Stir Up the Fire
Paul was in Rome when he sent his second epistle to Timothy at Ephesus. As one reads this intimate letter, the miles between Paul and Timothy seem to disappear, and he can imagine, in spite of their separation, the old man and his son in the faith sitting together before a fireplace. One can almost visualize a kindly arm over Timothy’s shoulder as they discuss their problems together.
The coals seem to be turning black on the hearth and the flame to be only a flicker. The older man appears to arise, and taking the poker scatters the ashes and stirs up the fire.
As a father he says, “Now, my son, that is what I want you to do in a spiritual sense. Stir up the gift of God which is in you” (2 Tim. 1:6). Robertson says that in the Greek the words “to stir up” mean “to rekindle” the flame.
Paul discerned that such counsel was needful for the young Christian of his day. The Church was passing through troublous times. Paul was a prisoner. All they in Asia were turned away from him (2 Tim. 1:15). Since Ephesus was one of the Asian churches, Timothy would find himself in the midst of a hostile element because of his affection for Paul. Timothy, with his infirmities (1 Tim. 5:23), would also naturally be inclined to discouragement.
In all these trials Timothy had no one near to whom he could turn for the advice that strengthens. Through the only reference to him we learn that his father was a Greek; therefore, we assume that Timothy could not turn to him for needed spiritual help.
Paul, consequently, wrote this timely second letter to give his faithful young partner the necessary succour and fortitude. His loving heart overflowed and his strong arm was stretched out to embrace him as his dearly beloved son (2 Tim. 1:2).
Doubtless, some of our young readers feel the need of someone’s help for the problems currently arising in their lives. If so, Paul’s counsel is most suitable also for you, so pull up a chair before the hearth, and listen to the conversation.
Paul mentions some circumstances which might dampen the fire within the soul of the young warrior of the cross; he warns Timothy about being ashamed, afraid, and afflicted.
“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner” (2 Tim. 1:8). There is a danger of being cowardly in confessing Christ before the world; of hiding the fact that we belong to the Lord Jesus. It is not enough to be considered “religious”; we should testify for Him Who died for us, and Who now owns and controls us.
There is danger of being ashamed of the testimony of the Lord and of the assembly gathered in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Some groups may endorse unscriptural practices, and enjoy large memberships, varied activities, and social prominence. We should never lose our esteem for the company of believers who gather unto Himself alone, and who desire to carry out the full teaching of the Word of God.
Unlike Onesiphorus we may tend to be ashamed of those who are our brethren and sisters in Christ. He was not ashamed of Paul’s chain, but sought throughout Rome until he located him (2 Tim. 1:16-18). Paul tells Timothy, see that you, in like manner, are not ashamed of me.
What will keep us from being ashamed? Love. The young bride whose affections have been wholly won is not ashamed of her beloved; she is glad to disown all other names and be known by his alone. Her heart is so full of her lover that she cannot refrain from speaking of him to others. Similarly, love for Christ will counteract the natural timidity of the flesh and will enable us to witness for Him, to be content to identify ourselves with the place where He has put His name, and to enjoy fellowship with those who are redeemed by His precious blood. Paul could say, “I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed” (2 Tim. 1:12).
The flame would also be dampened, Paul suggests, if Timothy were afraid. Fear can deter us from being on fire for God. Timothy might have feared for the aged Apostle, for the Church, and for his own safety. Today, many dark clouds on the horizon tend to make us fear, but we must not become occupied with these things unduly.
What will counteract our fear? Faith! By placing our confidence in God, and by claiming His promises, we can enjoy the full assurance of faith. When faith takes us by one hand and love by the other, fear cannot walk with us. “I will trust and not be afraid” (Isa. 12:2).
Timothy is reminded of the faith of his grandmother Lois and of his mother Eunice (2 Tim. 1:5). It was unfeigned faith; it was genuine. Timothy has the example of Paul’s own faith in the Lord, and is also reminded of his own earlier faith. “God hath not given us the spirit of fear” (2 Tim. 1:6-7). Stir up the fire! Do not let the flame die out!
Paul also knows that if Timothy is afflicted, the young man’s spiritual gift might be left dormant, and his testimony might cease to burn brightly for the Lord. Many have run their Christian race well until faced with adversity. There is provision for counteracting this tendency. Hope! What will enable us to stir up the fire within us, even during affliction? The real and blessed hope of the Lord’s return! It is as a bellows to fan the flame of spiritual enthusiasm.
Paul himself, faced with a violent death, could say, “I am now ready to be offered.” He was confident of seeing the Lord, the righteous Judge, in that day (2 Tim. 4:6-8). The hope of the Lord’s return gives assurance of the resurrection from the dead (1 Thess. 4:13-18).
For those who will be passing through affliction at the Lord’s return, there will be immediate relief from distress. What a deliverance, to be caught up out of the storm of affliction into the calm of His glorified presence!
Paul also reminds Timothy of the reward for suffering (2 Tim. 1:12, 18, 4:1, 7-8). He speaks several times of ‘‘that day,” using this hope to stir up faltering Timothy to renewed exercise and activity for the Lord.
As we journey the stormy road of life, what an incentive it is to us when we get a glimpse of the glories of our heavenly home, and the prospect of being with our Eternal Lover!
Paul’s advice to Timothy, and to you and me, is summarized in this: Do not be ashamed, do not be afraid; lest your flame be quenched, and the Lord dishonoured. If you are afflicted, do not be overcome; let your love for the Lord, your faith in His word, and your hope of His soon return, all stir up the gift of God that is in you.
Keep your heart warm and the fire burning to the praise and glory of our beloved Lord.
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Nothing is so destructive of confidence in God as a questioning mind.
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It was said of General Gordon, that he gave one look around, then one look upward and he knew what to do.
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Elim (the place of rest) was more PLEASANT, but Marah, (the place of bitterness) was more PROFITABLE to Israel. A MIRACLE revealing the power and love of God occurred at Marah, but not at Elim.
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Let us search the Scriptures daily as the Bereans did (Acts 17, 11). A knowledge of the Word will preserve us from blindly accepting any teaching, even from an Apostle. The study of the Scriptures is a great privilege, as well as a sacred duty. A great many people, young and old, are woefully ignorant of the Word of God.