Fanning the Flame

Several summers ago, my sister and I spent a week touring historic Williamsburg. We walked block after block, admiring the beautifully preserved colonial homes, gardens, and shops. We also watched various demonstrations of long-ago trades: wig-making, candlewicking, bookbinding.

There was also a blacksmith’s shop. We watched as a leather-aproned blacksmith worked with a white-hot piece of metal, pounding it into a horseshoe. Repeatedly, he would compress an oversized bellows with his foot to fan the fire. This fresh burst of oxygen would breathe new life into the flames, making them leap higher and hotter. If the blacksmith didn’t oxygenate the fire constantly, it would’ve died down to smoldering embers, then eventually into cold, dead ashes. And if that had happened, he would not have been able to complete his task.

The Gift of God

Perhaps this was the image Paul had in mind when he exhorted his young protégé Timothy, to “fan into flame the gift of God . . . for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:6–7). Interestingly, the metaphor “fan into flame” actually comes from the analogy of a blacksmith in Isaiah 54:16—“Behold, I have created the smith who blows the fire of coals and produces a weapon for its purpose”—a verse Paul would have been familiar with given his thorough schooling in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Apparently, young Timothy was struggling with a “spirit of fear” (deilias, “timidity, cowardice”), which endangered the use and effectiveness of his spiritual gifts of teaching and preaching. But what kind of fear was Timothy battling? Paul doesn’t say. Perhaps it was a fear of people’s opinions or their disapproval of his age or inexperience or inadequacy. Perhaps it was fear of failure or rejection.

We can all relate, can’t we? We, too, have battled such fears. When it comes to our spiritual gifts—whatever they may be (1 Cor. 12:4; Eph. 4:11; 1 Peter 4:11)—we, too, can become crippled and incapacitated by fear.

So Paul’s rally-cry exhortation is just as much for us today as it was for timid Timothy. As women who build into the lives of others daily—our families, our ministries, our communities—we also need to “fan into flame” our gifts so they burn white-hot and remain fruitful and effective.

But we don’t just “fan” with anything; we’re to fan with a triplet of resources found only in the Trinity: power, love, and self-control.

Fan with Power

It is only in the supernatural power (dunameōs, “might, strength”) of the Holy Spirit (pneuma, “wind, breath”) that our spiritual gifts have any power whatsoever. He alone gives them life and breath, “oxygenating” them, if you will, like the blacksmith’s bellows.

If we exercise our gifts in our own power (which is possible), they become merely abilities, talents, and accomplishments. Spiritual gifts empowered by the Holy Spirit, on the other hand, ignite a supernatural effectiveness and breathe unimaginable and unexplainable transformation into the hearts and lives of those we serve.

And nothing delights God more, and defeats Satan better, than a ministry given into the powerful hands of the Holy Spirit.

Pray for Power:

Invite the Holy Spirit into your ministry. Daily! Allow Him to “oxygenate” your spiritual gift so that you burn white-hot in your ministry and that it bears beautiful and lasting fruit in the hearts and lives of those it touches.

Fan with Love

Without a genuine, God-borne love undergirding our gifts, we are nothing but “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” In fact, without love, we are “nothing” and we gain “nothing” (1 Cor. 13:1–3). Love (agapē, “goodwill”) for others—even those who are difficult, lost, and wayward—must be what motivates us to serve.

If we serve only out of self-love, then it becomes what Philippians 2:3 calls “selfish ambition,” which most assuredly leads to fear—fear of losing prestige, power, or even money.

Perfect love—love for God, first and foremost, and love for others—casts out all fear, enabling us to serve with an abandon and a freedom we didn’t know we possessed.

Pray for Love:

Prevail upon God to enlarge your love for Him and for those whom you serve, even the seemingly unlovable ones. Ask Him also to reveal any selfish ambitions you may be harboring. Then confess them and receive His unfailing forgiveness (1 John 1:9).

Fan with Self-Control

Fear, worry, and anxiety about our gifts and ministries can easily disable us; the enemy likes nothing better. That’s why Paul says we’re to exercise self-control (sōphronismous, “a sound mind,” closely related to self-discipline, sound judgment, sobriety).

Whenever these debilitating thoughts invade our minds, like soldiers, we’re to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). In essence, we’re to take those thoughts prisoner and subject them to truth. Truths such as:

  • Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ; He will strengthen me.
  • Hebrews 13:5–6: Jesus is with me; He will never leave me nor forsake me; He is my Helper and I needn’t fear, for
  • what can man [their opinion, disapproval, rejection] do to me?
  • Luke 1:37: Nothing is impossible with Jesus.
  • Hebrews 4:16: I can go boldly to His throne of grace at any time and find mercy and grace in my time of need (when feelings of fear overwhelm me).

Pray for Self-Control:

The moment fear enters your mind, take it captive to Christ—acknowledge it, confess it. Then boldly approach the throne of grace, asking for His help, mercy, and grace in overcoming those disabling thoughts.

Sweet sisters, fan your spiritual gifts into flame. Whatever ministry the Lord has graciously given you to do, allow the Holy Spirit to “oxygenate” it, so that you are a powerful, loving, self-controlled woman, a “weapon fit for its work” in the kingdom of God, for His glory and the good of others.

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About the Author

Denise Kohlmeyer

Denise Kohlmeyer

Denise is a former newspaper reporter and co-author of two books in the Clues for the Clueless series. She currently freelances and has been published in both online and print publications, including Christian Woman, Today’s Christian Living, Just Between Us, Desiring God, and Christian Devotions. Denise is passionate about studying the Bible and teaching it so that women understand and apply its relevant transformative power in their lives. She lives in the Chicagoland area with her husband and three teenagers and loves to read, write, and landscape.