Stir Up the Spirit

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Here's how you can rekindle the flame of God's Spirit within you!

Fire with embers - Stir Up the Spirit
Kindle and stir up the Holy Spirit so it burns brightly!

Source: Photos.com

Not too many years ago, the ability to build a fire was a skill that was vital to many people's survival. Today, most of us simply adjust a thermostat when we want to heat our homes and a gas or electric furnace quickly brings the temperature to a comfortable level.

When my father grew up on a Texas farm during the 1920s, heating the house was not that easy. Fires in heating and cooking stoves had to be built almost every day. Chopping wood and keeping the wood box full were regular chores.

In time, as my father as a young boy gained more experience in building fires, he learned that starting a fire was much easier if he kept a live coal from the previous day's fire. To make a fire last during the night and provide live coals in the morning, he would "bank" it at night. Then the next morning, by blowing on or stirring up the coals to get more oxygen to them and make them red hot, he could easily rekindle the flames.

Almost 2,000 years ago, the apostle Paul, a highly educated former member of the Sanhedrin, used this simple fire-building analogy to remind Timothy of the marvelous power of God's Holy Spirit. In 2 Timothy:1:6 he wrote, "Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands."

The Greek word for stir, anazopureo, "denotes 'to kindle afresh' or 'keep in full flame' ... [It] is used metaphorically in 2 Tim:1:6, where 'the gift of God' is regarded as a fire capable of dying out through neglect. The verb was in common use in the vernacular of the time" ( Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words , "Stir, Stir Up," p. 600).

This gift of God, which comes to us through the laying on of hands, is His Holy Spirit (Acts:8:18). In essence, Paul likened God's Spirit to an ember in a dying fire; he encouraged Timothy to stir that live coal up, to fan it into flames.

Timeless encouragement

Paul's encouragement to Timothy is timeless advice for us. We must stir up God's Spirit within us. We must guard against letting the fire go out.

Throughout the Bible, God's Holy Spirit is described as one of the most important gifts God makes available to us. The people of ancient Israel, who could not consistently keep God's laws because they did not possess His Spirit, were promised that one day God's Spirit would help them to obey.

Ezekiel:36:26, 27 records God's words: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them."

Even today, obedience to God's law remains as an identifying sign of those with God's Spirit. The apostle Peter testified to this truth when he and the other apostles had to appear before the religious authorities of their time. On this occasion, shortly after the Day of

Pentecost, when God gave the Holy Spirit to the Church (Acts 2), Peter said, "And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit [which] God has given to those who obey Him" (Acts:5:32).

Paul also wrote to the Romans about God's Holy Spirit. He said: "The mind of the flesh [is] enmity towards God; for it is not subject to the law of God, for neither can [it be]. And those being in the flesh are not able to please God. But you are not in flesh, but in Spirit, since [the] Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone has not [the] Spirit of Christ, this one is not His" (Romans:8:7-9, The Literal Translation of the Holy Bible by Jay P. Green).

The Holy Spirit thus makes it possible for us to please God, and identifies us as Christians. Given the importance of this gift, we can understand Paul's reasons for telling Timothy to stir up God's Spirit. To help Timothy, Paul continued, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy:1:7).

Through this statement in his letter to Timothy, the apostle gave his protégé much to consider. Let us examine each of the four points in this verse more closely.

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear ..."

Fear of other people and things and events around us is something we often have to come to grips with. No one likes to live in fear, but the sad reality is that most of us at times feel fearful. As God began working with Abraham, the man the Bible calls "the father of all those who believe" (Romans:4:11), God told him, "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward" (Genesis:15:1). "Fear not," the King James Version says.

What a wonderful concept for us to understand as we come to God! He wants us to respect Him, but He does not want us to be frightened of anything. A simple saying encapsulates this truth: Know God, no fear. Its corollary expresses the opposite effect: No God, know fear.

King David had his ups and downs. On several occasions he fled to avoid being killed. Though his enemies often sought his life, David found a remedy for his fears.

In Psalm:27:1-3, he wrote: "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. Though an army should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me, in this I will be confident."

David found great peace in trusting God to take care of him. In verse 5 of the same psalm, David continued: "For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock." In his own meditations, David could envision God hiding him in a secret place in His house or setting him high on a rock so his enemies could not reach him.

Small children often seek out secret hiding places so they can escape perceived troubles. As God's children, even we adults should realize we have a hiding place with God, where we can be cared for and comforted.

God's Holy Spirit performs this comforting function for us. It drives away our fears. David knew his faith in God sustained him through his difficult times. He said, "I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living" (verse 13).

In taking this refuge from fear, David knew the importance of coming before God with a pure mind. That is why he asked God to create in him a clean heart and renew a right spirit within him. David realized God could take His Spirit from him if he did not approach God in this attitude (Psalm:51:10, 11). When David was able to maintain this proper outlook, he could pray to God with the confidence that God would save him (Psalm:55:16-18).

Paul enumerated for the Christians at Rome these same principles: "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit [itself] testifies with our spirit that we are God's children" (Romans:8:15-16, New International Version).

