Fan the Flames

fire

2 Timothy 1:6-7 “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. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”

Sometimes God’s people are like wet wood. If you try to light a fire there, you have to tend it constantly. The process of fanning faith into action never stops. You are constantly throwing a little more kindling in to keep things from going out. That wears thin after a while.

Don’t give up. Paul reminded Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” Like everyone else, I like to be comfortable. As a pastor, it’s easy to smolder along in ministry and do the minimum to just keep things running. Generally speaking, evangelism prospects don’t complain if I don’t visit them, straying sheep don’t complain if I don’t visit them, my faithful members don’t complain about the new Bible class I don’t start, the community doesn’t complain about the new outreach ministry that never happens, and it takes me less time and less sweat to let these things go. That kind of unfaithfulness with the gifts God has given should make us feel uncomfortable with our neglect, but the voice of God’s complaints about our sin often don’t get our attention in the same way as the person standing in front of us.

The first thing we need when that flame is burning low is the warmth and energy of the big gift of God, not the one that Paul is writing about here. “The gift of God,” as Paul tells us in Romans 6, “is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” “By grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…” The gift of Jesus in his life and death; the gift of forgiveness and new life; the gift of friendship, partnership, even “family-ship” with God that we receive in the gospel, not only removes our sin. It stokes our fires and fans into flame our desire to serve him with all the gifts he has given us.

Then our Lord reminds us that he has given us gifts to serve him, just as Paul reminded Timothy here. Do you consider yourself a “gifted” person? We often reserve that description for people with exceptional abilities. Warren Buffet is a “gifted” investor. J.K. Rowling is a “gifted” writer. Carrie Underwood is a “gifted” singer. I’m not making millions and billions of dollars from my investments. No one is paying to read the things that I write, or turning them into movies. No music companies are offering me a contract. Maybe we don’t think of ourselves as being gifted. Maybe we even fear that it would be prideful to say we are.

But “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good…” Paul told the Corinthians. For service to his kingdom, for spreading the gospel, for his works of love and kindness, God has given everyone some kind of gift. Timothy had his gift, though we don’t know specifically what it was. Each of us has our gift, too. We are gifted people. The gifts don’t all look the same, just as our place and contexts don’t all look the same, but the same Spirit has given each of us the gifts we need for the work our Savior has given us to do.

Doesn’t that promise also fan the flames of faith and service? Doesn’t that promise also make us bold and eager and optimistic about the work our God has given us to do? Like Timothy, “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.” Characteristics like power, and love, and self-discipline have less to do with what some would describe as “raw-talent” than they have to do with changed hearts that want what God wants. They live in hearts where God’s own Spirit is making us little Christs to the people he has sent us to serve with the gifts he has given.

We have fires to tend, and fires to light. God’s grace is the fuel that keeps the flames of faith glowing in our own hearts. His Spirit gives us all we need to help others feel the warmth of faith’s glow and kindle new fires around us.

(Picture By Petritap - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/
w/index.php?curid=4604490)

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