October 2, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“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 the Spirit God gave us does not make us weak but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony concerning our Lord or of me His prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.” (2 Timothy 1.6-8)
How do we move out of the “great” mindset, which the world has surely misinterpreted from the original intent as a vocabulary could encapsulate, to “good” which the world has softened in its desire and impact upon the whole of life? As we saw in the teaching of Jesus, those who misuse, abuse or confuse the Law and the Prophets will be considered as those who are “least” in the Kingdom of God. In this application, that person is of “no good” or is more aptly “up to no good.” They would be considered as “great” by those who champion the intent of diffusing the Word of God, such as we often see Satan do in His quoting of scripture, or as “far from greatness” by those who champion the Word of God in light of its blessing and reconciling impact on those who are struggling in this world feeling far from both God and the Kingdom of God with its righteousness but being brought near. However, those who use, promote and infuse the Word of God into applications of redemption and evangelism with little regard to self before others are exclaimed as being known and will be known as “great” in the Kingdom of God in Heaven and on earth. The obvious resolve to be disciples of Jesus the Christ through the sharing of the Holy Spirit is more than “possession of the spirit of the gospel.” That resolve is to accept the power of God to direct, engage and enforce the will of God to do good and be good as we were always meant to be. Bearing this in mind, Paul admonishes Timothy to recognize “God does not create us in weakness, nor inspire us with weakness, nor commission us to be weak.” Some translations interpret weakness, the anglicized word used from the Greek text, eisegetically (meaning “rising from an understanding based on personal views and experiences”) to be heard as “timidity, becoming timid or consumed by fear due to loss or compromise.” The countermand of Paul is never misinterpreted, however, to say anything other than “God has given us power.” We certainly all have our powerless moments and experiences resulting in bondage to fear which does not honor God nor is expressed in awe concerning God. That kind of fear is paralyzing. It holds our heart, mind, body, soul and spirit as a prisoner in darkness. It blinds us to the “way, truth and life” which Jesus Christ Himself represents and by which He declares is the only means to see, approach and dwell with God now and forever. It is the kind of fear and powerlessness that Paul believed Timothy was wrestling with.
Paul’s recipe for overcoming such fear was to remind him of what he already knew. He was the product of a physical and spiritual legacy. As such, Timothy and Paul had many things in common, such as:
- Mixed parentage. Both Paul and Timothy had Jewish mothers and Jewish converts as fathers (Paul’s father was Roman and Timothy’s father was Greek.) In Jewish thought, the heritage of being Jewish actually descends through the mother’s side of the family. There is reason to believe that this is not intended to lessen the importance of the father and his heritage of being Jewish (for those who had Jewish fathers). Rather, it is the promotion of woman as the seed of faith bearer with the seed coming from God/God’s representative. Sadly, we do not hear much, if anything, of their fathers beyond the fact that they existed and with them certain rights and opportunities were passed on to their sons.
- Good education. We know that Paul was raised up under the tutelage of Gamaliel. He was versed in Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin and Greek. He was a theologian, philosopher and an apologeticist of the Law and Prophets and of the gospel. Timothy may not have been raised in a Pharisaic environment but there is little doubt of his acumen for disciplined thinking and reasoning having a greek father. He was exposed to dialectics and process thinking. It would not have been beyond the realm of possibility that he was well-versed in Socratic and Aristotelian thinking. They were both eloquent speakers and critical thinkers.
- They both were prisoners. Paul’s prisoner identity is documented in his letters which are then anecdotally recounted in the gospel of The Acts of the Apostles. In fact, these letters to Timothy may well have been the last he wrote before his death by execution. But, it is in these letters to Timothy that we experience Timothy’s imprisonment to his own fear. We may call it anxiety, cowardice, self-deprecation or timidity. Paul addresses it with an awareness of “fear and weakness.” It was for Paul an empathetic awareness. We do not get a sense that Paul was ever weak or filled with fear. Those in the early Church, especially in Antioch, were the ones filled with fear and reduced to weakness because of his history as Saul of Tarsus. We see it in Ananias’ response to the revelation of God in Christ Jesus as He directed him to care for the former Saul of Tarsus now to be Paul of Christ. But, Paul saw this time in his life before his conversion to be the evidence of his fear and weakness. He used the “letter of the Law” as his crutch and as a whipping stick. He legalism was the façade for the lack of an authentic awareness and relationship with the One True God. He did not, of course, recognize this until he came face to face with the Risen Lord, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God and his Messiah. It was then that he knew of God’s mercy and grace by which he had been saved. It was this experience he drew upon as he now ministered to Timothy.
