3I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day, 4longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy. 5For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well. 6For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. (2 Timothy 1:3-7)
What beautiful letters Paul writes to his beloved spiritual son, Timothy! In this, his second letter to Timothy, Paul is giving final encouragement and instructions as he knew the time of his “departure” (death) was near. Not long afterward, early Christian historians recorded, Paul was executed by the Emperor Nero. Knowing this was his likely fate, Paul’s letter is full of emotion and urgency. Paul remembers the tears that Timothy shed at their last parting and expresses his longing to see him again. In the meantime, Paul continues to pray for Timothy day and night. He affirms his own sincere service to God, following in the steps of his faithful Jewish ancestors and also the sincere faith of Timothy who has followed the example of sincere faith demonstrated in the lives of his Jewish mother and grandmother.
All of this is leads to Paul’s exhortation: “kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you…” The Greek word translated as “kindle afresh” is made up of three root words: 1) ana, which means “again”, 2) zoon, something alive, and 3) pur, which means “fire”. The result (transliterated) is anazopureo, rightly translated as “kindle afresh” or “reanimate” or “relight” the gift of God within you. This one verb lets us know that the gift within Timothy could be likened to a living fire which needed stirring up lest it go out. Timothy, Paul knew, was facing a challenge that would, with Paul’s death, soon become even more challenging. Paul knew Timothy’s strengths but, more importantly, he also knew his weaknesses. These weaknesses could all be addressed by a single effort: stir up and fan the flame of the gift he received when Paul (and the elders – 1Timothy 4:14) laid their hands upon him and prayed for him. What was this gift?
Yes, it was related to his calling as a minister of the gospel. But is this relevant only to those who are called to preach? I think not. Everyone who truly receives Jesus, also receives the gift of His Spirit. With the establishment of His residence within the believer, the Holy Spirit also bestows gifts of service. For Timothy, it was the gift of public preaching and teaching. In several places, the Apostles Paul and Peter mention other spiritual gifts believers might receive, such as those of healing, administration, service, discernment, etc. But what Paul is focusing on here is not a particular gift of the Spirit but the gift of the Spirit Himself. This is clear from what Paul says about the Spirit in verse 7 and how he relates the rekindling of this glorious gift to Timothy’s weaknesses.
Timothy suffered from timidity. This is a common enough weakness. However, the ministry that God had called him to fulfill required him to overcome this weakness. He could not back down in the face of persecution; he could not give way to contentious or strong personalities among the believers who, if not countered, would destroy the church. He would need the strength to confront sinful behaviors and deal faithfully with those who had fallen into them. Are these challenges only faced by those in public ministry as Timothy was? No. While we may not have responsibility over the spiritual well-being of a congregation or the task of proclaiming the gospel to crowds of people, we do have a responsibility for ourselves and even for those whom God has placed in our circle of influence. But let us first focus on ourselves, as Jesus advises (Matthew 7:3-5). Timothy had a problem with fear. It affected his ability to make bold, decisive efforts, it limited his capacity for love and it rendered him weak in the face of temptations. We see all this from verse 7.
We can identify with Timothy as it sounds similar to problems we face in living as God intends for us. And remember, Timothy was no slouch! He was a godly young man, serving the Lord and, so far, faithful to his calling. But he needed to be reminded to rekindle the fire of God’s Spirit in his heart. So how do we do that?
Jesus calls the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of Truth”. (John 14:7; 15:26; 16:13) It is our will that must be brought into line with God’s will but God does not force our wills. Rather, He moves our wills through the presentation to our minds of the appropriate truth, the truth we need to know in order to overcome the influence of the world, the “flesh” (our feelings, basically) and the lies of the evil one. Jesus said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32) The work of the Spirit is to take the truth of God and make it come alive to our minds, thus moving our wills.
Now, we can read a menu in a restaurant and know what is on it, but not until the food is served and we taste it do we know it directly and experientially. The Holy Scriptures are the menu. The enjoyment of the meal is the work of the Holy Spirit. But again, Paul is telling Timothy to do something, to “kindle afresh” the gift of the Spirit in order to overcome his weaknesses. What is he telling him, and us, to do?
Put in its simplest terms, we must bring God’s truth before our minds and let the Spirit make it come to life.God’s truth is multifaceted and there is some truth that is needed for every challenge and other truth that is necessary for specific ones.The Spirit will guide us to both kinds of truth.He will not usually do this unless we take the initiative.We must have frequent and regular times of exposure to God’s truth and then respond to it with prayer, rejoicing, praise, confession and obedience. This will make all the difference between victory or defeat before our spiritual enemies.When we do what the Spirit wants us to do, to “think God’s thoughts after Him”, then the fire of our “first love” (Revelation 2:4) will be rekindled and we will be well prepared to face our foes! (There’s a lot more to this, but enough for now.)