STIR UP THE GIFT OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Timothy 1:6
9-14-58 7:30 p.m.
In our preaching through the Word, we have come to 2 Timothy. We read the first chapter of 2 Timothy, the first eleven verses; 2 Timothy, toward the close of your Bible, the second epistle of Paul the apostle to Timothy. Second Timothy, the first chapter, the first eleven verses, now let us all read it together, 2 Timothy 1:1-11:
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,
To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day; Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy; When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also. 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. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;
Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,
But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:
Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.
[2 Timothy 1:1-11]
And the text is in the sixth verse, 2 Timothy 1:6, “Stir up the gift of God, which is in thee.” By many intimations in the Scriptures, we can easily suppose that Timothy was a most retiring and modest young minister.
When they were having so much trouble in Corinth, Paul sent Timothy from Ephesus to Corinth to be of use in allaying the strife in the church [1 Corinthians 4:17-21], but they looked upon Timothy, apparently, with contempt and treated him grievously and insulted him, and he went away very much discouraged [1 Timothy 4:12-16]. And it was then that Paul sent Titus, who apparently must have been a giant in the gospel, and he straightened them out [2 Corinthians 8:6, 23]. But Timothy seems to have woefully, sorrowfully failed.
Then you can see by the exhortations in these two letters that Timothy was somewhat retiring, modest, shy. In the first letter, the fourth chapter, and the eleventh and twelfth verses, Paul says, “These things command and teach. Let no man despise thy youth” [1 Timothy 4:11-12]. Then he says in the first chapter of this second epistle, “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner” [2 Timothy 1:8]. Then he says in the second chapter of this same letter, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” [2 Timothy 2:3]. The shy young minister seems to have been like Saul the king, who hid himself, who was concealed among the baggage when time came for him to appear and to be crowned the king of Israel [1 Samuel 10:22].
Paul loved this young fellow Timothy very deeply, very much so. And he wanted him to be strong, and stalwart, and fearless, and courageous, and energetic. He was, as Bob Coleman would have called him, a choice spirit. And Paul seeks to stir him up in those gifts that lay so beautifully and so graciously from the hand of God upon him [2 Timothy 1:6]. Now, you don’t want to stir up a viper. He’s all the worse for being awakened. But to see a young fellow like Timothy, filled with all of these graces, encouraged Paul to encourage Timothy that he kindle the fire in his soul. Now, in the first letter, here in the fourth [chapter] he says to the young fellow, “Neglect not the gift that is in thee” [1 Timothy 4:14]. And in my text he says, “Stir up the gift of God, which is in thee” [2 Timothy 1:6].
Now, we must apply that to all of us, for this was written nineteen hundred years ago, and if it has no pertinency to us today, there’s no reason for us to preach or to be here. “But these things were written for our examples upon whom the admonitions and ends of the world have come” [1 Corinthians 10:11]. So there is in this appeal to Timothy an appeal to us all, “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee” [2 Timothy 1:6].
So could I say to begin with, that all of us have a gift from God? Each one of us; the great Householder has apportioned to each one of His servants a measure of gifts. We all have something from God’s gracious hands. Now these gifts differ, they differ as many as there are people who receive them. No man is exactly like any other man. Nor does any one of us have exactly the kind of a gift, a talent, a pound that God hath given to someone else.
In the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth chapters of the first Corinthian letter, Paul writes of the spiritual gifts of God, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant” [1 Corinthians 12:1]. Then all of those three magnificent chapters concern these differing gifts that God bestows upon each one of us. They’re not alike. They’re all separate. And the great, driving thought of Paul in this passage in 1 Corinthians is this, that no gift can be lost to the church without injury to the whole body. He says:
The body is not one member, but many.
If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body,
If the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body…
If the whole body were an eye, where were hearing?
If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
But now God has given all of the members of the body as it hath pleased Him . . .
The eye cannot say to the hand, I do not need you.
Nor to the head to the foot, I do not need you.
