Paul was strong, tenacious, and tough. Timothy, on the other hand, was timid (v.7). He was not so confident and was perhaps afraid of people. Such timidity would be a disadvantage in Christian leadership. Paul encourages Timothy by reminding him of two truths.
Firstly, Timothy must remember his great heritage. Paul had already mentioned his own heritage and calling. Timothy had a Jewish mother (Eunice) and a Greek father (Acts 16:1). As such, he already shared Paul’s heritage. In addition, Timothy had strong family role models. He would have been inspired by his godly grandmother Lois and mother. They both became believers, but even before that, as devout Jews, they would have taught Timothy the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15). Their sincere faith was transferred to Timothy (v.5).
When life becomes painful and unbearable, it is often helpful to remember those who have inspired and nurtured us, those who believe in us, and those who are praying for us. This is why prisoners of war often remember their families and find new comfort and strength. Therefore, Paul urged Timothy to remember his heritage.
Secondly, Timothy must remember his calling and spiritual enablement. Paul and the body of elders laid hands on Timothy at his ordination (v.6; 1 Timothy 4:14). Not only was a prophetic message given, but “a gift of God” was also imparted to Timothy. This gift could refer to the Holy Spirit or to a particular gifting for ministry. Whatever the case might have been, Timothy ought to remember that God Himself had called and equipped him adequately for his pastoral task. The gift of God was in him. He should draw strength from this fact and overcome his timidity.
The “spirit of power” (v.7) that Timothy had received should make him resilient and strong. However, some people misunderstand spiritual power and explain it in terms of worldly power—which can be arrogant, bossy, bullying, and even abusive and violent. True spiritual power is always connected with divine love and human self-discipline (v.7). As John Calvin said, “The powerful energy of the Spirit is tempered by love and soberness.”
How will you thank God for the great heritage you have as a Christian? Think of biblical characters, Christians in history, and those you know personally.
What do you think Paul had in mind when he urged Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God” (v.6)? What personal implications are there for you?