I wish the blaze were ignited!" (Lk 12:49) Sometimes Jesus wants to call down fire; at other times, He doesn't.
Elijah was the world champion in calling down fire from heaven (see 1 Kgs 18:38; 2 Kgs 1:10, 12; Sir 48:3). However, on at least one occasion in Elijah's life, "the Lord was not in the fire" (1 Kgs 19:12). Why is the Lord in some fire and not in others?
The Lord is not usually in the fire of destruction but in the fire of discipleship. Elijah's astounding power to call down fire surrounded the greatest ministry of his life, the calling of Elisha to be his disciple (see 1 Kgs 19:16ff). After Jesus rebuked John and James for wanting to call down fire on the Samaritans, Jesus focused on the call to discipleship (Lk 9:57-62). This culminated in the first Christian Pentecost. "Tongues as of fire appeared, which parted and came to rest on" 120 disciples (Acts 2:3). This led to 3,000 people being baptized into discipleship (Acts 2:41).
The Lord wants us to call down fire if we call forth disciples. "Light a fire on the earth" (Lk 12:49) to "make disciples of all the nations" (Mt 28:19).