This weekend I broke a personal record by being at the lovely Camp Squeah for the third time in three weeks–our annual church retreat at the end of September, a pastors’ retreat in early October, and then speaking at a women’s retreat this weekend. Whew! Each time had a different focus and personality, with deep conversations, beautiful fall weather, and great food–I’m still trying to decide between the baked alaska and the strawberry shortcake as my favourite dessert 🙂
For the women’s retreat, I spoke on Spark Your Spiritual Gifts and promised to post some notes, so here is Part One from Saturday morning. Stay tuned for some notes on Part Two from Sunday morning which I’ll post next Monday.
Do not neglect your gift. (1 Timothy 4:14)
Fan into flame the gift of God within you. (2 Timothy 1:6)
I’ve often wondered why Paul referred so generally to Timothy’s creativity and spiritual gifting. After all, some of the other Pauline letters include lists of specific spiritual gifts (e.g., Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12), so why not say straight out to Timothy, “Do not neglect administration. Fan into flame your gift of teaching.”
Perhaps Paul was deliberately vague so Timothy could have as much freedom as possible to exercise his gifts as broadly as he could. After all, if Timothy’s ministry was anything like pastoral ministry today, one day he might be preaching, another day serving, another day or afternoon or hour doing administration or teaching. For maximum freedom in ministry and maximum effectiveness, different gifts might be called for and exercised at different times. In each case, whatever Timothy did, it was the gift of God that enabled him.
Paul’s vague language might also allow us to imagine ourselves into the text more easily. Our specific gifts may be quite different from Timothy’s, but we too have received gifts from God. Whatever spark we have inside us, whatever gifts God has given us, we can learn from Timothy’s experience and Paul’s encouragement.
Fan into flame (New International Version) – a fire just getting started. Perhaps Timothy was just discovering his gifts and needing to coax them into full fire.
Rekindle the gift (New Revised Standard Version), revive (Common English Bible) – a fire dying down. Perhaps Timothy was facing discouragement, burnout.
Fan into flames (New Living Translation) – not just one weak flickering flame, but more and more flames.
These various translations invite each of us into the text and embrace our different circumstances:
- whether we’re just discovering our gifts and testing them out,
- feeling as if we’ve lost our first love and wanting to revive that spark,
- struggling with doubt,
- at a crossroads whether to let that spark go and turn to something else, or rekindle it.
Since 2 Timothy was written as a personal letter to encourage Timothy, we might expect Paul to write, God has not given YOU a spirit of cowardice. But Paul makes it plural—God has not given US a spirit of cowardice (2 Timothy 1:7).
In this way, Paul includes himself along with Timothy. In most of his letters, Paul comes across as confident, even arrogant, but perhaps there were some things that even he was afraid of, that surface in his letters to Timothy:
- Perhaps Paul was afraid for what was happening to the church while he was in prison?
- How could he remain faithful in all his trials?
- Would he be executed?
- Could he face death bravely in spite of any fears?
As a young man in ministry, Timothy also had his share of anxiety and fear:
- Was he equal to the responsibility and task before him?
- Some in the community seemed to think he was too young (1 Timothy 4:12). Could he prove himself to them, and did he need to?
- Could he live up to Paul’s faith in him?
- Could he live up to his own expectations of himself?
Paul’s encouragement to Timothy was the answer to Timothy’s fears, to whatever fears Paul might have had, and to whatever fears we may face as well: God has not given us a spirit of fear!
What’s more, the Bible doesn’t just tell us to fear not. Instead of a spirit of fear, Paul goes on to say that God has given us a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline to release and empower us.
In this session, I went on to talk about
- and SELF-DISCIPLINE,
doing a word study of each, drawing in other passages of Scripture, sharing some of my own fears about the weekend and God’s power, some stories from Jen Pollock Michel’s Teach Us to Want, Beth Booram’s Starting Something New, and my Spark: Igniting Your God-Given Creativity.
After discussing each in turn, I noted how these three gifts work together to spark our creativity and spiritual gifts. Without POWER, we won’t get anything done. But POWER without LOVE and SELF-DISCIPLINE is destructive. LOVE without POWER and SELF-DISCIPLINE is weak and unfocused. SELF-DISCIPLINE without POWER becomes impossible, and without LOVE it’s cold and unfeeling. POWER, LOVE, and SELF-DISCIPLINE need to work together.
So whatever unique spark of creativity and spiritual gifting that God has given to us, God also gives us these three gifts to enable and empower us. God has not give us a spirit of fear, but of POWER, LOVE, and SELF-DISCIPLINE. May you continue to grow in all three as you share your spiritual gifts.