C. H. SPURGEON
Copyright 2004 by Tony Capoccia. This updated file may be freely copied,
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Verses quoted, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ©1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
This sermon, preached by Tony Capoccia, is now available on Audio Cassette or CD: www.gospelgems.com
“I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” [2 Timothy 1:6]
I suppose that Timothy was a somewhat shy and timid youth and that from the gentleness of his nature he needed to be exhorted to be bold in his witness and testimony. He is told not to be ashamed to testify about our Lord, and to endure hardship like a good soldier of Jesus Christ. He is called to the front though his timid nature would have kept him in the rear, and he is exhorted to command and teach, allowing no one to despise his youth. Perhaps, also, he was not a man of very forceful action, and needed every now and then a little touch of the spur to induce him to awaken all his dormant energy to energize himself and his church in passionate labor for Christ. He had a very choice spirit, and therefore it was desirable to see it strong, brave, and energetic. No one would wish to arouse a bad man, for like a viper he is all the more worse when awakened; but in proportion to the excellence of the character is the desirability of its being full of force. The apostle Paul tells Timothy, in his first epistle, not to neglect the gift that is in him, and in the text before us he tells him to fan into flame that gift: in each case Paul is sounding the trumpet in his ear, and commanding him to passionate action.
Paul speaks of the gift that was conferred on Timothy by the laying on of his hands, and in the former epistle he connects that with the hands of the elders. Now, it was no doubt the custom to lay on hands at the ordination of Christian ministers by the apostles, and there was an excellent reason for this, for gifts were thereby conveyed to the ordained, and when we can find anybody who can confer some spiritual gift upon us, we will be glad to have their hands laid on our heads; but we don’t care for empty hands. Rites cease when their meaning ceases. If practiced any longer they lead to superstition, and are fit instruments of Roman Catholic priests. The upholding of the hands of the eldership, when they give their vote to elect a man to the pastorate, is a wise proceeding, and is, I suspect, all the apostle means when he speaks of the elders; but empty hands it seems to me are fitly laid on empty heads, and to submit to an empty ceremony is an idle waste of time. If Paul were here, and could confer a gift, we would rejoice to receive it; yes, and if the lowliest man in Christendom, or woman, could confer the smallest amount of grace by the laying on their hands, we would bow our head in the lowliest manner; till then we will beg to decline submitting to the imposition, or assisting in it. For this reason, and others, we cannot use the text exactly as it stands in addressing this congregation, but leaving out the reference to laying on of hands, we may honestly, without violation of the current of inspiration, proceed to exhort each one of you to fan into flame the gift that is in you.
There are many kinds of gifts. All Christians have some gift. Some may have only one gift, but all have at least one. The Great Master has apportioned to every servant a gift. No single part of a vital body is without its function and position. True, there are some parts of the body whose function has not yet been discovered; even the physician and the anatomist have not been able to tell why certain organs are in the human body, or what purpose they serve, but as even these are found to be necessary, we are quite sure that they fulfill some useful purpose. Truly, there are some Christians who might be put in that category: it might puzzle anybody to know what they are capable of; and yet it is certain they have some charge committed to them to keep, and that, if they are true believers, they are essential parts of the body of Christ. As every beast, bird, fish, and insect, has its own place in nature, so has every Christian a proper position in the economy of grace. No tree, no plant, no weed, could be dispensed with without injury to nature’s perfect balance; neither can any sort of gift or grace be lost to the church without injury to her completeness. Every living saint has his or her charge to keep — their talent, over which they are a steward. A measure of gift is in all of us, needing to be fanned into a flame.
Some have external gifts rather than internal ones — gifts, for instance, of worldly position, estate and substance. These ought to be well used and considering that in these times we have a starving world to deal with, and that one of the great impediments to the spread of the gospel is with some of us the lack of means for the support of those who should preach the word, it does seem a strange thing that Christians would lay aside God’s money and use it as if it were their own. When for our orphans, our students, and our missionaries, we need funds, how can men and women love the Lord with all their hearts, and yet keep thousands stored in their bank accounts, or the extra money in their purses and wallets? They have not learned to provide for themselves purses that do not wear out. They do not understand that to keep their money they must give it away, that truly to preserve it they must dedicate it to God. For that which is kept by the miserly for themselves is not really preserved, but wasted. That which is expended in the Master’s service is laid up in heaven, where neither moth nor rust can destroy. But I am not going to speak about that: I don’t have much reason to speak upon that subject to those who are immediately connected with me, for I would rather praise you. Most of our dear friends here do serve the Lord with the gifts that are outside of them — not all as we should, but many with more than ordinary liberality, and some up to the full extent of their means, if not beyond them. There are, however, exceptions to all rules; and there are a few who attend this church who need more than a gentle hint to excite generosity in them. But we must go at once to the point in hand; — “the gift that is in you.”
