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Sunday, January 14, 2018

posted Jan 14, 2018, 6:48 PM by Site Administrator

FAN INTO FLAME THE GIFT OF GOD

2 Timothy 1:1-12

Key Verses 1:6,7

 

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 did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

 

       We thank God for giving us this chance to study the book of 2Timothy. In the book of Acts, we see the apostle Paul going to Rome in chain. He stayed in a rented house in Rome, teaching the Bible to everyone who came to see him, including the guards. During this time, he wrote "Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon." After that, he was tried, and was found innocent; so he was released. That was AD 62 or 63. So, Paul served God's work in Rome, and other surrounding countries - Crete, Miletus, Corinth and Nicopolis in Greece, and Troas and Ephesus in Asia (Titus 1:5; 3:12; 1Ti 1:3; 2Ti 1:17;4:9-20)  - that was his fourth missionary journey; he left Timothy in Ephesus, and Titus in Crete to serve the church there during this journey. He also wrote 1 Timothy and Titus from Nicopolis in Greece (Titus 3:12). Then, he was imprisoned the second time around 66 - 67, during the Emperor Nero's persecution. Unlike the first imprisonment when he was allowed to stay in a rented house with the guards, this time, he was put in a dungeon - dark, humid and cold. There, sensing that his mission had been completed and that his life was nearly at an end, he wrote 2Timothy. 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus are pastoral epistles, in which Paul instructed these pastors how they should conduct themselves as pastors for the church of God. We are shepherds and shepherdesses, taking care of God's flock. So, the teachings of these books are very applicable for us. May God bless us to learn how we must serve God's work through studying the book of 2Timothy.

 

       First, "Fan into flame the gift of God" (1-7). Look at verses 1 and 2. "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, v2 To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord." In Christ Jesus, there we find a special promise of God for all those who accept Jesus as the Savior - the promise of life. It is the promise of God that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have life, eternal life. This is an amazing promise - the promise of life, zoe. This promise is given to everyone who believes in him; so, according to this promise of God, we enjoy a new life, eternal life. But Paul says that he became an apostle of Jesus Christ according to this promise of life. It means that when this promise of life was applied to him, he became an apostle of Jesus Christ. This shows that the promise of life gives us not only eternal life, but also it makes us apostles of Jesus Christ. When you believe in Jesus, you receive two things according to the promise of life - one is eternal life, and the other is apostleship. Thus, all those who believe in Jesus come to enjoy eternal life and live as Jesus' apostles - they no longer live as bread seekers, but as apostles of Jesus Christ; thus, in Jesus Christ, God's mission is bestowed upon us, and our position as God's missionaries is restored as God originally planned in the beginning. According to this promise of life, you are sent into the world to represent Jesus, and take care of his business in this foreign country.

 

       The recipient of this epistle was Timothy. Paul calls him, "My dear son," showing his affection on him. Paul writes, "v3 I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers." Paul was in a dungeon, dark, humid and cold. In 4:13, Paul writes to Timothy, "When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas..." Why did he need the cloak? Because it was very cold in the dungeon. In that difficult situation, there was one thing that made Paul happy and thankful. It was Timothy. Paul says, "I thank God... as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers." Whenever he prayed for Timothy, he was thankful. Why? Paul says, "Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy." The first thing that came to Paul's mind about Timothy was "his tears," showing that Timothy was a man of tears. When he heard some sad story, he shed tears; when he saw a blind beggar, he shed tears. When he shared his testimony, he shed tears; when he heard others' testimonies, he shed tears. His heart was so tender and he was so compassionate that he sensed others' pains and sorrows and shed tears. He was that kind of person. When Paul thought about his tears in his prayer, he was very thankful for his tender, merciful and compassionate heart. Recalling his tears, in his prayer, Paul, sometimes, was happy, sometimes, smiling, sometimes, giggling, and sometimes, laughing. Timothy was such a beautiful and precious person to him because of his tears. Recalling his tears, Paul longed to see him, so that he might be filled with joy. He was sure that, if Timothy saw him in prison, he would certainly shed tears! He also says, "I have been reminded of your sincere faith,..." Timothy was a sincere person. He had sincere faith; about his faith, about his life of faith - how he lived and what he did. In serving God's kingdom work together, Paul must have been encouraged and comforted by Timothy's sincere faith. Timothy was reliable and trustworthy. Paul understood that this good quality of Timothy was due to the good influence of his grandmother and mother who believed in Jesus with a sincere heart.

 

       How do people feel when they remember you? Feel burdened and worried? Or feel happy and thankful? Timothy's example shows us how we must live our life as people of God - obedient, loving and compassionate with sincere faith.

