“I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (II Timothy 1:6).
Did Paul’s hands give Timothy a spiritual gift? I admit it reads that way, but it’s hard to imagine that happening.
You don’t have to be anticharismatic to conclude the scripture does not teach spiritual gifts being imparted from one person to another by the “laying on of hands.”
What we would prefer to think is that Paul laid hands on Timothy in the same way we ordain people to the ministry and that the significance is similar: conveying our love, confidence, and prayers in an official ceremony after which the individual is recognized as fully authorized to do whatever it is he has been called by God to do. (That convoluted sentence will never appear in anyone’s textbook! Smiley-face goes here.)
My concern and focus with Second Timothy 1:6 is with the “stir up” or “kindle afresh” part. That we can understand.
At the table, the child asks for more sugar for his drink. Mom can see a half inch of sugar at the bottom of his glass. “Honey, you don’t need more sugar. Stir up what you have.”
So, what has the Holy Spirit put within the believer? First, there is the presence of the Lord Himself. Secondly, there are the spiritual gifts which, we are told in Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12, He gives to each believer as He chooses. And thirdly, there is the calling itself, a call as an apostle or teacher or pastor, whatever the Lord chose.
If the Holy Spirit indwells us, we do not need more (in that sense) because to have Him is to have all of HIm. If He has given us spiritual gifts–and He has, to every believer–we do not need more, but to stir up and put into service the ones He has given us. And if He has called us, we do not need a second calling, but to obey the first call in loving faithfulness.
Or, take another metaphor.
In the early morning, Dad rises before his family and builds a fire to warm the house. In many cases, he does not start from scratch but stirs the coals from last evening’s fire, adds more fuel, and the fire is going. He “kindled afresh” last evening’s fire.
As a follower of Jesus, you have the Savior living within you (Colossians 1:27 says this is the genius of the Christian life). You have the Holy Spirit indwelling you (John 7:37-38, Romans 8:9, and other places). “You are complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10). You do not need “more” of the Spirit, more of His calling, or more of anything.
You need to stir up what you have.
This stirring up–this kindling afresh–is what we call “revival.”
It’s similar to what the prophets called breaking up “the fallow ground” (Hosea 10:12; Jeremiah 4:3). Ask any farmer. Fallow ground is ground that has lain there year after year producing nothing but weeds. The crust is hard and the old growth will have to be dealt with before anything can be planted. So, the farmer brings out deep turning plows, the kind that cut far into the soil and turn over everything on top, burying it below. Later, he will return and run a harrow over this turned soil, breaking it into finer soil, more pliable and more receptive to the seed. Finally, when the farmer decides the soil is ready, he will bring in another kind of plow and “lay off rows,” into which good seed and fertilizer are laid. (Hey, you’re talking to an old farm boy here. I plowed the mule on our remote Alabama farm every weekday of the summers of my 15th, 16th, and 17th year.)
I hear people say, “I used to love to draw” or “I used to sing” or “I used to be quite active in this ministry or that work of the Lord.” But they laid it aside, got too busy doing other things, and now they look back with a certain amount of sadness and longing.
Kindle it afresh. Start with what you have. Stir it up.
Anyone can look back with longing over what might have been. But the person of faith gets up and goes to work to see what can be done with the time and resources left.