Our text today comes from II Timothy 1:6-12. These words were spoken to Timothy, who was soon to be St. Paul’s successor, from a dungeon in Rome. It was Paul’s last letter. Soon he would die as a martyr as Emperor Nero continued to slaughter the Christians.
While the letter is written specifically to Timothy, it is divine counsel for all Christians in every age and time. But note, the letter is written to those who confess Christ as Savior and Lord. It would make little sense to any person who was not a Christian whether it is today or anytime.
Let’s take just two verses from our text: 6 and 7. “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self discipline.”
What is the gift of God which is in you?
God has given us many gifts but the one spoken in this text is the gift of God which is in you. While Timothy’s mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois taught him the story of Jesus, it was the Holy Spirit who worked through their teaching. As a result, Timothy personally knew Christ as the Savior who came to this world and died for him. Paul tells Timothy, “He is in you.”
In Romans 10:17, Paul writes, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”
It is important to stop here and emphasize that faith is a gift from God. Not all who hear the Gospel are Christians. It is safe to say that many who sit in our churches on Sunday know the Gospel intellectually but have never received Christ. Notice what Paul says to Timothy: “The gift . . . in you.” Bringing Christ into our hearts is the work of the Holy Spirit. No preacher, no matter how gifted he might be as a theologian or speaker, can create faith. The Holy Spirit alone can do that. However, it is also necessary for us to remember that he does not force Christ upon us. We are free to reject him, and, sad to say, many do.
God’s gift of faith to Timothy and all Christ’s servants includes many gifts. Notice what Paul says:
1. Faith will take away your timidity and give you a spirit of power.
When something is sin, according to the Scriptures, we will be given the power to speak against it. What a word that is for Timothy and the Church in any age!
Timid preachers in the pulpit and timid laity in the pews have watched God’s Word be adjusted to make it less offensive to the prevailing culture of our society. What fools we are, thinking that a more liberal presentation of the Scriptures will attract an unbelieving world when right before our eyes we see mainline Protestantism in decline and Evangelical churches growing! Case in point is the blessing of same-sex marriages and universalism.
2. A spirit of love.
Timothy, you will have many days when you will be angry with people who refuse to advance God’s Word as the only solution to our many problems Ð be they domestic, ecclesiastic, or political. However, your ministry must be done in love.
We need to remember, in modern times as well, that God is our Father, and he will deal firmly with his children, but always in love. If they will repent and come to him, he will forgive them. We should remember that an angry spirit can be as detrimental to the witness’ efforts as an amended gospel.
3. Self-discipline. Later on in the book, Paul writes, “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”
Our lack of patience and temper flares are symptoms of our fallen nature. Here God working through His Word will give us the gift of self-control. This empowers us to continue working with others in the spirit of love.
The history books tell us about the anger that has been displayed by Christian people in a congregation. When the decision that is being made is not dealt with in Scripture and we have to depend on the wisdom of humans, there have been fights in the congregations which have separated families. Here the unbeliever is heard saying, “They talk about loving one another, but they do not practice what they preach.”
Here Paul says to Timothy and us, “fan into flame the gift of God which is in you.” Now he is talking to us about the Christian life that we are to live. It is a picture of how our faith in Christ can grow. Christianity is not simply receiving Christ and having the promise of eternal life; it is growing more Christ-like while we live out our days here on this earth.
John Stott has written, “Timothy’s mother and grandmother could teach him out of the Scripture and lead him towards conversion. Paul could actually bring him to Christ, befriend him, pray for him, write to him, train and exhort him. And God could give him a special gift at his ordination. But still Timothy must himself stir up the divine gift within him. He must add his own self-discipline to God’s gifts.
“We are no different. However much we may have received from God, either directly or indirectly through our parents, friends and teachers, we must apply ourselves in active self-discipline to cooperate with God’s grace, to keep fanning the inner fire into flame. Otherwise, we shall never be the men and women God wants us to be, or fulfill the ministry he has given us to exercise.”
This means Bible reading, worship, prayer, fellowship with Christians, learning better from others how to share the faith.
Becoming a sanctified, mature Christian is a life-long journey.
It does not save us but it is a fruit of our salvation.
Without sanctification, we can question our justification.