Used & posted, April 18, 1999

Stir up the gift

2 Timothy 1:6-14

V. 6, Wherefore I put thee in remembrance. Paul complemented Timothy on the faith of his mother and grandmother. Then he reminds Timothy of his duty, implying that a godly family makes him even more responsible to live godly.

Stir up the gift as one would stir up live coals into a fire, and keep it blazing. (The Spirit is at times compared to a fire, Mt. 3:11, Acts 2:3.) The context, of course, refers to Timothy's "ministerial gift." Paul is not implying that Timothy is "falling away from the faith." Rather, Paul is encouraging Timothy to stir up the "ministerial gift" given to him by God's Spirit of Grace, v. 9.

We will look at this passage in sense of the general responsibilities of the Christian faith.

The stirring up is done by frequently reading, studying and meditating on God's word and prayer. We see from Paul's instructions to Timothy that these private things must be done so we can be encouraged in our daily Christian activity despite continual discouraging circumstances.

Matthew 25:14-29 tells us that if we do not use what God has given us, it will be removed from us. So stirring up also involves using the gifts God has given to us, no matter how small and insignificant they might seem to be. ("Use it or lose it.")

Paul saw Timothy headed for danger --- Paul had been imprisoned for the gospel, and many of his trusted friends and co workers had forsaken him. (2 Tim. 4:10, 16.) Paul knew Timothy would see conflicts for Christ (warfare, chapter 2), the discouragements, disappointments and the people who abandoned Paul. Paul was concerned that Timothy would see these things and lose heart and give up. He was concerned that Timothy would withdraw from what God had given him to do.

Paul tells Timothy of the great responsibility placed upon him by God's call upon his life, especially since Timothy had a godly mother and grandmother. Paul stresses the importance of cultivating the grace of God that is now working in Timothy. Paul tells Timothy that he must not be sidetracked by the discouragements or dangers that might stand in the way. In this text, Paul is urging Timothy to stir up the gift --- that is, to keep his faith working despite all the discouraging circumstances he will encounter.

"Timothy," said Paul, "There are going to be many distressing situations come your way. And you must find your encouragement in the Lord." And if Timothy had to work at keeping his "Christian spark" alive, how much more do we need to work at the same thing?

And we must say that everything in the world and in our flesh is attempting to smother that "Christian spark."

Which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.

What was the "gift of God" which had been conferred in this way, Paul specifies it in the next verse. It is "the spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." The meaning is, that these had been conferred by God, and that the gift had been recognized by his ordination. It does not imply that any mysterious influence had gone from the hands of the ordainers, imparting any holiness to Timothy which he had not before. (Barnes, 214.)

Thus one exhibits the gift necessary for his particular calling into the ministry. And the gift is clear enough for men of God to lay hands on a person to set him aside for that ministry.

Paul reminds Timothy of that call to his particular place in God's purpose in Christ, v. 9. The reminder is encouraging Timothy to remain faithful to the Christian activity to which God has called and equipped him.

Five simple points:

First, even Timothy, Paul's son in the faith, needed to be reminded of his duties and encouraged to remain faithful. Even Timothy was in danger being overwhelmed by what he saw taking place around him.

The best of people need to be encouraged and reminded of their duties. Even the most "spiritual" people must work at keeping their "Christian spark" alive.

Second, we can depend upon afflictions and discouragements coming our way. We can depend on friends and loved ones going their own way. Paul in no way could be accused of being in doctrinal error, but folks left him anyway.

Paul tells Timothy that he must be prepared for these things to take place, or he will be tempted to give up.

Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. V. 39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:

Third, the opposite of stirring up a fire is letting it go out. Without continual care on our part, our Christian fire, or zeal, will die out.

Fourth, we must not expect to find our encouragement from the circumstances around us.

