To Timothy, my beloved child:
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
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. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. 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. 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 God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:2-6
Paul wrote this letter right at the end of his life. He knew this was the end, knew this would probably be his last letter to his son in the faith, Timothy. And Timothy was struggling. He was in a really difficult spot, facing a task that was too big for him. He didn’t have the resources, he didn’t have the time, he didn’t have the help he needed. He was drowning in ministry, and he was afraid. Maybe you’re in a similar spot. Facing something that’s too big for you. Lacking resources. Afraid.
This is a pretty famous Scripture – fan into flame the gift of God. If you grew up in the church you know it, and it might even be too familiar. Some passages are like that, you’ve read them so many times you think there’s nothing more to learn from it. But if you ask the Holy Spirit to bring revelation, He will! So let’s take a closer look! What does it really mean to fan something into flame? When you fan coals or embers, you’re pushing oxygen molecules over them in great quantities – wave after wave. Whoosh, whoosh – you’re overloading the coals with the oxygen, and what does fire eat? Oxygen. You’re feeding it the thing that it survives on, the thing that makes it grow, the thing that it can’t live without.
Paul knew that for Timothy to face the challenge ahead of him, he would need a bigger flame. His fear wasn’t wrong – he was not able to do what needed to be done, that was true. But he didn’t need Paul to come fix it. He didn’t need more education or money or time in his schedule. He needed oxygen. I believe the oxygen that Timothy needed, and the oxygen that we all need, is the Presence of God. You need wave after wave of intimacy with the Lord if you want to grow a fire big enough to survive. It’s in His presence that you are transformed, that everything falls into place and you see things with the right perspective. It’s in His presence, in an encounter with the living God, that your heart comes alive and you get filled with love from the very source of love itself.
When you have an encounter with the Lord, your gifts increase. The increase in gifting is a byproduct of intimacy with the Lord. When you fail to invest in an intimate relationship with God, your gifts begin to starve and dry up, like a fire deprived of oxygen. What can you do today to feed your gifts?
Beloved you can wait for a providential wind to kick up, you can hope that someone else blows on it, or you can get up and fan that flame. No one else is going to pursue God for you, it has to be something you choose to lean in to. Lean in with worship, lean in with Scripture, and lean in by saying yes to the Holy Spirit. Lean in because you’re hungry, because you want more, because you believe that God is faithful to meet you where you are. Timothy’s fear was telling him the truth – that he wasn’t able to meet the need. But it lied to him about the solution. Fear is a liar, and it will extinguish any flame if you soak in it long enough. Fear will tell you whatever will work to stop you from leaning in. So lean in anyways.
It seems that Timothy took Paul’s advice, and leaned into God’s presence. He continued to lead the church in Ephesus for close to 50 years before he was martyred as an old man. The flame of his gifts led a diverse church through an incredibly tumultuous season, and saw the explosion of the gospel across the world. You see, fanning into flames isn’t about striving, or trying to make something miraculous happen, it’s recognizing that the gifts you have will only survive when you feast on the presence of God. So pull up a seat, Beloved. The table is set!