LCN Article
Stir Up the Holy Spirit

May / June 2022

John Meakin

God's promise of the Holy Spirit was one of true hope, and receiving it is vital to our conversion and eventual entry into eternal life. But how can we keep it burning like a roaring fire, and not let it sputter out?

Receiving God’s Holy Spirit and knowing how to receive more of it are two of the most important issues in the life of a Christian. Actually, they are of quintessential importance, because one cannot become or remain a true and genuine Christian without getting these related issues right. 

Let’s look more closely at the role of God’s Spirit—somewhat briefly at how it first impacts our lives from the day of our baptism, and then in greater depth on how the Holy Spirit can subsequently be stirred up in our daily lives. 

A New Spirit Nature 

All true Christians possess the Holy Spirit that was received when hands were laid on us at the time of our baptism (Acts 2:38). God’s Spirit was given as a begettal, creating a new spirit nature that resides within us (2 Corinthians 5:17). 

As a result, we became the children of God, called to be transformed with His divine nature so we can become part of God’s spirit family (cf. 1 John 3:1–2; 2 Peter 1:2–4). This spiritual begettal by our Father in Heaven is described as receiving God’s seed (Gr. sperma) that imparts His sinless nature (1 John 3:9). It is like us having our human father’s DNA that will unfailingly produce in us characteristics of our human parent. 

But what happens to this spirit begettal following baptism? In a human pregnancy, an implanted new life is programmed to grow and develop, and will do so unfailingly, provided it is nurtured and fed. But if this new life cannot develop or be sustained for whatever reason, it will simply cease to be. The same is true of our Christian lives. We must grow spiritually each day by the renewal of our new nature through God’s spirit (2 Corinthians 4:16; Romans 12:1–2). Consequently, knowing how to renew on a daily basis the spiritual power of God’s Spirit in our lives is an essential issue. Everything else flows from it. 

God’s Spirit Is Like a Fire 

Some read Christ’s statement recorded in Matthew 3:11 about baptizing “with the Holy Spirit and fire” and confuse the “baptism with fire” as referring to being given the Holy Spirit. This is not the case! The baptism of fire John the Baptist referred to is the second death in the Lake of Fire. 

That said, there are lessons to be learned when comparing the Holy Spirit to fire. God’s Spirit in us is not static. It is dynamic and variable and can either increase or decrease depending on many factors. What is clear from Scripture is that we need more of it, and God’s word uses various analogies to help us understand this better. The Apostle Paul admonished the young evangelist Timothy, “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6). This gift from God is not a “spirit of fear.” Rather, it is one of “power and of love and of a sound mind” (v. 7). 

The meaning of “stir up” comes as something of a surprise. The Amplified Bible, Classic Edition helpfully translates 2 Timothy 1:6 as follows: “That is why I would remind you to stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the [gracious] gift of God, [the inner fire] that is in you by means of the laying on of my hands.” 

But how do we get all this sense from the simple English term “stir up”? The answer, of course, is that the Greek word actually means more than is reflected in the simple translation. The Greek word Paul uses metaphorically for “stir” is anazopureo (from ana = up or again; zoos = alive; pur = fire) and means “to kindle afresh” or “keep in full flame.” In Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, we read, “The gift of God is regarded as a fire capable of dying out through neglect” (see the entry “Stir”). Paul is likening God’s gift of the Holy Spirit to an inner fire that ought to burn strongly and powerfully within each of us. It will produce the fruit of the Spirit and the good works that God expects from us. 

It is evident that this laying on of hands is a specific reference to Timothy’s ordination as an evangelist when he was given this gift by prophecy (cf. 1 Timothy 4:14). But the gift, “that good thing,” would be sustained by the Holy Spirit, which dwelt in him (2 Timothy 1:14). A reading of both epistles quickly establishes the impact God’s Spirit was already having on his life, and so much the more when that Spirit would be stirred up subsequently. It is the same for us; we will all benefit from stirring up the Spirit we have been given. 

