Unstopping the Supply of the Holy Spirit

Dr. Brian Allison

Every true Christian has received the gift of the Spirit at conversion; and on the basis of receiving this gift, Christians may receive the supply of the Spirit throughout their spiritual pilgrimage. Now, though you may have the gift of the Spirit, it is true that you may not be experiencing the supply of the Spirit. It is possible to possess the Spirit and not access and enjoy all the resources of that Spirit. Accordingly, we read in 2 Timothy 1:6,7, "And for this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline."

Timothy, to whom the apostle Paul wrote this epistle, apparently was a true believer; and Paul here exhorted Timothy to experience again the supply of the Spirit – "I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God." This phrase – the gift of God – is a definite reference to the Holy Spirit, but more specifically, it is a reference to the grace or supply of the Spirit. That fact is certainly implied as we consider verse 7. Having given the exhortation to Timothy to kindle afresh the gift of God, the apostle Paul continued, "For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but [a Spirit] of power and love and discipline." Thus, the gift of God has reference to the power, love, and discipline (or self-control) which the Spirit himself supplies.

So, Paul exhorted Timothy to kindle afresh this gift, that is, to fan into a flame the embers of the grace of God, to set ablaze the kindling of the gifts of the Spirit, and so ensure that the supply of the Spirit would freely flow. To put it simply, when Paul exhorted Timothy to rekindle the gift of God, he was simply instructing Timothy to access and enjoy the power, the love, and the discipline of the Spirit – these resources and benefits that the Spirit offers and provides. An example of the free flow of the supply of the Spirit is found in Acts 4. This is an account of the early Church. We read, "And when they [the Church] had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak the Word of God with boldness. And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul [this is a demonstration of the reality and presence of the Spirit]; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own; but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all" (vss. 31-33).

The supply of the Spirit may be stopped up

Now, Paul gave this exhortation because apparently Timothy had become reticent; he had become cowardly; he had become withdrawn. Hence, Paul affirmed, "For God has not given us a spirit of timidity." Seemingly, timidity (or cowardice) characterized Timothy's temperament; and having become unnerved because of reaction and opposition to the Gospel, he was fearfully shying away from preaching that Gospel boldly and confidently. Thus, the apostle Paul further exhorted, "Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me His prisoner; but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God" (2 Tm. 1:8). Paul exhorted Timothy to be courageous. So, he further instructed, "Guard through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure that has been entrusted to you" (2 Tm. 1:14); again, "You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tm. 2:1).

Now, this text teaches that it is possible for a Christian to live less than a victorious life, failing to tap in to, and draw from, the Spirit's resources and benefits; that is how we must understand the rationale underlying this exhortation. It is possible for a Christian to neglect the grace of God that is in him or her; and as a result, he or she will become spiritually dull, lazy, weak, or cold. Recall the rebuke levelled against the Hebrew Christians – "Concerning him [Melchizedek] we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food" (Hb. 5:11,12). I have a friend whom I have known and associated with for about 9 years. He became embroiled in a very emotional and controversial situation. He experienced betrayal and attack from other Christians, and the result was that he became disillusioned with Christians and with the Christian faith. Consequently, he became spiritually stalled in his faith. This brother lost his spiritual appetite for the Word of God and his spiritual thirst for the things of the Spirit, and the result was that he became spiritually cold; it is possible.

The process of spiritual dullness or coldness which warrants the exhortation, "kindle afresh the gift of God," is simple (N. B. the following process is just one way by which one becomes spiritually dull or cold, as we confine our thinking to the passage in which our text is found). First, the Christian experiences a trial in his life – some conflict, some struggle, some opposition which he must deal with. Second, the trial gives rise to the reaction of fear and anxiety. Third, the fear and anxiety breed notions of doubt and uncertainty. Fourth, the doubt and uncertainty result in spiritual dullness or coldness. So, Timothy experienced a severe trial (he received opposition to the Gospel); he reacted with timidity (the fruit of fear and anxiety), he became ashamed of the Gospel (doubt concerning the primacy and uniqueness of God's truth); he became spiritually cold. Now, it is important to remember that the one who becomes spiritually dull or cold, is experiencing a problem or crisis in his or her faith (and we shall return to this matter of faith).

