Fan the Flames

Mentoring Millennials

Tip #10: Encourage Them (2 Tim. 1:3-14).

Camping in the wilderness of Colorado was one of my best memories growing up. We camped mainly in an area known as “Dead Man’s Road”—a charming name for a charming section of state forest that was free game to anyone who wanted to camp there. All you had to do was find a spot with a fire ring (or build one yourself) and set up shop for a night or two of no toilets, no showers, and no electricity (unless you’re one of those wimps who bring an RV). We had our favorite spot—we called it “Grandview,” because of the beautiful vista it sat on, looking across to what we called “Vader Mountain” for its similarity to the Sith Lord (I don’t think that’s what the Native-Americans called it). Well, about midday, when the morning’s fire had died down to just embers, we decided to go exploring, assured that not even the local bear would want to steal our lawn chairs or tents.

But when we returned, another type of thief had been at work: the wind. That vista had been visited by a strong gust, which knocked one of our chairs into the fire pit. That same wind also “stirred up” those embers so that the chair was a mere skeleton of its former glory when we returned. It was one of our favorite chairs too…

Paul uses that word picture of fanning flames in the beginning of his second letter to his mentee Timothy. In chapter 1, verses 6-7, he says, “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 God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Paul had started the letter by reminding Timothy of his history—of the faith of his Granny Lois and mom Eunice which had led little Timmy to Christ. With that background in mind, he tells Timothy to become an arsonist—to fan into a blazing flame the gift of God in his life. Paul had recognized Tim’s future talent many years before, when he recruited him in Lystra. Now, some years later, he was still encouraging him to work on that gift—to stir it up to greater deeds of faith. Why?

Well, apparently Timothy struggled like a lot of us do…with a lack of courage. Perhaps he was a little shy and did not take readily to the bold street-corner preaching of the Apostle Paul. Perhaps sharing the Gospel or encouraging a wayward congregation did not come naturally to Timothy. But he still had a gift. God had given him an ability beyond his own and also an opportunity in Ephesus to preach and lead—and he was to blow hard on that talent until it burst into a forest fire!

Paul goes on to tell him not to be ashamed of the testimony of Christ or of Paul himself, now a prisoner of Rome. He spoke of the One Who by grace saved us out of death’s grasp and then turned to give death the death blow. How could we be ashamed of such a Savior? Paul declares boldly in verse 12, “I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.”

And he wanted Tim to have that same boldness. He told him to follow his example and be perfectly willing to suffer for the Gospel. Which begs the question—can you say the same to your mentee? Can you urge him to be bold for the Gospel, even if it means jail time—which is looking increasingly likely in modern-day America (just ask Kim Davis)? Can you show him a good example of someone who’s bold in their faith, without that spirit of fear that grips so many?

I hope you can. If so, then the next step is to encourage your mentee. By and large, he’ll probably grow up in a country that is a lot different than the one you’ve known. Persecution is not a patient beast. It’s coming fast and furiously through the halls of our courts and Congress. Are you preparing your mentee to meet that beast face on? Are you showing him what it’s like to live in such an environment? Are you investing in the next generation—because we so desperately need it! Oh, we’re going to face things that are SO tough—fear and discouragement like no generation before has ever faced! And we’re not ready for it…

We so desperately need older people to show us the way ahead in these trying days. We need to see Boomers and Xers standing up for God. We need encouragement to go on for Him. The persecution may not come in your lifetime, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be concerned about it. Because it most certainly will in the next. What are you doing to encourage millennials to face it?

This week, do something with a millennial to help fan their gifts into brighter flames for God that rage against the darkness of this world. Be that spark in a young life today.

-M@

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