Fan the Flame

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

            Paul had a special friend in Timothy. They had met on one of Paul’s missionary journeys, and Paul took the younger man along as his protégé. He poured into him, helping him cultivate his gifts and learn how to live according to God’s will for him. By the time Paul’s life was drawing to an end, Timothy was pastoring a church (most likely in Ephesus). Paul was sitting in jail awaiting martyrdom, and he took the time to write a letter of encouragement to Timothy. He knew that his own position must have been frightening for his spiritual child, and he wrote to give him one last bit of instruction. His biggest piece of advice was to continue in the good works he was already doing, not letting anything keep him from them.

            Given the circumstances, this seemingly simple instruction must have been difficult to actually implement. Again, Paul was in jail, expecting to die quite soon. Timothy was his disciple, closely connected to him in many ways. If Paul were in trouble, surely those behind his imprisonment wouldn’t be far behind Timothy, either. In the midst of this, it’s understandable that Timothy was afraid. It would have been so easy to simply hide out for a little while, maybe doing some ministry work undercover but not being as open as he’d used to be. Paul, however, warned him against this. He urged him to not neglect his spiritual gifts but to instead keep working to “fan into flame the gift of God” (2 Timothy 1:6), continuing to lead the church and spread the Gospel. On his own, this would be impossible. Timothy’s human nature was likely telling him to run as fast as he could away from all of this. But, as Paul reminded him, God has not given us a spirit of fear. Rather, His Spirit is one of “power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7) Because of that, Timothy could continue to be bold in his work for God.

            We have the same Spirit that Timothy had. The world is just as dangerous for us as it was for him. There are still people out there who will do everything in their power to keep the Gospel from spreading, to prevent us from doing the work God has called us to do. But when we’re tempted to quit, to hide, to wait until things get easier, we can remember that God has not given us a spirit of fear. His Spirit gives us power, love, and self-control. Paul, writing from prison, wasn’t afraid because he had completely grasped the concept of this powerful Spirit. We can be just as fearless as he was when we too accept that God is in control of our lives and will be with us when we do as He says. He’s given us gifts, and He expects us to use them for His glory. Like Timothy, we are called to fan into flame the gifts He has given us. It doesn’t matter how frightening circumstances are; all that matters is that we’re working for God.

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