1st January 2024
In what was probably the Apostle Paul’s final epistle, written to his young apprentice Timothy, he said:
2 Timothy 1:6-14
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. 9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. 13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.
These are inspired, holy words Paul gives to his son in the Lord. Paul knew Timothy had been entrusted with something precious – a good deposit. ‘Entrusted’ is a strong word. It implies the idea of committing something valuable to another’s care or trust. Paul knew God had entrusted something of great treasure to Timothy – an impartation of God’s nature and purposes for humanity had been placed inside of Timothy.
Paul likened the life of God inside of Timothy to a fire, a symbol of God’s presence throughout the Biblical story. He exhorted Timothy to ‘fan’ this fire of God’s presence burning in his being into flame. Paul’s experience had taught him that one cannot simply presume the fire of God in a heart will keep burning without any effort or intention. The fire of God in Timothy’s life will need to be tended to carefully. The fire is a gift. Fanning the flame though requires cooperation with the Giver.
Twenty-five years ago God entrusted a small group of young people with a holy movement of prayer. A fire of God’s presence was ignited in their hearts and every day since, that fire has been tended to so it would not go out. In doing so that fire has spread all around the world as thousands of people have joined the 24-7 prayer movement, carrying a passion to see the church once again prioritise the presence of God and setting apart time and all manner of different spaces to encounter His presence afresh. It’s clear God entrusted the 24-7 prayer movement a ‘good deposit,’ nothing less than a generational call to steward a movement of prayer, mission and justice in the nations. We hear the Apostle Paul’s words to us, God ‘called us to a holy life- not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.’ The results have been beyond what anyone could ever have imagined.
The wonderful Rabbi Jonathan Sachs once said about religion, ‘It is fire – and like fire, it warms but it also burns. And we are the guardians of the flame.”
And now in 2024 and the celebration of twenty-five years of non-stop prayer the call to fan the flames of God’s presence in the nations is stronger than ever before and the challenge to ‘guard’ it well is more pertinent than ever before.
As we launch into this year, as a nation facilitating a year-of-prayer for this beautiful island, let us pray we will be humble ‘guardians of the flame’ God has ignited amongst us. May we tend to this holy fire with passionate intent, fanning even brighter and warmer flames of white-hot devotion to Jesus.
And may we start with our own lives, guarding the holy fire of God’s presence in the deep place of our hearts. Maybe for some the fire currently feels more like embers. The gentle wind of God is close, ‘a smouldering wick he will not snuff out.’ (Isaiah 42:3)
As the Year of Prayer begins – why not use this first month of the year to invite the wind of God to come and blow upon the fire of your own heart whatever place you find yourself at personally. As you exhale the old and inhale the new each day may you experience the burning love of God warming your heart anew, fanning into flame fresh love and devotion to Jesus.