Those feeble members are the more necessary.
[1 Corinthian 12:14-22]
Then he continues on in the same vain [1 Corinthians 12:23-26]. So we all have a differing gift. And it takes all of us to make the body complete.
Now, I want to take a few moments to enumerate some of these gifts, things God has given us, each one of us. Here’s one: the gift of speech, to be able to talk. Our silent friends have been denied that gift from heaven, but all of us possess it. We can talk. Now that’s why Paul takes this so pertinent to us, “Stir up the gift of God, which is in thee” [2 Timothy 1:6]. We talk about politics, and we talk about the weather, and we talk about the international situation, and we talk about social life, and we talk about schools, and we talk about lots of things. But there is not much humor in us, and disposition in us, to talk very much about our Lord, and that is a grievous neglect. And that’s why Paul writes the text to us to “Stir up the gift of God that is in us.”
There is something in the moral fiber of a man that makes him unconsciously responsible for others in danger. Roland Hill was a vigorous, and dynamic, and fiery preacher, and people said when they listened to him, that he was too earnest. And Roland Hill one time said, “I was walking towards a village, and in a gravel pit I saw the cave-in cover the two men. And I ran to the village and called to the top of my voice, ‘Help, help!’“ And he said, “Nobody said of me then that I was too earnest.” But he says, “When I call to men now of the great danger of the judgment to come, then they say I am too earnest!”
No, we are to stir up the gift of God that is in us [2 Timothy 1:6], and we are to warn men of the wrath to come, and to point to the salvation God hath provided in Jesus our Lord [1 Timothy 4:10-11]. That’s what we do not do. We speak of many things but not much about our Lord.
I read of an executive who had a younger executive with him. And they were in a flourishing company, and having a new product, the president of the company took the younger man with him, and they were presenting the new product to the different areas of our Southwest. Now, the president, the chief executive, the older man, was a fine Christian.
And no matter where they were, they drove back to the city; they lived in Fort Worth. They drove back to the city, and that fine leader of that company attended church. He was as fine a man as you could know, but he is typical of most of us; he just took his religion for granted. You know, fine and respectable; went to church very faithfully, but he never spoke much about his faith and about his religion.
Upon a day while they were driving down one of these highways in Texas, the younger man said to his boss, the chief executive, he said to him, he said, “Sir, did you know in these last assignments, you and I have driven three times around the world?”
And the older executive said, “Could it be that far?”
“Yes,” and he looked at the speedometer, and he said, “We have just now passed seventy-five thousand miles in these journeys.”
“Well,” the executive said, “I did not realize we’d been going so much.”
And the younger fellow said to him then, he says, “You know, I’ve been with you ten years in this company, and especially in these last several months, I’ve been very close to you.” He said, “I greatly admire you. You are the finest man and the finest Christian I have ever known.” And the young fellow added, “You have a secret in your life that I wish that I knew.” And he added, “You know, I have just been hungry for you to talk to me about your Lord.”
And the older man was dumbfounded, was silent as he thought back through the years; they’d talked about politics, they’d talked about the company, they’d talked about all the financial situations up and down. And he stopped the car, and out of the glove box, took out his Bible, and he read to that young fellow and had a prayer. And the next Sunday morning in one of our Baptist churches over there, two men came down the aisle. The young man was confessing Christ as his Savior. And the older man, the head of the company, rededicated his life, told the story, and said, “And from now on, wherever I am and wherever I go, I have resolved to speak a word for Jesus.”
You don’t have to be as eloquent as Spurgeon or Truett. Nor do you have to be as great a theologian as Augustine or Augustus Strong. “Stir up the gift of God, which is in thee” [2 Timothy 1:6]. You can speak. You can talk. Invite somebody to the Lord, invite them to the house of Jesus. If you have opportunity, encourage them to give their lives to Christ. Nobody ought ever to come to this church, but that somebody speaks to him. And if they are invited back and are loved and welcomed, there is a seed sown just by your gracious kindness that God will water, and cultivate, make it to resurrect, and to be germinated, and to be quickened, and to be alive. And it’ll flower and fruit to our Savior. You can speak. That is a gift of God!