First, we will discuss the gift that may be in each one of us; and then, secondly, how we are to fan it into flame; and in conclusion, we will give reasons for fanning it into a flame.
I. First, then, WHAT GIFT DO WE HAVE IN US?
1. In some here tonight there are gifts of the mind, which are accompanied with gifts of speech.
It is no small thing to be able to read the Scriptures and to see their inner meaning, to be able to compare spiritual things with spiritual, and to be so taught in other matters, that we are able to see the hand of God in history, and can teach others on all such subjects. However, not every one who has gifts of the mind also has the gift of speech, but where God is pleased to give to any man mind and mouth, he possesses a gift which he ought to use abundantly. Many a man is mighty in the Scriptures, but not eloquent when the two things meet, but when a man has the mind, and the speech, and a fervent spirit, then that man of God has great power.
May I suggest that every Christian man here who is possessed with the gift of eloquent discourse is obligated to use it for Jesus Christ. Some young men spend their evenings in Debating Clubs and the like, and I haven’t anything to say against that, but I have this to say — whatever you may do with this talent in other directions, the Lord, who has bought you with his blood, if you are a Christian man, has the first claim on you, and you are obligated to use your powers of speech for his cause. “But I am not a preacher!” What do you mean by that? Do you find anything in Scripture about clergy and laity? If so, you have read it with different eyes from mine. There were men called especially to the oversight of the Church and the preaching of the Word, but every one according to his gift also had a call, and there is no man in the God’s Holy Church who has ability to speak who has any license to be silent. Not only the golden-mouthed orators, but the silver-tongued speakers — men of the second as well as of the first order — should serve in the gospel of the Son of God. I will not ask any young man whether he ought to preach, but whether he can prove that he ought not. Every man is bound to tell another who is in danger to escape from that danger. Everyone who has recovered from a dreadful disease is bound to tell others what remedy was made effectual in his case. Nothing can excuse us from, in some way or other, sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ; and, if we have the ability to speak, we will be held accountable if we have been silent with our fellow men. The stones in the street might surely cry out against some professed Christians who stand before the representatives of government, before Councils, in the Courts of Justice, and ring with their voices, and yet not preach Jesus — who can argue points of politics and the like, but not speak a word for Christ, — eloquent for the world, but silent for Jesus. May God deliver us from this! If you have any gift, young man, come out and use it — or old man, if you have laid it aside until late in your life. In these difficult times when the harvest is ripe and the laborers are few, let every man that has his sickle go out into the field. Let no man say, “Please excuse me from going,” because we were bought by the blood of Christ, if we have tasted of the Water of Life then we need to cry aloud and let this be our message — “Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”
There are numbers of believers who don’t have the gift of utterance with the tongue, who nevertheless can speak very fluently and admirably with the pen. If, then, you have the gift of writing, are you using it for Christ as you should? I want to stir up the gift that is in you. Letters and notes have often been blessed to conversions; are you accustomed to write with that view? Perhaps you write many letters and notes; let me ask you what sort of mail and communication it is that you send? Do you write letters to your children and friends full of loving testimony to what the grace of God has done for you? If you have not done so, dear friends, then do it at once. Jesus needs sanctified writers, and in his name I claim your service. The writing of tracts, and the dissemination of holy truth by means of the press, are most important — any person who has any gifts in that direction should be sure to use them. Why are Christian writers often so dull, while the world commands talent and liveliness? How many thousands are writing every day the most useless nonsense, and booksellers’ shelves groan with the literature of fiction! Are there none who, with splendor of diction or in simple terms, could write interestingly of the gospel, and tell of its power among the men and women? If anyone can handle the pen as a ready and skillful writer, let them help the Lord — help the Lord against the mighty forces of evil influences in the world.
