Some times it can feel like our life is a ship on the verge of breaking apart in a violent storm. Maybe we placed too much trust in the now creaking wooden planks that buckle and groan over dark turbulent waters. In a last stitch effort to stay afloat, we madly rush about throwing any non-essentials overboard.
At times we turn to anything or anyone in an attempt to discover some lifesaving advice— perhaps a miracle? If you’re a child of God, you’ve got access to salvation even in the storms. Jonah 1:4-5 depicts chaos, panic, and overwhelming fear. Those sailors on the boat with Jonah had no idea where they should turn for their salvation. With each passing moment their ship threatened to burst into splinters and “each one cried out to his god” (v. 5).
But Jonah? He’s asleep. He has some kind of knowledge and relationship with the Creator, but he doesn’t fully understand how powerful his God really is.
The application, then, is humbling. Today our communities are filled with people whose lives are rocked and they’re looking for a savior with lifesaving power. They turn to the things in which they’ve placed their trust, and to no avail. How many of us hold the answers they need, but at times find ourselves spiritually sleeping— selfishly keeping this message to ourselves?
A fire requires just a few basic things to keep going—starter, combustible material, oxygen, and maintenance. It can take a while to get a fire started, but it needs ventilation to get going and stay going. After it’s caught, the fire must be cared for and tended. Otherwise, the fire dies.
Paul says something interesting to Timothy as he writes a last letter to his spiritual son. In it, he urges the young preacher to “kindle afresh the gift of God” (2 Tim. 1:6). The word “kindle,” found only here, means “to cause to begin or blaze again” (BDAG, n. pag.). Josephus uses this word to speak of Herod the Great who, after killing his beautiful wife in a jealous rage, eventually “his affections were kindled again; and indeed the flame of his desires for her was so ardent” addressed her affectionately as if she were still alive (War of the Jews, 1.444; See also Josephus, Ant. 8, 234 and 1 Clement 27:3). Paul is most concerned that Timothy was in danger of losing his spiritual passion, and he writes him to reignite the flame. Perhaps the fire had already gone out. What’s interesting is what Paul does to try to help rekindle Timothy’s fire.
SUPPLICATING (1:3). Paul tells Timothy he prayed for him day and night. Not only was he praying, he tells Timothy he’s praying for him.
SUPPORTING (1:4). It had to help Timothy to know how much Paul longed to see him. Timothy may have felt alone at Ephesus, without faithful fellowship and Christian companionship. Knowing of Paul’s desire for a joyous reunion, especially Paul’s recall of Timothy’s previous emotional engagement (“your tears”), may have been fire-starter!
STIRRING UP (1:6-14). The mentor challenges the minister to raise the bar. He says, “Don’t be ashamed” (8; Onesimus wasn’t, 18, and Paul wasn’t, 12). He says, “Retain the standard of sound words” (13). Then he says, “Guard the treasure” (14; cf. 1 Tim. 6:20).
Paul did everything he could from within prison walls to support a struggling saint whose spirit was soggy and smoldering.
Do you know any Christians whose fire is going out or maybe has already been extinguished? Have you wondered what you might do for them? Follow Paul’s pattern. Pray for them, then gently let them know you are. Try to spend time with them, if they’ll let you. Then, as a spiritual, self-examining one (Gal. 6:1), appeal to their courage, the trustworthiness of divine truth, and the impact that word will have in keeping them on course in fulfilling their true purpose in life.
If I ever find myself struggling and wavering, I will want a Paul to do for me what I read about in 2 Timothy 1. However hardened sin might make my heart, I hope I will still realize—if only deep inside—that my most important objective is to be ready for heaven when I die. I would hope I could still be reached by a caring Christian who wouldn’t let my fire go out permanently!
It is said that when Dorothy opened the door to Oz and the movie’s colors went from sepia to Technicolor the audience gasped and that many stood up and applauded. Moviegoers had never seen a movie in color before. We take color movies for granted, but 75 years ago it was new.
Can you remember how excited you were to be able to surf the internet in the early 1990s. A page would load in mere minutes. Dial-up was such an innovation. Smartphone, tablet, and laptop users scoff, nay cringe, at the thought of such primitivity today. We are creatures cultivated by conditioning. What was once fresh and new can all too quickly become stale and old.
Did you grow up in the church or did you come to Christ through your own investigation or someone’s love and concern? Perhaps you can boast of being a third, fourth, fifth, or more generation Christian. You were raised knowing God’s plan of salvation, will for worship, and pattern for daily living. Perhaps it can at times seem like “old hat” and cause us to take the great blessing of salvation for granted.
One who came to Christ as a teenager or an adult may often have a special, intense appreciation for their “new” discovery. Over the course of time (and even generations), we may have to fight apathy and complacency. We can forget the joy and excitement of forgiveness or the feelings of peace and hope. If we “inherited” our faith, we may have to work harder at understanding just what a blessing we had handed to us by our parents and strive to appreciate what we may be taking for granted.
Understand that the blessing of salvation is more wonderful than anything we can imagine. Nothing new or better can follow that. The challenge is always for us to maintain appropriate appreciation for such atonement! Is it still new or do you maybe need to renew?