For most pastors, the greatest influence in their ministry (other than the divine work of the Spirit through the Word of God) is not Bible College or Seminary –it’s the people whom God has used to invest in them.
For me, the list gets lengthy. It includes my parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, Sunday School teachers, pastors, mentors, friends and my wife. In fact, I have said on many occasions, that I learned more about disciple-making from my wife than from anyone else.
The men and women of the Bible were the same way. From Jethro & Moses, to Elijah & Elisha, Scripture reveals how God intricately wove lives together for the purpose of mutually encouraging their faith and increasing their maturity in Christ. And through those discipleship relationships, God inspired normal, everyday people to pursue extraordinary acts of ministry.
Just think about Paul’s words to his protégé, Timothy.
II Timothy 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 gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
Why does Paul mean when he tells Timothy to “fan into flame” his gift?
In verses 1-5, Paul talked to Timothy about the discipleship relationships of Timothy’s life. Paul talked about the fact that his grandmother, Lois and his mother, Eunice had both discipled him in the faith. Paul discipled Timothy for probably about 15 years in his missionary journeys as Timothy was along for the ride. All of these discipleship relationships were overlapping and were becoming a beautiful tapestry coming together in the life of Timothy to make him the minister that he was.
Then, verse 6 begins with the word, “For…” It’s a way for Paul to link those relationships to God’s sovereign plan –Its like Paul is saying to Timothy, “He put all of these relationships in your life that have shaped you in the minister that you are today.” As a result, he says, “…I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God…”
What gift of God? The gift that was given to you “…through the laying on of my hands…,” Paul’s hands. “…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” There is a link between the discipleship of Timothy and this reason that Paul wants him to fan into flame the gift that he has given. Let’s see if we can uncover the reason.
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.
Romans 12, I Corinthians 12, or Ephesians 4, reveal that there are different gifts given to different people. The gifts of mercy, prophecy, hospitality, and administration are all specific gifts. All of the gifts are to be used in ministry. So every believer, if we are speaking in general terms, receives the gift of ministry.
We see this gift of ministry mentioned in verse 6 when Paul says that this was given to Timothy through the laying on of Paul’s hands. What is going on here most likely is what we would call an ordination service. An ordination service is where either a pastor or a deacon comes before the church, and the church lays hands on this man.
It is a symbolic gesture to recognize that God’s hand is already on the man. When we talk about ordaining somebody, we don’t really have the power to ordain. What the service really ought to be called is a recognition service, because we are recognizing that God has ordained this man. In the same way, Paul is saying to Timothy to remember when they had this service, and he laid his hands on him and the church recognized him as a pastor. They set him aside in a way that everyone would understand that he has been ordained by God to be a pastor. The gifts that they recognized he had at that time, those gifts are to be fanned into flame.
But this is not just for pastors and deacons. Those are not the only people in the church who are to fan their gifts into flame. Instead, every believer has a gift of ministry.
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
You can imagine Timothy’s reaction in light of Paul’s massive personality – “Paul, I don’t think that you understand that I don’t have what you have.” Paul precluded this argument and just says, “For God gave you a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
Thankfully, Timothy could look back at his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois and see an example of two godly women who had exercised a spirit of power and love in his own life. How blessed Timothy was to have these two ladies fan their own gifts of ministry into flame!
You and I also have this opportunity. God has gifted every believer for ministry in a unique way. And no person’s gifting is better than another. We are all called to fan our gifts into flames and to use them boldly –not in the spirit of fear, but of power and love!
Even more, we have the opportunity to inspire others to fan their gifts into a flame. I am so thankful for all of the people who have encourage me along the way to embrace the spirit of power and love in ministry rather than to hide behind a spirit of fear. May God help me -and you- to do the same for those whom we may influence.