“Fan Into Flame!” sermon from 5/16/10
II Timothy 1:3-12
How have you been at living into what God has for you and has called you to? Maybe you’ve sought that sort of thing out from God, maybe you haven’t concerned yourself with it so much. Well, when I thought about what may be a good message to bring to a church in search of a new minister I thought the encouragement I could give is this; Fan Into Flame the gifts of God given to you. This will probably be a trying time in some respects, but not one that God hasn’t equipped you for or isn’t with you in. Remember, He doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called, and He never leaves nor forsakes us, He will guide you through this so be strong & courageous. So I ask you, how are you in following after being called/led to do something? Or, in using/preserving-in your gifts? Are you a risk taker? Do you enjoy challenges? Do you know, and are you confident in, your abilities? Or, are you more cautious or even apprehensive/hesitant when it comes to such things? The Scripture passage I will be using for today is a section of Paul’s second letter to his friend, mentee, & colleague, Timothy, II Timothy 1:3-12. You may turn there with me and follow along as I read…
3 I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. 6 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. 7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.
Background & Context to Scripture passage:
So, here in this passage we have the Apostle Paul writing a second letter to his friend, mentee, and colleague in the Gospel, Timothy. Paul’s words here are of encouragement and a charge to be strong and courageous in his service for the Gospel. Paul and Timothy were great friends. Paul had a deep love for Timothy and it shows in how he says that he thanks God for him, always remembers him in his prayers, and longs to see him for it would be a great joy for them to be together. This is how it is in Paul’s heart with many of his letters to churches and people such as Timothy. His heart cries and longs for their strength and perseverance in the work of the Gospel. For this work is what he has given his life over to and he strongly desires for people to join him for the same cause. Here we find Paul seeking to give encouragement to Timothy. It appears Paul feels that Timothy may need a boost or reminder of his call, abilities in God, and confidence. It’s hard to know exactly where Timothy’s heart is at, but he may be struggling with the opposition afforded to both Paul (his mentor and most prominent leader) and the Gospel in his day and may feel intimidated and/or ashamed to some degree. Paul basically says, “don’t let such things get you down, but STRIVE FORWARD/CHARGE AHEAD; I love you and know what God is capable of and what He has given you, and therefore what you’re capable of!”
Isn’t this what good leaders, mentors, and coaches do? They have a great love for their cause and the people they serve and direct, and their heart yearns for them to stay strong and charge ahead no matter the circumstances. They greatly believe in them and the cause and don’t want to see them pull back at all. That is the heart of what I want to speak from today. Being a Pastor I have a love for the Church and the Gospel. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be one. I don’t really know those of you here very well, but I believe the church of Jesus Christ to be the light of the world and the Gospel to be the best gift and message there is. I believe if you are part of the Church (body of Christ) you are called to be a witness to the message and faith you profess, and you’ve been gifted to be servants of the kingdom of God. Therefore, it is my desire for the Church and its members to live into their calling and mission, standing together to contend for such a cause as the Gospel in their church, community and world (wherever God would call us to serve).
Now I want to push ahead and speak to some of what Paul does in his letter to Timothy to encourage him onward. As you may or may not notice, Paul kind of follows a similar form to how many worship orders in the Reformed Church follow. You don’t necessarily have it listed in your bulletins, but often there is what is titled the Approach to God, followed by the Word of God where in these two sections we remember who/whose we are, and after that comes the Response to the Word where we remember how to live thereafter. Paul in this section of his letter to Timothy first approaches God in giving thanks and sharing of his and Timothy’s bond in the Lord. He then moves on to sharing a word from God and remembrance of who/whose we are and what we have in God through faith in Jesus Christ. After this he gives a response or a charge of how to live in regards to this word.
