May 12, 2021
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. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
The farming community we moved into 6 years ago has had the same families in it for the past 175 years. Many of the roads are named for founding families, and many of their descendants work the same soil their great-great-great-great grandparents did. In fact, a few years back, we stopped at a local farm to ask a question. By way of introduction, the farmer said, “You must be the family that bought the old Smith place.” Our minivan and starry eyes must have given us away immediately. And ours was the only property to have changed hands in a long, long time. So regardless of how long we’ve been here, we will probably still describe our farm, when buying hay or livestock or supplies, by the name of the previous owners. It’s the fastest way to give directions around here.
In light of that reality, I had an interesting conversation with my mother last week. She said, “I’m not sure if I should just give up trying to make friends around here. It doesn’t matter how many times I reach out, they don’t reciprocate.” We feel the tension of finding our place amongst the long established relationships surrounding us. Around our dinner table, we ended up having a discussion about calling, margin, life stages, and culture. In that conversation about loving our neighbors were the same ideas at the root of discipleship, and encapsulated in Paul’s letter to Timothy. If we want to pass on the faith that is in us, or if we want to befriend our neighbors, here are three ways Paul says to do it.
- Be Bold. Unreciprocated invitation inevitably begs the question, “Am I annoying them right now?” But Paul reminds us the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid. Be bold in giving to others. Have you ever been upset to receive a text or email that simply says, “I was thinking about you and praying for you. I’m thankful for the way you are . . . “? Yet how often are we hesitant to send something exactly like that? If you want to build a spiritual legacy like Timothy’s mother and grandmother, you have to be willing to boldly give the way they gave. Offer to pray and encourage the people in your life, without fear of being an annoyance. Drop off a pie, a card, or invitation to dinner.
- Be Available. Love is demonstrated through creating space and making time. In our neighborhood, it means you roll down your window when you pass someone you know. The road is often blocked by two neighbors taking a few minutes to catch up, regardless of where they were headed. For you, that probably means creating margin in your life for relationships to take root. If your schedule or mind is so packed you can’t stop to chat with a neighbor or co-worker, it’s also too packed to love them well.
- Be disciplined. We’ve spent time in the verses that charge us to not become weary in doing good. This is never more true than when we consider the type of spiritual legacy we are creating and will leave behind. Making space, speaking up, giving your time and paying attention takes effort. It takes willpower. So Paul’s reminder about the Spirit of God giving us self-discipline makes a world of sense. My wife and I have relationships we’ve sown into for years because we feel called to give – not because we anticipate eventually getting to be on the receiving end. Pouring out with no expectation of return takes work. Paul’s assures Timothy (and us) God will give us grace to do that work.
As a closing thought, know you’re not commanded to give to everyone all of the time. It takes discernment and wisdom to know who God is pointing you towards, and how you should give. But the first step, as always, is to begin making space, looking, and asking for those types of people in your life. Otherwise, we can easily walk around with spiritual blinders on – missing opportunities to be a transformative presence in the lives of others. My prayer for you today is that you see someone in a new light, and find the power, love, and self-discipline to give yourself to them even as your spiritual mentors and parents gave themselves to you.