The brightly lit fire of self-discipline

We must be vigilant over our own actions to remain fruitful and effective for God in the work that he has laid out for us.

2 Timothy 1:7 – For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.

The apostle Paul was writing this to his young protégé, Timothy, in the wider context of reminding him of his spiritual heritage, and to encourage him that he is up to the task of being a leader among the congregations that Paul had been instrumental in establishing throughout Asia.

This “sound judgment” that Paul mentions is a word that also means self-control, self-discipline, and prudence. One of the clear earmarks of the Spirit of God’s influence in our lives is discipline and self-control.

Galatians 5:22-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.

In writing to Timothy, Paul implies that the intensity of the outworking of the Spirit in the life of the believer is partially dependent on the believer’s participation and focus.

Albert Barnes contributes the following thoughts on Paul’s instruction to Timothy:

“The original word used here denotes the kindling of a fire, as by bellows, etc. It is not uncommon to compare piety to a flame or a fire, and the image is one that is obvious when we speak of causing that to burn more brightly. The idea is, that Timothy was to use all proper means to keep the flame of pure religion in the soul burning, and more particularly his zeal in the great cause to which he had been set apart. The agency of man himself is needful to keep the religion of the heart warm and glowing. However rich the gifts which God has bestowed upon us, they do not grow of their own accord, but need to be cultivated by our own personal care.”

Timothy was tasked with a great many responsibilities, and through them all Paul is encouraging him to remain vigilant, to watch carefully, to be circumspect in all things so that his work can be effective and fruitful.

2 Timothy 4:2, 5 – Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. … But as for you, exercise vigilance in everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

It is necessary to exercise vigilance and self-control in all things, otherwise we are no better than a city without walls; i.e., we have no defenses against danger.

Proverbs 25:28 – Like a city broken down without walls is a man without restraint over his spirit!

If we are reminded to continually kindle the Spirit of God’s influence within us into a larger flame, we can stand against any onslaught that may confront us. We must be vigilant over our own actions to remain fruitful and effective for God in the work that he has laid out for us in the ongoing establishment of his kingdom on the earth.


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