 

Look at verses 6 and 7. Let's read these verses together:

   

v6 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. v7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

 

       In Paul's eyes, Timothy was well equipped and prepared to serve God's work greatly, because he was such a compassionate person and had sincere faith. Moreover, God gave him his gift so that he could do God's work effectively. Everything was ready for him to do mighty works of God. But because of one problem he had, he remained largely ineffective as God's servant. So, Paul urged him, saying, "Fan into flame the gift of God." It means to make the gift of God active and maximize its function. Fire was there, and now in order to make it flame up, you blow on it - fan into flame the gift of God. 

 

       "The gift of God" refers to the Holy Spirit. Contemporary English version translates this sentence, "God's Spirit doesn't make cowards out of us. The Spirit gives us power, love, and self-control." Another version (GNB) writes, "For the Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid; instead, his Spirit fills us with power, love, and self-control." What does it mean to have "a spirit of power"? It means that you are powerful, passionate and zealous in words and actions, challenging courageously despite odds. Jesus explains its meaning and purpose very clearly in Acts 1:8, saying, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth." Jerusalem was a dangerous city for the disciples to stay, let alone doing God's work, because the authorities, after killing Jesus, were now looking for them to kill them; they were Jerusalem's most wanted and policemen were after them. So, the disciples were hiding behind the locked doors. But when the Holy Spirit came on them on the day of Pentecost, the apostles picked up such confidence, courage and zeal for God's work that they went out and preached that Jesus was the Christ openly and publicly. That's the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit empowrs us to be witnesses of Jesus Christ. College students who used to be so scared about their security matter and finals, go out and do God's work freely and wholeheartedly. That's the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. What about in deep pains and sorrows due to many failures and losses, yet, after praying, they rise and do God's work wholeheartedly? That's the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. We all want to stay home and enjoy comfortable family life with our spouse and children - without God's intervention, all people pursue that kind of life - such a life is empty and meaningless; such people are all full of regret. But God gives us the Holy Spirit so that we may not live that kind of cursed life, but a powerful life of serving God's work as witnesses of Jesus Christ. God wants us to fan into flame the gift of God so that we may be really powerful, really zealous and wholehearted in doing God's work.

 

       In verse 7, Paul describes the gift of God, the Holy Spirit as "a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline." God giving us "a spirit of love" means that we can be so compassionate, sympathetic, understanding, caring and merciful. Before, we were not loving; we could not love even those who loved us; instead, we broke their hearts and made them shed a lot of tears in pain. But now God has given us a spirit of love - our humanity is restored, our heart is responsive, and we can love our family members, our brothers and sisters in Jesus, and students on our campuses freely; we live a very sacrificial life for God and his flock. We thank and praise God for changing us such selfish and self-centered people into sacrificial and loving shepherds for God's flock. Great change has occurred in our life because of God's grace. Now God encourages us to fan into flame a spirit of love so that our love may be complete for God, for God's flock and for God's people. Indeed, we are now participating in God's characters.

 

       A spirit of self-discipline makes you so diligent, patient, faithful, being able to focus on the task and completing it; it makes you abide by the rules and regulations, obedient, not rebellious, not lazy, not out of control,... With a spirit of self-discipline, you become reliable, effective, cooperative, and thereby, productive and useful. God gives us his gift so that we may become this kind of person - powerful, loving and diligent. So, fan into flame the gift of God.

 

       One interesting thing here is that the gift of God is the Holy Spirit, and it is also described as a spirit of power, love and self-discipline with a small letter "s" indicating our own spirit - the Holy Spirit when He lives in us, is directly related to our own spirit, and it is "we" who should pick up momentum, zeal and passion to fan into flame the gift of God - the Holy Spirit. Fanning into flame the gift of God is different than just standing there with hands up, and saying, "Give me the Holy Spirit! Empower me." Instead, God instructs us that we should, and we can fan into flame the Holy Spirit, coming up with our heart's determination that we will serve God's will wholeheartedly even in challenging situations. When we pick up such zealous spirit and pursue God's work wholeheartedly, the Holy Spirit works in and through us powerfully, and great salvation work occurs. Then, as a necessity rises, the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in and through us, doing many miraculous things. You already have the Holy Spirit - the gift of God - and you need to fan into flame God's gift, by coming up with your heart's complete determination that you will serve God only and wholeheartedly no matter what, and dedicate yourself to God's will and purpose with such passion. You show that kind of decisive and zealous and passionate spirit, then, the Holy Spirit works and manifests Himself in and through you freely. Fan into flame the gift of God!