Let me give you an example of this process of spiritual decline. Maybe someone has lost a loved one; that is the trial. Accordingly, he may react with fear and anxiety. He may be concerned and fret about how he is going to survive, what the future is going to bring, how he is going to make ends meet. Fear and anxiety necessarily work against, and undermine, faith; and thus one may begin to doubt the goodness and faithfulness of God; and so begin to doubt whether God will provide. Through doubt, one may mistrust God's care and love. Consequently, in his 'unbelief,' one becomes cold; he no longer reads his Bible as he used to; there is no longer that joy in meeting with God's people; there is no longer that sense of anticipation in entering into the house of God. Let me give you another example of this process of spiritual decline. Maybe someone has experienced a financial crisis; he cannot make enough money to pay his bills. This is his trial. Accordingly, he may begin to worry about his family's needs and the possible consequences of his dire situation. Fear and anxiety consume him. Accordingly, he may wonder whether God is hearing his prayers and whether He really cares. Thus, he begins to waver in his trust of God. He believes that God has let him down. He becomes disillusioned and eventually turns away from God. The result is that he becomes spiritually cold.

As Christians, we face many trials, many conflicts, and many problems which may become a struggle or a crisis for our faith; I do not care how long you have been in Christ. Depending upon how we respond to such trials, conflicts, and problems; and depending upon how we handle the struggle posed to faith, we will thereby determine whether our spiritual moorings remain stable and well-grounded or whether we become spiritually cold and adrift. I tell you, my Christian brothers and sisters, that once we sink to that spiritually low state, it may be a long time before we can ascend out of it. I think of a Christian sister who had a series of problems and difficulties in her life, and she panicked. She momentarily lost faith in God; she did not believe that He would 'come through' for her, and thus she put her Christianity on the shelf, believing that it does not work. It took a while for her to regain spiritual vigour. Is that where you are right now? Have you been there? That is a heavy load to bear. Do you need to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you?

Faith is required to unstop the supply of the Spirit

Christians have the responsibility to access and experience the Spirit's resources and benefits. You have an obligation to lay hold on, and live out, the grace of God which the Spirit affords. God gives you the Spirit, but He does not force the Spirit on you, nor does He automatically reveal the resources and benefits of the Spirit to you. No; you have an obligation, a responsibility, to tap into that grace. Again, we are faced with the mystery of divine sovereignty and human responsibility; but we need to assume our responsibility; we need to exercise our will; we need to decide if we are going to advance spiritually. Now, the question is this: How do we kindle afresh the gift of the Spirit of God? How do we access and enjoy the resources and benefits of the Spirit? It is very simple. We kindle afresh the gift of God by strengthening and nurturing faith; I want to develop that point with you.

Again, we receive both the gift and the supply of the Spirit through faith. Paul exhorted Timothy to kindle afresh the gift of God which was in him on the basis of the reality of his faith. So, he stated, "And for this reason kindle afresh the gift of God." For what reason? Well, the previous verse provides the answer, "For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it [sincere faith] is in you as well" (2 Tm. 1:5). As a sincere believer, Timothy was to live and act like an believer, and so reflect what it would mean to be a believer – one who knew the grace of the Spirit revealed in his life. On the basis of Timothy's genuine faith, Paul reminded him to access and enjoy all the benefits and resources of the Spirit. Hence, Timothy would kindle afresh the gift of God in so far as he expressed and strengthened his faith. True faith makes possible the receiving of the blessings of the Spirit; and thus with faith's presence, Paul was confident that Timothy would be able to access and enjoy the Spirit's supply. Now, this is a critical point: the reality and the exercise of faith go hand in hand with knowing and experiencing the Spirit's resources and benefits. The exercise of true faith receives and unleashes the supply of the Spirit. So, if kindling afresh the gift of God counters spiritual dullness and coldness, then, logically speaking, exercising true faith counters spiritual dullness and coldness; for, again, the presence of the Spirit is commensurate with the presence of faith. They go hand in hand.