2. Another form of a gift that belongs to us is influence.
We all have influence of some sort — some more, some less. What an influence the parent has. To a great extent you mold your children’s lives. Some of us owe what we never can repay to our mothers. What they have done for us will make us grateful to them even when they will slumber in the dust. Those who have the care of little children should be very careful, for a remark they may make without intention may shape the character — yes, mar or bless the child’s character throughout eternity. And you who associate daily with working men and women — are there enough Christian managers and supervisors who have earnest zeal to use a holy and loving influence among the employed? If classes are alienated one from the other, which I fear they are, is it not because we meet each other just as a matter of business, and that there is little of anything like Christian warmth and communion between the one and the other? Indeed some think the idea is ridiculous, and tell me I know very little of the world to dream of such a thing. I will leave that question to the day which will reveal all things, and I think I know who will prove to be right. Let every one of us consider what influence he has, and having done so, let us ask for God’s grace that we may use it rightly. I will not go into details here. You are all affecting those around you for good or evil. As Christian men and women you are either leading others to Christ unconsciously, or else you are deadening their consciences, and leading them to think that Christianity is not worth much after all; and surely you would not wish to do that. You have the gift of influence: I encourage you to fan it into flame.
3. Many of the elder members of the church have another gift, namely, experience.
Certainly, experience cannot be purchased, nor taught; it is given to us by the Lord who teaches us for our good. It is a special treasure each person wins for themselves as they are led through the wilderness. Experienced Christians are purposely put in the church that they may guide the inexperienced; that they may help those who are distressed with a word of comfort derived from their own experience of God’s helping hand in time of trouble, that they may warn the careless by the troubles they themselves have suffered through carelessness. Now, when an experienced Christian merely uses their experiences for their own comfort or as a standard by which to judge their fellow Christians, or makes use of it for self-exaltation as though they were infinitely superior to the most zealous young men, such a man mars his gift, does harm with it, and makes himself heavily responsible.
Dear brothers and sisters, I beg you who have long walked in the ways of godliness to use your experience continually in your visitation of the sick, in your conversations with the poor, in your meetings with young Christians, in your dealings with backsliders, help them with the richness of your experiences; let the anointing God has given you fall on those who are all around you. May you be like a certain minister I heard of the other day. I asked a poor woman “What sort of man is he?” She said, “He is the kind of man, sir, that if he comes to see you, you know he has been there.” I understood what she meant: he left behind him some godly saying, weighty advice, holy comfort, or devout reflection, which she could remember after he had left her house. May our dear friends always have this said of them.
4. Another gift which many have is the gift of prayer — praying with power, in private for the church and with sinners.
There are some who have learned by years of practice how to knock at heaven’s door, so as to get a quicker opening of the door than others. A number of these folks have coupled this gift with the gift of utterance in public prayer. Such dear friends ought never to be absent from the prayer meeting, except when absolute necessity compels. They should not only be content with coming to prayer meetings that are scheduled, but they should fan into flame the gift that is in them, and try to establish other prayer meetings where there are none. There was never a period when the church had too much prayer. Bible Studies may degenerate into mere discussion, and even preaching into a show of oratory; but prayer has vital elements about it which survive many an injury. Sad! So sad! for the churches that have given up prayer meetings. You will be able to judge the presence of God by the prayer meeting, as accurately as you will judge the temperature of the air by the thermometer. It is one of the truest signs that God is with the people when they pray, and it is one of the darkest signs that he has departed when prayer is lacking. You who have sweet communion with God in private, look upon your frequency on your knees as not only a blessing for yourselves, but as a gift that is bestowed upon you for the good of others.
5. There is another gift which is a very admirable one. It is the gift of conversation.
By conversation I don’t mean a readiness for chit chat and gossip — (he who has that wretched propensity may bury it in the earth and never dig it up again) — but when we have the gift of meaningful conversation we should use it most carefully for God. About fifty years or so ago there lived a set of great table-talkers, who were asked out to dine because of their lively conversational powers. Now if this is in any of you, then never waste it in mere pleasantries, but say something worth saying, and aim at the highest results. Remember Jesus was a mighty conversationalist. I wish I could with discreet skillfulness break in on a conversation in a public place and turn it around to the Savior — turn it around to something worth speaking about. I often envy those of my brothers and sisters who can go up to individuals and talk to them with freedom. I don’t always find myself able to do so, though when I have been divinely aided I have had a large reward. When a Christian can get hold of an unbeliever and talk with them, it is like one of our old warships laying alongside a French ship and giving her a broadside, making every timber shiver, and eventually sending her to the bottom of the sea. How many souls has been brought to Christ by the loving personal exhortations of Christian people who know how to do it? To be able, like Elijah, to stretch yourselves out on the dead child, to put your hands on their hands, your feet on their feet and breathe the life by God’s help into the dead — oh, some of you can do this better, perhaps, than those who are called to speak to hundreds and thousands. Please do if you have the ability; and try to get the ability if you don’t have it. Perhaps you possess it, and haven’t found it out yet. No unconverted person should come to this church without your speaking to them; and as to a person attending our church three Sundays in a row without being spoken to by some Christian, it ought to be an impossibility, and would be if all were in the correct warm-hearted state, earnestly desiring the salvation of others. May God teach us, if we can converse personally with individuals, to fan the gift into flame, keep it in good condition, and continually use it.
