Keeping the Fire Burning!March 9, 2020
Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.
— 2 Timothy 1:6
Do you ever struggle to keep the fire of the Holy Spirit burning in your heart? Perhaps it sometimes feels like all that is left burning are a few small embers — or perhaps even the embers are starting to die out and become cold! How do you stoke that fire inside you so that it begins burning in your heart again? That’s what I want to talk to you about today. But let me begin by turning to a story from our family’s earliest days in the former USSR and what we learned about keeping the fire burning.
We had purchased an abandoned apartment in the heart of our city. It was in miserable condition — so ruined that it should have been condemned. But after restoration work was complete, the apartment was just as elegant as it had been in the years before the Soviet occupation. Before restoration, the apartment was a morass of mold, collapsed ceilings, and plaster falling off the walls. But when the work was complete, the walls were covered with fine wallpaper, and magnificent chandeliers hung once again from giant, hand-carved medallions in the center of the ceilings. The giant crown molding that wrapped around the ceilings of each room had been meticulously restored. Every room had beautiful, new parquet floors to match those that had existed before the Revolution. And the nine fireplaces — one for each big room and in each bedroom — were the most magnificent features of all. Once restored, they looked like something that belonged in a museum! Meanwhile, every other apartment in the building still remained in a state of devastation and abandonment.
Eventually the whole building would be beautifully restored, but when we moved into our apartment, the other apartments and the central staircase of the building looked like something that had been bombed in World War II. It looked so abandoned that derelicts slept in our entry way. We were told by city authorities that the city-wide heating system would be connected to the building before winter, so we installed new pipes to carry the heat to every room in preparation of wonderful heat. But as the weather turned cold and winter approached, it was apparent that heat was not coming that year and our family would be living in freezing temperatures inside our apartment. This was a serious problem, because that city got very cold in the winter.
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Suddenly those museum-quality fireplaces became necessities — and we started using those lavish fireplaces to provide heat for our home. Transporting wood was difficult because we lived downtown and there was no nearby source of wood. But in that desperate situation, our young sons — Paul, Philip, and Joel — came up with an idea about where we could get wood so our family would have heat for the winter. When it’s really cold, that’s a good time to get creative! So our sons, out of their desire not to feel cold, thought of something Denise and I would have never thought of in a million years.
The apartment directly below us was in such a horrible condition and it was owned by no one. When we first purchased our own apartment, it was so ruined that the bathroom had a hole next to the toilet. Men had “missed” the toilet for so many years that the urine had eaten a hole through the floor! That apartment under us was so unkempt and so destroyed that nothing could be salvaged. Walls were half gone; fireplaces were destroyed; and there was no glass in the windows! That latter feature was especially bad for us because our apartment, located directly above, felt the effect of the freezing winter wind blowing through the apartment beneath our floor.
The floors of that lower apartment had once been splendid parquet with all types of inlaid exotic woods and designs. But those same floors had become ruined from water leaks, and the parquet tiles were half ripped up and lying all over the apartment in irreparable, shattered pieces.
One morning when Denise and I were pondering what to do with the cold temperatures that were getting worse by the day and hour, our three sons disappeared — but they soon reappeared, walking through the front door of our apartment with armloads of 100-year-old parquet flooring that they had gathered from the devastated apartment below. Denise and I watched as the two older boys shoved that old parquet into the doors of our fireplaces and then lit each fire. They worked on them until a blaze was going strong in each of those old museum pieces all over the apartment. The wood was so old and dry that it began quickly popping and burning. Soon our apartment was warming up in every room, fueled by the wood from the apartment below that our sons had collected and put on the fire.
When it started to get cold again, we’d throw open the door to the fireplaces to see if the fire was going out, and if we saw that there was nothing left but embers, our sons would throw on their jackets, rush down two flights of steps to the abandoned apartment below, and rip up more flooring (which any eventual buyer would have had to replace anyway). Soon they’d be back with armloads of antique parquet flooring. First, the boys would break it into smaller pieces; then they would shove it through the fireplace doors into the fire, and almost immediately the house would start warming up again.
As long as wood was on the fire, we could be assured that we would have heat. But if there was no wood left to burn or if only embers were left, it was certain that the fire would go out unless we took action. Fuel was essential to keep those fireplaces going, for when fuel of any sort is depleted, the fire eventually goes out.
Often there was enough wood to keep the fire burning, but it needed to be stoked — moved around and repositioned with a long poker. We’d insert that long iron rod into the wood and embers; then we’d rigorously rake them back and forth and side to side to provide more oxygen for the embers so the fire would keep burning longer. In fact, if we didn’t regularly stoke those embers and fan the flames, we discovered that the fire could go out even if there was enough wood to keep it burning. Those embers had to be tended to regularly to keep the fire going.