The Anatomy of a Fire 

The analogy of building a physical fire helps us better understand how to increase God’s supply of divine power and energy to each of us. Consider that in order to have a strongly burning fire, we need several elements: 

  • A source of fuel—something flammable like wood, coal, gasoline, or oil. 
  • A spark to get the fire going—a match, a flint, a lighter. 
  • Kindling—something that burns easily to start the fire, such as tinder-dry twigs, wood shavings, or paper. 

There are two other vital elements that we may take for granted: 

  • The environment—a fire needs oxygen to burn strongly, but if you surround it with carbon dioxide, it will rapidly go out. 
  • Time and effort to tend the fire—once started, the fire requires attention, as we must rake out the ash, add new fuel, and regulate the flow of oxygen. 

How does all this apply spiritually? Well, for our personal spiritual fire, God calls us and opens our minds to His truth; He feeds us “the pure milk of the word” (1 Peter 2:2), which is a kind of spiritual kindling. He provides the vital spark by His Spirit and gives His Spirit to dwell in us permanently and provide that “inner fire.” Then, He trusts us with the job of fanning this divine spark into a flame. As we “bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8), God brings us to become more like Him. 

God’s Spirit then imparts its characteristics to each of us. With it comes a sound (disciplined) mind, godly love, and power (strength)—especially belief and faith. The fire must be continually fed, tended, and nurtured, or it will go out. Sin is the great enemy of this fire—it creates the wrong kind of environment, in which our spiritual strength diminishes (Psalm 31:10) and God’s Spirit will be quenched (1 Thessalonians 5:19). 

Why should we care about this inner fire? If we don’t understand the reason and purpose for having it in our lives, we will not put forth the effort to keep it burning strongly, or even to keep it alive. 

God’s Spirit provides great power and strength (Ephesians 6:10); we become strong by putting on the armor of God, including “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” God’s Spirit is the power to live a godly life in word and in deed, by personal example (Titus 2:12). It enables the Gospel of “the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ” to be proclaimed (Acts 8:12). It empowers the ministry to preach wisely and with strength (Ephesians 6:19). 

God’s Spirit is the means by which God fulfills His promises, including divine healing (James 5:15–16). By the working of God’s all-powerful Spirit, any and all challenges, problems, and crises can be met and resolved (Philippians 4:19). Being renewed by the Holy Spirit provides the key element to overcoming—putting off the old man and putting on the new man (Ephesians 4:22–24; Colossians 3:5–14). 

Ask, Seek, and Knock 

So, how can we have more of the amazing power of God’s Spirit? Jesus Christ Himself provides the answer: “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Luke 11:9–10). In verse 13, Christ makes it plain that He is speaking about making the Holy Spirit available to those who ask for it. In the context of the model prayer, a few verses earlier, asking for “daily bread” would spiritually refer to seeking God’s sustaining Spirit each and every day (11:3). Christ told His disciples several times that if they asked for anything in His name, He would do it (John 14:12–14; 15:7–8; 15:16; 16:23–24). 

If, through prayer, we diligently ask, seek, and knock—asking God to make the power of His Spirit available to us—He promises to hear us. Our spiritual fire will become much stronger. Its power will then go to work to accomplish God’s will and purpose in our lives. Our prayers will be energized. Our spiritual growth will speed up. Our spiritual accomplishments will increase. There is nothing too small—and nothing too big—that God cannot accomplish through the power of His Spirit (Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:27). God is able “to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20). 

Faith is the key. When the disciples failed to heal a child possessed by a demon, Christ explained that their failure came about because of their unbelief (Matthew 17:15–21). They lacked the power of faith. Notice that, when Christ gave this instruction, the disciples had not yet received the Holy Spirit. Yet Christ did not tell them, in the first instance, to receive that Spirit; He told them that they would need to pray and fast. Doing so would bring them closer to God and would connect them more effectively to the power of God that they needed. 

Of course, receiving the Holy Spirit is vitally necessary for Christians. The disciples went on to become powerful instruments in God’s service after they received that Spirit. But Christ’s words here make it plain that even as Spirit-empowered Christians, they would still need to pray and fast regularly in order to keep their spiritual inner fires burning strongly. 

