Fan the Flame of God’s Gift

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus,
2 To Timothy, my beloved child:
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
3 I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 4 As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:1-7)

Paul has some very personal words for Timothy, and it is like we are listening in on an important and intimate conversation between them. It is easy to see in these verses how much Paul cares for Timothy and how involved he has been in his life. In our day of independence and everyone, or most people, thinking no one can really speak into their lives, and that individuals should just live their lives doing whatever they want and we should all encourage that, it is refreshing to see Paul show genuine care for Timothy and speak words of truth that will encourage him not to be independent or just humanly strong, but to be dependent on God and live as God created him to live.

Each of us were created to live for God and not according to our own prescribed ideas. If we believe that then we should treasure those who keep us focused on God’s ways and not be offended when someone intervenes to help us refocus on Him. I am often not good at this. Not good at receiving counsel from someone who recognizes in me a need for refocus and change. I can be so focused on some aspects of life that I lose sight of other aspects of living for God. And so needed readjustments can be hard for me. Hard but needed.

Paul is being a gentle shepherd here with Timothy. He is not being harsh, he is not being rude or unkind, he is simply leading Timothy to think rightly about his life and how to live it. His manner, Paul’s manner here reminds me of how Jesus is described in Matthew 12.

“Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
and in his name the Gentiles will hope.” (Matthew 12:18-21)

It is verse 20 that I want us to see. Notice Jesus’ manner. John Piper talks about this saying, about the bruised reed. He says it is like Jesus reaches down and props up that bruised, bent reed and gently holds it up until it heals and can regain its strength to stand. This is a picture of how Christ deals with us, those who are facing trials, who are suffering. He cares, and intervenes to keep us. And a smoldering wick he will not quench. A tiny wick still burning and He will cup His hands around it, keep it going, protect it from extinction while it struggles to burn more brightly. Paul is doing this with young Timothy, he is reminding Timothy of some things and then encouraging Timothy to stay the course as we will see. This is our Lord helping us, keeping us, showing us He cares.

Paul writes of his longing to see Timothy and of the tears shed probably at their last meeting before Paul’s arrest. Again, Paul is about to instruct Timothy about some things and his instruction will be admonishment. But look at what is clearly mixed with it. What is mixed with it? Great affection. Paul did not just have a message of correction or a message from one stranger to another. Paul had a message for a person that he not only loved but that he had affection for. This means Paul liked Timothy. He was not only committed to Timothy’s good, but he wanted to be with him. He missed Timothy. This is affection.

I can come to you with a scowl on my face and a hard biblical message and you may listen to me, I don’t know. But if someone comes to you with a heart full of affection for you and you know he or she really cares for you, that can make all the difference in the world.

This is convicting. How do you go to your spouse with counsel or instruction? How do you approach your children? Is it just like, “I’m the parent and you are the lowly child,” or is it, “I deeply care for you, and this is why we need to talk”? How about a friend, a fellow church member? It should be, “I love Christ my Lord, I love you and care for you, and so I want to talk to you about something important, not for my well-being, but for yours!”

As Paul sat in prison, he remembered the tears they had shared, he longed to see his friend, and he knew that if they were to be reunited there would be great joy!

Paul recounts Timothy’s spiritual family history. Again to encourage Timothy. Timothy had a rich spiritual past with his mother and grandmother.

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. (2 Timothy 1:5)

Timothy’s mother was a believer, Timothy’s grandmother was a believer, and now Timothy is a believer. All of you do not have that, some of you are first generation Christians. But each of you can pass on to your children, to your grandchildren if God should give you any, you can pass on to them the truths of our faith. We can be faithful to pass on God’s ways to them. And in doing so, we can pray that God will save them.

And so after these few words of love and affection and encouragement from Paul he then passes on to Timothy some important instruction.

6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:6-7)

These are really interesting verses. Notice in verse 6 that God has given something to Timothy. God gave Timothy a gift. Paul says, “the gift of God.” But we see also that Timothy is to do something with this gift. What we see is that Timothy has a responsibility with this gift from God. He is to fan into flame this gift.

I think we get the idea sometimes that we don’t have a part in starting ourselves to do what God has called us to do. Like we just sit around and think, “Well if God wants to use me He will.” Well, here is the thing. God does want to use you, but we must be a part of it. Bringing in the illustration of a gift, you can give me a gift, say a new hammer for a project that I’m working on. You give me a new hammer and I put it on my shelf in the garage and what happens? Nothing! Nothing gets built. For that gift to be effective, I need to get up and use it.

