Stir Up the Fire, Not Your Fears
Topic: Holy Spirit Passage: 2 Timothy 1:1–1:7
Most all of us know what it is to experience fear or timidity. We might fear certain responsibilities, or certain social situations. We can fear conflict, or rejection or what people think of us. Or we can just fear life, and what might happen: financial loss or failure, or health problems, and on and on.
Paul wrote this to Timothy because he knew Timothy struggled somewhat with fear. This is evident here and in other scripture as well. Paul exhorted him to “Let no one look down on your youthfulness”. (IE Don’t be intimidated by those who think you are too young to do what you are doing.) And he wrote to the Corinthians, “when Timothy comes, see that he has no reason to be afraid while he is among you.” So it seems Timothy had a tendency towards timidity. I can identify with that and you maybe can too.
In our passage, Paul apparently felt that Timothy might let fear hold him back from fully using the gifts God had given him. And that happens a lot. Unless we deal with our fears, they will control us, and hinder us from doing things, going places, from being involved with people. Fear can even dominate our personalities, and our entire approach to life.
But God has something far better for us than fear! The Spirit He has given us replaces our very natural human fears with power, love and self control.
BUT, before we get into this more deeply, there are some things at beginning of this letter, that I don’t want us to miss.
First, Paul identifies himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ “by the will of God”. Paul wrote the NT letters with an authority that came directly from God.
It is spiritually dangerous to disregard what Paul wrote. Let’s take this passage for example. Paul’s first admonishment is to stir up our spiritual gifts and not let them be hindered by fear. IF we blow that off, and excuse our fears and timidity as something we can’t or won’t overcome, then we are actually dismissing Paul’s authority as a messenger of Jesus Christ.
The other obvious thing we see here is the affection Paul had for Timothy. Paul begins this letter, “To Timothy by beloved child”. Paul goes on to exhort Timothy to stir up his gift, and admonish him about his fears, but he does so with the affection of a father for his child. Paul expresses this affection for Timothy in several ways...
*He told Timothy “I thank God (for you). AS I REMEMBER YOU CONSTANTLY in my prayers night and day”.
*Their love for one another was so strong that when they last saw each other, they parted with tears! Paul told Timothy he remembered his tears and that he longed to see him again, and said that seeing him would fill him with joy.
*Paul also said, “I remember your sincere faith”. (which first was in your grandmother, Lois and in your mother, Eunice) And “I am sure it dwells in you, as well”. These were all said, as an encouragement to Timothy, to express how dear Timothy was to him, and to prepare him for what Paul had to say to him.
Paul shows over and over how our relationships to one another in the church are to be filled with affection and love and encouragement. In THAT atmosphere, instruction, teaching, admonishment takes place. Correction without affection is not God’s way. Truth without love just does not work! This is true in the church and in our homes.
After these expressions of love and tenderness, Paul gives his first challenge to Timothy. Verse 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, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
For what reason does Paul exhort Timothy? Because he loves him and because he has a genuine faith. And he knows Timothy has gifts from God to be put to use in serving others. Timothy was gifted to teach and preach. He was gifted to act as a messenger of Paul to the churches. Paul did not want Timothy to be hindered from using the gift God had given him due to fear. So he said, “Fan into flame the gift of God...for God did not give us a spirit of fear...” Paul was saying “Stir up the fire, not your fears!”
All believers have some gift, an ability from the Spirit to serve others. Paul said in 1 Cor. 12:7, “To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” To use Paul’s words, these manifestations of the Spirit are like a fire within us. And we are to keep the fire burning. Spiritual gifts CAN die down like a fire that has gone out or almost gone out. In Timothy’s case, the CAUSE for that was timidity. Fear is OFTEN the cause for spiritual inactivity, loss of zeal, and restraint in using our gifts. Fear quenches the fire of the Spirit!
We may want to get rid of our fears for lots of reasons. For example, fear feels terrible. It destroys our inner peace and joy. Fear can negatively impact our physical health. But MOST DAMAGING of all, fear can keep us from doing what God has called us to do, and equipped us to do, in the church, in our homes and in all of life.
Through fear, we can withdraw from others, from loving others, and from using our spiritual gifts to benefit others. Fear of people, fear of being rejected, can hinder us from being instruments of God’s Spirit.
David Guzik said, “Paul wrote this to Timothy because boldness matters(!);… without (boldness), we can’t fulfill God’s purpose for our lives. God’s purpose for is more than making money, being entertained, and being comfortable; it is for each of us to use the gifts He gives to touch His people and help a needy world.” Fear keeps us from touching people who need a touch and helping people who need help!
So...the message for us in verse 6 is: Stir up the gifts that God has given us and put them to use! Our gifts to not just work on autopilot. We are told to earnestly desire spiritual gifts. Then we are to apply diligence in using them.
