In 2 Timothy 1:6 (KJV), Paul exhorts Timothy to “stir up the gift of God, which is in thee ….” Or, as the NASB version puts it, “to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you ….”
The word translated “stir up” or “kindle afresh” is the Greek ἀναζωπυρέω (anazopureo or anazopyreo), which contains the same root as the English “pyre” and “pyrotechnic.” Vine’s Expository Dictionary explains that it “denotes ‘to kindle afresh,’ or ‘keep in full flame’ (ana, ‘up’ or ‘again;’ zoos, ‘alive;’ pur, ‘fire’).”
As writers, we need to stir up, rekindle, or “keep in full flame” the writing gift that has been given to us. But how?
James reminds us that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights.” (Jas 1:17 NKJV) The gift of writing is “a good and perfect gift” given to us by our Heavenly Father.
When we thank Him for His gift, it helps us take our eyes off ourselves; our weaknesses, fears, insecurities—even our dreams—and onto the Giver. It also reminds us that, in our writing, we are serving and depending on Him; and it puts our focus back on Him. It brings God into our writing and we can trust Him to be with us in our writing journey.
Besides, isn’t it just courteous to thank any giver for a gift? How much more then should we be thanking our Heavenly Father, the giver of all good gifts. “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High.” (Ps 92:1 NKJV)
As well as encouraging Timothy to stir up his gift, Paul also instructed him to “study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed.” (2Tm 2:15 KJV)
The Message Bible translates this: “Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won’t be ashamed of ….” The ESV reads: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed ….”
Timothy was being instructed to apply himself through work and study to do his very best for God in his particular gifting. We need to do the same. Beyond that, God also wants us to use our developed skills to instruct others. Here are some other examples:
You shall speak to all the skillful persons whom I have endowed with the spirit of wisdom, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him, that he may minister as priest to Me. (Ex 28:3 NASB)
Chenaniah, chief of the Levites, was in charge of the singing; he gave instruction in singing because he was skillful. (1Chr 15:22 NASB)
Their number who were trained in singing to the Lord, with their relatives, all who were skillful, was 288. (1Chr 25:7 NASB)
Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy. (Ps 33:3 NASB)
I particularly love the references to training and instruction. God wants us to use our gifts well, to do our very best for Him, and to receive the requisite instruction.
Apply yourself to the craft of writing so you can write skillfully. You may not be able to afford the cost of attending a large writers’ conference but some of the cheaper courses you can find online, or a book on craft, may be within your means. If you’re a non-fiction writer, have you read “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser? If so, maybe it’s time to reread it. How about “The Elements of Style” or “Sin and Syntax” … or even “Eats Shoots and Leaves.” Most libraries have these books, or similar craft books that we can learn from.
Musicians are encouraged to study classical techniques regardless of their specific genre. Similarly, studying ballet helps dancers of every style. Pianists need to continually study basic skills such as scales and arpeggios as well as the works of those who excel in their music genre.
Like those pianists, are you deliberate about building a good foundation for your writing by studying grammar and punctuation, or endeavoring to increase your vocabulary? If you write non-fiction, do you make a point of reading classic non-fiction? (Zinsser makes many recommendations in “On Writing Well.”) If you’re a fiction writer, have you studied the works of those highly skilled in your particular genre, as well as those in other genres? If not, I encourage you to do so; your depth of knowledge of the works of skilled writers cannot be too deep, or too broad.
As Paul encouraged Timothy, I encourage you to “study to show yourselves approved to God, writers that can be proud of their work.”
Relationship with Other Writers
“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” (Prov 27:17 NLT)
This verse speaks of two blades becoming sharper and, therefore, better at their intended job through interaction with each other. Similarly, as with all Christians, when writers are involved in each other’s lives on a regular basis, a mutual growth and edification happens as a natural consequence.
While writing this post, I was mindful of how meeting regularly with other writers is so important when seeking to improve your skill. Indeed, this is one of the main purposes of Inspire’s critique groups. But God reminded me we also have a duty to pass on what we have learned to those seeking to be taught. Did you notice that Chenaniah taught others how to sing “because he was skillful?” Another verse jumped out from my laptop’s screen at me:
“… and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” (2Tm 2:2 ESV).
If you have a gifting in a particular area, or a specific skill, I encourage you not to “hide it under a bushel” but to share it freely with your fellow writers—in fact, seek out opportunities to do so—and, as you obey His call, God will give back to you in return. Teach others because you, too, are skillful.
A final exhortation: “Do not neglect the gift you have … practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.” (1Tm 4:14-15 ESV)