My inventory of the gifts which are in us is not complete, nor is it intended to be. Each person may have a separate gift. Even the gift to be able to lie still and suffer is not a small one. The gift of being able to be poor and contented is not to be despised. The gift of nursing the sick, or of attracting the attention of children, should be lovingly employed, no talent should ever be hidden or kept back. But, whatever it is, the word is, “Fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you.”
II. And this brings us, secondly, to the consideration of — HOW WE ARE TO FAN INTO FLAME THE GIFTS OF GOD.
1. First, we should do it by examination to see what gifts we really have.
We should look over our people to see what God has entrusted to our stewardship. May I ask you to take a minute to sit quietly and take stock of all that God has given you. Remember you will assess yourself, for I am sure you will put yourself down as being utterly without gifts. If somebody were to say of you that you didn’t really have much to offer, then you would most likely defend yourself, and argue for your own abilities in many areas. I would challenge you to acknowledge all your capabilities. Now think of all the abilities you have, dear brother, dear sister. What has God trusted you with? Add up each item, and compute the total sum. What talents and gifts has the Lord given you? Remember, everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded. What, then, has been given to you? Such an enquiry will help you to stir up the gift that is in you. The self-examination of every mental faculty, every spiritual attainment, every form of characteristic force or individual influence, will be an excellent start for a more vigorous course of action. Ask yourself what you can do, what more you could do, what more you might learn to do, what more you ought at least to attempt. Don’t limit any of your possibilities; and it will seriously tend to fan you into a flame, if you then ask, “How much have I done what I could do? How far have I used all that has been committed to me? How much of my life has been allowed to rust, and how much has been made bright by wear and tear in the service of the Master?” It is not a pleasant duty to which I have invited you. You would be much more gratified if I asked you to consider some precious promise of the covenant, and certainly I would find it more comforting to myself, but this is necessary. Sweet things are pleasant, but sharp things are often the more beneficial. Pillows for our heads are not our main desire; we wish, as soldiers of the cross, to be found faithful first of all and above all. We will have to give an account before God. Oh, let us give an account before ourselves now, in the forum of our own conscience, and so fan into flame the gift that is in us.
2. The next mode of fanning our gift into flame is to consider to what use we could put the talents we possess.
To what use could I put my talents in my family? Am I doing all I could for the children? Have I labored all I could for my wife’s conversion — my husband’s conversion? Then what about the neighborhood — is there nothing more that I could do for the salvation of my poor godless neighbors? Perhaps I see them drunken, wicked, impure, irreligious, full of all kinds of disobedience to God, can’t I, by God’s grace, lift them up in prayer? They never come to church: have I done all I could to get them there? I was not placed in that neighborhood without a purpose. If it is a dark part of the city, I am put there to be a light if I am a Christian. Am I shining, then? Some people prefer to live where there is light, and for them the choice is wise; but I think, for usefulness, loving hearts might prefer to live in the bad parts of the city that they might do good. Are you doing all you can for Jesus? Come, answer like an honest person!
But I ask you to continue in your self-inspection. Will you examine yourself in every relation in which you stand. As an employer, manager or supervisor, fan into flame your gift in reference to those you employ. As an employee, fan into flame the gift towards your coworkers. As a salesperson, fan into flame your gift in reference to those with whom you come in contact. Are you a soldier or a sailor? What an opportunity you have, my friend, in going to many countries, of doing something for Christ, here and there and everywhere. Are you a commercial traveler, and do you go to many places? Surely you might travel for our Lord with gospel tracts, printed sermons, and Bibles, to be distributed without cost, yet still attend to your own business none the less. If our churches were in a right state of spiritual health, men would not first say, “What can I do to make money?” but “What can I do to serve Christ, for I will take up a profession that is subservient to that.” But if we can’t bring men to that point, we must at least say (to all of you who profess to be Christians, at any rate), in whatever situation you are placed, high or low, rich or poor, you should live unto Christ. You should each ask yourselves, “What can I do for the Lord in my present situation?