Peter said, “As good stewards of the manifold grace of God, each of you should use whatever gift he has received to serve one another.” 1 Peter 4:10
Paul said “If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Romans 12:6-8
Let me encourage you this morning to fan into flame whatever gift God has put in you. (whether it seems very ordinary or very supernatural) Don’t settle for dying embers, for a flame that’s going out. That’s NOT okay! And remember - we are fanning into flame God’s gifts, NOT merely hyping ourselves up. We are fanning into flame the work of God’s Spirit in us, and the power and love that come from Him!
**Paul then reminded Timothy his gift came “through the laying on of my hands”. Back in 1 Timothy 4:14 Paul said, “Do not neglect the gift you have which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you”. So Paul, and this group of elders, were human instruments, by which Timothy received a gift from God.
1 Corinthians 12:11says “the Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills”. But the Spirit uses people. Gifts from God sometimes come to us through prayer and laying on of hands. It’s Biblical! We should not neglect having others pray for us to receive a gift that we might use to build up the family of God. We should not despise a prophetic message about a spiritual gift for us.
Of course people can make mistakes and the Holy Spirit is sovereign over the gifts we are given. But God still works through people to facilitate His work in us, and to help us identify our gifts.
Why does Paul mention this past experience when Timothy received his gift through prayer, laying on of hands and this word of prophecy? He brings it up in order to encourage him, to remind him that he DID have a gift. Sometimes we need encouragement that God HAS worked in us, that God HAS given us something.
Early on in my life, when I was still facing some uncertainty of what God had for me. A person came up to me and just said three words, “able to teach”. Sometimes when I have doubted that gift, I remember that.
If you recognize a gift in someone, share that with them. It can deeply encourage them. That encouragement may even help them fan into flame that gift and put it to use. It may help them overcome whatever fears were keeping them from fully using the gift of God within them.
**Verse 7 directs us AWAY from fear because, NOT only because fear quenches our service to the body, but because fear is not from God. “For God has NOT given us a Spirit of fear”. That is a wonderful promise. You can hide that promise in your heart and it will change your life! Fear is probably the most handicapping emotion we experience. But when fear strikes our heart, we can know for certain, THAT FEAR did not come from God.
Knowing that fear is NOT from God, empowers us to resist fear as an enemy rather than to live with it as a friend. If we are God’s children, we do not want things that are not from God. So that settles our mentality toward fear. We stand against it!
Perhaps our greatest mistake in dealing with fear is simply to accept it. To receive it, to justify it, without thinking “this is NOT from God!”.
We should never accept fear as God’s plan for us. We should not identity ourselves by fear or timidity or identify our personality as being fearful or timid. Of course we all feel fear at times. Paul did! I do. You do. We feel it as part of our human weakness! But the Christian life isn’t defined by our feelings! Fear may be an initial feeling but it is not the end of the story! Fear is something we overcome, we press through. We turn from fear to faith and trust in God.
Verse 7 “For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power, love and self control”. I side with those commentators who think Paul is referring to the Holy Spirit. It is not just that God has given us an attitude of power, or love. He has given us His Spirit and He is the Spirit of power and love and self control!
I think it is helpful to consider these contrasts that Paul makes: The Spirit is NOT this, He is THAT! The Christian life is NOT this, it is THAT. It is NOT fear it is power! God has given us a Spirit of power: The Holy Spirit does not make us timid, and fearful, but he give us power, strength and courage to face life and carry out our responsibilities.
The prophet Micah said, “But as for me I am filled with power— With the Spirit of the LORD— And with justice and courage To make known to Jacob his rebellious act, And to Israel his sin. That is the OT version of 2 Tim. 1:7.
Of course at times we feel shy or timid or afraid. But we are not to say that is just who I am. Begin to say, with Micah “But as for me, I am filled with power— With the Spirit of the LORD— And with justice and courage”.
*Instead of fear, God has given us a Spirit of love. God’s Spirit does not handicap us with fear. He moves us to action by love! The love of God, has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit and we are compelled to serve and bless others. We have the Spirit of love!
*Instead of fear, God has given us a Spirit of self-discipline. The KJV says “a sound mind” This word is only used once in the NT. It means prudence, or sound thinking that results in godly behavior. One commentator said the word means “control of ones self in the face of panic”.
A person living in fear makes lots of poor decisions. Fear destroys self-control! But the Spirit helps us keep our composure and maintain self discipline in the drama and uncertainties of life.
*Fear so easily becomes a god. And the things you fear become your master. The Lord understands our fears, and sympathizes with our weaknesses in this area. But it would be a mistake to think that God gladly puts up with our fears. (Or is satisfied with fear in our lives). God is strongly opposed to you and I living in fear! He commands this all over the Bible.
The Lord said to Joshua, “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
We we feel afraid, we must preach to ourselves that God is with us and he has given us a Spirit of power and love and self-discipline. We are to fan into flame the gifts of God within us and carry on courageously, and serve the church and the world and our families without fear.