There is no shame in the gospel. Indeed, there is only goodness and kindness, mercy and forgiveness, hope and love, justice and peace, and the promise of eternal life.
This is a beautiful passage. It is a personal communication from Paul to Timothy. You can hear Paul’s love for Timothy in it, as well as his gentle admonishments to him. As we know, when we read this, or any scripture passage, we should believe that it is being addressed to us directly and with the same passion. Listen!
“For this reason I remind you to fan the flame of the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” (verse 6) What a beautiful and poetic thought! There is a small ember burning within our souls. It was placed there at our baptisms. It is God’s opening gift of faith to us. Paul admonishes us, with all the tenderness of love, to “fan” that little ember into a flame by our daily commitment to prayer, by our reading of the scriptures, by our honoring of the sabbath, by in every way making ourselves open to the graces of God. The real power of this thought is in the fact that while faith is a generous gift from God, it is our choice to “fan it into a flame,” or not. This is a relationship after all. God has done his part. Paul is challenging Timothy (and us) to do our part in the relationship.
Paul knows that this is not easy, especially when there seems to be so much conspiring against us in the form of temptations to laziness, fear, or the attacks against us by those who hate the gospel, and so on. But Paul reminds us that: “The Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (verse 7) Temptation is real. Fear is real. And the attacks of those who hate the gospel are real. But we have no reason to be timid in the face of them. God has given us his very Spirit. Was there timidity in God at creation? Was there timidity in Jesus in the face of the devil’s temptations in the desert, or before Herod, or Pilate, or the Sanhedrin? Was there timidity in him on the cross? No! And this is the Spirit he has given us in our baptisms. The Spirit we have been given is powerful and cannot be defeated. It was this Spirit, after all, that conquered sin and death and made it possible for us to enter Paradise once again. This Spirit gives us the power to discipline our desires, to act morally in the face of temptations, intimidation, and attack. It enables us to respond with courage and with conviction. It gives us the power to suffer for the gospel and in doing so, to imitate Jesus. It is in doing this that God’s grace remains in the world. With God on our side, who or what can be against us?
Paul reminds us, too, that: “There is no cause for shame, because [we] know whom we have believed, and [we are] convinced that he is able to guard what has been entrusted to [us] until that day.” (verse 12) It is true. There is no shame in the gospel. Indeed, there is only goodness and kindness, mercy and forgiveness, hope and love, justice and peace, and the promise of eternal life. What is there to be ashamed of in any of these things? It is incomprehensible that there would be those who would hate this gospel, but such a reality has been with us since apostolic times and is as stubborn an opponent today as it was then. With this Spirit given us by God, though, we can be courageous in our defense of the gospel. We can go forth in the power of love to live it daily, knowing that this Spirit is with us in all places and at all times. We can, with this Spirit, discipline ourselves to respond to temptation and intimidation with love and forgiveness. And we know that whatever good comes from our courageous living of the gospel will be the work of this Spirit in us.
Spirit of God, encourage us every day to fan the ember you have implanted in our souls into a flame of living faith. Take away any timidity that may remain in us. Help us to live gospel lives openly for your name’s sake. We pray this believing in the power of the name, Jesus. Amen!
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