2 Timothy 1:6-7 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 did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
As we grow up, develop relationships, and generally interact with people, we unknowingly and often unintentionally pass on information, ideas, prejudices, and other influences onto others. We often have no true idea of the extent of our influence on those we encounter.
At other times, we try to teach others, especially when we are parents, or teaching as a vocation, or are in a position where we are expected to share ideas. But even then, without our knowing it we are probably revealing more than we intend.
The words that we say and how we say them, the acts that we perform and how we perform them, the attitudes and moods we maintain are transmittable. The thoughts we hold in mind spread to the people around us. Not only are the good things that we do, say, and think contagious, but so are the hurtful and vengeful things. In whatever manner we act toward people, people respond in kind. How we speak, our attitudes and demeanor…all of it evokes a reaction that acts like fire burning out of control spreading in all directions.
Throughout the Bible God’s presence is often described by using fire as a metaphor. God appeared to Moses as a burning bush. On Mount Sinai, God appeared to the Israelites as fire. Exodus 24:17 says, “To the Israelites, the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire.” Leviticus 9:24 says, “Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering ... And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell face-down.”
When the Apostle John had a vision of the glorified Christ in Revelations 1, he described Him as having eyes like a blazing fire.
In Luke 12:49 Jesus says: 49 “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” Jesus is speaking of the burning, exciting, dynamic presence of Spirit in the lives of people. Jesus had come to set us afire with God’s presence, love, and joy! He came to bring fervor, energy, and Spirit-based passion.
Fire is a purifier. The Bible says in Malachi 3:2-3: “For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver.” When God’s fire is burning in our heart, it removes all the waste and impurities that find their way into our life. The ‘fire of hell’ is a reference to the dump site outside Jerusalem where they would burn all their trash. The fire cleansed the city of impurities. God’s fire does the same for us…it helps us maintain a pure, clean and balanced mind and consciousness.
Some of us may be going through a period in our lives that feels like we are being cleansed…and perhaps we are. Trials and challenges provide an opportunity to become aware of, and burn away, impurities that we may have been unaware that we harbored.
If you feel that you are burning away the dross in some area of your life, just know that God is right there with you. You don’t have to complain or resist, just surrender it all and trust in God. Know that God is working within you to make you a clear and perfect vessel for expression.
When John the Baptist was asked if he was the Messiah he replied, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Luke 3:16). Jesus came to baptize people in the burning, purifying, awesome presence of God.
On the first Easter, two disciples walked with the resurrected Jesus on the road to Emmaus. They didn’t recognize him because they were certain He was dead and buried. After Jesus revealed Himself and disappeared, they said, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us?” (Luke 24:32). When our heart is ‘on fire,’ or burns for someone, it means we are passionate about that person. Jesus came to show us that we can have this kind of burning, passionate, intimate relationship with God.
Just as food provides calories to burn so that our physical bodies remain filled with energy, Spirit keeps our spiritual essence filled with energy. In Acts 1:8 the Christ said, “You will receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” The Presence of God is like a Divine Fire that generates the power for us to express our spiritual selves. It provides the power to love, to forgive, to serve others, and the power to discern the voice of God from impostors. 1 John 2:20 John tells us that the Holy Spirit provides an unction, an anointment, a spiritual intelligence, which reveals all things true to our spiritual natures. That is, the sheep intuitively recognize the voice of the good Shepherd; if another calls us, we can tell the difference. So, from a spiritual standpoint, we can’t function without that unction!
We know that fire needs fuel, heat, and oxygen in order to continue burning. Although God’s fire is an eternal flame, we cannot ignore it. That is why Paul, in our Bible verse, encourages Timothy to “fan the flame” of God’s gift – pay attention to God’s guidance, listen for that still small voice, and act in a Godly fashion.
God gave these instructions in Leviticus 6:12: “The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire.” So, too, the altars of our hearts…fan the flame. It needs to be tended; if not it may be reduced to a mere ember.
Mary and I had a portable room heater that went out unexpectedly one winter. The fan still blew; the motor worked, but the heating element was broken. It just blew cold air. If we do not tend to our inner flame we can become like this fan: still working, still moving, still singing and praying, but just blowing cold air. We can attend church, smile, hug…go through all the motions of a spiritual life, but inside we have ignored God’s Presence; we have let our flame die out. Instead of being one of God’s Chosen, we have become one of God’s Frozen.
I went through a time in my life when I wanted to be cool. It was more important to me to be cool than to be me. This period died soon because I quickly realized that I was not cool – I was not one of those disinterested, aloof, guys that were going to say the coolest thing, drive the coolest car, wear the coolest clothing, and not be passionate about something.
The Christ within yearns that we allow our passion for God to flow through our hearts – to express love with a passion for others; to live life with zeal and exuberance.
If we feel like the fire has gone out in our heart for life, for our friends, for our work, then perhaps we need to look first at the fire in our heart for God. Have we become cool…to cool to radiate enthusiasm and passion? 1 Thessalonians 5:19 reads: “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire.” When we neglect our inner quiet time or regular fellowship with other like-minded people, the fire tends to go out. It can be dampened by simple apathy and neglect.
If we feel like we have lost some of that passion for living and for God, the good news is that all the combustible material that God has given us is waiting dormant inside – all it takes is a spark to rekindle. All it takes is an open and willing heart to see, hear, and feel God’s love shining through someone else’s heart. Our willingness fans the flame.
God ignites individuals, and like embers that are drawn together, the heat that they radiate together can bust into a huge flame. This is how teams develop momentum and churches grow. This is how families bond and communities come together…one heart passing on the rekindled flame of God’s love to another.
But it starts with each of us, individually, with just a spark; a spark that reawakens, renews, rekindles the presence of God within. This spark puts the heat back in the heater. When we are passing on the love from Spirit, regardless of what we say or how we say it, people feel the warmth of Spirit flowing from us and not the cool air of disinterest, lethargy, and an out of balance ego.
“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson. So it is with God moving through us. When we are on fire with God, sparks fly; and a spark can be passed on to others. The word enthusiasm comes from Greek origins meaning ‘God within’. When we let God into our hearts and lives, we speak with enthusiasm, we serve with enthusiasm, and we live with enthusiasm. Jeremiah wrote: “His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:9)
It is my prayer that like Jeremiah, let us not try to contain the love, joy, and peace of Spirit, but rather, let us do everything within us to pass it on.