A Divine Power Circuit 

A related analogy is that of an energy circuit. The energy and power of fire can be enhanced greatly by establishing an energy circuit. A fire in a grate will heat one room, and you in that room. However, if you place a boiler behind the fire, and you put some radiators and a pump in a circuit throughout the house, the heat from the fire can be transferred to all the other rooms of the house, and even provide hot water for washing. Energy can be transferred around a circuit—in this example, through the agency of water moving through a radiator and pump. 

Think of how an old steam locomotive functions. Coal is burned under a boiler that heats water into steam, which drives a piston, which turns the wheels and provides motion. This transfer of energy from the original coal allows much valuable work to be performed. 

Next, think on an even larger scale. Consider a fire many miles away, in a power station. The burning fuel now heats water into steam, which powers an electrical turbine, which generates electricity. Now, the prospects for energy transfer become far greater. Connect this power station to an electrical grid, and thousands of homes and businesses can be heated and lit, and many electrical devices in those homes and businesses can be powered. Although you cannot see the electricity directly, you can see the work it accomplishes. 

Now, consider this analogy spiritually. God possesses an infinite degree of divine energy, and thus He is an infinite source of power. That supremely powerful God, for those of us who have His Holy Spirit, is our “power station.” Each Christian is connected to this source of spiritual power and is part of the “power grid,” which comprises other members of God’s Church as well, who are to be one with each other and with God (John 17:20–23). 

When God’s word goes forth, it is a fruitful and marvelous extension of His power. 

For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:10–11). 

Plugged in and Switched On 

What Isaiah is describing can be thought of, in our analogy, as a remarkable power circuit—a projection of divine power to accomplish God’s purpose and will. You and I, as Christians with the Holy Spirit, can tap into this source of power, thereby reaping and conveying its benefits. 

But there is something about a power circuit that’s important to understand. There may be a vast amount of power in a circuit, but no power at all will flow until devices on that circuit are not only plugged in but switched on as well. Think of the vast spike in electrical demand that is created by the inhabitants of an entire nation all boiling water to make a cup of tea during the advertisement break midway through their favorite television show or sporting event! 

You could say that we are “plugged in” to God’s power from conversion. But, each day, we also need to be “switched on” in our relationship with God, talking to Him and allowing Him to “talk” to us through His word. 

We “plug in and switch on” when we ask, seek, and knock for more of God’s Holy Spirit to accomplish a godly purpose. Our spiritual tools to keep us spiritually strong and connected to God include prayer, Bible study, meditation, and fasting. And we know God will provide His power, as He says so—repeatedly—in Scripture. We just need to “complete the circuit.” 

Faith Completes the Circuit 

Using this analogy, our faith is like a switch that makes the connection in a divine power circuit. Without faith, the switch is off, and the power simply cannot flow. However, if you believe, the switch is on and the power can flow. And once the power is flowing, it can be “turned up” to higher levels—just as we can grow in faith. Amazingly, God promises that whenever we ask for something, according to His will, He will answer and provide (Mark 11:22–24). This is the faith that proverbially moves mountains, even though the faith might be as small as a mustard seed (v. 23; see also Matthew 17:20). 

Prayer, Bible study, meditation, and fasting are vital spiritual tools—the “weapons of our warfare” (2 Corinthians 10:4). They bring us closer to God and connect us to more of His power. They activate and increase our faith by adding fuel to our inner spiritual fire. Put enough fuel on that fire, and it can become a roaring inferno to accomplish God’s will. 

Yet another analogy used by Christ Himself is that of the grapevine (John 15:1–8). Christ is the grapevine. “Abiding in Christ” is akin to the sap flowing in the vine that allows the nutrients from the roots and the impact of the sun on the leaves to permeate the vine. Without the sap flowing there will be no fruit. God’s Spirit must likewise flow through us and will enable much fruit to be produced. To mix our metaphors for a moment, God’s Spirit is our spiritual lifeblood; it must never stop flowing or eventually we die spiritually. 

So, be sure to stir up God’s Spirit within you. You will be astounded at the result in your life, in the lives of those for whom you ardently pray, and in the Work to which God has called you to do your part.