1 Samuel 30:1 And it came to pass, when David and his men were come to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the south, and Ziklag, and smitten Ziklag, and burned it with fire; 2 And had taken the women captives, that were therein: they slew not any, either great or small, but carried them away, and went on their way. 3 So David and his men came to the city, and, behold, it was burned with fire; and their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captives. 4 Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep. 5 And David's two wives were taken captives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite. 6 And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.

It is our personal responsibility to keep our hearts warm in our Christian calling --- that is, in our desire to know and do the will of God. The "warm heart" to do God's will does not come naturally. And if we look to any other source than to God's word and Spirit to keep our hearts warm in our Christian life, we will fall by the wayside.

Timothy could not find his encouragement in his family, his godly mother and grandmother.

Timothy could not find his encouragement in his pastor, Paul.

Timothy could not find his encouragement in those under his care hearing and doing the word of God. (4:3, 4.)

Certainly, Timothy was told to exhort, or encourage, the saints, but the saints could not find their encouragement in Timothy. The saints are commanded to continually look to Jesus, the Word of God, who alone is the author and finisher of our Christian faith:

Hebrews 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

Fifth, no matter how rich and glorious God's gifts to us are, they will not grow on their own. They must be cultivated by our own personal care. Grace will die if it is not cultivated. By "grace," I mean the desire and power to do God's will.


Though a farmer plants the best seed money can buy, he must take the responsibility to cultivate that seed himself; he cannot depend upon his neighbour to cultivate it for him. If he fails to cultivate the seed, he will have an abundant corp of weeds, and very little harvest.

In about the 7th grace, I went to work for a farmer (I stayed one summer with him) --- 1953 or so. That was before the chemical farming we have today. Once the seed was planted, we had to cultivate it several times, or the weeds would take over. In areas we might not be able to cultivation, there would be plants from the seeds, but the weeds would be so heavy that there would be no crop.

The same with our Christian life. Yes, God called us with an holy calling, v. 9. And he has put his good Spirit of Grace within us. But we must cultivate that seed through our personal walk with the Lord, or there will be no good harvest.

I cannot depend on any source other than the Word of God to cultivate the seed of God's grace planted in me. According to Romans 10:17 (So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.), whether saving faith or living faith, faith comes through the agency of the Word of God.

Peter said it like this:

2 Peter 3:17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. 18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. (2 Pet. 3.)

Peter is sounding a warning to those who knew the word of God. He reminds them that if they do now work at keeping the "Christian spark" alive, they will fall from their stedfastness. (2 Peter chapter 3 sounds very much like Paul's instructions to Timothy.)

Christian Conversion brings freedom from the bondage to fear, sin and death. (2 Tim. 1:7-10.) Christian Conversion brings the desire and power to live a life pleasing to God, and thus inherit the blessings of God in this life and in the life to come. Christian Conversion brings with it the desire to see the Lord work in the lives of friends and loved ones.

The Christian life is continually compared to warfare --- it is a war between the new spirit within that desires to live a life pleasing to God and the enemies of my soul --- the world, flesh and the devil. Though the enemy of God cannot remove me from the eternal life promised to me in Christ Jesus, he can render me ineffective in the warfare here in this life.

And some of his most effective weapons against me are discouragements, disappointments and the abandonments --- the very weapons Timothy is warned about --- to make me lose heart and withdraw from the war.

Peter tells me that I will either grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, or I will fall from my own stedfastness --- that is, I will become so discouraged that I am useless to God and to man. That growth in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ does not happen naturally any more than the seed planted in the field will naturally bear proper fruit if left alone.

Timothy had the privilege of a godly grandmother and mother.

Timothy had the unique privilege of having the Apostle Paul as his spiritual father.

Timothy had the thrill of the great Apostle laying hands upon him, personally writing to him and personally praying for him.

But you will find that Paul told Timothy that he must take seriously the cultivation of his Christian Spirit or he would fall by the wayside.

Paul told Timothy that he must study and meditate on the word of God.

Paul told Timothy he must pray and work at his Christian responsibilities, or he would become discouraged by what he saw around him, and he would fall from his own stedfastness.