May 8, 2023

Stir Up the Gift

Stirring can do wonders in some situations. For example, where I live, cream comes in a can. When the can is first opened, all that can be seen is a lump of substance surrounded by a little liquid. In order for the cream to taste the way it should, it has to be stirred. It seems as though the more it is stirred, the creamier it gets. When I try to use the cream without stirring it first, it doesn’t look right or taste right, and yet it has all the right ingredients. When it is stirred and creamy, I can pour it over a dessert, and it is delicious. But it must be stirred!

The Apostle Paul wrote to a young minister named Timothy, “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:6-7). Timothy was one who was saved, sanctified, and baptized with the Holy Ghost. By all appearances, he would seem to be where he should be spiritually. He had everything necessary to be as effective as any Christian could be. Yet Paul advised him, “Stir up the gift of God, which is in thee.” We might wonder why Paul would write such a letter to one like Timothy. However, Paul wasn’t telling him to seek God for something more; all the ingredients were there. Instead, he was encouraging Timothy to let the fire that was already there burn more brightly.

Might it be that Timothy’s heart needed stirring, because somehow fear was restraining him from serving God fully? There is a reason Paul wrote that God has not given us a spirit of fear. Whatever it was that hindered Timothy, Paul’s message was clear. God has given us the tools to overcome fear: His power emboldens us, His love compels us, and a sound mind enables us to spread the Gospel message. If these are not currently active in our lives, we can stir them up through prayer. 

Not given a spirit of fear

Fear does not always come from being in a dangerous situation. Often, the bigger fear people face is the fear of failure or rejection. We can see this type of fear demonstrated in the Parable of the Talents found in Matthew 25:14-30. Before leaving on a long journey, a lord distributed talents to three of his servants. The first servant received five and put them to good use. When the lord returned, he had ten talents to show for his work. The second servant was given two, and he used them to earn two more. The last servant was given one talent. Instead of doing something with it, he buried it and then later explained, “I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth” (verse 25). This servant had a spirit of fear that kept him from laboring for his lord, and as a result he was cast into outer darkness.

A spirit of fear is not of the Lord. We read in Romans 8:15, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” When worry over failure or rejection threatens to keep us from doing God’s will, we can be stirred by praying for confidence, and God will embolden us. 

A spirit of fear can also manifest itself as cowardice. Peter was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples and also part of His inner circle. Along with James and John, he was privileged to witness events that others never saw. He was present with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration and also when He raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead. Peter knew firsthand the truth of the Gospel message and the power of God. Yet, at Jesus’ trial when accused by a young maid of being a follower of Christ, he denied it. He even swore when confronted the third time and said, “I know not this man of whom ye speak” (Mark 14:71). Peter was so afraid! In the face of opposition, he backed away when he should have admitted to and stood for the truth. However, one look from Jesus, and he regretted his error. He went out and wept bitterly.

Peter was restored through Christ’s love and later that love helped him to overcome his fear. After the Resurrection, Jesus met with His disciples and asked Peter three times, “Lovest thou me?” Peter’s reaction is recorded in John 21:17: “Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.” Then, “Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” Compelled by love and powered by the Holy Ghost, Peter was able to lead the Early Church while withstanding every opposition.    

We read in 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” When we are fearful of the opposition we might face in telling others about Christ, we can meditate on God’s love toward us. Our hearts will be stirred to share that love with others.

Jeremiah was another who was afraid. He felt inadequate to serve as a prophet and responded to God’s calling with, “Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.” God was not so much interested in Jeremiah’s abilities as He was in his willingness. He told Jeremiah, “Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shall speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee” (Jeremiah 1:6-8). When God calls us to a task that seems overwhelming, we can stir ourselves by praying for a willing heart, and He will provide the ability.    

