Fan into Flames
By Jennifer Slattery –
When we lived in Southern California, a massive fire ravished the San Gabriel Mountains, destroying 1,000 homes and forcing many to evacuate. Rumor had it the fire was started by a cigarette casually flicked. Others said the fire was started by an arsonist. Regardless the source, the initial spark turned exponential until it devoured 90,000 acres, becoming the largest fire San Bernardino County had ever seen.
Fire is a powerful thing. When fed, it grows to unquenchable proportions, its heat radiating for miles. We’ve all heard stories of raging forest fires started by a single match. I’m sure we’ve also all experienced the frustration of trying to set kindling ablaze.
I’ve been on a handful camping trips, and try as I might, I can barely ignite a few measly twigs. I’ll use matches, gasoline and crumpled paper. I’ll blow and fan the air. I’ve tried leaves and straw, which initially catches only to smolder into a puff of black smoke. What’s the difference between my efforts and the 2004 forest fire that raged through Southern California?
Both started with a spark, yet one grew while the other dwindled. The difference, I believe, is the forest was ripe, ready to combust. We’d had little water and intense heat, so it didn’t take much to set the trees ablaze. Then came the wind, fueling the flames with a steady supply of oxygen until the entire forest blazed.
This image came to mind when I read 2 Timothy 1:6. “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” (NIV).
Paul tells Timothy to “fan into flames” the spiritual gift God gave him.
In essence, Paul was saying, “Lay it all on the line, Timothy. Don’t let anything hold you back from full surrender. When others pull away, step up. Burn like a wildfire!”
Note, he wrote this letter to Timothy, a man Paul loved like a son, from a prison cell. During a time of extreme persecution, when many might’ve been tempted to slip into hiding, Paul told Timothy to step it up.
I believe God is calling us to do the same. If we’ve accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, we’ve got the spark of the Holy Spirit burning within us. But our heart is much like the trees in a forest. We share the same flame, but some trees are more combustible than others. Some are doused in flame-retardants—sin, distractions, and all those temporary fillers that steal our time and dull our hearts—others are ready to ignite.
What’s your heart like? Is it prepared to be set on fire or have you allowed it to smolder? If the latter is true, will you fan your heart and your gifts into flames?
Each time we draw near to God, each time we dig into His Word and spend time in heart-felt prayer, each time we use the gifts He gives to serve others, our flame grows. Every time we squelch our flame with sin, selfishness, and those temporary fillers that distract us from our true need, our tiny flame smolders.
The match is lit. Let it burn, my friend!
Let’s talk about this.
I’d love to hear from you. What do you think it means to fan our spiritual gifts into flames? What are some practical steps we can take to ignite our passion for Christ? What can threaten to “douse” our passion?