“Overcoming Our Fear” 2 Timothy 1:6-8
Many of us have times of fear. Do we ever feel guilty about being afraid? If you are like me, you have heard many preachers assert strongly that worry and fear are sin. I have to admit, I also, in the past, pointed out the sinfulness of worry. Although worry and fear are sin, knowing this is so has never helped me not worry or be afraid. Take heart fellow believer, others also fight the battle against fear. Do you remember David, the man after God’s own heart? The man who stood up to Goliath the nine-foot giant wrote in Psalm 34:4 “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” The fact others fear does not mean being afraid is acceptable to God. It means, other believers through history have also wrestled to overcome fear and with the Lord’s help conquered it.
How then do we overcome fear? As we open our Bibles to 2 Timothy 1, we are reading Paul’s last letter written shortly before he was to endure martyrdom. Paul wrote his letter to Timothy his associate and his “son in the faith.” He gives final instruction to Timothy to help him do ministry when Paul is no longer on earth. Here in our text, Paul outlined the attributes of Holy Spirit who lived inside of Timothy. What kind of Spirit is the Spirit of God in our lives?
After reminding Timothy of his spiritual heritage from his grandmother and mother, Paul exhorted him to stir up again the gift God gave him. (v.6). On the heels of this exhortation, Paul reminded Timothy of the Spirit of God’s work in him. “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7).
Before cataloguing what the Spirit of God did in Timothy, Paul told him what the Spirit of God did not do. The Spirit of God did not produce spiritual cowardice in Timothy. Over the years while counseling people to help them overcome fear, many folks told me, “I am just a timid person by nature.” “I am naturally a shy individual and because I am shy I can’t teach Sunday school.” At one time or another, all of us have succumbed to cowardice and fear. Paul’s answer to Timothy was more than telling him not to fear.
The first step in overcoming our fear is to recognize God did not design us to live a life dominated by cowardice and fear. When we accept this truth, we realize God has given us resources to win over our fears. For example, in Acts 4, after a warning to preach no more in the name of Jesus, Peter and John returned to their companions in the first church and reported. Immediately, they began to pray. They did not pray that God would destroy their opponents. Rather they prayed that the Lord would give them boldness to speak without intimidation. “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness.” (Acts 4:29)
While the Spirit of God is not a Spirit of cowardice, He does want to give us power, love and a disciplined mind. Our text says, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7) While Paul wanted Timothy to know the Spirit of God was not the source of timidity, he really wanted him to understand what God did want to produce in him.
First, the Spirit of God wanted to give Timothy power. Immediately, we think of the words of the Lord Jesus Christ to His disciple before His ascension to the Father. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
What is this power? Many expositors like to remind us that the English words dynamite and dynamo come from the Greek word translated “power.” Thus, this must mean explosive power. This kind of word study doesn’t seem very helpful to me. The Greek Word denotes more the idea of “being able” or “having the capacity to do something.” Power is more ability than destructive power.
We see how this works in the contrast between two verses. First, the Lord Jesus said in John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” The word translated “can” in this verse is the verb form of our word. The second verse is Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Surprisingly, the word “can” is not our word for power. The verb form of our word is the word translated, “strengthens.” The Lord is not interested in using us to blow stuff up. He wants to enable us to please Him, live holy lives, and move others for Him.
Second, the Spirit of God wants to teach Timothy to love as God loves. This kind of love can only be ours as we love God and experience His love. Then, God gives us the ability to love others as He has loved us. The Apostle John wrote about this love in 1 John 4:12. “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” Our experiencing God’s love is shown in our loving other believers. By loving other believers, we show God and His love to others.
Finally, the Spirit of God allows us to have a disciplined mind. This word appears only here in the New Testament, although it is related to words we find in 1 Timothy 3. There the related word is translated, “sober,” or “prudent.” Paul did not promise every believer great intelligence. Rather, he told Timothy that God through His Spirit would help him think prudently. He would help him be wise in his choices. James reminded us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5) The promise in James appears in the midst of James instruction teaching us how we can endure trials. Still, the promise has a larger application to all areas of life.
In 2 Timothy 1:8, Paul wrote about the arena in which these divine abilities were to be practiced. “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.”
Along with Timothy, we must learn God did not give the Spirit of God to us to make us fear. He was given to teach us and, to enable us to live as God would have us live, and reach out to others with the Gospel. He has also given to us that we might be able to love what God loves. Finally, He was given to us that we might have wisdom from God in our lives.
Shortly after this was written, the Apostle Paul, Timothy’s mentor would be executed. He would not be there anymore to remind Timothy about the resources God made available to him. We read these words many centuries removed from Paul and Timothy. Let us take Paul’s reminder to Timothy seriously in our lives. Are we depending on the Spirit of God working through the Word of God to do these things for us? Are we working together with Him to see God’s will accomplished through us? Are we tapping into the ability that God gives us to reach others for Him?