Fanning into Flame the Gift God has Given You

Posted by on Mar 4, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

I serve as principal at Vose Seminary, and our new academic year got underway this week. With a record enrolment of students, things are looking really positive, and you could sense the energy and optimism in the room at our opening chapel service. I spoke at it, looking at 2 Timothy 1:6-7 where Paul instructs Timothy to fan into flame the gift within him. I explored what this might mean for our students as they begin their journey with us, and after speaking it struck me that what I said would be relevant for the majority of those who read this blog… so here it is.

It is always interesting to note the creative tensions that run through scripture. Take 2 Timothy 1:6-7 where Paul instructs Timothy to fan into flame the gift that God has given him. Timothy has a gift from God, but he is still expected to work at it to ensure that it becomes what it is supposed to be. He is not allowed to sit back passively and assume that because he is gifted, further effort on his part is redundant.

Remember this as you begin your journey at Vose. You have come here because you sense that God has called you. Some of you are able to name the specific gifts God has given you. You might say, I am a teacher, or an evangelist, or someone with the gift of discernment. Others will be less sure, quietly hoping that God has gifted you in some way, but not altogether confident that this is true. Yet others will be super confident, assured that God has gifted you in many different areas – albeit perhaps not with the gift of humility. Regardless, this is a season in your life to commit to growing the gifts that God has given you – and doing so intentionally. Although you are gifted, there is much work ahead.

It is helpful to remember that it is a gift that we are called to fan into flame. Put differently, God has been the initiator. Marva Dawn has noted that in the Hebrew Bible the day always begins with night. The opening chapter of Genesis has as a refrain ‘And there was evening and morning, the first day’- ‘evening and morning the second day’ and so on. Why this insistence that the day begins with night? Surely it should be the other way around? Not really. Night is the time when we rest from activity, when we sleep and recover. We awaken to a world full of promise. It is a gift to us. We have done nothing to earn or deserve it. But having received what God has done during the night, we then go out into the activity of the day. It is now our time to participate. God initiates, and we respond.

You see this concept a little more clearly when Adam is invited to name the animals and the birds (Gen 2:19-20). We have been told that God has created a wonderful garden. It has come about as a direct result of God’s initiative. But the animals and birds must still be named. This is our part. And it is not an insignificant part. Think how important names are in life – and certainly in the Bible. We often read of people unsuitably named having their name changed (for example Jacob being renamed Israel). In my book The Big Picture I speak about this as being the challenge to build a world with a better name. Even though God has done so much, there are still many world shaping opportunities that await.

The task of world naming continues… sadly rather badly. Given the gift of this wonderful creation, have we fanned the gift fully into flame, by building a world with a better name?

Certainly in the West we have opted for lesser names. Three S words characterise the kind of world we have opted for… one that is selfish (me, myself and I the unholy trinity that most in the western world bow to and worship), and increasingly secular (no place for God other than on the fringes of life… this is the western world I am talking about – a far happier scenario exists in other parts) and highly sexualized (sex is a wonderful gift from God, but we have morphed it into an idol. It masquerades as life’s highest joy, but will always ultimately disappoint those who catapult it to the realm of the ultimate). Selfish, secularized and sexualized, it is not too surprising that a harvest of three D words results – drugged, disengaged and depressed.

Whilst this might be the way we are naming the world God made, we who are Christ followers are called to build a world with a better name – significantly different from the one currently being birthed. To do so we need to fan into flame the gifts God has given us… remembering that Paul follows this up by reminding us that God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline (2 Tim:1:7). It is not enough to have these in embryo. They must be fanned into flame.

A few pointers to remember about the gifts that God has given us.

They are not static. This is one of the key points of Jesus’s parables of the talents in Matt 25:14-30. Here Jesus tells a story of a man who entrusts his servants with differing numbers of talents – one receives 5, another 2, another 1. Whilst we might pontificate that this seems unfair (surely everyone should get the same), Jesus is philosophical about it. It is simply the way things are – and it is. Don’t ever think that we all start life with equal opportunities. Of course life is more difficult if you are born a refugee, or in a country at war, or in grinding poverty. But where you start is not where you have to finish. The story ends with each having a different number of talents to their starting point. One now has 11, another has 4 and the person who refused to fan his gift into flame, is left with zero. It is not for us to lament our starting point, but to work at transforming it.

Gifts are for the good of others. This is a point we often overlook. If, for example, you have the gift of healing, who is healed? Someone else. Or the gift of evangelism – who is converted? Someone else. Or the gift of teaching – who is taught? Someone else. I could go on, but the point is clear. God is the gift giver, but we must work at bringing our gifts to life, and as we do, others are the prime beneficiaries. Our gifts are held in trust by us for the benefit of God’s work in the world. Gifts are not about me, myself and I – but the growth and maturing of the church.

Together, we can enhance the gifts of others. We are told to fan our gifts into flame. In reality, if we are in the vicinity of others who are alight, our own flame will catch far more readily. Your willingness to develop your gifts during your time at Vose will help create an environment where others are keen to develop theirs. Let’s create a setting where we are all so committed to being our best self, that together we help each other to become more.

Why should we do this… because in our essentially selfish, secularized and sexualized world, a drugged, disengaged and depressing harvest awaits. But we are called to be God’s people in God’s world – people who help to build a world with a better name. As you have seized the gift of this time to study at Vose, don’t settle for anything less…

And indeed, wherever you are, don’t settle for anything less that become your best self – for God and the church…

As always, nice chatting…


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