What special service does my position involve?” In this way, dear friends, you can fan into flame the gift that is in you.
3. But, next, fan it into flame not merely by consideration and examination, but by actually using your gift.
We talk a lot about working, but working is better than talking about working: really to get at it, and to do something for soul-winning and spreading around the glory of God, is infinitely better than planning and holding committees. Away with boasters and big talkers, let us get to acts and deeds. None of us know what we can do until we try. The hunter will tell you that there may be many birds in a field, but you don’t know how many till you walk through, and then you discover them and watch them fly up. When the Old Mill wheel turns you will be able to see the force of the current. You will see the speed of the horse when you put him to his best. Work, work! and even the tool that is blunt will get an sharp edge by being used. Shine, and the light you have will grow in the very act of shining! He who has done one thing will find himself capable of doing two; and doing two will be able to accomplish four; and having achieved the four will soon go on to twelve, and from twelve to fifty; and so by growing multiples he will enlarge his power to serve God by using the ability he has.
Does this tire you? Does my subject seem too much like salvation by works? Nothing is further from my thoughts, I am not speaking about salvation at all, neither am I addressing those who are seeking after salvation; I am speaking to you who have already been saved by the grace of God. You are saved, and on that point all is complete. You are resting in the finished work of Christ. Should it ever seem hard to you to be stirred up to serve him? Let the vision of his tearful face come to your mind. Behold his thorn-crowned head! Let him turn his back to you, and note the gashes the Roman scourges made. Look at him — a spectacle of blood and love! And is it possible that any service for him can by you be considered hard? To burn at a stake! if we could do it a thousand times, he clearly deserves that we should make the sacrifice! To give him every pulse, and every drop of blood, and every breath we breathe — he well deserves it--glory be to his name, he merits all we could ever do a thousand times over. I will not fear to press on you again and again and again, that you use the gifts which are in you by actual service to so precious a master.
4. And then, dear friends, in addition to using our gift, every one of us should try to improve it.
We have for years endeavored to stir up the young Christians of this congregation to educate themselves. Our evening classes are intended to train young men who preach in the street that they may get a deeper education in order to be better able to preach the gospel of Christ; and out of this congregation have gone hundreds whom God has called as ministers of Christ, and many are being trained right now; I desire that every man put himself in training. I think every man ought to feel, “I have been Christ’s man with a few talents; I will be Christ’s man with ten talents if I can be. If presently I don’t thoroughly understand the doctrines of his gospel, I will try to understand them; I will read, and search, and learn.” We want an intelligent race of Christians, not a race of boasters of culture, mental aristocrats, who pretend to know a great deal and know nothing; but we need diligent students of the Word, adept in theology, like the Puritans of old. Roman Catholicism will never gain a foothold with people who know the doctrines of the Word of God; Roman Catholicism is like a bat, and hates sunlight. Every one of us ought to be students and learners, trying to gain more ability for usefulness as well as being built up in our most holy faith. This is especially true for the younger members of our churches. Give yourselves to reading, study, and prayer. Grow mentally and spiritually. Do you lead a Bible Study? You do well, but couldn’t you do better if you knew more? And when you speak to children in Sunday School we are glad for it, but wouldn’t you do that better if you studied more perfectly the truth of God? Apollos was not ashamed to be taught, nor need the most successful laborer be ashamed to learn. Improve your gift, for that is one way of fanning it into flame.