 

       Second, "Join with me in suffering for the gospel" (8-12). Look at verse 8. Let's read this verse together:

 

"8So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God."

 

       In those days, Christianity was persecuted by the Roman Empire. The persecution from the government was very painful and harsh. They were caught and killed in Coliseum publicly. Being a Christian meant a lot of sacrifice, loss and sufferings. So, many believers shrank back and stopped talking about the Christ. Many deserted their faith. But Paul encouraged Timothy not to be ashamed to testify about Christ Jesus, even if he might be humiliated, even if he might remain poor. Instead, he urged Timothy to join with him in suffering for the gospel. Paul loved Timothy as his son. If he truly loved Timothy, it seemed that he should have asked Timothy to flee as quickly as possible so that Timothy might not have any suffering. That's what all parents wish for their children. Why then, did Paul ask his beloved son Timothy to join with him in suffering? It was because suffering for the gospel is something really glorious.

 

       In the world, success and achievements are what people brag about. But in Christ, that's not always the case. When some people challenged him about his apostleship, Paul could have talked about how many disciples he had established and how many churches he had planted; but instead, he just talked about how much he had suffered for the gospel. For God's people, suffering for the gospel becomes their glory. We hear the story of God's servant who gave up a comfortable life as a judge, but became a missionary, working at Tacobell at $3.25 per hour. How does it sound? It sounds glorious and we are really amazed. We hear so many stories of God's people about how they serve God's work despite great sufferings; then, their sufferings for the gospel become their glory. What about a sister who had no bus money that she walked to school taking 2 hours, for fishing and Bible study? It's glorious. Some of our shepherds and shepherdesses visit school after long day's work, and even though there are not that many students, they struggle hard to fish students; that's suffering, and it is glorious. We receive many rejections and some young kids ridicule us, but we keep doing God's work; that's suffering, and it is glorious. Great success and achievements we don't like to talk about, because we feel really shy about them, for we know that it is God who has done all those things. But in our testimony, we are happy to talk about all the sufferings and pains we had for the gospel, saying, "But God helped me to go on continually by faith," and people say, "Amen." Suffering for the gospel is our glory. Yet, still, it is not easy to encourage anyone to join in suffering for the gospel; instead, when anyone is in suffering, we want to comfort, saying, "God will help you." But Paul encouraged his beloved disciple Timothy to join with him in suffering for the gospel. Paul encourages us to join with him in suffering for the gospel. Those who suffer for the gospel are really blessed, because, in time, their suffering for the gospel will turn to be their glory in Jesus Christ. Fishing at school is suffering. Wrestling with sheep is suffering. Doing God's work despite all challenges inside and out is suffering. Let's not be ashamed to be poor for the gospel - it will turn out to be our glory. Let's not be ashamed to be ridiculed by some people - it too will turn out to be our glory. Let's not be ashamed to be persecuted by our family members. Let's join with all God's people in suffering for the gospel.   

 

       Paul says, "Join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God." Choosing disgrace rather than honor, choosing suffering rather than a comfortable life, is not something we can do naturally. Naturally, we want comfort and security, success and luxury, instead of suffering. But with God strengthening us, God’s people can choose to let go of such a desire for success, and choose even disgrace for Jesus. How? When God’s grace is given us; when the word of God touches our hearts personally; when we experience God’s grace deeply in prayer; when we hear God’s voice,… then all those worldly and physical desires that have captured us tightly are shattered to pieces and we are set free to love God and obey God’s command. By the power of God, we can join in suffering for the gospel freely.

 

Look at verses 9 and 10. Let's read these verses together:

 

9who has saved us and called us to a holy life-- not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

 

       This passage describes the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ very well. Here, Paul describes God as the one who has saved us and called us to a holy life. These are what God has done for us - his salvation and calling to a holy life. Why did he do so? Paul says, "not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace." We didn’t deserve this kind of favor or a new chance, because we were sinful, lowly and ignoble; fundamentally, we were objects of God's wrath. But God, based on his own decision and purpose, chose to save us, and called us to a holy life; even before we ever demonstrated our worth, even before we did anything good for him, He already chose us, saved us and called us to a holy life. This shows that He is good, and his intension for us is only good. God saved us and called us to a holy life. This is grace.

