God has a role for everyone in His kingdom. It sometimes appears that the people God mostly uses are the ‘alpha’ characters – the big, out-there extroverts, those with the gift of the gab, the confident, funny ones, the people who naturally take charge. And don’t get me wrong, we do need those.
But God needs everyone else too. We are all made with unique, God-given personalities. Sometimes those of us who are quieter, or more serious, or like things to be right, or don’t like upsetting people, wish we were louder, or more spontaneous, more able to ride the wave of life. But God made us as we are. He doesn’t just love us, He actually likes us as we are, and wouldn’t want us to be any other way.
Timothy has a hard act to follow. He’s Paul’s closest confidant, and the person being prepared by Paul to shoulder the senior leadership role after Paul is gone. But he’s very different to Paul. He’s a quiet, gentle character, who leads by wisdom and the example of a godly life. He gets intimidated by aggressive characters and the rough and tumble of pastoral ministry. He’s young, too, and wonders if he’s up to the job, if he carries the authority to lead people of all generations.
And Paul, in this lovely start to what is probably his last letter, reminds Timothy of the only three things he needs to be the person God has made him to be. First, a sincere faith (v5). Timothy has this in abundance: he was blessed to have a mature Christian mother and grandmother, and this heritage of faith will serve Timothy well. Even if we don’t have those role models in our past, let’s take heart that it’s our sincerity of faith that qualifies us to be fit for service in God’s kingdom. Real faith is all that God needs to use us.
But if that’s the foundation, what kick-starts our Christian service are the other two things. We all have gifts, and Paul encourages Timothy to use his as much as he can (v6). The suspicion is that Timothy’s particular gift was dormant, so Paul says ‘fan it back into flame’. You’ve got it, Timothy – go use it! Timothy’s gift was obviously supernaturally imparted through Paul’s own commissioning prayer, and we reflected on the value of spiritual gifts a couple of weeks ago. But the basic principle here, whether for natural or spiritual gifts is: use them! Fan them into flame and let God bless them for His glory.
Finally, we need a bit of courage. Timothy was timid, you get the sense he felt inferior when around other people. But Paul says: the Holy Spirit has much more for you! Your authority, your qualification to serve, is not ultimately given by other humans – it is validated by the Spirit of God, whose presence in you fills you with love, power and a sound mind (the other translation of ‘self-discipline’).
The Spirit is what makes our faith and gifts effective for God. So let us keep fanning our gifts into flame, filled with faith and empowered by the Spirit. God is able to use you, today, wherever you are. Take heart!