“What is in thine hand, Moses?” Moses said, “A shepherd’s crook, a staff” [Exodus 4:2]. And the Lord commanded Moses, and with that staff, he parted the Red Sea [Exodus 14:16-22]. And with that staff, he brought waters out of the rock [Exodus 17:5-6]. And with that staff, he annihilated the hosts of the Amalekites [Exodus 17:8-14]. “What is in thine hand?” A pen, a pen, and you can write; you can write, write.
I have a letter that I am keeping as long as I shall live. It’s from the pen of dear Mrs. Veal. Our recreational building is the Minnie Slaughter Veal Recreational Building given to us by her, one of the sweetest, sweetest Christian friends you could ever know. The letter is not addressed to me. It’s addressed to a humble member in this church, who gave it to me, that I might keep it.
Every week, dear precious Mrs. Veal would take the people who were listed in the Reminder as joining the church, and she would write in her own hand a sweet, little, personal message of prayer and love and remembrance to each one of them; one of the finest, sweetest ministries that I know of. What is in your hand? A pen to write, “Stir up the gift of God that is in thee” [2 Timothy 1:6]. Use it for Jesus. You don’t have to have a formal letter. Take one of our programs or take the little article out of the paper, anything! Write a little note and send it. Ah! It will surprise you how God will bless some little remembrance like that to the glory of His name.
They are gifts of God; our influence is a gift of God. As a tree casts a shadow, everyone of us has an influence that trails wherever we are; whatever we do, wherever we go. A baby sitter? Some of you here tonight are baby sitters. Why, I suppose that the only time that Moses had an introduction to the great Jehovah God of his forefathers was only in the days of his babyhood, young childhood, when Jochebed his mother, was nursing him for Pharaoh’s daughter. And the influence of the life of that godly, consecrated, committed woman stayed in the memory and soul of that young fellow until the day came when he renounced the throne of Egypt, that he might suffer with his mother’s people [Exodus 2:1-15; Hebrews 11:24-27]. All of us, that unconscious influence; God gives us experience to profit with all.
What a man learns as God leads him through the wilderness of this life, and that helps us to talk to the lost or the poor, or the backslidden, or the downtrodden, or the despairing. Prayer is a gift of God. We can exalt the ordinances so much they become sacraments; we can exalt preaching so much until it becomes a mere show of oratory. I never heard of a man exalting intercession too much, prayer too much—just to name, somebody who meets our Lord in the presence of the great throne.
Sometimes, to suffer and glorify God is a gift from heaven; sometimes to have a car and use it for Jesus is a gift from heaven. We had our Junior Round-up last night, and Brother Arby Clem, our good shepherd pastor, came traipsing in. And behind him in that one car, were eighteen children. I said to him, “Where in the earth? I have never seen that but in a circus.” And he said, “Well, I was going to pick some of them up, and when I went there to pick them up, there were eighteen of them. And I just stuck them all in this little car of mine, and here we are,” a consecrated car. “Stirred up the gift of God that is in thee” [2 Timothy 1:6].
Well, how do you stir it up? You know, that’s an interesting word here, “Stir up the gift of God,” anazōpureō, ana means again. Zo—they’ve cut off the last syllable in the word—zōō is life, a life, and pureō is to flame, “to burn.” So anazōpureō means—speak it all together. I don’t know how you make it a pretty word. Rekindle the life that burns in you, the flame and the fire; stoke it, gouge it, shake it up, stoke it. Anazōpureō, stir it up, stir it up. Now to do that, all of us have to recognize the truth of the message I’m trying to bring, that God has given us a gift, all of us.
Now, all of us have a tendency to fall into those humors and persuasions, “I just don’t have very much to offer God. And I just am not very gifted, I’m not very talented, the Lord passed me by!” But, we are not thus forsaken and forgotten of the Lord. All of us have wonderful remembrances and wonderful gifts from heaven, if we but can recognize them, and see them, and use them; all of us.