Paul is calling on Timothy to rekindle the flame within him. Now remember Timothy is a minister, he is a pastor, he has been called and ordained. He has been doing this for awhile and yet what does he need here? He needs someone to encourage him and say, “Timothy, get up and get going!”

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

We shouldn’t read that verse and see only God at work, though He is, but also our responsibility to work as well. I’ve seen too many people sit around and just seem to be waiting on God to do something, instead of them getting up and doing the things that they know God wants them to do.

I was re-reading a book last week and it was written by a pastor, and this pastor was talking about how Mondays are really hard for him. He said that on Mondays he just felt spent. Not just physically tired but spiritually so. Sometimes it was so extensive that he just felt like quitting the ministry. He knew each week that he could have done better. He knew his efforts were nowhere near worthy of the message that he had been teaching. So he would go through these bouts of struggle and doubt in ministry. On one particular Monday morning instead of just lamenting over his feelings he took a book off his shelf that had, at one time, been the most influential Christian book in his life and began to read it. What was he doing? He was fanning the flame of his calling to ministry.

We need to do that too. Are you feeling spiritually down? If so, what are you doing about it? You can recall God’s past faithfulness in your life, you can re-read those old passages that had once given you great hope, you can spend a day in prayer asking for God’s help, acknowledging His power over you. You can read a good Christian book, you can talk with a friend who knows you well. Fan into flame the gift of God! Do that often, make it a part of your routine, of your Christian walk! Don’t sit idly by, don’t just lament, don’t grumble and complain, no, actively pursue Christ in ways that will renew the hope of your calling.

fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:6-7)

Using whatever gift God has given us to glorify Him in this sinful world will require more than what we are able to conjure up on our own. In this world we will have troubles, right? In this world we will face persecution, right?

12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:12-13)

Difficulties in this world come as we determine to fan the flame of ministry, as we determine to live our lives not as the world does, not as our flesh may lead us, but unto the Lord. We can expect trouble. So much so, in fact, that we must rely on Christ to get through it. If we don’t then we will live in fear or as timid Christians. Paul is saying that is not from God.

God did not give us a spirit of fear. The kind of fear here is one of being ashamed or cowardly. This comes from our flesh, not from God. This, I believe, is primarily a fear of man. If we fear other people and their opinions of us or fear what we think they can do to us more than we fear the almighty God, then we will obey them or give into them instead of obeying God.

Christ addresses this when he said in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” But our tendency is too often to fear people. We don’t do what we know we should do or we don’t say what we know we should say because we fear the opinions of others. We have elevated man over God. This is a travesty and yet it is common even among believers. It was also at times apparently true of Timothy and so again and again as we will see in this letter Paul will, in a variety of ways, urge Timothy not to think too highly of the opinions of others, but instead live boldly for God.

If fear or being ashamed of the gospel is not from God, then what does He give us? “power and love and self-control.” This is what we need…this is what I need! To live in this world for Christ we need His power, love from Him, and self-control that comes through Him.

Power denotes a great force of energy and it is where we get the word dynamite.
But it is a productive power, not a destructive one. It is a power that enables us to live differently for His glory. Don’t you need that? Don’t we all, really, know that we are unable to live for Christ apart from His power? Don’t we know as believers that we really cannot even function without Him in any good way at all? This for us should be a daily acknowledgement. We need Him, we need His power.

18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:18-20)

The power that works in us is the same power that was required to raise Jesus from the dead!

He has also given us not just any kind of love, but His love. In Romans 5:5 we see this: “and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” What does this mean? It means that we have been given a divine ability to love. We can love like others cannot love.

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart (1 Peter 1:22)

This is what we have been called to and this is what we have been enabled to do by God.

We have also been given self-control. This literally means a secure and sound mind. It is a soundness of mind that allows for control of one’s life for godly living. This too is from God Himself! When we are instructed in the Bible to be disciplined in living or self-controlled in living, this is not just by our power, it is a gift to us from God, the enablement of it is.

These things – power, love and self-control – are special endowments given to us by God. It is all very incredible! Don’t live in fear, live in God-given power, God-given love, God-given self-control.

Paul was a good friend to Timothy! The kind of friend that we should be to others. One who longs to be with others with great affection, caring for others with great sincerity. Encouraging to others regarding their faith, admonishing others to fan into flame the gifts that God has given, and reminding each other of the power, love, and self-control that God has given for His glory and for our good.

This is a great passage for each of us to look at and to honestly evaluate how we relate to others and how we see God’s work in us.

4 As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:4-7)