“Stirring the Spirit” – just right, too much, or not enough?

I’ve been banned from making custard in our household, because when I make it I don’t stir it enough and it gets lumps in it, or I stir it too much and it’s like rubber. I have never got custard to turn out right, and according to the chef in the family it all comes down to the stirring.

Does that apply to how we “stir the Spirit” in 2 Timothy 1:6 too, then? If we don’t stir the Spirit enough, for instance, does that explain why we’re “timid” as Christians and our “power, love and sound mindedness” (verse 7) are lacking? Or does stirring the Spirit too much explain why Christians go all mystical and have strange visions, and speak in odd languages?

But if my stirring – either too much or not enough – determines the Spirit’s effectiveness in my life, then am I not controlling the Spirit? And if I don’t get the stirring just right, like custard, does that mean the Spirit won’t turn out right in me either?

But if both those points are true then it’s absolutely crucial that I know how to stir the Spirit just right to produce the right effect, right? Get it wrong and I either become weak or odd. But, unfortunately, Paul doesn’t explain how we stir the Spirit. All he says is, “fan into flame the gift of God which is in you” (verse 6, NIV), but no explanation as to how we do it.

We need to know how though, surely, because in verses 8-9 we’re being asked to do things like not be “ashamed to testify about our Lord,” to “suffer for the gospel,” and live “a holy life” – none of which, I’ve discovered, come to me naturally. I can’t do them.

But that’s the whole point Paul is bringing out here, because in the next sentence he says it’s “not because of anything WE have done” that makes these things possible, it’s “by the power of God” (8), and because of HIS own purpose and grace.”

That’s good to know, because I’m far too timid by nature to openly testify about what I believe, or risk suffering for the gospel. And I don’t have the power, love, and sound mindedness in me to lead a holy, balanced Christian life at all times in an anti-Christian world either.

But the Spirit can do all those things in me, despite me. Stirring the Spirit, then, is simply recognizing who and what enables us to do all the impossible things God asks us to do. It’s not trying to stir these things from strength within ourselves, it’s trusting the Spirit to do these impossible things in us.

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