As I personally took my turns to stoke the embers, I regularly meditated on Paul’s words to Timothy in Second Timothy 1:6. In that verse, Paul wrote, “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.”
The words “stir up” are from the Greek word anadzoopureoo, a triple compound of the Greek words, ana, zoos, and pur. The word ana carries the idea of repeating an earlier action or doing something again. The word zoos is from the word zao, which means to be enthusiastic, to be fervent, to be passionate, to be vigorous, to be wholehearted, or to be zealous. The word pur is the Greek word for fire — but it must be noted that in Classical Greek, fire was a life-giving force. Fire was used on the hearths of every ancient home to keep people warm; it was used in matters related to the divine and supernatural; and it was used as a force to defeat enemies. Fire was central to life and considered both practically and spiritually essential for one’s existence.
When these three words are compounded, they form the Greek word anadzoopureoo — which is the very word Paul used in Second Timothy 1:6 when he told the younger minister to “stir up” the gift of God that was in him. It implies that the fire in Timothy’s heart had ebbed to embers on a low burn. Hence, Paul told the younger minister to passionately and rigorously begin again to stoke and stir up the gift of God in his life, just as one would stoke the embers of a fire in a hearth or fireplace. Paul was not just kindly suggesting that Timothy take action; the apostle was commanding Timothy to spiritually reach within and begin to rekindle the fire in his heart.
At the time Paul wrote this epistle to Timothy, this young man was surrounded by confusion resulting from the intense persecution that was taking place. Is it possible that he was exhausted and that his own fire was beginning to wane? Most likely the answer is yes. But regardless of Timothy’s current state, Paul told him to take action before the fire went out. Timothy was to open the door to his heart, look inside to determine the condition of his inward fire, and then take action to “put more wood on the fire” and stir up the gift of God inside him. This would not occur accidentally but would require a proactive response. If Timothy would obey Paul’s command, that inward fire would blaze again and Timothy would once again have fire burning in the center of his being. The younger minister would be reconnected to the supernatural power of God and provided with a weapon that would consume his spiritual adversaries. Wow!
In those early days of living in the former Soviet Union, the Renner family learned that if we intended to have heat in our freezing apartment, we would have to become proactive to make it happen. We had to find fuel; we had to carry it upstairs; we had to open the door to the fireplaces; we had to put the fuel into the fire; and we had to stoke the fuel regularly throughout the day to keep it burning. And if we started to hit a low burn, it meant we had to begin the process all over. Our choices were to be proactive and do what was required or to freeze.
It is the same for you. If your “fire” is at a low burn or close to going out, it’s time for you to take Paul’s words to heart “to stir up” the gift of God that is inside you. You cannot depend on someone else to do something so vital for you. So ask the Holy Spirit how to do it — how to open the door to your heart and take an honest look on the inside to assess your need. Then let Him show you how to proceed in fueling your fire and stirring up those embers so that you will once again become a bright blazing inferno for Jesus Christ!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, I confess that I need to stir up the gift of God that is in me. There was a time when it seemed the fires burned much brighter, but for one reason or another, I’ve allowed the flame in my spirit to grow colder. I take responsibility for this, as it is my heart, and I ask You to forgive me for letting my condition go this far. Today I am accepting responsibility, and I will look at my heart and determine the truth. And with the help of the Holy Spirit, I will begin to actively and vigorously rekindle that glorious spiritual fire that You intended to burn inside me. Help me, Holy Spirit, to do this not just once, but to continually put spiritual fuel into my heart and stoke the embers.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that my heart is a hearth for the fire of the Holy Spirit. It is God’s will for my heart to be spiritually ablaze, and today I will begin to do what I must do to rekindle the flame to burn as it once did and to blaze even brighter. I will not allow distractions — whether they come from my own busy schedule, from others, or even from myself — to take my attention off my spiritual condition ever again. I recognize my failure to tend to the fire has affected me, and I declare that from this moment onward, I will dutifully stoke the fire and the gifts of God that have been placed inside me. I will find fuel for the fire and I will take responsibility to make certain it is placed on the hearth of my heart regularly so that the fire burns bright continuously.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Can you remember a time when your heart was literally “ablaze” with the things of God? What happened along the way to affect that fire? Have you ever stopped to ponder what you could have done differently to keep it burning regardless of the events that occurred around you?
- What is your source of spiritual fuel? What feeds you? What keeps your heart on track and ablaze? It would be good for you to take a few minutes to write down the sources that regularly feed your heart and keep you stirred up as you serve Jesus.
- How long has it been since you paused long enough to really look inside the door of your heart to see how much fuel is still there? Do you spend time with God daily and allow the Holy Spirit to do an inventory of your spiritual condition? If not, why not? This is important enough that you should start doing it every day.