The Gospel of Grace
Terry Virgo leads the Newfrontiers team, which is currently serving over 700 churches in over 60 nations. He travels widely and has written several books, including No Well Worn Paths. he and his wife, Wendy, are based at Church of Christ the King, Brighton, UK.
2 Timothy 1:1 ff.
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus,
2 To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
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.
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.
13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
14 By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
The focus here is elements in the relationship between Timothy and Paul which are applicable to us today.
1. The history begins when Paul took notice of Timothy on a missionary journey, employed Timothy in the mission with him, and eventually sent him to lead the church in Ephesus. Timothy's tasks were scary, to be sure, including much confrontation of false teachers and church-splitters, as well as much teaching to instruct God's people how to live in light of the gospel (including church leadership, widows, and the rich), and how NOT to live in light of the law of God, but in the gospel of grace instead. This was a hard task Timothy was called to do, and on top of that doing the work of an evangelist. The challenge to him was phenomenal and no doubt he was overwhelmed as the bar was set higher and higher.
2. The second thing we see are the weaknesses he undoubtedly felt through his own limitations. Paul tells Timothy not to let anyone despise his youth (2 Tim. 2). Paul was probably around 40 years old or less when he was addressed as a "youth," regarded as young and inexperienced in the ministry, despite his service under Paul for so many years. So he needed to be aware of the constant challenge to his leadership. In addition, he was also timid, according to 1 Tim. 1.
He was prone to expressing a timid style, and was not to be ashamed of the Lord. Boldness was the need of the hour, despite how he felt. And when we look at who God chooses to serve His people, they are usually not the smart or wise or "leader-type" guys. In 1 Corinthians 16:10, Paul had to explain to the congregation not to frighten Timothy, which leads us to see a man who was timid in leadership. Did Paul pick the right man? Why does he send a man like this? Because there were values in this man Paul knew about, and Timothy was a man who didn't care for his own interests, but for the interests of the people he served. He didn't seek himself but was generally concerned for the people.
He was also prone to frequent ailments, according to 1 Timothy 5. So here's a guy whose young, timid, and often sick! This makes a man like Timothy ask, "who am I to serve God? I am scared, I'm young, and I'm frequently sick!" This can lead to despair and discouragement, eventually leading to defeat. So what do we think of this man in light of his task to represent the apostolic leadership of Paul.
The Provision for the Need: "fan into flame the gift of God that was given to you through the laying on of hands." Treading slowly through this phrase we find much that is helpful.
1. Look first at "the gift." It is not an expectation that presumably is a part of one's personality. It is a gift, therefore something someone does NOT deserve. A gift has nothing to do with worth. It has to do with grace. It's not a natural thing which comes as a result of one's education or experience. It is a GIFT! It is not natural, but other than you.
Terry recalled an encounter of seeing some paintings of Samson some time ago. In each of the paintings, he is painted with bulging muscles, calling our minds immediately to his muscles. Yet the Word of God clearly teaches that his strength came from God...it came from outside of himself. He was a walking enigma. He was especially undeserving, as we see in his lifestyle. Yet God's Spirit was poured out on him undeservedly and in overwhelming measure. The outpouring of the Spirit on Samson was a scandal of grace in every sense of the word.
Fan into flame the gift. "But I haven't done well." What's that got to do with it? "But I don't deserve this!" Of course, you don't. That's why it is a gift. Thinking of Simon Peter at the gate of the temple listening to the crippled beggar asking for money. Simon told him, "Look on me" and then commanded the man to get up and walk. Then later the man is told, "Don't look at me" which, though confusing, actually points to the truth that Simon Peter had nothing to do with that healing. God had everything to do with it. This came from the man who three months earlier denied three times that he knew Jesus. He got the gift of the Spirit based on grace, and nothing else.
Too often we look with adoration on others with a grand platform of ministry and suppose that they must have that platform because of their great teaching. It is a gift of God, and most of the time as very little to do with the natural abilities.
