Keeping the Fire Going! (PART 1 of 2)

2 Timothy 1:6

Stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the [gracious] gift of God, [the inner fire]”  (2 Timothy 1:6).

In 1980, my family and I moved from Southern California to the beautiful Northwest in Washington State.  I had always wanted a real working fireplace, one that we could burn wood in and not just Presto Logs for the effect.  When we purchased our new place of residency, I found a home on     1 1/2 acres of tall timber and with two fireplaces.  Oh boy!

After getting our first winter’s electric heating bill, gasping for air from the total cost, we decided to  heat the entire split level, 2000+ sq. ft. home with both fireplaces; one upstairs and one downstairs.

After living in that home for 22 years, I figured that we had probably consumed a mini-forest of fir and cedar, burnt a hole in the carpet, and lost a needed 10 pounds of weight from hauling wood from outside in below freezing temperatures twice per day, in keeping the house warm (68 degrees F.).  Between my wife packing the upstairs fireplace with wood before going to work, making sure the vents of the fireplace insert were at the proper opening, then when I got home from work, I would open the vents, rekindle the fire until it was roaring, trying to bring up the temperature (now 62 degrees) in the house.  A lot of time, work and cost for four chords of cut wood every year for over twenty years (we have a gas fed fireplace in our current home!).

AH YES, I REMEMBER IT WELL

Paul begins 2 Timothy 1:6 in saying, “I would remind you“.  Did Timothy really need to be reminded of something that he already knew from his mother’s teaching (verse 5)?  Paul is tactfully reminding Timothy to actively recall what he already knew; he wasn’t scolding him.  Paul is constantly stirring up the “embers” through past memories; not to shrink from the sufferings, reproach and tribulation that comes in standing for Christ brings.  Paul knows what remembering does to help Timothy to press on through it all:

–to maturity.

–to run the race with endurance.

–to fight the good fight.

–to finish the course.

–to keep the faith.

The essence of what Paul is saying is to remember when God did this or that.  When He answered prayers so clearly, when He removed obstacles and when He performed the impossible in our lives.

The New American Standard Bible uses the words “kindle afresh” or ‘Keep the Fire Going!’  The Amplified Bible, which I use says, “to stir up–rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning“.  The meaning is to stir up the fire, add fresh fuel, cause something to begin again, reactivate or cause to begin to be active again.

The Greek word used in 2 Timothy 1:6, “remind you to” is anamimnesko.  In the present tense, conveys the sense of progressive, continuous action.  It carries the idea of carefully thinking back and reconstructing something in one’s mind, not merely remember;  unlike me remembering; trying to keep the fire going with adding kindling to the fireplace.  Paul “anamimneskos”  to Timothy, to keep kindling the gift afresh; make your aim to continually keep it at full flame.

Paul’s appeal to Timothy is preventative rather than corrective.  “If you don’t keep the fire going in the fireplace Mel, the fire will grow cold and out completely!”  That is a preventative appeal rather than, “split the wood, stack it on the front porch before going to work, and ,open the insert’s vents so air will promote rekindling…”  You get the idea.

Paul wanted Timothy to keep the flame blazing, at white heat, as he had been doing.  It wasn’t a rebuke, but a fatherly appeal to continue in the face of serious difficulties.  That appeal is timely and pertinent in view of the development on hostility to Christianity today; may be not where you reside but it’s coming!

THE “GRACIOUS GIFT OF GOD”

Do you remember when you were a small child at Christmas time.  The anticipation of the unopened gifts was overwhelming.  Even as an adult, I still get but a little sleep the night before from the hope and expectation of whats under the tree. 

My folks lived in government housing, from 1946 thru 1955 in what society calls the “projects” today.  We lived in a two-story apartment with a banister to peer over on the second floor.  On early Christmas morning, I would gaze over the railing, impatiently waiting for my mom or dad to say, “Okay, you can come downstairs now and see and open gifts”.  I would run down the steps, almost falling, then into the front room where the tree was placed in the corner and start tearing beautifully wrapped presents; along with one or two things that were in plain sight Santa had left.  My parents would be beaming from all my excitement from their gifts and when were raising our three children, their enjoyment on Christmas morning.

How our heavenly Father must “beam” when we discover His gracious gift; the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Do you think God wants us to anticipate, be overwhelmed, full of hope with expectations of the “grace gifts” that Paul mentions to Timothy?  I think He does and His Spirit is calling to us as we peer over the spiritual banister, “It’s time to open the gifts” you have already received. 