 

       These two blessings - God's salvation from misery and God's calling to a holy life - are God's grace given to each of us in Jesus Christ. God's salvation is God's grace that gives us a second chance; so don't mess up again. God's calling to live a holy life is God's grace that blesses us to live as children of God. The word, "holy" means, simply, "different." We must live this new life in Jesus in a different way than we used to live - no more selfish and self-seeking life, but the life that is for God. We must live our life differently than the way the people of the world live. How? By living according to God's words! By living in obedience to God's will and purpose! Many people abuse God's grace of salvation, regarding it as a license to sin. Also, many people consider God's calling as something burdensome, saying that such calling or mission is for only some special people like pastors or missionaries, but not for them. But we receive this salvation and calling from God at the same time. When there is God's salvation in someone's life, then, there is God's calling for that person to live a holy life. Simply, God saved us so that we can live a holy life. Romans 1:5 says, "Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship..."

 

       Paul says that this grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time. Paul received his calling while he was on the way to Damascus when he was a young man. But Paul's understanding was that it was only revealed to him at that moment, but God had had a plan for him even before the beginning of time. This new life in God is not something that happened in our lives by accident or instantaneously, but according to God’s set plan he had even before the beginning of time. It didn’t happen because of our shepherd’s choice or good luck, but everything happened according to God’s plan that had been set before the beginning of time. This shows that he knew us when we were born; he knew us when we were wandering in sin and darkness; he had followed us wherever we went. It means that he arranged all things so that we could finally open our hearts to him and turn to him in repentance; he knew us. While we were going astray, we were not alone, but God followed us to such lowly and dark places, protected us and brought us back to him. God’s grace upon us is indeed marvelous. This salvation we enjoy, this calling we have in Christ then, are absolute. By the will of God, I am saved; by the will of God I am a shepherd today; by the will of God I am serving God's work. I have been known to Him all this time.

 

       In verse 10, Paul explains how this plan of God for us, which he had had even before the beginning of time was revealed, saying, "it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." This grace of God that he saved us and called us to a holy life has been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Jesus. How? By him destroying death and bringing us life and immortality through the gospel - his death and resurrection. God’s grace that had started even before the beginning of time was fulfilled and given to us through the gospel of Jesus. Through the gospel, God's grace of salvation and calling to a holy life is given to all peoples on earth. This is the importance of Jesus our Savior. This is the importance of the gospel. All people must hear this good news of Jesus Christ, their Savior. The gospel must be preached to the ends of the earth.  

 

       Paul says, "11And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12That is why I am suffering as I am." Here Paul describes why he was suffering. A herald is a messenger who runs ahead carrying and proclaiming important news. An apostle is an ambassador representing the country he is sent by in a foreign land. A teacher shows the main method in carrying out this important task, that is, teaching. The gospel is important because it carries the grace of God for the people of the world - God's salvation and God's calling to a holy life. Through the gospel, the grace of God can be fulfilled in the world. For this important gospel, Paul was appointed as a herald, an apostle and a teacher. So, in order to fulfill his task, Paul ran hard, going ahead of everyone, teaching people the word of God diligently as an ambassador of the kingdom of God in a foreign land called, the world. Then, very naturally, he faced many hardships and sufferings - he had to travel a lot; he had to walk a lot; he had to speak a lot, spending many hours; he had to wrestle with many people; sometimes, he had no money for food; sometimes, he had shipwreck and was in the water for many days; sometimes, people hated him for his message; sometimes, people were jealous of him and attacked him. But despite all these difficulties, challenges and hardships, he kept serving his task given by God. “That is why I am suffering as I am.”

 

       Sometimes, we have to drive a lot even when we don't have that much gas money. Sometimes, we have sun burns for fishing many hours; sometimes, our sheep whom we have loved so much just go away without saying good bye. We have this suffering all because we carry this important gospel that contains the grace of God for many people. Of this gospel, we are appointed heralds, apostles and teachers. Through us, the gospel is given to many; through us, God's grace of salvation and calling to a holy life is given to many people. "That's why I am suffering as I am."

 

Look at verse 12. Let's read these verses together:

 

12That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.

 

       Now Paul was in a dungeon, and there he was suffering and languishing. He would die soon. But Paul was not sad or fatalistic at all, because he knew whom he had believed, Jesus Christ. His life was not a failure; his life of serving Jesus Christ was glorious. Moreover, he was convinced that Jesus would guard what he had worked for. What he had worked for would not be in vain, even if he died; instead, Jesus would guard it, grow it and make it fruitful, and on the last day, he would see what he had worked for, and be glad, receiving great reward from Jesus. Even if we lose everything in this life - wealth, promising future, even health, we are not ashamed because we know whom we have believed - Jesus Christ our Lord. He will not disappoint us. He is able to guard what we have entrusted to him for that day.

 

One Word:      I Know Whom I Have Believed

 

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