2. Look second at the gift "of God." It comes from God, and that makes the gift supernatural. It ONLY comes from God, and that makes it available from only one Source. We can't go anywhere else to get this gift. No books that we read or seminars that we attend can give it. Only God can.
Terry recalled his listening to a Bill Hybels tape one day as he was walking around. Hybels made a statement that God had given him a great gift of leadership. Terry responded with, "who do you think you are?" God reminded Terry that Hybels said that he'd received a "gift." Let's not belittle things that God gives.
3. Look finally at the phrase, "which was given to you by the laying on of hands." Timothy was reminded not to neglect or ignore this gift. People can be gifted but not take full advantage of the gift, and end up disregarding it, in the awareness of their timidity even.
Paul says that this gift was "in" Timothy. This recalls Jesus offering the woman at the well in John 4, not just a drink but a well itself of living water springing up inside of her. We can have a well inside of us, and that is given to us in the laying on of hands at the baptism of the Spirit. That baptism must be fanned into flame regularly, as Paul teaches in Ephesians 5 that we must keep on being filled with the Spirit. That supply is within us, on the inside, and we are to fan it into flame, singing to it, calling it to fresh life and action.
When we don't do this we don't cultivate a relationship with what God has put inside of us. Another passage that comes to mind is Luke 4 where Jesus preaches that the Spirit of the Lord had come upon Him and anointed Him. He wasn't describing a subjective feeling like, "I feel so anointed." Rather He was describing a historical fact. He was flooded with the Spirit. He went out in the power of the Spirit. He wasn't describing an experience He was currently feeling. He was proclaiming a reality about Himself.
When we have received the Spirit we must be aware of what God has given to us and not live as though we don't have the Holy Spirit with us. Learn to engage with the Spirit, communining with Him, having fellowship with Him. Jesus taught multiple times that He would only be with His disciples a little while longer. But one wonders how the disciples must have perceived that and felt about it. But Jesus' point was that when He was gone, the Spirit would be given and He could then commune with them all the time, fellowshiping with them forever.
So stop to review what like must have been like living with Jesus for three years. Everyday was an adventure, filled with wonder and excitement. To hear that He would no longer be around would easily leave a disciple to see life after Jesus as glum and despairing. Instead, the gift of the Spirit promised that such a lifestyle would simply continue, yet in more power and in greater effectiveness! "In the coming of the Spirit, Jesus Himself is returning" (Hendrickson, The Gospel of John). That is why it was better for them, as Jesus said, that He left them. Omnipresence does not mean a little bit of Jesus spread around everywhere. It means an overwhelming unleashing of the very presence and power of God for every person who follows Jesus.
This need of the Spirit is why Paul told Timothy, "Fan into flame..." There are times in a leader's life when, like David at Ziklag, the very people we lead will be ready to stone us to death. But how did David respond? He strengthened himself in the Lord. He fanned into flame, within his soul, the truth about God's promises and presence. As leaders we become burden-bearers who can faint beneath the pressure without comforting ourselves and strengthening ourselves in God. Fanning into flame this gift of the Spirit, this present-tense reality of being filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18), is what is necessary in order to stay strengthened for the labors of ministry.
It comes freely to us, despite our lack of deserving it. This produces unspeakable joy. It will never be taken away from us. This produces immeasurable confidence. Like George Mueller we must make it our chief duty everyday to make ourselves happy in God. The simplicity of this is even understood in the context of airplane instructions regarding the oxygen masks that fall from the ceiling in case of emergency. As adults we affix the mask to our own heads first so that we can see straight to help the children under our care. In the same way, we are responsible to strengthen and comfort ourselves first and foremost before helping others, or else we are really no good to them at all!
For Timothy it was not enough that Paul laid hands on him. This should show us that it doesn't matter WHO lays hands on you. What matters is the responsibility to fan it into flame. We must have partnership with it and engage in it. This is the final responsibility of the leader.
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