For some reason I have several flash-memories of being in the back seat of a vehicle and traveling down I-85 as a little boy. My family lived in DeKalb County and I know that, in these memories, I was not yet tall enough to see clearly out the back seat window. I was always looking up because my line of sight was below the window and at the level of the top of the door right before the glass of the window begins. We sat lower in the seats than children do today because there were no car-seat laws in those days for five-year-olds, and parents just buckled their kids in (sometimes) and headed out to the destination of the day. One of my earliest theological memories occurred during one of those car trips. My parents were in the front seat and we may have been coming back from a Sunday morning at FBC Atlanta. I remember asking my dad to explain how Jesus could be both God and man. I was confident my dad would be able handle this doctrinal juggernaut between the exit ramp and our own driveway so I didn’t hesitate to ask him. It would be impossible for me to remember the details of dad’s response but I do remember him telling me that nobody can explain the answer perfectly. I seem to remember him telling to me that we accept it by faith and that our minds cannot absorb it (that’s the right answer by the way). About thirty-five years later this same scene played out again except this time I was driving the vehicle and my own son was buckled up in the back. He asked me to explain this same issue which theologians term the hypostatic union. Landon got the same answer I received back in the day. Seems like this mystery will be around for us until we see Jesus with new eyes and experience the moment when all of life’s mysteries come to an end. By the way, your life contains that same tension between the supernatural and the natural. Some of your faith-journey is spiritual and mysterious and some of it is plain old human exertion. I hope you are experiencing both of these elements because God’s plans for you involve His divine power and your human commitment.
“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, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 2 Timothy 1:6-7
The Apostle Paul tells his pupil, Timothy, to remember something important. Paul recounts a moment in Timothy’s life that was completely supernatural. A spiritual gift was embedded into Timothy via the process of Paul placing his own hands on Timothy. In the verses above, Paul assumes that Timothy knows of that moment he is describing and there is no attempt to place an explanation in the footnotes of how it occurred. Paul, full of the Holy Spirit and operating in the gifts and power of an apostle, placed his hand on Timothy and God supernaturally conducted a spiritual endowment through Paul and into Timothy. That occurrence is beyond the laws of nature, beyond objective explanation and beyond logical reasoning. It does not make sense but is clearly asserted as an actual event in Timothy’s life. This is part of our following of Christ – maybe we do not share the exact same experience but we are definitely conditioned by what the experience speaks to. God does things in us, to us and for us that proceed from an unseen realm over which He is supreme.
But wait! In the same stroke of the quill, Paul writes to Timothy and instructs him to take that supernatural gift and, by human exertion, to fan it into a flame. The elder statesman tells his younger protégé that he has some clear human responsibility in this issue of living out the purpose God ordained for him. Paul did not allow Timothy to subscribe to the philosophy that “it’s all God and nothing of me”. Paul knew that Timothy could do nothing apart from God but he also knew that God would do nothing apart from Timothy (as it pertains to Timothy living out God’s plan for him). Paul then offers a mild rebuke of Timothy which helps us to see that Timothy was living a hesitant, reluctant life. Timothy is told to put some wind to the ember and to revive the flame. Timothy is informed that a spirit of timidity is never a gift from God. Paul then tells Timothy that God’s gifts involve power and love – a holy tandem which bring forth beautiful fruit in our lives. Then Paul says, “And, Timothy, my boy, self-control comes from the Father also.” Why this last element of self-control? Likely because Timothy was not proactively engaging himself in areas where God had empowered him. We usually think of self-control as keeping ourselves from something negative but it also encompasses the intentional giving of ourselves to something positive. In the end, we are responsible for what we refrain from and also what we embrace. Timothy was being fickle with his life purpose and Paul was warning him that his flame of purpose and giftedness was in jeopardy of being extinguished.
I am grateful that God gifted you when He saved you through faith in His Son, Jesus. It is a good thing that He has graced you with some supernatural asset that you did not have prior to your conversion. Gifts from God are given to us for the purpose of employing them with all of our might. That is why Paul would write the church of the Romans (12:6-11) and exhort them to esteem their God-granted gifts so highly that they could do nothing but use them with all of their human exertion. Never let your orthodox theology in God’s supremacy undermine your commitment that this Supreme God has qualified and commissioned you and me to be diligent in our exertion of effort for His glory. Equally, never work for God with the misunderstanding that your personal weaknesses could ever thwart the plan of the Almighty. In the end, it is all God and He will receive every ounce of glory. Yet in the present activity He calls us to fan the flame He has given. all of the sudden we feel like the small child in the back seat asking for an answer to the impossible question. Is it God… or is it us… when it comes to the fulfillment of our purpose in this world? The answer is Yes. Our life purposes and work for the Lord involve divine mist and human sweat. The first without the last leads to indolence. The last without the first leads to incompetence.
You give Him the glory for depositing in you the supernatural flame. He gives you the wisdom to know it is time to begin fanning that flame again. When both occur there is light for this generaiton’s darkness and warmth for this generation’s coldness. This is part of why you and I are still here.
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