Timothy grew up in Lystra, a small city in present-day Turkey. His mother and grandmother were followers of Christ, but his dad was not. This young man decided to leave home and join Paul’s missionary band when the apostle visited his hometown for the second time.
Lest you think Timothy simply viewed missionary life as an opportunity to leave home and see the world, let’s review what happened the first time Paul visited Lystra. It’s recorded in Acts 14 in our Bibles. When Paul and his partner, Barnabas, entered Lystra, they healed a man who had been lame since birth. Seeing this, the people of the city shouted that Paul and Barnabas were the gods, Zeus and Hermes. The city tried to make sacrifices to them. When Paul and Barnabas shouted that they were only men with the message of Jesus, the crowd’s chants quickly turned from “worship them” to “kill them.” They stoned Paul and left him for dead.
I don’t know about you, but I would have given up on that city. But about a year later, Paul visited again. It was at this time that Timothy joined him. Timothy never stepped into the missionary life with rose-tinted glasses. He saw firsthand what the results could be. It must have been hard on his parents and grandma to see him go, but he responded to the Lord’s leading.
After being with the veteran apostle for years, Timothy eventually became pastor of the church in Ephesus. Nearing the end of his life, Paul wrote Timothy a letter. Among other things, he encouraged his protégé to “fan into flames the gift of God in you.” (2 Timothy 1:6) Paul wasn’t suggesting that Timothy’s spiritual life was flickering like a candle about to go out. A better reading would be, “keep your flame for Jesus burning bright.”
When Karen and I build a fire in our woodstove, we often have to blow on it to fan the flames. Similarly, each day we need the Spirit of God to blow His pure air through our lives to fan the spiritual flames of our hearts. His breath acts like that of a blacksmith’s bellows, making the fire hotter and hotter. Paul reveals in Romans 8:2 what the Spirit of God does when He has freedom to work within a believer. “Through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” Each day we need Him to bring us into the true liberty that He intends for us.
We also need others. In our woodstove, if you spread out the wood, the fire will go out sooner. As long as the pieces are in close contact, the fire remains hot. We all need someone in our lives to spur us on. That’s what Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” We are not meant to face life alone. As times get darker around us, we need one another that much more to keep us burning bright.
Are you overwhelmed by a situation that is attempting to quench your flame for Jesus? The Bible informs us that the Spirit of God knows our fears and anxiety. He promises to stand with us, to pray for us, and to carry us through. How desperately we need His comfort and wisdom. Difficult circumstances also remind us of the importance to regularly share life with a community of believers. In tough times, they help carry our burdens.
On another note, if your electricity goes out this winter, stop by and warm yourself in front of our woodstove.