Paul indicates a definitive action on our part. To fan the flame implies we must get closer to the fire! We must do whatever we need to do to increase our passion for Christ and serving his kingdom on earth. We need to lead ourselves and our thoughts. The spiritual disciplines that we’re all familiar with can help with this: daily reading the Word of God, spending time in prayer, worshiping through music and conversation with God, taking Communion, finding fellowship with others, and so forth.
But I would like to share one additional thing that the Holy Spirit has taught me to do that has been a tremendous help to fanning my flame, especially in times of discouragement. It may sound a bit silly, but I have learned to give myself pep talks. I’ve learned that we need to talk to ourselves a whole lot more than we need to listen to ourselves. It’s easy to let old, whiney tapes play repeatedly in our heads. When this happens, we need to take authority over our thoughts and allow the Holy Spirit to speak directly to our flesh. Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Taking our thoughts captive is an extremely important skill for every Christian, but it’s especially vital for pastors and church leaders. It’s simple, but it’s not easy. Yet, this Scripture convinces me it’s possible: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). As soon as I begin to hear myself whine, complain, and throw a pity party, I know I have some work to do—I let the Holy Spirit lead and talk to my mind and emotions.
Recently, I found myself feeling way more stressed than I should be. Our church has had a growth spurt in the last six months, and I’ve been feeling the growing pains. The people in our church also had a lot of crisis situations that created a challenging season for our church. I knew it was time for a pep talk with the Lord, so I canceled a few appointments and let some balls drop so I could get some quiet time with the Lord.
I went to my office late at night when I knew I’d be alone. I read Scripture, cranked up the worship music, and worshiped with all my heart. I spent time in confession and surrender and entered God’s presence in thanksgiving. And when I knew my heart was ready, I sat in silence and focused on listening to God. We often forget that half of our prayer time should be spent listening to God—I know I forget! We’re usually good at talking to God, but forget how important it is to listen for his still small voice. So that night, I made plenty of space to listen for what he had to say.