Life In The Fire

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Why am I crying? I thought to myself as I stared into the bonfire flames that reached high into the sky. The entire student body had gathered that autumn night on the soccer field. Under the leadership of the senior class, we were invited to come and pray over the new school year—dedicating it and ourselves to whatever God wanted done in our school and in our lives. Giant tears rolled down my cheeks as I stood there hand in hand with other members of my junior class, praying, praising, and worshipping. An unexpected change was taking place in me; that fire we encircled was nothing compared to the one that was growing in my heart at that moment. The Holy Spirit was using those giant bonfire flames to remind me of a time when a fire for the things of God burned bright in my heart as a young boy, when all I dreamed of was being a preacher of the gospel. Standing there that night, I realized two things. One, I had allowed my fire to fade away to not much more than a flicker. And two, I wanted it to roar again like it had once before.

In 2 Timothy 1:6, Paul wrote to this young pastor and said, “I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you.” Paul used a peculiar word when he told Timothy to “stir up” the gift. It was the Greek word anazopyreo, and it is the only time this word appears in the New Testament. I’m no Greek scholar, but from what I have learned, this word is best understood when you take it apart into the three words it is comprised of.

First, you see the word ana that I understand is simply a preposition meaning “up” or “again.” Secondly, you see the word zo that is the root word in zoe meaning “life.” Lastly you see the word pyreo that means “fire.” So when Paul told Timothy to “stir up the gift of God,” he was telling him to put life in the fire again. An understanding of the word anazopyreo is the reason the New Living Translation of 2 Timothy 1:6 says, “I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you.”

It will also help you to understand what Paul meant when he talked to Timothy about the “gift” that was in him. The word gift in English is the Greek word charisma. Think about someone you know who has a lot of charisma. Are they outgoing, outspoken, vibrant, and full of life? Do they lead themselves and others well? Are they especially talented in a given area? It’s no wonder we describe people with a lot of charisma as those who are extremely gifted. But look closely again at the word charisma. Do you see the root word charis? Charis is the Greek word for grace. Think again about that charismatic person you know, but this time I want you to realize what you see in their life is more than just an overflow of talent, skill, and leadership ability. What you’re witnessing is an overflow of the grace of God on them.

Did you notice I instructed you to think of someone else you know who is gifted, talented, and charismatic? I did that because most people find it difficult to think of themselves in that way. But you need to know that you also have been gifted by God, and within you right at this moment is a flickering flame waiting for you to douse it with the fuel it needs to burn bright. It’s time for you to stir up the gift and put life in the fire again.

I want to give you some practical help in finding ways to rekindle the flame that may have once burned bright in you for the things of God and for His call on your life. But before we get there, we need to find out what causes the fire to die down or go out completely.

The call of God and grace on Timothy’s life to pastor was obvious to Paul and to many others I’m sure. But the one person who struggled to recognize the gift was Timothy himself. The verse we looked at in 2 Timothy was in fact not the first time Paul had to give him a talking-to about his gift. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul told him to “stop neglecting the gift” that was in him (1 Timothy 4:14). It may have been difficult to convey a stern tone with parchment and ink, but I have no doubt Timothy got the message loud and clear. He had been distracted by the pressure and persecution he was under, not only from the world outside the church but also from elders and leaders within his own church body. Paul was letting him know in no uncertain terms that all the while he was so consumed with the opinions of other people, he was neglecting the grace of God on his life—the very grace he would need to sustain him through the pressure.

Likewise, when we’re consumed with the dissenting opinions of other people; we also neglect, ignore, and subsequently starve the gift God put within us. Every living thing must be fed in order for it to stay alive. Have you ever had a household plant that you neglected to feed over time? What happened to it? It died. That’s what happens to things that don’t get fed. They die. And that’s what has happened to the fire of God in so many people who once were passionate in their pursuit of Him and His plan for their lives. They got distracted by the opposition they encountered from people or from extenuating circumstances, and over time, they began neglecting to feed the fire inside them.

The word neglect can also mean “to give no regard to.” We often neglect the gift and grace God has given us when we compare it to the one we see in someone else. I know that as a young minister, I have had to guard against this temptation in my own life. It would be so easy for me to look at any one of the many ministers and ministries in the world that are having a global impact and decide that my gift isn’t as good or as big as the one I see in them. Or I could be guilty of studying them and their ministry methods so intently that I become more familiar with the call of God on their lives than I am with the one on my own. Either way, I’d be guilty of neglecting the gift He’s given me by giving it little or no regard and valuing it as a lesser gift than the one He gave somebody else. We’ve all been guilty of these things at one time or another, so allow me to say to you what Paul said to Timothy (and what I’ve heard the Holy Spirit say to me a time or two or ten): STOP IT!

Just like Timothy, we have to be reminded to stir up the gift in us and to fuel the flames that used to rise high. So how do we go about stirring ourselves up? It’s simple really. You do it the same way you do everything else in your walk with God—by faith. 

On our first day of shooting for Legacy Television, Sarah and I and our whole team were so excited to finally be doing the thing we knew God wanted us to do. The lights were shining, the cameras were rolling, and everybody was in their right places. But at the end of the day, I forewarned our team that we were beginning something that had no end, and that there could come a time when the sheer repetitiveness of making television broadcasts would try to drain us of our passion and excitement for fulfilling the plan of God. When the natural excitement wanes and wears off, that’s when you have to get your words of faith cranked up: “I love shooting TV broadcasts! I love writing articles! I love traveling here and there and everywhere to preach the Gospel!”

What am I doing when I say these things out loud? I’m stirring up the gift of God that’s in me. You have to do the same thing. When it feels like the fire has all but gone out, and the warmth you used to feel from its flames has turned to a dull smolder, give voice to what you believe instead of what you see. Say out loud, “I love God, and I love His Word. His plan for me is good and His grace in me is great. My gift burns bright and will draw others to Jesus in a big way.”

Another practical tip for stirring up the gift in you is to simply be thankful for it. When you compare your gift to someone else’s or wish you had theirs instead, you are, in essence, telling God that He made a mistake with you, and that you’d like to trade your grace in for the one some other guy got. But that is not being thankful for what you’ve been given. When you’re tempted to neglect your gift because of a preoccupation with someone else’s, that is when you need to get extra thankful for what God has put in you. Giving thanks will stoke the embers of a dying fire and cause it to flame up again. 

Finally, one of the greatest ways to anazopyreo the gift of God in your life is to just find a way to use it. Here’s what you need to know about the grace of God that is on your life: it was given to you so that you may serve someone else with it. In fact, if you came to me and told me that you feel like your fire has died down, the first thing I’d ask you is, “Are you serving somewhere?” Nothing kindles the flames like serving a big vision, even if the vision is not necessarily your own. In other words, don’t just attend church; be the church. Find a way to serve the local body that God has connected you to. In doing so, you’ll either discover the gifting and graces He’s put on your life, or you will stir up the ones that burned bright long ago.

That night I stood gazing at that bonfire changed some things for me. It rekindled in me a desire to be used by God for His kingdom and to His glory. Over the next couple of years, I fed those flames in two main ways. First, I got around people whose fire was bigger than mine, and I let their passion fuel my own. Second, I threw myself into serving in our church. I can honestly say that night set my life on a course that has brought me to where I am right now. So the next time you’re cuddled up in front of the fireplace or sitting around the campfire, I encourage you to look at those flames and let the Holy Spirit talk to you about the blaze He wants to light inside. Stoke the embers! Rake the coals! Fan the flames! It’s time to put life in the fire again.