- They were both blessed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Paul was anointed by Ananias. The elders in Antioch laid hands on Paul and invested in him the Holy Spirit of God by faith in Jesus as the Christ. The scales of his past fell from his eyes and he saw the truth for the very first time. But, he was also in a season of discipleship for several years after that as he learned and practiced his new calling retooling old skills into new opportunities. Paul reminds Timothy that he had been given the same spirit by the laying on of hands, Paul’s hands. Timothy had the gift of faith passed on to him from his grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice. They were strong Jewish women who had converted to the Way, the community of faith in Christ, and raised him with that same faith. But, now it was time for Timothy to truly take charge of his spiritual life. Just as some of the disciples “doubted” their calling as they gathered in the presence of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration before His ascension, so now Timothy was in a season of doubt. Reality has a way of doing this even to those who have the blessing and empowerment of the Holy Spirit; and that included Paul, Peter and Jesus of Nazareth (but only for a moment in the Garden.)
Now was the time in Timothy’s life, and ministry, to move from a sense of greatness (which he experienced as a church leader and evangelist with the support of his mentor and spiritual father, Paul) to a reality of goodness (doing what was right in the sight of God without regard to the acclaims of human beings.) It was time for Timothy to make that hard but necessary decision of who he was and whose he was. In this regard, Paul reminded Timothy of the faith of his grandmother and mother, the tears of compassion and longing shared with Paul at their last meeting and the baptism of the Holy Spirit which still burned in him and between them. Paul’s urging of Timothy to “fan the flames” was the challenge point of making that decision. “Fire” is a powerful element. It refines. It defines. It consumes. It determines. It illumines. It strikes fear. It heals. It strengthens. It saves. Timothy must “fan the flames” which are already there or else allow them to become dying embers and finally only ashes to return to ashes as dust returns to dust. His own lungs must become the bellows to build up the fire just as the faith of one believer is intended to build up the faith of another until they both and all achieve the goodness of being the worthy body of Jesus the Christ who is the head of the body of faith. In that flame is forged the double-edged sword of the Word which is Jesus Christ who is spirit and truth, peace and justice, goodness and righteousness and the name which is above all other names with power, dominion and authority granted to those who believe in Him and call upon His name as He calls theirs. In that flame is seen the light of the world which the darkness fears and keeps at a distance and essentially flees from the light of mercy and grace which saves all those who stay in the light from the eternal darkness of doubt and fear. In the fire, which is of the Holy Spirit, there is no weakness. It is a powerful witness and testimony to life and death and life to come. Paul’s charge and challenge to Timothy is a strong testimony to what is in Timothy. The battle for truth is real as Paul well knows. But, the battle goes to those whose strength is in the Lord Jesus. It is His joy that is the believer’s strength. It is His strength which is the believer’s joy. And in that joy and strength, which the world has no power over unless it is surrendered up and away, there is life eternal and abundant. Even in the midst of hardship, trial, tribulation, persecution and the confrontation in the world with unbelievers and disbelievers, there is hope already satisfied by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus as the Christ. This is the gospel. This is the good news. This is the rally cry to move forward and outward and do what is right and good as servants of God and to one another. And in the life of Timothy, Paul saw it was time to rally. I believe Paul would say it to you and me at this time in our lives, too. We are not created with a spirit of fear, panic and weakness. We have been given a spirit of strength, confidence and peace. Trust in it, breathe it in and out, live it in spirit and in truth and, in the words of former Coach Jim Valvano “Never give up. Never…give…up.” As I said the other day, the title of greatness will be conferred at the end of our lives when we stand before the Throne of God recognized for our humble and obedient service to others. It will be determined by the good that we have been in the lives of others to help them become who they truly are in the sight of God in the image of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a life worthy of living to the fullest.
Father, You have breathed into us not just the ability to live but to have life and have it in kingdom abundance. Your breath in us declares we have value and worth which cannot and dare not be determined by the ways of the world. We offer ourselves to You now as we fan the flames of truth about who and whose we are so that Your Will be done for the welfare of others with whom we dwell, serve and share the good news of great joy which is the strength of the Lord in and for our lives. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.