Fan the Flame
On April 14, 1912, Captain Edward Smith of the RMS Titanic realized the extent of the damage to his ship after striking an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean. He broadcasted a distress signal which was heard by many ships, most not close enough to respond in time to help. However, there was one ship less than twenty miles away. The SS Californian was close enough to see the lights and distress rockets of the Titanic. After the tragedy, the U.S. Congress and British Parliament conducted separate investigations. They both concluded that the Californian may have been able to save many of the lives that were lost that day if they had been able to respond to the calls for help.
More than 1,500 people died in this tragic event. Why didn’t the Californian respond to the Titanic’s distress call? It was reported that the Californian had been fully stopped because her captain feared the possible icebergs in the area. They had allowed their fires to dwindle down so as not to waste their fuel. So, without their fires stoked, the Californian did not have enough steam to power the ship. In other words, once the distress calls were received, the Californian could not move and was never able to rescue a single person from the sinking Titanic. The Californian went down in history books as the “Ship Who Watched the Titanic Sink.”
Our text today is from Paul’s second letter to Timothy. It’s important to know some background here. Paul wrote this letter from his prison cell in Rome, possibly weeks before Emperor Nero would martyr him. Paul was Timothy’s mentor. He taught Timothy how to lead others in a church setting and eventually appointed him to be the pastor of the church at Ephesus. In his letters, Paul encouraged Timothy to press on in his faith, even after Paul’s imminent death. Paul knew Timothy well, knew his strengths, weaknesses, and fears. Paul was aware that his death could possibly cause Timothy’s faith to fade and diminish. This is why Paul encouraged Timothy not to doubt his faith, not let it die, but rather to fan the flame of his faith and keep it alive and active.
“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 next time you are barbequing with a charcoal fire, do a little experiment. Take seven or so charcoal briquettes and put them in a circle, with one being in the center and the others around it. Then take out one charcoal briquette and put it aside, alone. The lone briquette will cool rather quickly while the briquette that is surrounded by others stays red hot for quite some time. Moral of the story: surround yourself with fellow believers in Jesus Christ so as to stay red hot in your faith. We are called to “encourage one another and build one another up” in our faiths. (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
What can smother the flame of your faith? For starters, willful disobedience (sin) against God’s Word will impede God’s work in your life. This willful sin will eventually kill your witness and testimony of Jesus Christ to others. Neglecting your faith can also dampen the flames of your faith. Faith is a spiritual muscle. You must keep it active and exercise it; you must take care of it to keep it alive and well. If you don’t live out your faith in your daily life, then it will begin to fade away until it eventually extinguishes, much like the lonely briquette. Surrounding yourself with people who are not faithful to God can greatly dampen your faith by steering you inwards with selfishness instead of outwards with selflessness. Instead, surround yourself with people who burn red hot in their faith in God to stoke your own flame of faith.
We are all unique individuals with unique gifts from God; we should use them wisely to glorify God inside and outside of the church. But be careful of how you worship God. The purpose of worshipping God is to honor, glorify, and praise God. It is not to get an emotional high or to be entertained. Our culture tells us to “do what makes us happy,” but that way of living leads to spiritual death. We are not called to do what makes us happy but rather to glorify God. “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me; in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Mark 7:6b–7).
God’s free gift of salvation through His love enables us to serve and love one another freely. We are called to love not only God, but our neighbors too. During the Covid pandemic, aided by modern technology, we saw unprecedented widespread church closures and streamed or recorded services offered nearly everywhere. While we were able to still receive God’s Word, we were no longer able to worship together as a unified body in Christ Jesus. You cannot serve others from your couch. And you cannot surround yourself with faithful believers from the lonely comforts of home.
Our culture has believed and constantly repeats Satan’s lie that it’s okay if “you do you” or “you be you.” But God tells us, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16). That is, we should strive to be more Christ-like. “Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:6). Why should “you be you?” You and I are sinful, cursed to die for our sins. God had to intervene to save us. Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20).
If your faith is cooling off or cold, don’t take offense by this devotional; I am not trying to judge you or be condescending. I am rather attempting to reignite your passion for Jesus in your own life so that you can share your faith with others. If you find your fire of faith dampened, FEAR NOT! Jesus has already redeemed you with His name, His sacrifice on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead. It is not too late to get back into His fold. It is not too late to go back to church. Surround yourself with other faithful believers and stoke the fire of your faith back to life! Fan the flames of your faith with God’s Word and being in communion with our Lord Jesus Christ. You will find yourself red hot and burning in your faith again faster than you can imagine.
God did not give us our faith to be timid and fearful; rather, He wants us to show His power of love to others courageously. So, take your rekindled faith out into your community to ignite more flames of faith. Keeping your faith fire burning can be challenging at times, but that’s why God gave us a family of believers in the church. Fear and timidity will dampen your faith. This is why Paul wrote to Timothy with encouraging words. Paul knew that if Timothy, being a church leader, gave into his fear and timidity after Paul’s death, it would damage the church as a whole. So, Paul reminded Timothy that God did not give us a spirit of fear or timidity, but rather gave us a spirit of power, love, and self-control to enable us to minister in His name and keep our flames of faith roaring red hot.
God has already endowed us with His gifts for us to do everything He has called us to do. We should pray for God to give us a spirit of power to withstand the pressures of life knowing that He has already gifted us the power of the Holy Spirit to be effective in His service. We should pray for the ability to love others knowing that God has already unconditionally loved us and sent His Son to die in our stead, freeing us to love our neighbors too. We should pray for self-control to keep us from pursuing sinful desires knowing that He already gave us His Holy Spirit to lead us on His path, always ready to do His Will.
Every day, put aside your fears and timidity so your flame of faith can burn hot and you can show God’s love to others. Don’t let your faith fire go out like that of the SS Californian, leaving you powerless to help others when the opportunity to serve is right in front of you.