As autumn nudges closer to winter, the wood-burning stove is about to be lit again.
Those who have open fires or stoves in their homes will know that the process of setting the fire begins with clearing out the ash. The fire needs to breathe. The debris from previous fires prevents the flow of air, which is so necessary for the flames to explode into life. The sight, sounds, smell, and heat of the fire can only be enjoyed when the rubbish has been removed.
Who has set a fire and not known the pleasure derived from the fire living, or the frustration of it sputtering and dying? Often some intervention is required to draw out the flames or fan the embers into life.
As the Apostle Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy, he used this imagery to encourage his younger friend.
“This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you” (2 Timothy 1:6 NLT).
The implication is that Paul was concerned that Timothy had allowed his spiritual gift to go cold, or perhaps even to lie dormant. It was not a question of whether Timothy possessed a spiritual gift. The issue was whether he was using it. Once received, the gift cannot be lost.
“For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn” (Romans 11:29 NLT).
Paul had also written to the church at Corinth and taught them that God gives every Christian a spiritual gift for the benefit of others.
“A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other” (1 Corinthians 12:7 NLT).
Am I using the spiritual gift which God gave to me? If it is to be used for the benefit of others, who are they in my life? How are they being helped by me?
For Timothy, his issues seemed to be with fear. Paul was in prison and encouraged Timothy not to be afraid or ashamed of the Gospel, or of Paul. If fear was dampening the flame of Timothy’s spiritual gift, Paul told him that this did not come from the Lord. He had to get rid of it and rely on the power of God.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7 NLT).
“So don’t be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, or of me his prisoner. Instead, share in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:8 CSB).
Perhaps my spiritual gift is lying dormant and needs to be fanned into flames. The debris and clutter of modern life needs clearing out to make space for my spiritual gift to function. The dreaded “self-discipline” challenge is always relevant. When my stove is burning nicely and I am enjoying the fire, it is always a temptation to not bother tending the flames and keeping the air flow clear.
It is easier to sit back and be passive rather than stir myself and get to work. Such complacency only has one outcome – the fire goes out.
Is it time to get the bucket and shovel out and clear out the fear, anxiety, lust, greed, laziness, pride, whatever it may be, and let my spiritual gift have room to breathe?