Thinking about a fading fire.

This is the last post of a series on how I write about the Bible.

In his letter to Timothy, Paul tells Timothy that he misses him. He affirms Timothy’s faith heritage. Then, because he is confident of Timothy’s faith, Paul says, “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands”.

When I read this, I wanted to understand the image. Was Timothy loafing? Was Paul concerned that Timothy was complacent, that he was coasting? Was Timothy being too passive? I know that these interpretive questions come because I wonder about my own complacency, my own feeling that I am coasting.

Is Paul saying something to me?

So I look at the idea of fanning something into flame. Paul’s creating an image here, because these words are what you say when a fire isn’t dead, but it’s not burning brightly. It’s a phrase that might be said in any Greek speaking home on any cold night. Or with any group of travelers in the early AD’s.

And that’s why in my post about stirring up the fire, I put Paul and Timothy and Luke by a campfire that has burned down during a conversation. It’s not a bad thing, the fire hasn’t been wasted. But it’s not doing all that it can do. And for Timothy, as a younger member of the team to stir up the fire makes sense. And for Paul to reminisce about their time together and to use the word picture makes sense.

And Paul makes an compelling statement to Timothy: you have the opportunity and responsibility and the capability to tend a gift that God has given. Is it your own self-realized skill? Nope. do you get to be passive? Nope.

Stir up the fire.


And that’s a bit of how I reflect as I write. Do I expect everyone to do this digging and Biblical imagining? Not at all. (However, if you feel the desire, this is something that you can try at home.) Just like I don’t expect everyone who reads Colossians to also read the 500 page commentary. But I do expect that you should expect me to do this. As I read and reflect, as I write and teach, I need to do everything I can to bring life to the text.  So yes, Paul is saying something to me. And this is part of the process that lies behind my book on Nehemiah (A Great Work).

Thanks for your patience with long posts this week. Paul Merrill will be here tomorrow and then we’ll head back to 300 word posts.

2 thoughts on “Thinking about a fading fire.

  1. Rich Dixon

    You may be letting us off the hook a bit too easily. Certainly we can’t research as often, thoroughly, deeply, or completely as you, but when we’re stuck or confused we have access to the same tools. I don’t think we get to shrug and say, “It’s not my job.”


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