Sunday, January 26, 2014

Fan the flame

There are certain portions of scripture that, when read even to one's self, conjure up audible "hallelujahs". 2 Timothy 1:7 is one of those scriptures. "For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline." I cannot read that passage without being empowered with the spirit of a warrior. I am a courageous fighter in God's army! The all-powerful, ever victorious Christ Jesus is in me! This is such exciting truth that I feel twice my size, able to overcome even in the most brutal of battles and fiercest of enemies.
The warrior spirit in me was certainly encouraged this morning by that scripture but there was something niggling at me that I couldn't shake. 2 Timothy 1:6. "For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands." Something struck me for the very first time while reading that scripture: flames are only produced by fire. 
This isn't a great theological or scientific discovery. Fire produces a flame. Flames are found in fire. Anyone who has ever lit a match and enjoyed the ambiance of a candle understands this principle. You don't have a flame until you have at least a little fire. Yet, I had passed over this scripture countless times without really giving thought to what the flame produces. To fan a flame there is an understanding that there must be a fire.
Immediately the mental image of a fire is one of destruction. The nightly news provides plenty of examples of just how devastating a fire can be. The other evening as I flipped through the local TV channels I caught a glimpse of a home completely engulfed in flames. Thankfully no one was home when the fire broke out but the damage was extensive, the home left uninhabitable. Fire is powerful. It can level a home, desolate a forest and displace a family. We fear fire, that's why we have smoke detectors and alarm systems to alert the fire department in the unfortunate event that a fire would break out. 
The picture of fire that popped into my mind didn't fit what I read in 2 Timothy. The flame he was describing wasn't one of destruction, but of opportunity. Paul was instructing Timothy to actually expand the flame. This simple reality hit me dead center between the eyes.
The spiritual fire of trials isn't meant for our destruction. The tendency of trials is to view them as that demolished house that has been laid to waste by an out-of-control fire. But God doesn't see our trials and struggles that way. He sees them as opportunities for growth, an occasion for our faith to receive renovation and renewal.
In my mind, a new picture began to take shape. The ruins and rubble of the destroyed house were washed away. In their place I began to see the construction of a magnificent, stately temple being built in its place. The new temple boasted gold and silver, sparking glass, brilliant colors, intricate carvings and details. The fire that was once viewed as a means of destruction suddenly took on new life and meaning. The fire wasn't a mission of demolition. It was a mission of regeneration and restoration.
God longs to use the fires in our lives to build in us a beautiful, majestic temple for His glory. He wants to create something awe-inspiring and breathtaking. At times our cowardly human tendency is to run from the fire. We go scrambling for the nearest extinguisher. Paul tells us to do just the opposite. Fan the flames, expand the fire. Allow God to remove the old you and rebuild you with His Spirit. This fire isn't for your ruin. It is for your re-construction.
Rejoice in the fire, beloved. Fan its flames. Allow it to renew your spirit and stretch your faith. Be courageous in the midst of your fire. Put on the warrior spirit of power, love and self-discipline even when the flames are heating up all around you. God can use the fire to build a great temple out of your life. He can use the fire to make you into a masterpiece.

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