Theme: Fanning into Flame
In this week’s lessons, we look at three important charges Paul gives to Timothy.
Scripture: 2 Timothy 1:1-14
The Greek verb that gives us this idea of fanning into flame is a compound word, and one of the words that form this compound is the word for flame, which also gives us our word “purify,” which is one of the things that fire does when it is used on types of metal. When you apply the flame to the metal, the dross in the metal is burned off and you are left with the purified form. Paul wants Timothy to fan or increase his gift such that it becomes a veritable blaze. Now if you are going to create a flame by fanning, it doesn’t just happen automatically; it takes some work. Those who have tried to start a fire in that way know that.
Did you ever go out on a camping trip, and you had to get a fire started in order to cook your dinner. If so, you know that it takes some work. You can’t just strike a match and expect the thing to go. Once you get it started, you have to coax it along. There are a number of things you can do to make the fire grow. You can use bits of newspaper if you have it, or little pieces of wood. Before you start, you make a little bundle that you can light. Then you put bigger sticks on top of that, and still bigger sticks on top of that. Once you have it built, you light that little wee bit down there in the bottom that you first made. You can see the tiny little flame start, and then you watch it grow. If it’s not growing, you blow on it, hoping that the addition of the oxygen will make the fire hotter to catch the twigs, with the idea that the fire will grow to the point where it will then catch the bigger sticks and pieces of wood that you built on top of the little bundle with which you started. As this whole process is going on, you are anxious that it will work and that the fire will grow, especially if you are hungry.
I was so successful as a boy scout that I have intrinsic faith in my ability to start fires. If I start it in a fireplace, for example, because I built that fire the way I was taught as a boy scout, I just know that when I apply my match that fire is going to grow and pretty soon become that roaring fire that will be a joy to all who behold it. And so when I do that, I have often found myself in the situation of sitting there watching that little flame, being sure that it’s going to catch, and not wanting somebody else to come into the room and wonder if I need newspaper to make the whole thing work. That kind of suggestion is insulting to former boy scouts who were taught how to make a proper fire without newspapers. And so I have to tell them that I don’t need newspaper. It’s going to go all right without that. Just watch–that draft is going to make it catch. It’s going to light up the fire. However, sometimes I watch and watch, and it dies away and goes out.
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. We are told that God has not given us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline in how we are to use our gifts for his glory and for the good of others.
The second charge Paul gives Timothy is not to be ashamed. I’m sure Paul was well aware that there were things about which Christians were ashamed, and perhaps Timothy was at times among them. Paul tells Timothy not to be ashamed to testify about our Lord. Sometimes Christians are ashamed when it comes to talking to other people about him. Paul also tells Timothy not to be ashamed of Paul as a prisoner. Sometimes Christians are ashamed of other Christians. Why are we sometimes ashamed of these things? Well the reason is that the world is ashamed by them and we are so sensitive to the opinions of the world and so insensitive to the opinions of our Lord. Why would we listen to the world rather than to our Lord? There is no reason at all why we should be ashamed of the Lord Jesus Christ and of other Christians as they suffer for the gospel and are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.
How are spiritual gifts like starting a fire?
What does Paul tell Timothy not to be ashamed about, and why might he say this?
Reflection: Have you ever been ashamed of either the Lord or another Christian? What were the circumstances? Can you recall a time when you were not ashamed and publically took a stand for Christ?
Application: What are some ways you can fan your spiritual gift into flame?