by Mike Ratliff
13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:13-16 ESV)
The way the gospel is presented in our time is backward. It is focused incorrectly. Instead of focusing on what God has done for us who have nothing in and of ourselves to warrant it; the way the gospel is given ever since I can remember is to attempt to make it appealing as if people should decide to try Jesus for 30 or 60 days to see if He makes a difference. What a joke! What blasphemy! To be honest, the closer I get to the front lines in serving my Lord, the more our enemy attacks me. The more I suffer. The more problems I have. However, I do not serve my Lord to get away from that stuff. I serve Him for His glory and my Lord went to the Cross for me so how can I seek the easy way out here and now?
If a person wants Jesus for personal gain then they are seeking another Jesus, not the one I know. The one I know has given me something far more valuable than anything this world has to offer. I have eternal life in Him and no matter how bad the circumstances or attacks from our enemy or medical conditions I must bear in this life, I know that my part until it is over is to stir up the gift of God given to me by Him in order for me to serve Him to edify the Body of Christ and bring Him glory. Therefore, I open the Word of God and teach as He directs.
3 I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 4 As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. 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 gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:3-7 ESV)
3 Χάριν ἔχω τῷ Θεῷ, ᾧ λατρεύω ἀπὸ προγόνων ἐν καθαρᾷ συνειδήσει, ὡς ἀδιάλειπτον ἔχω τὴν περὶ σοῦ μνείαν ἐν ταῖς δεήσεσί μου νυκτὸς καὶ ἡμέρας, 4 ἐπιποθῶν σε ἰδεῖν, μεμνημένος σου τῶν δακρύων, ἵνα χαρᾶς πληρωθῶ, 5 ὑπόμνησιν λαμβάνων τῆς ἐν σοὶ ἀνυποκρίτου πίστεως, ἥτις ἐνῴκησε πρῶτον ἐν τῇ μάμμῃ σου Λωΐδι καὶ τῇ μητρί σου Εὐνίκῃ, πέπεισμαι δὲ ὅτι καὶ ἐν σοί. 6 δι᾿ ἣν αἰτίαν ἀναμιμνῄσκω σε ἀναζωπυρεῖν τὸ χάρισμα τοῦ Θεοῦ, ὅ ἐστιν ἐν σοὶ διὰ τῆς ἐπιθέσεως τῶν χειρῶν μου· 7 οὐ γὰρ ἔδωκεν ἡμῖν ὁ Θεὸς πνεῦμα δειλίας, ἀλλὰ δυνάμεως καὶ ἀγάπης καὶ σωφρονισμοῦ. (2 Timothy 1:3-7 GNT)
Paul tells Timothy that he thanks God for him and his sincere faith, which was also evident in his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. Because Paul was confident in the sincerity of Timothy’s faith, in v6, he reminds him ἀναζωπυρεῖν “to fire again to life” τὸ χάρισμα τοῦ Θεου “the gift of the God” ὅ ἐστιν ἐν σοὶ διὰ τῆς ἐπιθέσεως τῶν χειρῶν μου· “which is in you through the setting on of the hands of me.” For a summary of this event read 1 Timothy 4:13-16, which I placed at the top of this post. Paul is urging Timothy to do what? The word ἀναζωπυρεῖν refers “to keeping the fires alive.” Timothy had received spiritual gifts to serve the Body of Christ. Paul is concerned here with Timothy’s gifts of preaching, teaching, and evangelizing. All believers are stewards of the God-given gifts given to them. It is sinful to let them fall into disuse.
In v7 Paul gives us a hint of why Timothy may have been not using his gifts as he should have been. The word Paul used here that is translated as “fear,” δειλίας, can also be translated “timidity” or “cowardice.” It denotes a cowardly, shameful fear caused by a weak, selfish character. Timothy could have become more timid as the threat of Roman persecution escalated. Also, the Ephesian church resented Timothy’s leadership. This coupled with the many attacks from false teachers could have overwhelmed him. Paul is telling Timothy here that if he is withdrawing in fear then this “Spirit of δειλίας” is not from God. Instead, God has given us the πνεῦμα δυνάμεως καὶ ἀγάπης καὶ σωφρονισμου, the spirit of power and of love and of sober mind (self-control).
Instead of being fearful, we have all the spiritual resources we need for every trial and threat. This does not mean we will not have problems, attacks, or threats, but that we will have the right resources from Him to meet them. The Love here, ἀγάπης, centers on pleasing God and seeking what is best for others before one’s self. The mind-set σωφρονισμου is actually the opposite of fear and cowardice. The spirit of fear causes disorder and confusion. This spirit does the opposite. Why? It focuses on the sovereign nature and perfect purposes of our eternal God. Why is this important? When we more fully understand the sovereignty of God and surrender to it in more and more of our lives, the more godly wisdom and confidence in every situation we will have because we will be fully in line with Him and His will instead of being tossed in every direction by our circumstances.
How do we fan into flames the gift given to us by God that He gave us to enable us to serve the Body of Christ and bring Him glory? We must reject the πνεῦμα δειλίας, the spirit of fear, while embracing the πνεῦμα δυνάμεως καὶ ἀγάπης καὶ σωφρονισμου, the spirit of power and of love and of sober mind. We reject what is not from God and embrace that that we know is from God. This is huge. I suffer from a seizure disorder. Its worsening has coincided almost exactly with God’s elevation of this ministry. I have had several seizures since this condition returned in September last year. In fact, I had one just a week ago. I became spiritually fearful. I was bold when I wrote and taught, but the rest of the time I was not doing so well. I saw a picture of myself holding my grandson last week. It was about three days after the seizure. I looked haunted or worried. What has changed? I had a long talk with my brother about spiritual things. We talked about the spirit of fear and what this does to the boldness of those in ministry. I discovered that my physical symptoms had actually gotten worse. I felt awful. I felt all bound up. He, my wife, my daughter, my son-in-law, and my mother all laid hands on me last week and prayed for the spirit of fear to be gone. My brother did pray for my healing, that I would have no more seizures. That would be awesome, but I am celebrating the fact that the joy of Lord is most certainly back. I am no longer all bound up. The spirit of fear is gone. The boldness I have now is now also accompanied by a joy that is profound. The gift given to me by God has been fanned into flames!
8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, 12 which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. (2 Timothy 1:8-12 ESV)
The more God uses us in the Kingdom, the more we will be partakers in the suffering for the gospel by the power of God. This is just the way it is. Notice that our salvation and our calling are for God’s purposes not ours nor are they according to our works. When we have this mindset, we can endure anything.
Soli Deo Gloria!