2) The Word of God: Remembering Who/Whose We Are in Christ:
So since we’ve already made mention of Paul’s approach to God in how he thanked God and shared of his love in the Lord for Timothy, we can move on to the second part where Paul reminds Timothy of just who he is and where he comes from and who/what he has in the Lord. First He says, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” Paul says here, I am reminded of your heritage, that which you came from and belong to, and who has led and taught you in the faith. Why is this so important? Well, because we all need a grounding, a foundation of which to stand firm upon and within. When we get off kilter and struggle with our anxieties it’s often because something has knocked us off our foundation. Our foundation consists of two things, our heritage (familial line who are usually the main influencers in our lives having a great impact on who we become) and as Christians, who we are in Christ. Those two things are what I mean when I say who/whose we are. Now, I’ve come up with my own name for when we get knocked off of our foundations. I call them, “Identity Crises.”
To give you a quick definition of what I mean by Identity Crises, basically it’s when these two foundations (identities) clash. What often happens to us in Christ as we strive forward in living out our new identities in Him is that we often experience clashes with our human foundations and identities before Christ or just our humanly flesh in general. What happens is, these two foundations don’t always see eye to eye. They are an important part of who we are as a whole, however life makes them butt heads on occasion. That’s how life is. We can’t foresee, plan for, and expect everything and, I’d say, more often than not we encounter along the way certain things we feel unprepared for and things that don’t feel right, look right, or seem to make sense. It’s in these times when we will struggle with our identity and must remember who we are (our heritage family) and whose we are (God’s, in Christ Jesus). It’s during things that don’t feel right, look right, or seem to make sense that our foundations/identities can clash. Paul seems to possibly be concerned that Timothy could be in one of these times and he wants to encourage him to now let certain things rock your foundation; who & whose you are.
“Get in the Game” Call Story:
I’ll give you a quick example from my own life and faith journey with God. It was just over 7 years ago now when I was sitting in church one Sunday morning upon which I had quite the experience with God. That morning my Pastor closed his message by leading us in prayer and while my eyes were shut I suddenly began having a vision. Interestingly, in my mind I began to picture myself back in middle school, in full basketball jersey attire (basketball was my favorite sport as I had an infatuation with Michael Jordan), and I was sitting at the end of a bench watching and eagerly waiting to be called upon to enter the game. Suddenly off to my left a motion began to take place. What I saw was this; a big, huge hand rise up, point in my direction, and motion me to enter the game. I saw this… (wrist flick). Instantly I knew what that meant! This was my calling from God to get in the game, start living for Him and for the Gospel. It was my call as Paul says to Timothy here, to fan into flame the gift of God which is in you. In that moment God said, I know you, I know where you come from and what you have in Jesus Christ my Son, your Lord. Now get in the game and allow me to grow you into your full potential. Now I share this quickly in light of what I’ve described as identity crises because often while I am in the game and trying to live out such things, things happen that cause me to want to head back to the bench, disengage the game, maybe even step further back and into the bleachers. In this I must remember who/whose I am (my foundations) and what I have been given in order that I might remain in the game and grow into my potential in Christ Jesus.
Carrie Ann Examples:
Now, this sort of thing makes me think of my daughter, Carrie Ann as well. She is now almost 20 months old and she is learning what seems to be tens upon millions of things. She learns so much just from watching her mother and I or the TV or listening to music as she takes things in. She loves to dance, and lately one of her favorite games is to watch “Wheel of Fortune” and repeat the letters as they called out to both me and mommy.
Not all that long ago was her first attempts at mastering walking as well. What was so cute & funny was that she kept standing up, falling forward (almost on her face), and getting up to try over and over again. During this whole session she was the most determined little girl at learning to walk that I have ever seen. It was really interesting to watch, and sure enough after a short time she walked better and better. This is how it often is in this life and especially our faith walks; we learn and grow most from a process of doing something, perceivably failing or making mistakes, and remaining in the game; not giving up; trying again considering what we’ve learned.
