Isn’t it strange what all kinds of things we feel sure come from God? I know that James declared that “every good and perfect gift comes down from above, from the Father of Lights with whom is no variation or shadow cast by turning.” But it is amazing that we will often attribute to God as the giver of something that goes directly against what He teaches us to do or think.
When Paul wrote his final letter to the young preacher, Timothy he offered him many challenges. In chapter one, verses 6-9 he offered this instruction: “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 the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.”
Notice Paul was clear on what God had given and even the means through which it was given. He gave him some gift for ministry through the laying on of Paul’s hands. Even with that gift, though miraculous and bestowed from God, he needed him to fan into flame the use of it. What God gives still requires our involvement and effort in it’s use. But Timothy needed to know that his feelings of timidity and of being ashamed of Paul and his ministry didn’t come from God. Paul doesn’t bother to tell him where they did come from. He is intent on letting him know that God wasn’t behind it and it was therefore something he needed to get rid of instead of cultivating.
I would guess that Timothy, like most of us, had been justifying that timidity and sense of shame by saying it was humility that was being worked out. But lots of things we wish to call humility aren’t. It was closer to a pride that put his own self interest above the Lord’s that was causing the problem. When Paul was in prison for preaching the very gospel he was still preaching there had to be some concern it would lead to him next. So, there was a sense of carefulness, of treading lightly and not offending that had begun to prevail. Paul was never the one to beat around the bush on such matters. He loved Timothy and believed in him but he didn’t love him in such a sentimental way that he wouldn’t deal with the things that needed correcting.
We still need the message that being timid about truth and right or being ashamed of the greatest message ever offered isn’t from God. When we get into such ways of acting we need to have someone point out we are heading down the wrong road and it will lead to calamity.
What the Lord does give is a spirit of power, love and self-discipline. Everything God calls on us to do he empowers us to do. Because he is able to do far beyond all that we ask or even think according to the power at work in us we should live as people with power (Ephesians 3:20).
He gives us a spirit of love. Obviously that love begins with ultimate devotion to God himself. The greatest command is still, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Our love for others can never be right unless we have God as the primary object of our love. We can love our neighbor as our self when we love God right. But never in the reverse.
He gives us a spirit of self-discipline. It should lead to our being holy or set apart for God. It should also lead to our never being ashamed of the message or testimony of the Lord of those who serve him. Paul would declare of himself that he disciplined his own body and brought it into subjection so that he could be certain that after preaching to others he didn’t become a castaway. We must by God’s power bring under control the emotions, the passions, the fears and frustrations of life to yield control to God in everything.
Paul was so certain that Timothy would handle this correction in the right way that he proceeds with the teaching of the whole letter as though there were no doubt at all in the matter. He concludes the book by pleading with Timothy to come to him as quickly as he could. Wouldn’t it be great to be so confident of your correction of a person and their reaction to it that you could make such a plea right after the correction? It takes real character to handle correction as an act of tremendous love instead of a way to harm us in some way.