Paul continues to encourage Timothy to move out into the gifts God bestowed on him. He reminds him of his heritage of faith and where his hope truly lies.
Paul starts by reminding Timothy that they both come from a line of faith. I’m wondering if the “ancestors” Paul is referencing was Abraham. It is clear that the Pharisees didn’t serve God with a clear conscience. Their service was NOT from the heart but from a formula. This is not the faith that Paul and Timothy share.
Timothy had a believing mother and grandmother. I’ve heard it said that a grandmother’s prayer can shake the Heavens and move mountains. I think this grandmother falls short in that respect but I do pray for my grandchildren (and children) every time I think about where they are with God. This was Timothy’s legacy of faith. I wonder his grandmother prayed for his salvation every day.
Paul’s next allegory got me to thinking. He told Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God” (verse 6a). I was reminded of the song Pass It On where it says that “It only takes a spark to get a fire going.” I have a wood stove in my house. It used to be our only source of heat but God has blessed us with a more constant heat. Anyway, when lighting the wood stove it took MORE than just a little spark to get the fire going. It took preparation, persistence and patience.
Our spark of faith needs the same. It doesn’t just happen one day that a little spark sets our soul on fire. God works on our hearts in subtle, and some not so subtle, ways before we even make that commitment to Him. I’ve heard some amazing stories from others about how God got their attention.
Once God prepares the heart we are ready for that first flame. It is like striking a match. If you don’t put that match to something it soon burns out. There is only so much fuel in the match or even the lighter. It needs to be applied to the prepared material or no fire will result.
In my experience with building a fire I have often had to relight or strike a second or third match. This is where persistence comes into play. Sometimes the wind blows out my first one or the material doesn’t immediately take the flame and it burns out. I think that is how my initial experience with God was. I don’t remember the first time I “asked Jesus into my heart” but I do remember the first time I KNEW He answered that prayer. He kept striking the match until my “kindling” caught.
You are not done when the fuel finally ignites. I found out the hard way that you don’t just shut the door on the stove at that point and expect warmth to happen. You have to feed the fire with a little encouragement. I usually gently blow on it until harder material ignites too. This is the time for patience. If you give up too soon the fire dies back down and you have to start all over again. But when you spend a little extra effort and time making sure the fire catches fully you are rewarded with warmth and light.
Once the fire is able to sustain itself it is time to shut the door to the stove and enjoy the fruits of your labor. But the work is not over. A fire left untended can do two things. The first is it can get out of control. In my wood stove, this means using the dampeners to restrict the air flow so the fire doesn’t rage out of control and heat the house beyond comfort levels or start a fire in the chimney. In our hearts, this means using wisdom and love so your fire for Jesus doesn’t burn those you are reaching out to you.
The other thing an untended fire can do is exhaust its fuel and die. If I don’t feed my fire fuel on a regular basis I have to start all over again. That is frustrating and I’m cold while waiting for my home to heat again. With our spiritual fire, feeding it fuel means spending time on our relationship with God. This is done through reading His word, prayer, bible study, praise, and ANY way you find to be in His presence. It doesn’t have to be structured all the time but you have to spend time with Him personally in order to keep your fire going. If you are anything like me, there will be times you feel that all that is left is coals, but I’ve started some of the BEST fires from just a few coals. He is even better at getting those “coals” to catch than I am.
I’ve found a wonderful Firestarter for my wood stove. They are called “Strike-a-Fire” and made by Diamond. I don’t even have to use kindling when making a fire with these babies! But when I try and use them to light my bonfire in the yard they leave a lot to be desired. That is how it is with spiritual fires too. There is no “one size fits all” way to ignite someone’s passion for God. Some will be led to Him with a gentle word, others with an enticing offer, and others will come only when the fires of Hell get too hot. I think the best way to entice someone else into building their own fire though is to share the warmth of yours. If your fire is barely burning or raging out of control it won’t be very appealing. But a well-tended fire draws people to it.
I wonder if Timothy’s “flame” was in need of some blowing on it because of fear. Paul mentions Timothy’s tears. Were they tears for Paul’s situation? Were they for himself? Was he afraid of not being enough to this body in Ephesus? Paul had so much confidence in him and in God’s work within him that he was spending the time to “blow” on Timothy’s flame. “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (verse 7). “God has been planning this exact season for you throughout history and He knows exactly what it takes to get the job HE prepared for you done. Trust Him with it and don’t be ashamed of wherever He takes you in the process.” Paul was not ashamed of where he was because he was there for Jesus.
Father God, thank You for keeping my fire going even when I neglect it. Thank You that You can breathe on the coals far better than I ever could. Thank You for reigniting my passion for Your word. Help me never to burn someone with my enthusiasm. Help me also never to freeze someone to death with cold indifference. Help me be a warm welcoming flame of Your love to all those around me. Thank You again for speaking to me through Your word. I KNOW there is so much more in there than we covered today, but for now, it is enough to keep me warm.