5. And then pray over your gifts: that is a blessed way of fanning them into flame.
Go before God, and spread out your responsibilities before him. In my own case I have often cried out to Him, “Lord, you have given me this Congregation, and Oh it is hard to be innocent of all their blood, and to speak with affection, and prudence, and courage to everyone, so as not to leave one unwarned, unhelped, untaught. Help me, my Lord, that I may leave no one without nourishment of the Word in due season. Who is sufficient for these things? Only your grace is sufficient for me.” It fans one into flame to preach with all of his might, when he has laid before God in prayer his weakness; and the ability which God has given him, too, and asked that the weakness may be consecrated to God’s glory and the ability accepted to the Lord’s praise. Shouldn’t we do just the same, whatever our calling is — take it to the Lord and say, “Assist me, O, Great and Holy God, to live to you. If your grace in me is only as a handful of flour and a little oil; make it hold out — make it hold out. I really can’t do much, my Master; help me to do it well, and to continue steadfast and unwearied in it.” Pray over yourself, as it were: Put your whole self on the altar, and then let the drink-offering be the pouring out of your tears before God in prayer that he would be pleased to accept you, to qualify you, to anoint you, to direct you, and bless you in all that you do. This would be the most excellent manner of stirring up the gift that is in you. O Spirit of the living God, lead all your people to downright, earnest, and actual service to the Redeemer, and especially work in us to that end.
I will not linger longer there, but close with the third observation for this evening:
III. WHY IS IT THAT WE SHOULD FAN INTO FLAME THE GIFT THAT IS IN US.
There are many replies to this. One or two will answer our purpose.
1. We should fan into flame the gift that is in us, because all we will do when we have fanned ourselves into flames to the utmost, and when the Spirit of God has strengthened us to the highest degree, will still fall far short of what our dear Lord and Master deserves at our hands.
Ah! what must Jesus think of us when he remembers his own love. Was there ever such a contrast between his furnace seven times hotter, and our iceberg spirits? He did not spare himself, and we are always sparing ourselves. He gives us everything, and hangs naked on the cross: we keep almost everything to ourselves, and count self-sacrifice to be hard. He labors, is weary, and yet never ceases: we are a little weary, and before long we faint. He continued to preach on, notwithstanding all the evil men said and did to him; but we take offense and quit our work, because we are not appreciated as we should be. Oh, the little things which put some workers out of sorts and out of heart. Oh, the looks or the looking away, the words, or the silence, that will make some Christians give up their soul winning, their Christian service, and Christian work. “Bearing with one another” seems to have gone out of fashion with many people. “Forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you,” is forgotten. Brothers and sisters, if being door mats for Christ for all the church to wipe their feet on would honor him, we ought to think it a great glory to be so used. Among genuine Christians the contention is for the lowest place: among sham Christians the controversy is for the higher positions. Some will ask the question nowadays — “Which is the higher office — that of elder or deacon,” and so on. Oh, what pettiness! When the Master was going up to Jerusalem to die, there was a argument among the disciples over which of them would be the greatest; and so it is with us; at times when grace is low, our opinion of ourselves is very high, and then our love to Christ is little, so that we soon take affront, and are quick to resent any little insults, as we think them to be, where perhaps nothing of the kind was meant. Beloved, may we be saved from all this littleness of soul!
2. And remember what obligations we have to our Master — how we should have been dead in trespasses and sins but for him and his grace — how we should have been in hell but for him and his grace— how our expectations tonight would have been “a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire, but for him and his grace;” but we are washed and cleansed, and on the way to heaven, and we owe it all to him. Therefore let us fan into flame the gift that is in us and serve him with all of our might.
3. Another reason is that these are busy times. If we are not fanning our talents and gifts into flames then we need to remember everybody else is.
The church of the Living God, it seems to me, is traveling along the road to heaven in a horse drawn wagon and the rest of the world is going its own way by express speed. If men become earnest in the cause of God, worldly critics shout out “Fanaticism! Extremism!” Did you ever hear the raving, raging excitement of those stock-brokers as they are trying to buy various types of stock! Nobody says, “Look at these men! See how fanatical they are!” No, they expect to see excitement when publicly buying and selling stock; but if we were half as excited for God and his gospel, there would be a hue and cry all over the country, “Here’s a bunch of madmen! Here’s a set of fanatics let loose.” They once said of that great old preacher, Rowland Hill, “The dear old gentleman is too intense.” “Why,” said Mr. Hill, “Once when I was walking by a gravel pit I saw a large piece of the gravel pit fall in on two or three men, so I walked into the city as fast as my aged legs could carry me, and I shouted with all my might ‘Help! Help! Help!’ and nobody said “the dear old man’s too intense.” Oh, no, you may be as intense and serious as you like about saving people’s lives, but if their souls awaken your sympathy, some lukewarm Christian or some one else is sure to be ready with a wet blanket to cool your passion. And yet was there ever a time when the wheels of life revolved so swiftly as now. The world marches with giant strides: everybody is up and awake, but for the most part the church is asleep. For other things men labor, and tug, and toil, and make sacrifices; for an idea they slaughter one another; for the unity of a race they fatten fields with blood, and make rivers run with gore; but to preach Christ, and snatch sinners from the jaws of hell, they require of us to be somber, and insist that we must not be too intense, we must not go too fast; we must be prudent, we must be reserved! Dear Lord deliver us from “prudence” and “coldness”! From “decorum” and “propriety” (wherein they stand in the way of our winning souls) Dear Lord deliver us! And from every tradition, and every idol that has been set up among us, which prevents our being thoroughly useful and serviceable to the cause of God, Dear Lord deliver us! Because these are busy times, we ought to fan into flame the gift that is in us.
