There are times when the work of the church goes very well. There is unity among Christians, people are being built up through the preaching and teaching of sound doctrine, unbelievers are coming to faith, and other examples of spiritual progress. Then at other times things look like Paul’s experience in our passage, where he writes that people have deserted him. Yet, no matter how smooth or difficult the Christian life might be, it is the same gospel in both situations, and we have the same task to guard that gospel regardless of the attacks, unpopularity, or defections by those who once stood with us.

Paul has committed to Christ his hope of salvation that Jesus has offered in the gospel. Christ has died for sinners, and Paul tells every Christian to commit himself or herself to him; and when they follow him, Christ will bless and keep them in both this life and for eternity. And Christ has given to us the gospel, the very gospel in which we believe and which we are entrusted to keep and pass on to others. It is our responsibility to do that with a faithfulness that is patterned after Jesus himself. 

We know from 1 Corinthians how people viewed the gospel as Paul traveled throughout the Roman world. He knew that the gospel was a source of shame and offense. It was a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks. And anyone who believed this gospel was scorned and persecuted by both Jews and Gentiles. Paul understood how the world looked down on these things we as Christians hold precious. Yet, Paul wrote to the Corinthians that what the Jews regarded as a stumbling block, Paul found to be the foundation of revealed religion. And what the Greeks regarded as foolishness in comparison to their exaltation of mere human wisdom, Paul found to be the wisdom of God that makes one wise unto salvation. 

I think that Paul is saying that our spiritual gifts are like the experience of starting a fire. Just because you have the gift doesn’t mean that it will by itself grow and become a great thing that’s a blessing to other people. You have to work at that; you have to fan it into flame. You have to rekindle it if necessary; you have to blow on it in order that it might become all that it should be. Paul does not want Timothy to be passive about his spiritual gift, waiting for God to accomplish his work. Rather, he wants Timothy and us to work hard at serving him and using the gifts he has given us. 

As I read this first chapter of 2 Timothy, I see Paul giving Timothy three charges. First of all, he tells him in verse 6 to fan into flame the gift that God has given him. Secondly, in verse 8 he tells Timothy not to be ashamed to testify about our Lord. Then thirdly, in verse 14, Paul tells Timothy to guard the good deposit, that is, the gospel, that was entrusted to him.