Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love and discipline (2 Timothy 1:7)

I have to admit, this Scripture is one of my all-time favorites in the Bible.  I have used it hundreds of times in teaching and probably quoted it a million times (slight exaggeration!) to the devil when he tried to stop me by fear and intimidation.  I'm sure Timothy found great strength through these words as well.

I know that Timothy, Paul's son in the faith, tends to get a lot of bad press from Christians about being timid and fearful, as if he was some sort of sniveling wimp.  But hey, let's give the guy some credit!  He pastored a church in Ephesus, which was like the spiritual warfare and pagan worship capital of the world (just check out Acts 19, if you don't believe me).  He stuck like glue to Paul and the apostle said of Timothy, "For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.  For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.  But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father" (Philippians 2:20-22).  And despite the horrors of the persecution under Nero, Timothy didn't bail.  He finished the course well.

I don't know about you, but I think I might have needed a little encouragement now and then if I had been in Timothy's sandals, ministering in such a hostile culture!  And so the apostle Paul, like the loving spiritual father he was, encouraged his son to continue ministering with the spiritual gifts he had been given with these strengthening words:

"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity [or fear], but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline [or sound judgement or self control]."

Think about fear for a moment.  What does it do to you?  Well, first of all, fear robs us of power.  It makes us weak and we think ourselves helpless and are ready to run or we are paralyzed to do anything.  Fear also cuts off the flow of love.  Love is other-centered, but fear is self-centered.  Fearful people have no emotional energy to love; they are too consumed with survival and self-protection.  Finally, fear steals away our clear thinking (sound judgment) so that we are uncertain, anxious, confused or panicky.

But God hasn't given us that kind of spirit at all.  So when fear tries to take over, we know that it is not from God.  We can stand against that spirit of fear (and I do believe it is an actual spirit, because the Bible says it is!) and claim instead the power of the Holy Spirit, the love of God the Father, and the sound mind of Christ to sustain us.  Yes!  I believe the entire Trinity...God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit... come fully to our rescue so that we can walk by faith and not by fear, even in the face of danger.

Have you been overwhelmed by fear?  Have you ceased to walk by faith and instead caved in to fear in some area(s) of life?  Feelings of fear are not sinful, but when we give in to that fear and no longer walk by faith, we commit sin, because whatever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23).

So, to begin your journey out of fear into faith, first confess and repent of giving in to fear.  Second, ask God to fill you with His Spirit of power, love and a sound mind.  Third, when fear-feelings strike, stand against them in the name of Jesus proclaiming something like, "I refuse this fear, for God has not given me a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love and a sound mind!"  And fourth, continue to walk by faith knowing God...God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit... is with you.

Then you will be able to joyfully shout like King David, "I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears" (Psalm 34:4).

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