4. And then, again, we must fan into flame our gift because it needs fanning.
The gifts and graces of Christians are like a coal fire which frequently requires stirring and fanning as well as feeding with fuel. You must not stir it up too much; the poker does not give heat; and, stirring up a man of itself does not make him better; indeed, it is just as injurious to a weak man to stir him up as it would be to an expiring fire in the grate; but yet there must be stirring and fanning, and fires go out sometimes for the lack of it. There are times with us when we become dull and heavy, doing little or nothing, — restless, indifferent, — and then it is that we require rebuking. If there is a solid foundation of real grace in us, we only need to be fanned into flame, and right away the fire begins to burn. How I like to fan into flame some of you!
I remember a dear brother dropping in one night to hear the word preached — an excellent Christian, but sluggish, and the Lord touched his heart with the word spoken, and he began to preach in the streets of the city where he resides. He has now one of the largest churches, and God has given him hundreds of souls. He only needed fanned into flame. Is there no other brother here, who, hearing this earnest word, will find it like a live coal from off the altar, touching his lips and moving him to go forth and preach the word, and serve his Master according to his ability. We must then, dear friends, fan ourselves into flame, because if we don’t, we may lose the faculty, and rob ourselves of the power of usefulness. The knife which is not used loses its edge, and the man who does not work for God loses much of his ability to do so in the future.
5. I will give you another reason, and that is this. If we will only fan ourselves into flame, beloved, or rather, if God’s Holy Spirit will fan us into flame, we, as a church can expect some very great things.
I can hardly tell you how thankful I felt last Monday evening. I said on Sunday, “The Elders and Deacons will meet to pray, and those of you who love souls and are concerned about them are invited too, at six o’clock, Monday evening.” I was glad to see many of you who I know love the Lord fervently, and through that warm prayer meeting which we had before our more public gathering, we felt that we had laid hold upon our God. I know there is a blessing coming; I am sure of it. The Lord is with us. He never made his people agonize in secret, and join together publicly in deep soul earnestness, without intending to bless them. We might as well fear when the months are warm, that there will be no ripening of the wheat, as to say when Christian’s hearts are warm towards God that there will be no conversions. It can’t be. Saints that seek God’s blessings always cause sinners to seek God’s forgiveness and salvation. If we ask God for sinners, sinners will soon ask for themselves. Up, therefore; up, therefore, beloved! Arouse yourselves, for God is fanning us into flames.
And remember, there will be great stirring of excitement in the future. Business will all end; politics will be done with, and all the matters in which you are concerned will be eternally closed. What a stir there will be on that day, for we will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ to give an account for what we did with our gifts on earth in the church! What a stir about ourselves! What a stir about others we had opportunity to reach for Christ! Where will they be? Will they be on the right hand, or on the left? Will I see my children in heaven, or will they be cast into hell? What a stir there will be about your husband or your wife! What a stir there will be about your neighbors! Think of it! Think of it, I say, I must fan myself into flame today! If they die as they are, they will be damned: they must be. They must sink into hell! There is no hope of their escape if they die unsaved. What a stir there will be throughout all the nations in that day! And, surely, if we look at it in the light of eternity, in the light of that tremendous day when Christ returns; we will feel that there is nothing worth living for except serving God; that the very core and center of all life is to bring glory to God by bringing sinners to Jesus Christ. God grant you may live as if you expected to die. We ought always to preach as though we would step right out of the pulpit right into heaven, always to pray in that way; and always to spend every day as if we didn’t have another day to spend. For this we need a lot of the Holy Spirit’s power. But he rests upon his people. May he come and rest upon us now, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.
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