What is the reason why infants can do this so well? Well, I sum it up with that they are innocent and not overcome by shame. They haven’t experienced the embarrassments, mocking, hurts, or whatever else that we have. They’re not concerned with failing or looking funny. Also, often they have an audience egging/cheering them on. WE HAVE THESE THINGS TOO IN CHRIST, in our foundation (identity) in Him! In Christ we are made innocent again as our sins are forgiven and He took our shame upon Himself. In Christ we stand forgiven and even become, as Paul says in II Corinthians 5:17, new creations as the old is gone and the new has come. To go along with this, we also have those who have gone before us as a cloud of witnesses to cheer us on in the faith.
Mainly, what Paul/I am trying to say here is that we must remember who and whose we are! You, as… (name of church), have a heritage in the Lord. You have had many people (and previous ministers) live out a sincere faith among you and who have sought to instill that in each of you along the way. Also, you have a denominational heritage along with just a faith heritage in general. Our heritages are important. They are part of who we are and something we can cling to/draw strength from. Also, though, we must remember whose we are as well! There’s a newer contemporary Christian song that I think of here by a band named Sanctus Real called “Forgiven”. The chorus for the song goes, “In this life I know what I’ve been, but here in your arms I know what I am… I am forgiven…, I don’t have carry the weight of who I’ve been cause I am forgiven…” This song reminds me that in Christ I am forgiven, I am made innocent again before and with God. I am reunited with God, reconciled to Him through faith in Christ. God loves me with undying love. I belong to Him. And by the power of the Holy Spirit He empowers me to live into that which I have been given in Christ.
What We Have in Christ:
That takes us to the next part of this message, for in remembering who/whose we must also remember what we’ve been given. For Paul says, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.” Firstly, Paul says we have been given a spirit of power. What is this power? Well, it’s a power that is in the Cross and is made perfect in weakness. If you recall, Paul explains in II Corinthians that he heard a message from Christ during a time of struggle that said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” This power of God is what Paul goes on to say to Timothy that has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This is a power that is revealed in Jesus Christ, in His life, death, and resurrection from the dead. Is there really any greater such power?
Secondly, we have been given a spirit of love. The Bible explains the love of Jesus as this; “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” And it is in this that we are commanded of by Jesus in John 15:12 to love each other as [He] loved us. Because Jesus so loved us, we are drawn and called to love others in His name. The best part is, there is no greater love in all of this life. The Spirit of this love lives in us and it is what is to be shown of us to the world. In this love we are reunited with God and with His people everywhere, we are called and able to live a new life, and restoration and redemption can happen in us and the world around us. There is no greater love!
Thirdly, we have been given a spirit of self-discipline. Now to understand what this means, I had to do a little searching. In Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary it defines discipline as, “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” and the word used here in the Greek describes “an admonishing or calling to soundness of mind, to moderation and self control.” This is the work that is taking place within us by the Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ. It’s a work by which we are molded, perfected into greater soundness of mind and character in our new selves/identities in Christ. This is the power of God working within us as we live into who/whose we are and encounter, become affected by, and live out the love we have in Christ Jesus our Lord. We are grown into our full potentials in who/whose we are.
3) Response to the Word: Remembering How to Live:
Finally then, after all this Paul encourages Timothy of how he is to respond to what he has written. Paul says, “So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me His prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the Gospel, by the power of God,…” This is Paul’s charge to Timothy in light of who/whose he is (his foundations) and the Spirit he has been given in the Lord (of love, power and discipline) and it stands as a charge for us also. We are called to this as well. Of this gospel Paul was appointed a herald, an apostle, and a teacher. Paul fanned into flame these callings even to the point of imprisonment and death. We too are all given, even appointed with certain gifts/callings and we must fan them into flame for the continued furthering of the Gospel of Christ. In this Paul encourages us that we might also be able to say along with him, “[we] know whom [we] have believed, and [are] convinced that He is able to guard what [we] have entrusted to Him for that day.” So therefore, know who/whose you are (strive to know this and be strengthened in this more and more). Also, know what you’ve been given in Christ; a spirit of power, love, & self-discipline (refinement). And in light of these things, no matter what, no matter the circumstances, no matter how things feel, look, or don’t make sense; fan into flame the gifts of God given you in Christ Jesus! And may God bring out the potential in you and expand His kingdom!