Abba is Aramaic for "father." The Life Application Bible, commenting on this verse, says: "Paul uses adoption or 'sonship' to illustrate the believer's new relationship with God. In Roman culture, the adopted person lost all rights in his old family and gained all the rights of a legitimate child in his new family. He became a full heir to his new father's estate. Likewise, when a person becomes a Christian, he or she gains all the privileges and responsibilities of a child in God's family."

One of God's gifts that He imparts to us through His Spirit is freedom from fear. As Paul said in verse 31, "If God is for us, who can be against us?"

"... but of power"

The Holy Spirit was prophesied to come upon Christ's disciples and empower them to do God's work. In Acts:1:8, Jesus said, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

The Greek word for power, dunamis , "denotes 'inherent ability, capability, ability to perform anything'" ( Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words , "Might," p. 406). This same word is used to describe miracles, supernatural occurrences (Acts:8:13; Acts:19:11; 1 Corinthians:12:10). God's Spirit, then, is a power that works miracles.

The supernatural power of God's Spirit often figured in the lives of early Christians. The apostle Peter, who denied Christ on three occasions before His crucifixion (Matthew:26:34, 75), spoke powerfully to the public on the Day of Pentecost after he had received God's Holy Spirit (Acts:2:14).

Stephen, one of the first deacons, "did great wonders and signs among the people" through the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts:6:8).

Even Simon the magician, who was thought of as possessing great power apart from God, was amazed at the miracle-working capacity of the Holy Spirit and audaciously offered to buy it (Acts:8:9-11, 13, 18, 19).

This same powerful Spirit is available to us today. There is no need for us to feel afraid or be discouraged because of our problems. Relationships can be rebuilt, sinful habits can be overcome, and confidence in God can replace our human fears.

God's Holy Spirit, at our baptism, makes it all possible (Acts:19:5, 6). If you have not yet been baptized-if you have not yet received God's Holy Spirit-we invite you to write for our booklet The Road to Eternal Life , which will show you the steps you must take to receive this wonderful gift from God.

"... and of love"

Love is the first of many attributes of God's Holy Spirit (Galatians:5:22). Paul said love is greater than faith or hope

(1 Corinthians:13:13). When the Bible speaks of love, however, it is speaking of something different from what we normally think of when we hear the word. As humans, we think of love as primarily an emotion. Humans often look at love as something capricious, almost with a mind of its own, that takes place outside of our control.

When it comes to religion, many people believe we don't really have to do anything out of obedience as long as we love everyone, as long as we hold warm and emotional feelings for God and our fellowman.

The Bible, however, describes love as godly action that builds an emotional bond. This approach teaches us that we hold certain responsibilities in our relationships with God and our fellowman.

Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John:14:15).

The apostle John wrote: "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John:5:2, 3).

Though Christ died for us while we were still sinners (Romans:5:8), He expects us to live in obedience to God and His laws as we grow in godly love. Peter tried to explain this expectation to the Sadducees when he said, "And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit [which] God has given to those who obey Him" (Acts:5:32). With obedience comes godly love.

Perhaps the actions that identify godly love are best illustrated by Christ's admonition to us to love our enemies (Luke:6:27, 32, 35). Our human emotions tell us we cannot love our enemies, but, with God's Spirit, we can.

Godly love, then, is more than just a feeling. It includes action. John said, "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth" (1 John:3:18).

Paul told us to "pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another" (Romans:14:19). Clearly, godly love entails active effort.

When we practice godly love, we establish an emotional bond between us and God and between us and other Christians. With this as our approach, Paul said nothing would "separate us from the love of Christ" (Romans:8:35-39). Jesus Christ Himself said people would recognize His disciples by the love they showed for one another (John:13:34, 35).

The ties we Christians have for each other come in large measure from our understanding that godly love is more than an unpredictable feeling. Galatians:5:14 says: "For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" Some people believe this means God's law is no longer important if one can summon up an emotional feeling for his neighbor.

The preceding scriptures, however, show the error of this approach. In reality, someone who loves his neighbor in a godly way is respecting and obeying God's law, not doing away with it. Paul was not contradicting Jesus, the other apostles and himself with his words about love. God's Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to practice godly love.

"... and of a sound mind."

When God's Holy Spirit lives in us, we are to think different thoughts. In Romans:12:2, Paul wrote, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."

God's Spirit makes it possible for us to prove, or test, God's way for ourselves. We do not simply take someone else's word for how we should live.

Paul illustrated this concept in his first letter to the Corinthian church. "And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom," Paul wrote, "but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God" (1 Corinthians:2:4, 5). Paul wanted the Corinthian brethren to place their trust in God, not in him or another human.

Paul continued: "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written: 'Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.' But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit" (verses 7-10).

Paul wanted the members of the church at Corinth to understand that God's Spirit helped them understand principles and truths hidden to others (verses 12, 13). He equated the Spirit-led mind of a Christian with "the mind of Christ" (verse 16). Through God's Holy Spirit, we, too, can have a sound mind that understands God's ways.

After Paul told Timothy to "stir up the gift of God," he gave him the four concepts to meditate upon (2 Timothy:1:6, 7). Then he continued, in verse 8, "Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God."

Paul urged Timothy to act on the power he had been given. We also need to meditate on the Holy Spirit's working in our lives. Thinking on these things can help us to be powerful witnesses of His way of life.

Do not forget to stir up God's gift! GN

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