That fellow, Dale Carnegie could write as interestingly as anyone I’ve ever read after. And in a book that he has entitled, Stop Worrying and Start Living, he tells about a fellow down in Florida. The fellow down there bought a farm, and when he went to raise fruit on it, and to raise pigs on it, it was so wretched and so sorry, it wouldn’t raise either one. The only thing that flourished on that farm were scrub oaks and rattlesnakes. And he had an idea. He had an idea—rattlesnakes. Just raised, produced rattlesnakes by the bushels; so he started canning rattlesnake meat. And Dale Carnegie says he went down there to see that fellow. Why, he said, when he got down there he was amazed. There were twenty thousand tourists every season, and by now, I guess it’s a hundred thousand. Every season, they’d go down there to look at that rattlesnake farm.
And he said he saw them extract that poison out of rattlesnake fangs and send it to the laboratories to make anti-venom toxin. And he said, he saw the merchants come down there and pay fancy prices for rattlesnake skins in order to make women’s shoes and purses and all the other accouterments that cost so much that women wag around. And he saw him can rattlesnake meat and ship it all over the world! And he says he went to the post office and got him a little postcard and wrote back home. And when the government stamped it, it was from Rattlesnake, Florida; named in honor of that fellow who bought him a farm that wouldn’t produce anything but scrub oaks and rattlesnakes. “Stir up the gift of God that is in thee” [2 Timothy 1:6]; whatever you can do, do it for the glory of the Lord! And all of us can do something; raise rattlesnakes for Jesus, if nothing else. God hath given us all a something. Now, let’s improve it.
Over here in 2:15 is a text I hope sometime to preach on, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” [2 Timothy 2:15]. Among other things, let’s be good workmen, intelligent workmen for Jesus Christ.
You know these “isms” are bats, they hate the sunlight. That’s why they sweep so many of our people away; they don’t know the Word of God. They don’t improve, they don’t instruct themselves in the message of Jesus. Let us sit at the feet of our Lord. Let us be able to give a reason for the faith that is in us [1 Peter 3:15]. Stir up, improve the gift of God that is in thee [2 Timothy 1:6]. Whatever we are, let’s lay it before the Lord, even our weaknesses.
Paul did, “I have got a thorn in the flesh” [2 Corinthians 12:7], and he brought it to the Lord thrice [2 Corinthians 12:8]. And the Lord said:
My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.
Therefore will I glory—
take pleasure, boast—
in my infirmities and my necessities…for when I am weak, then am I strong.
[2 Corinthians 12:9-10]
Lay it all before the Lord, weakness and all, inability and all, give it to God. Let our libation, let our drink offering, sometimes maybe be our tears as we pour out our souls before God. Let’s put everything we have on the altar, “What I can do may not be much, but such as I am, I give it to Thee.” Let’s tune ourselves with heaven.
I read this last week about an old rancher in Idaho. He was a sheep rancher way up there and lived by himself, and he had a fiddle. And every day he had listened to a program that came from a radio station in California. So he wrote the emcee down there, and he said to him, he said, “I want you to sound the note ‘A’ on the piano in the radio studio so I can tune my fiddle.” And the emcee thought that was such an unusual request that he broadcast it over the Western Coast and sent by the broadcast word to that old rancher by himself to get his fiddle out and get ready. At such and such time, he was going to strike the note ‘A’ on the piano so he could tune his fiddle. Well, that’s good for us, tune it up with the Lord; heaven’s will, heaven’s note, heaven’s harmony, heaven’s beam, heaven’s tune, heaven’s pitch—live our lives however God has made us as unto the Lord [Colossians 3:23].
