2 Timothy 1:6-7
The Spirit the Elder Should Have
We will remember from Paul’s first letter to Timothy that the young man was in a difficult church—there are such churches, you know. He had primarily to deal with a group within the church who were causing division by returning to legalism in the form of ascetic practice (don’t eat this; don’t get married) and arguing over insignificant matters like genealogies (1 Timothy 1:3-8; 4:1-3). The trouble with troubles in a church is that there is oftentimes not a whole lot a pastor can do about it. Even the Apostle Paul struggled mightily with the church at Corinth—a church which he had founded—but to which he had to write four letters and pay painful visits in order to right the ship. And in the course of doing so, a pastor can feel like he is in the frying pan. With truth it has been said, nothing hurts more than the bite of a sheep.
It is hard to know exactly why Paul wrote these words. Timothy is often painted as a young and timid pastor who was struggling to assert himself in a difficult situation. We’ll never know. People need encouragement even when they are doing the best they can. One way a pastor might find encouragement in the midst of difficult times and seasons of doubt is to look back to his ordination—the laying on of hands—which Paul does here. “Fan into flame the gift of God which is in you,” Paul says. Whether the gift to which Paul refers was given Timothy by God through Paul’s hands as an Apostle I will not gainsay. That Timothy was gifted by God to be an elder is established, that he was set apart for such service is obvious, and it is this which the Apostle calls him to remember that he might find strength and encouragement to say to himself, “Yes, I am called to be a pastor and God has placed me here.”
Then Paul says the most encouraging words, “For God gave us not a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.” This power is not the strength that caused David to kill the lion and the bear but the strength that endures hardship and trial; it is the strength God gave Paul to weather all the difficult circumstances he endured (2 Corinthians 11:22-33). At the root of this power is love, for it is the love of Christ for us and in us that allows us to love those who hurt us, who have strayed, who have embraced false teachings. And it is self-control which keeps us even-tempered even in the midst of storms from lashing out at others even when they wrong us while looking to the One who is the Chief Shepherd of the church. Be strong and courageous pastor; has He not sent you (Joshua 1:5-7)?