A spirit of power

Paul told Timothy that God has given us a spirit of power. If we question this, we can read the account of the three Hebrew children and ask ourselves, “What type of spirit did they have?” They were told to bow down to the image made by King Nebuchadnezzar or be burned alive in the fiery furnace. They could have talked over the situation and decided to pretend. They could have said, “Let’s bow our heads, but in our hearts, we will pray to our God.” But no, they didn’t even cast a vote, because their hearts were already set. They had predetermined to trust in God’s power to deliver, either in this life or in the next. Therefore, they had no fear of the king or the furnace. They boldly told the king, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image that thou has set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).

The time did come when they were cast into the fiery furnace—God allowed them to go through that trial. However, when the king looked into the furnace, he saw something astonishing. Though three men had been thrown in, he said, “Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (Daniel 3:25).

What are we afraid of? Why do we allow being timid to hinder our work for the Lord? We have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power. We find in Acts 1:8, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” When we receive the Holy Ghost, we receive power, and it is effective!

This enduement of power was something else that helped Peter. At the time of the Crucifixion, he had cowered with fear, but his behavior changed after he received the Holy Ghost. In Acts, chapter 4, we read that Peter and John got into trouble with the religious leaders after healing a lame man. They were arrested and taken before the high priest and elders to give an account of their actions. When asked by what authority they had healed the man, Peter did not cower this time. No, he boldly proclaimed, “Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole” (verse 10). The council marveled at his boldness. Then they threatened Peter and John, telling them to stop preaching Christ. They did not back down, but replied, “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (verses 19-20).

What a change! The spirit of power destroys our fears and emboldens us to take a stand for what is right. Why would we fear the enemy with the Holy Spirit dwelling within us? He that is within us is greater than he that is in the world.

A spirit of love  

Another tool we can use in overcoming fear is having God’s love in our hearts. This is no ordinary love, but one that is patient, kind, and without jealousy, pride, or selfishness. It is described further in 1 Corinthians 13:5-7. God’s love “is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” This is the spirit that God has placed within us.

This spirit gives us a love for the saints—every one of them. It also gives us a love for sinners. Though it is good to be ready for Heaven, we should want to see others saved as well. God’s love compels us to share the Gospel message with others, overcoming our fears of rejection, persecution, or inadequacy.

Talents, training, and experience are all good things to possess in ministry. However, nothing can take the place of the power of the Holy Spirit and a love for lost souls. I have been preaching for years, but if God’s power and love were not with me, I would not be able to do it. I am too afraid to stand before people and speak, and experience has not helped with that. Every time I preach, I must pray and ask God for help. I must make sure that His power and love are stirred up within me.    

When we don’t have a burden for lost souls, we need to ask God to stir up His love within us, and not just for our own families. Paul wrote to the church at Rome, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved” (Romans 10:1). It is God’s love that enables us to take the Gospel message beyond our own homes to our neighborhoods, cities, countries, and the world. It helps us accomplish the work of the Lord.  

A spirit of a sound mind

God has given us another tool to help in overcoming our fears: the spirit of a sound mind. As ambassadors for Christ, it is important that we are careful in what we say and how we say it. Sometimes a person can get into trouble by saying the right thing, but at the wrong time or in the wrong place. However, we don’t want a fear of saying the wrong thing to keep us from telling others about God through testifying, teaching, preaching or other means. We don’t want a fear of failure or inadequacy to keep us from doing these things. Instead, we can thank God for renewing our minds, pray for His wisdom, and be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading. If we will listen for and follow His advice, God will help us exercise good judgment and enable us to fulfill His callings.

Keep stirring!  

As Paul continued his advice to Timothy, he said, “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord” (verse 8). Are you afraid to tell what God has done for you? Has your testimony settled like the cream in the can? When my wife opens a new can of cream, she stirs the contents before setting it on the table. Then I stir it again, and again. The more I stir, the better it gets. That is like the Gospel. The more the gift within you is stirred up, the better your testimony will be, and the less ashamed you will be to proclaim the Good News. 

You have all the ingredients, and God has given you the tools to overcome fear: a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind. Ask God to stir your heart today until the Gospel is bubbling over in your soul, ready to be shared with others.

apostolic faith magazine