How to Set Your Heart on Fire

by Andy Wood on August 26, 2011

in Ability, Allocating Your Resources, Five LV Laws, Insight, Life Currency, Love, LV Cycle, Principle of Increase

Grab a pen and a legal pad.  You’ve got some writing to do, and you get one chance to get this right.  Soon your number’s going to be called, and there’ll be no more letters, no more encouraging, no more leading…

…no more living.

Everything you have worked for on this side of eternity is hanging in the balance.  And the guy you’ve picked as your successor – your standard bearer?

He’s AWOL.

Some people, when they burn out, act out.  This guy burned out, and hid out.

And you have one chance to light a fire under him before somebody, well, lights a fire under you, so to speak.  What would you say?  How would you say it?  Is this a time for force or finesse?  Rah-rah or sob-sob?

That’s exactly the situation that the Apostle Paul found himself in just before his execution.  And his person of interest?  A gifted associate named Timothy.  I don’t know what you would write in a situation like that, but the New Testament book of 2 Timothy is Paul’s answer.

Somehow over the course of banging out the day-to-day grind of ministry, Timothy had reached his limits.  He was fried.  We don’t know the circumstances.  What we do know is that in his fatigue and loneliness (common companions to this day in ministry), he had retreated.  Robbed of his confidence in God, hindered in his relationships with people, paralyzed in the face of responsibility, Timothy was lost somewhere – frozen in a fear-lined cave of his own making.

Here’s what Paul said early in his letter:

You received a gift from God when I placed my hands on you to ordain you. Now I’m reminding you to fan that gift into flames. God didn’t give us a cowardly spirit but a spirit of power, love, and good judgment.  So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord or be ashamed of me, his prisoner. Instead, by God’s power, join me in suffering for the sake of the Good News (2 Timothy 1:6-9, GW).

Somewhere in Timothy’s heart – at the intersection of his faith, his fear, his deepest longings, and most selfish cravings – his mentor and friend was calling him to fan into flames something that had been reduced to embers.  Can you relate?  I sure can.

Dissecting the Problem

If you are retreating from your faith toward fear, or from your deepest dreams toward selfish desires, then like Timothy, at least one of four things is true of you:

1.  You have a power problem. You are living as if the object of you fears is more powerful than you are.  For a Christian that has serious implications, because you have the Spirit of the living God in your heart!

2.  You have a love problem. Fear is a protective emotion.  Love, on the other hand, is a choice to give totally and unselfishly of yourself, just as Jesus did for you.  But when you have a spirit of fear, you are more concerned with protecting yourself than with giving of yourself.  The result is that you build walls and barriers between yourself and other people.

3.  You have a thinking/discipline problem. The word here, translated  either “self-control” or “sound thinking,” means self-control in your thought life.  It means clarity – keeping your thoughts focused on the truth and on your calling and destiny (in other words, your deepest desires).  Have you ever noticed how many of our fears or selfish desires are rooted in falsehood?

4.  You have a shame problem. Interesting poke Paul gives his friend after his first charge to fan the flame in his heart.  “Don’t be ashamed of Jesus, or me,” he said.  You think he may have been getting at the root of something in Tim’s heart?  I do.  Shame is a feeling of worthlessness that is caused by rejection, or a fear (there’s that word again) of rejection.

So What’s the Solution?

Power is the answer to any fear.  Love is the answer to a selfish craving.  Clear thinking and discipline are the answer to your deepest longings.  Acceptance of God’s truth is the key that unlocks faith.  And all of that is available through the gift of the Holy Spirit, given to every believer. The question is, how do we fan that gift into flames when our hearts are cold and tired, lonely and afraid?

Why don’t we ask the one whose heart was still powerfully aflame, even as he faced execution?

1.  Pray.

I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day when I thank God… (2 Timothy 1:3).

Paul practiced prayer without ceasing.  So can you.  Powerful lives and courageous hearts are the result of steadfast praying.  Don’t leave home without it.

2. Get a clear conscience.

…whom I serve with a clear conscience as my ancestors did… (v. 3).

Nothing withers the heart of a believer like unconfessed sin and guilt.  But God has made it possible for your conscience to be clean continually by dealing clearly with our sins and failures.  The word for that is confession.

3.  Get in fellowship with others.

I remember your tears and want to see you so that I can be filled with happiness (v. 4).

Even prison didn’t prevent Paul from pursuing deep, connected relationships.  That’s because he understood that isolation is for idiots.  If you’re hiding out from others, you’re already the devil’s fool, whether you know it or not.

4.  Encourage other people.

I’m reminded of how sincere your faith is (v. 5).

Hey man, you’re the real deal.  That’s what Paul was saying, and he wasn’t just saying it for Tim’s benefit.  Paul understood that encouraging others brings encouragement back to us in the process.  Want to energize your faith?  Grab somebody else’s hopelessness by the throat.  You’ll be amazed at the Spirit-life that begins flowing through  you.

5.  Exercise your gifts – take action!

fan that gift into flames (v. 6).

Paul could have withered away in his prison cell.  After all, he was a dead man walking.  But he kept fanning the flame in his own heart so he could fan the flame in others.  So can you.  Get up.  Refuse to accept the false testimony of your limitations or your setbacks.  Act!

6. Get in the word of God.

I was appointed to be a messenger of this Good News, an apostle, and a teacher (v. 11).

One of the keys to Paul’s power was his ongoing connection to the message of the gospel.  He was a student, a teacher, and a communicator of God’s truth.  Think of God’s word as your own personal flame thrower.  It’s the sword of the Spirit. But before you ever swing the sword in battle, first let it penetrate your own soul and spirit.

7.  Verbalize your confidence in God.

For this reason I suffer as I do. However, I’m not ashamed. I know whom I trust. I’m convinced that he is able to protect what he had entrusted to me until that day (v. 12).

I wonder how many times a day Paul repeated something like that to himself.  We should, too.  Say it.  Keep saying it.

“I’m not ashamed.  I know whom I trust.  And He is able.”


“I’m not ashamed.  I know whom I trust.  And He is able.”

Little bit louder now…

“I’m not ashamed.  I know whom I trust.  And He is able.”

Something about saying it (out loud) reminds the heart of the truth – that God is able, powerful, loving, and clear.


Everybody deals with fear, unbelief, confusion, and selfish desires.  Welcome to the planet.  But they don’t have to make fools of us.  What have you done today – or what will you do – to fan your gift into flame?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sylvia Hensel September 21, 2015 at 3:50 pm

I have been a Christian for 42 years. My love and relationship with the Lord remained a burning fire until a little over a year ago. I became ill and it affected my nerves. My entire demeanor changed. It threw me into a deep depression and the fire died down to nothing but burning embers. It has been a struggle to rebuild the fire, however, determination itself was like adding small twigs to the fire. Crying out to the Holy Spirit was like blowing on the kindling. Slowly the fire has begun to rise within my heart. It was difficult to pray and read the Word, but as the fire grew it became easier and now I once again awake about 4:00 a.m. to pray and read the Word. I am not where I want to be, but the fire grows daily and I look forward to once again having those intimate conversations with each member of the Trinity. I am now able to memorize Scriptures again and pray them. I feel the fire burning even as I write this. I pray that the Lord uses me once again. I am 82 but I will continue to feed the fire till the Lord takes me home.

Andy Wood September 21, 2015 at 10:33 pm

Wow, Sylvia, thank you for sharing this, and thank God for reawakening the fire in your heart. Oh that I may, at age 82, still find that passionate fire for Him!

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