That is why I would remind you to stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the [gracious] gift of God, [the inner fire] that is in you by means of the laying on of my hands [[c]with those of the elders at your ordination]. 2 Timothy 1.6 Amplified Bible
If you grew up in the pentecostal / charismatic world or you move or worship in those circles, you might not have heard this verse quoted a million times, it’s just that it feels like it. “Stir up the gift!” is an exhortation commonly used by pentecostal preachers – this one included. And let’s face it, they didn’t make it up. The greatest of pentecostal preachers, the apostle Paul, was the first to use it.
But how exactly do you stir up the gift? Let me offer a few suggestions.
Firstly, understand Timothy’s context. Timothy was a youngish church leader. Some would argue that he was in the thirty-forty age bracket. He was pastoring the church in Ephesus. Some church historians maintain that the church was made up of thousands of people. But, big church, big problems. There was a lot of false teaching in Ephesus and Timothy had a lot of troubleshooting to do. It seems clear from what Paul says in first and second Timothy, that Timothy was tempted to feel intimidated by the circumstances and people he faced. And with that came a temptation to neglect his gift.
What do we learn from Timothy’s context? Difficult situations and difficult relationships can dampen our zeal and confidence. Sometimes the sheer pressure of life and or ministry can threaten the expression of our gifting. If it could happen to Timothy, I would suggest it can happen to you or me.
Secondly, take stock. Perhaps, the most important step in stirring up the gift is acknowledging that we need to stir up the gift. When was the last time you prayed out in public? Shared a word of encouragement with someone? Spoke in tongues? Prayed for someone who was ill? If you are struggling to remember, you might just need to stir up the gift.
Thirdly, get your theology straight. People get into all sorts of spiritual tangles because they have a theology that is bent out of shape. They come up with all sorts of reasons for their spiritual dryness. Many of them aren’t their own thoughts, they are the devil’s thoughts. So you get faithful Christians who think they have committed the unpardonable sin. Or they have become so reliant on feelings that when the feelings aren’t there they think God has withdrawn the Spirit. Or they talk about not being in a “right place”. Or they want someone to lay hands on them and stir up the gift for them.
All of these ideas are the enemy’s way of holding people back from enjoying the presence and power of the Spirit. God sealed us with the Spirit until the day of our redemption (Ephesians 4.30). Yes, we can grieve Him. But there is a world of difference between grieving and leaving. He might be grieved but He doesn’t leave.
Fourthly, talk to yourself. Chances are, you have talked yourself into the spiritual pit you find yourself in. “Self-talk” is a concept that is pretty much common in personal development literature. It does express a biblical truth: as people think in their hearts, so they are (see Proverbs 23.7). The mind is a place of battle (2 Corinthians 10.5). Psalm 42.5 shows us David talking to himself when he was spiritually flat.
Fifthly, try praise. I know that sounds like a trite piece of advice taken from the title of some paperback in the late seventies, now long out of print. However, if you want to live the Spirit-filled life, praise and thanksgiving and prayer will never be far away. Just consider how many times Paul exhorts Christians to give thanks and the number of times he recorded himself as giving thanks. In Ephesians 5.18-19 he directly connects the Spirit-filled life with praise and thanksgiving.
Finally, set aside some time and do the above. The above requires some private time with the Lord. If you have neglected the fire, then the chances are you will feel a bit awkward praying or praising in public. Spend some time with the Lord and see what happens!