Chapter 1 v 1-2…
" I thank God…"
When does Paul thank God?
"as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayer."
And why does Paul thank God when he remembers Timothy in his prayers?
Paul was an apostle. He was chosen by God to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. And years before he wrote this letter on his second missionary trips in a place called Lystra he met a young man called Timothy. And Timothy left his home and joined Paul. For the next few years Timothy travelled with Paul, preaching and teaching with him,planting churches with him, and sometimes being sent by him to help churches that were struggling. In fact that's what Timothy was doing when he received this letter.He was in the city of Ephesus helping the church there to get back on its feet. And Paul? Well he wrote this letter from Rome. But he wasn't planting a church there and he wasn't preaching the gospel. He was in prison, waiting to be executed.
As far as we know 2 Timothy is the last letter Paul ever wrote. It's certainly the last letter that has survived. And Paul write to his dear friend and colleague, his beloved Timothy. Who was as close as a brothers. Whom Paul considered like a son.
In Philippians chapter 2 Paul says about Timothy,
"I have no-one else like him."
Timothy was his best man, his closest friend. And Paul's greatest joy when he remembered Timothy, the thing that he thanked God for more than anything else…is that God had given Timothy the gift of faith. That's what he thanked God for when he prayed for Timothy. But that's not why he wrote. He knows Timothy has faith, he thanks God that Timothy has faith. But the reason he writes is in verse 6-7…
Turn over the page to 1 Timothy 1, look at verse 18-19…
Then take a look at chapter 4 verse 12-14.
Timothy had been called by the Church and gifted by God to teach and preach the gospel. And in his final letter Paul urges Timothy to fan that gift into flames. To make it burn brightly, to make it alive, to set it on fire. And that isn't just a message for Timothy back then, it's a message for all of us who are Christians today. How do we know that? Because the faith that Timothy had is the same faith that we have. And the Spirit that lived in Timothy, the Spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline, is the same Spirit who is alive in us. God wants Christians to live lives that are on fire for him. Radical, wholehearted lives lived for him. The message for Timothy is a message for all of us who are Christians. We must…Fan into flame the gift of God. So let me ask you this evening...What is your gift? What gift or gifts has God given you?
Don't say you don't have any gifts. This isn't the place for false modesty. The Bible teaches (In 1 Corinthians 12 for example) that God has given each one of us gifts to serve the church and bring him glory. Saying that you don't have any gifts or thinking that you don't have any gifts is a lie. There's no such thing as a Christian without gifts just as there's no such thing as a Christian without the Holy Spirit.
So, what are your gifts?
Maybe it's music,
maybe it's administration,
maybe it's leading,
maybe it's listening,
maybe it's hospitality,
maybe it's teaching and preaching,
maybe it's encouragement,
maybe it's caring for people,
maybe it's working with young people,
maybe it's praying for others?
What are your gifts?
I hate filling in job application forms. I'm thankful that I haven't had to do it very often, because I hate when I get to the question, 'What are your strengths and weaknesses?'
The truth is I can think of a hundred weaknesses, but I hate trying to write down what I think my strengths are, because it just feels like boasting. It's not very British!But that's not what I'm asking you tonight. Your gifts are not to your credit any more than your faith is. You have gifts, and faith for that matter, not because you're clever or because you worked hard or earned them or anything else. You have gifts, just like you have faith, purely because God has given them to you. They are to his credit and his glory.
So, what are your gifts?
If you don't know what your gifts are, then ask yourself this question, what are you interested in at church? What do you care about at church? What are the things you love?
What are things you notice when they're not done well? What are things that you wish we did more of at HTG? Maybe they are your gifts? Maybe you loved Eternity week and wish we did more street team all the time? Well then perhaps evangelism is your gift?
Maybe you notice when things are disorganized or can often think of better ways they could be done or arranged?
Well then, maybe you have the gift of administration? If you don't know what your gifts are then ask the people around you who know you the best what they think your gifts are. Pray and ask God to show you what gifts he's given you. And if you still don't know what your gifts are then just try something. Join the welcome team, ask to sit in on one of the youth groups, or sign up for Holiday Sunday School or to serve tea and coffee one week. Make sure you know what your gifts are. And then fan them into flame.
If God's given you the gift of working with young people, If you lead Scramblers of Climbers or Explorers, then don't just turn up on Sunday half prepared. Don't just take a look at the book on Saturday night or on Sunday morning. Do the best job you can. And after you've done the best job you can, ask the others who lead with you what they thought went well and what could have been done better. If you've got a heart for youth work then read some good books on youth work. Sign up and go on a conference for Christian youth workers. Fan your gift into flame.