Accordingly, having said to Timothy to kindle afresh the gift of God, which counters a spirit of timidity by accessing the Spirit's power and love and discipline, he encouraged him therefore not be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord or of him. Being ashamed is overcome by rekindling the graces of the Spirit. Yet, further on, the apostle Paul, in still referring to this matter of being ashamed, said, "For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day" (2 Tm. 1:12). What is the conclusion of this parallel language? Timothy would avoid being ashamed because of receiving the supply of the Spirit; yet, Paul said that he was not ashamed because of the reality of faith. Again, the resources and benefits of the Spirit are concurrent with the presence and exercise of faith.

Receiving the supply of the Spirit through faith

Again, in so far as we strengthen and nurture our faith, we rekindle the gift of God within us. Now, the question is this. How do we nurture and strengthen our faith? Again, we read, "For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day." Do you see it there? We nurture and strengthen our faith by acquiring and developing a clear, accurate, and personal knowledge of Jesus Christ – "I KNOW whom I have believed." Can you say that my Christian brothers and sisters? Not, "I think I know whom I have believed;" or, "I am pretty sure I know whom I have believed." What I am saying is this: the strength of faith is dependent upon, and correlative with, a clear conception and understanding of the object of faith. Those who are defective in their faith are those who are defective in their knowledge of Christ. If you are struggling in your faith, most likely you do not clearly understand the object of that faith.

Do you have a weak faith? Do you struggle in trusting God? Are you spiritually cold in your faith? Then I suggest that you make your chief spiritual purpose to study the person and work of Christ. I suggest that you read such books as The Fountain of Life by John Flavel; or K. Schilder's trilogy, Christ in His Sufferings, Christ on Trial, and Christ Crucified. I gave John Flavel's book to a struggling soul who came to me a number of months ago. Her major complaint was that she did not have trust in God. After digesting it, she came back to me and said, "That was great; I understand now." She has learned how to trust more in her Saviour.

Now, we are looking at more than a mere intellectual knowledge of Christ; that would be insufficient. It is possible to study intensely about the person and work of Christ and still not grow in your trust. Along with the intellectual knowledge of Christ, you need to nurture an experiential knowledge. You need to seek Him and know Him in an experiential way; and, of course, that means that you must experience spiritual fellowship with Him. There must be a personal encounter with the living Christ; and that means that meditation and prayer must be central to your seeking of Him. To nurture communion with Christ is to nurture your faith. Now with this clear, accurate, and personal knowledge of Jesus Christ through the study of, and fellowship with, Him, you will know trust. Because the apostle Paul really knew whom he had believed, he was then convinced [trusting assurance] that God was able to keep that which he had committed to Him until the final day of history. When you really know whom you have believed, there will be trust. In really knowing Christ, you will realize His goodness, His faithfulness, His sovereignty, His glory; and in really knowing Him, you will truly rest in Him, which entails receiving the supply of the Spirit.

Where are you spiritually? Do you need to kindle afresh the gift of God that is in you? As you look at the Church, do you think that the Church needs to kindle afresh the gift of God? What do you think? As you look at the Church, is there an aliveness, a vibrancy, a freedom, a spontaneity, a spiritual hungering and thirsting? Do you even care about kindling afresh the gift of God? Do you? Again, John Wesley, having been a minister of the Gospel who had preached the Word of God and who had been a missionary, was still unsaved at 34 years of age. He admitted that he did not have true faith, but rather an intellectual one. Is your faith just an intellectual one? As a professing Christian, there is no more important question for you to answer than this one. You may believe in Christ; you may believe in His salvation; you may believe in His love, but true faith receives the Spirit, knows the Spirit, experiences the infilling of the Spirit, and rejoices in the life of the Spirit. Do you have a real faith?