“GIFTS” NOT TALENTS

Is there a difference between “I am really talented at …” and “I am gifted by the Holy Spirit with ….”.  In the Greek language, the word GIFT is used in 2 Timothy 1:6 (charisma from charis = grace, English = “charismatic“).  Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines the word TALENT= a special natural ability, gift or aptitude; a knack for doing something special.  There is an obvious difference in the meanings; one is spiritual and one is natural.

At salvation, each Christian’s grace gifts are bestowed on him or her uniquely to equip each to serve God in a specific area or areas of ministry to which they have been called.  The grace gifts are a divine enablement for effective service of God and I believe they can vary depending on where God wants you to use them (lots of gifts in the house).

Paul exhorts Timothy to take all opportunities to use these gifts; to stir them up and the best way of increasing them.  Whether the gift of God in Timothy was ordinary or extraordinary, I incline to believe the latter.  Paul is telling us that unless we “stir up“, “rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning” our spiritual gifts, they might decay.  The great hindrance of usefulness in the increase of our gifts is, “slavish fear” and Paul was fully aware of this problem in the church.  That is why he addresses the “problem” in 2 Timothy 1:7:

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning FEAR), but [He has given us a spirit] of POWER and of LOVE and of CALM and WELL-BALANCED MIND and DISCIPLINE and SELF-CONTROL”  (I took the measure of capitalizing the words for emphasis).

Over my Christian lifetime, I have heard believers say, “I think certain churches place too much emphasis of the gifts of the Spirit”.  I’m not quite sure what they mean by “too much”, but I have found in almost 40 years as a Christian, in most cases the gifting of the saints isn’t talked about at all in the church; for “the fear” their doctrine might become “charismatic”.  Oh no!  Remember, the Holy Spirit imparts gifts, NOT the church. Not even if they have a school to teach you a particular gifting.

In the first epistle to Timothy, the apostle Paul wrote, “DO NOT NEGLECT” (the present imperative = “command to stop an action that may be in progress”); the spiritual gift (charisma) that is within you.

“Do not neglect the gift which is in you, [that special inward endowment] which was directly imparted to you [by the Holy Spirit] by prophetic utterance”  (1 Timothy 4:14–Amplified Bible).

THE SPIRITUAL GIFTS OF TIMOTHY insured Timothy (as ours does) that he was a vitally significant individual in the ministry, residing within him (and us), a God-given ability.  When ignited by the Holy Spirit, it could burst forth in a ‘holy blaze’; kindling other lives around him (us) with the same holy fire.

THE LAYING ON OF HANDS

Spurgeon quips that…

“Empty hands, it seems to me, are fitly laid on empty heads–and to submit to an empty ceremony is the most idle of all and a waste of time.”

Paul explains to Timothy,  “[the inner fire] that is in you by the means of the laying on…”  (2 Timothy 1:6b.).

The “laying on” means: “superimposing of something on something else or laying upon, as of hands”.  The gift was a grace gift (charisma) from God, so Paul did not impart the gifting from his own hands.  Putting hands on served a recognition that Timothy had a gift.  Timothy’s responsibility was to keep rekindling his spiritual gift.

The Greek word Epithesis, for laying on, is used 4 times in the New Testament:

–Acts 8:18

–1 Timothy 4:14

–2 Timothy 1:6

–Hebrews  6:2

JUST “BEING YOURSELF”; “Stir up the gift of God which is in you” (2 Tim. 1:6).

Some Christian groups exert pressure on their members to talk, act, or look-alike.  This must frustrate the people, as it has to me in the past, who are judged for not conforming in trying to make them “fit”.  The group may be stifling their strongest and their best gifts.  Here is a parable I uncovered in my studies this week that illustrates the point:

A rural village located in an area was inhabited by parrots.  One day a falcon landed on a windowsill.  The owner of the house caught it to show the people in his village, for the villagers had never see such a bird!  They decided to trim back the feathers, cut the talons and file down the bird’s beak so it would look like the birds they were familiar with.

AS FOLLOWERS OF JESUS

Scripture tells us that we are to imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 John 2:6).  If we become more like Him, does that mean we will begin to act alike?  YES and NO!

YES, in that our behavior toward others and reactions to circumstances will increasingly become like those of Jesus.

NO, in that we are each given unique gifts, interests and abilities to develop use to His glory.

Let’s not be guilty in stifling our fellow Christians but instead, let’s allow differences that God has made them unique and gifted them to fulfill His purposes.  It is a shame to turn a falcon into a parrot.

God builds His church with different stones,

He makes each one belong;

All shapes and sizes fit in place

To make the structure strong”—Sper

All Christians have the same employer–they just have different jobs.

PART 2, “Smothering the Fire”