When going to war or defending his family, a man would be silly to arm himself with the bellows from his fireplace. An accordion with a kazoo on the end simply won’t strike fear in any enemy, however weak, small, and outnumbered. How much power can there be in small, manual puffs of air?
But what if the enemy is Satan? And our bellows is blowing the life-sustaining, hope-inspiring oxygen of God’s promises in the gospel? That changes everything. When Paul wants to instill strength, courage, and perseverance in the face of persecution, he tells his young disciple Timothy, “Fan the flame.”
Don’t Let Faith Die
Timothy, says Paul, your mother and grandmother believed, and they built the kindling of unshakable truth at the base of your life. I’ve seen your faith. Grab the bellows. Tend the flame. Care for it. Blow on it. The fires of our faith in Jesus need the oxygen that comes from setting our minds and hearts on him and on his sacrifice for us on the cross.
Timothy was facing significant suffering for his faith, so Paul issues this challenge: Don’t let the flame die. You’re going to want to give up. Life will be hard. The rewards will seem small. People will be cruel and unfair. You will feel weak and ineffective. Your sin will be ugly and offensive. God will seem far away. When those times come, and even before they come, fan your faith.
We Have Some Fanning to Do
The flame of the Christian life is not one-size-fits-all. Some are reading this post filled with a faith that feels bright and hot and strong. Others believe but are digging around desperately looking for any sign of a warm coal.
Wherever you are, according to Paul, we have some fanning to do. If, by God’s power and grace, you’re thriving spiritually, on fire for Jesus, the gospel is a sobering and joy-filled reminder that he purchased your life and peace with his broken body and poured-out blood. You need him as much now as you have needed him in the hardest times, and it won’t be long before you’ll feel your need more acutely.
And if you’re holding on by a thread and ready to quit, the gospel is an emboldening and joy-filled reminder that there really is hope, that the fight of faith really is possible because of what Jesus has done, and that life with him is really worth it.
We tend to forget, to get distracted, to fall in love with lesser things. We easily get discouraged, despairing, flaky. And Paul says, “Fan it.” Remember. Hold on. Trust. Hope.
Finding Wind for the War
So maybe you’d say, okay, I’m sold on fanning, but how? I’m no boy scout. I don’t like camping. I don’t even have a fireplace… In the rest of 2 Timothy 1, Paul puts some air in the bag.
He says when you’re tempted to lose faith because of your suffering, when things are really hard, rest on the power of God. Rely on the God, “who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (1:9-10).
1. God’s Eternal Purpose and Grace
First, fan your faith with the truth that God called you to this and equipped you for it before you were born. Your calling to trust, treasure, and testify to Jesus began before the ages. Our meager efforts to know God and make him known were designed (purpose) and empowered (grace) long before you were born, before anyone was born.
Before a parent ever made a meal, lost a sock in the washer, or disciplined a child, your parenting was intended, planned by God to make known the glory of his grace in Jesus.
Before a single business ever opened its doors, built an office, or portioned off a cubicle, your job was intended, planned by God to make known the glory of his grace in Jesus.
Before a promise was ever broken or a friend ever betrayed or disappointed, before a dream or desire was ever left unfulfilled, your responses were intended, planned by God to make known the glory of his grace in Jesus.
Here at the beginning of another semester, before a school was ever accredited or a book ever published or a quiz ever failed, God intended your education to make himself and his grace known through the person and work of Jesus.
2. God’s Revealed Purpose and Grace
Second, fan your faith with the truth that God revealed his purpose and grace for you in Jesus. He didn’t just say he had a plan. He didn’t just say he loved us. No, God gave us his purpose and grace by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, our sin.
He drew us a real-life picture of his love with the body and blood of Jesus Christ, who suffered for us.
When you’re feeling discouraged and defeated, remember that God loved you enough to die for you.
From long before you were born, his plan was to save you, and he displayed that plan through a real person in a real part of the world at a real time in history. He revealed his purpose to save you and his grace to sustain you through the life, death, and resurrection of the Savior, his Son, Jesus, the Messiah.
3. Jesus’s Life-Securing Work for Us
Third, fan your faith with the truth that Jesus’s work on the cross secures your full and lasting life. Fan your faith, remember Jesus and his work, because we know how it all ends. We know the last scene, and it lasts forever.
Jesus has abolished death. He hasn’t delayed it or softened it or temporarily held it back. No, for those who trust in him, he abolished death: destroyed it, nullified it, stole its power and promised it could never touch us again.
Paul says he abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. Immortality means a life that lasts forever. And life means much more than breath in your lungs and a heartbeat. It means a full life, an abundant life, a joyful life, a life worth wanting forever. In Jesus, not only will you not die, you’ll taste true life, the life we ache for now, and you’ll have it forever. No one can ever take it from you.
Throw that in the fire.