If God's given you the gift of administration, don't just complain when you see things that are disorganised. Do something. Speak to someone and ask if you can help them out. If you've got the gift of prayer then pray! Find other people with the gift of prayer and pray with them. Ask people what you can pray for them, contact our mission partners and your homegroup members through the week and ask how you can be praying for them.
Do you know how to make a campfire? I'm sure there are lots of ways, but the best way I know how is to start small. Find a dry patch of ground, get some kindling and then you build a little teepee over the top with small twigs. And when you've got a spark, what do you do? You blow on it. You blow and you blow and you blow on it so that the spark doesn't go out. You blow on it, forcing oxygen onto it, making it burn more brightly so that the twigs catch fire. And then you put some bigger twigs on it and you blow some more!And you keep building and keep blowing… Until you realise that you're going a bit light headed and you have to stop blowing and stand up or you'll faint!
But you don't want the fire to go out, So you pick up a paper plate or a Frisbee or something like that and you stand fanning the flames, don't you.
And you keep on fanning the flames until you have a roaring fire. That, Paul says, is what we need to do with the gifts that God has given us.
There are times when our faith seems to grow cold, aren't there? There are times when we feel more distant from God. Our relationship with him doesn't seem as close as it has in the past. We feel less passionate about knowing him, less excited about Jesus, less in love with him than we once were. And there can be lots of different reasons for that. And there are many different things that might help re-kindle that fire of faith. But one of the main ways to restore your relationship with God, is to serve him. Use the gifts he's given you to serve him. Don't serve him to earn his love. Serve him because you love him. Serve him because he loves you. And if you fan into flame the gifts that he's given you, then you will fan into flame your faith. God wants your faith to be on fire, Your life to be lived for him, Using the gifts that he's given you, Through the Spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.
In his final letter to his dear son, Paul urges Timothy to live his life like that. With his faith on fire. And if you have that same faith and the same Spirit, then he calls you and I to do the same. Fan into flames the gift of God. But that's not all. Because in verses 8-12 Paul reminds Timothy of what that will mean. If Timothy or you or I live our lives with our faith on fire it will bring with it at least two things.
First of all, faith on fire…Brings Suffering
Jesus was crucified on the cross. Paul wrote this letter from prison in Rome waiting to be executed. Living your life with your faith on fire, being obedient to God, brings suffering. And before we're tempted to think that that kind of suffering is only for apostles and pastors like Paul and Timothy, turn over the page with me and look at chapter 3 v 12…
"Everyone who lives this life following Jesus with his or her faith on fire will suffer".
And it tells us why back in verse 9a… We have been called to a holy life. Being holy means that we chose to do what is right and not do what is wrong. Being holy means being pure and blameless. But it also means being different, being set apart. And people don't like different. The world doesn't like different. The world persecutes those who are different. And if you are living your life with your faith on fire, you will be different and you will be persecuted. Suffering will come, says Paul. But don't let that stop you and don't be ashamed. Because not all suffering is bad. Do you remember what Jesus said in Matt 5…
"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
Or listen to what Peter says in 1 Peter verse 3
"But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil."
Suffering is never easy, but suffering for Christ is an honour that brings great reward. And that's not all. Because suffering is not the only outcome of living your life with your faith on fire.
Yes it brings suffering, but it also…Brings life
Christ Jesus has destroyed death and has brought and immortality to light. Do you remember what Jesus said in John 10 v 10
"I have come that they may have life and have it to the full."
When Jesus died and rose again, he not only showed us that there is life after death and that if we follow him we will enjoy eternal life with him forever,
by dying and rising again he also showed that he is God, the author of life. He designed us and made and AND he designed and made life. And following Jesus the way he intended, with your faith on fire, is the way to discover fullness of life. Life with real meaning, life with real substance, life with purpose and hope and joy and satisfaction.
It is, as Paul says in 1 Timothy, to
"…take hold of the life that is truly life."
Yes, faith on fire brings suffering, God promises us that it will. But he also promises that it brings life in all it's fullness both now and forever. And that is why, in verse 11-12, Paul says that he has chosen to live his life with his faith on fire.
Fanning into flame the gift that God gave him, verse 11-12. Paul lived his life with his faith on fire and it brought him suffering but it also brought him life. And now he writes to his beloved son Timothy and ask him, will you do the same?
Don't just get by. Don't settle for the average. Don't keep quiet and lay low and let your faith slowly cool down like a dying fire. No Paul says, fan into flame the gift of God.
Use the gifts he's given you. All your days, with all your heart, and with all his strength that lives in you.
2000 years ago Paul called Timothy to live his life with his faith on fire. And tonight he's calling you and me to do the same.