Now, I want to say a last brief word: “Stir up the gift of God that is in thee” [2 Timothy 1:6]. How to do it? Why to do it? Here’s why: because we are so phlegmatic, and dull, and heavy, and lethargic we need stirring up. We are so unlike and separate from the example of our blessed Lord. He spared not Himself; we’re always sparing ourselves. He gave everything even to the last thread; He was hanged naked on a cross [Philippians 2:8].
We give hardly anything, hardly know what sacrifice means; I, all of us. Our Lord labored and continued and was weary and did not cease [John 5:16]. We are wearied, and straightway we all faint. Our Lord was rebuked and scorned, and He ceased not [Isaiah 53:3]. We take offense at the least little thing. We’re not appreciated, we give up our work. We’ve lost heart and lost temper. How poor we are in our work for Christ. “Stir up the gift of God that is in thee” [2 Timothy 1:6].
We need stirring up because these are stirring times. Man, if we’re not stirred up, everybody else is. The nation is. The states are. The world is. Our Navy and Air Force and our military is.
I spent a solid day walking around with a chaplain in the Boston Navy Yards. He’d just come in with his squadron of destroyers. They were being equipped, shifting from the Mediterranean out to the Pacific. These are stirring times!
And yet the church is like an oxcart in a—in a dead coma! We need to be awakened and alive. I wrote out a litany. I thought I’d call it “The Baptist Litany.” Then I thought of some our people wouldn’t like to claim it, so I call it, here is “The Criswell Litany”:
From false prudence and starchy coolness,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From empty decorum and cheap propriety,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From silly conventionality
And worn out traditions,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From meaningless ceremony
And vacuous ritual,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From inane sermons
And dull, stupid lessons,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From the dry rot of indifference
And the mildew of respectability,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From having a good time
In the world of amusement
And a sorry time at church,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From notions which prevent
Our being thoroughly useful
And grandly serviceable
To the cause of our God,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From being dead in our souls
While the world is on fire,
Good Lord, deliver us.
That’s “The Criswell Litany.” “Stir up the gift of God which is in thee” [2 Timothy 1:6]. Not dull, stupid, unaware, unintelligent, unquickened—but alive, flaming, burning for the Lord. For there’s going to be stirring times by and by; there will be a day when politics will be no more, when even the nations will be no more [Revelation 11:15]. There’s a stirring time coming by and by.
When the Lord appears and God’s saints are gathered before Him to be given according to their deeds in the flesh [Romans 2:6; 2 Corinthians 5:10]; when the great white throne judgment is set, and the lost in the sea, and the earth, and the land are raised to appear before God [Revelation 20:11-15]: what stirring times lie ahead. We ought to live unto God. Our service ought to be unto the Lord. Every time I preach I ought to preach as though the next moment I’d be in heaven. When we pray, we ought to get down on our knees as though we shall be wafted from our knees into the presence of glory. And every day ought to be lived as though this were our last day in the earth. Great, stirring times are ahead. “Stir up the gift of God, which is in thee” [1 Timothy 1:6].
I’ve spoken far too long. While we sing this hymn and make this appeal, somebody you, give your life and soul in trust to Christ. Would you come and stand by me? Somebody, to put his life in the church, a family you, one somebody you, would you come and stand by me? Would you give the pastor your hand tonight? “I give my heart in trust to Jesus. May not be much, but such as I am, I dedicate to the Lord. May not have much, but what I have I give to the Savior.” Let Him bless it. God, who could take the testimony of a little servant girl and save Naaman, captain of the hosts [2 Kings 5:1-14]. God, who could take the lunch of a little boy and feed with it five thousand [John 6:8-13]. God, who could take the poor, unlearned lives of ignorant fisherman and make them pillars in the temple of the church [Revelation 3:12]: that same God can use you. Let Him. Let Him. Come, come in this balcony around; in this press of people on the lower floor; come, come. “Tonight I give my life to God.” Or, “Tonight I put my life in the fellowship of the church.” While we sing this song, on the first note of the first stanza, down a stairwell, or into an aisle, will you come and give me your hand? While all of us stand and sing.