FEAR

Dennis Forleo
January 10th, 2023

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.”

2 Timothy 1:7

Fear. What is a spirit of fear? The “fear” in this verse is not the reverential kind of respect the Bible talks about when it says that we should fear God. The kind of fear in this verse can also be characterized more aptly as cowardice. Other translations use the word timidity, which indicates a shyness or nervousness about something, but I think that the word cowardice is much more appropriate for the context.

The Bible has strong words regarding cowardice. Revelation 21:8 includes cowards with a list of others who will have their part in the lake of fire. In fact, it is the first one listed, even before the unbelieving, murders, sorcerers, idolaters and liars. Obviously, God is not a fan of cowards. He wants His people to be bold, unafraid and unashamed of the gospel.

Proverbs 28:1 – The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.

Psalm 27:1 – The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 118:6 – The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do unto me?

Mark 8:38 – For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes…

The phrases “fear not” and “do not be afraid” appear many times throughout the scriptures. God wants us to be strong and of good courage. For if we are His, we have nothing to fear.

Looking at the context, in verse 6, Paul is motivating Timothy to action even in the face of what has happened to Paul (he is in prison). He encourages him by reminding him to, “…stir up the gift of God,” that was in him through the anointing of God given to him by Paul’s laying on of his hands.

Stirring is an act of stimulating, accelerating and energizing something through movement. It is the opposite of letting something go stagnant. He is telling Timothy to not let his gifts go stagnant because of the fear of what might happen to him – to not be a coward by withholding his gifts out of fear.

When the trials, tribulations, temptations and persecutions come, will you continue to actively stir up and use the gifts that God has given you? Or do you let them go stagnant, afraid of what might happen to you or what people might think about you, or say about you? Will you shrink back and be found a coward, giving in to your fear, or will you stand in the face of fear and boldly take action, using the gifts and talents placed in your hands by your maker?

Some might say this is easier said than done. So how does one move past fear and into action? I think it starts by understanding the things that God has given us. So back to verse 7…

Rather than fear, God has given us a spirit of power. What does that mean? The Orthodox Jewish Bible translates the word power here as “miraculous power.” God’s power working in our lives should show itself to the world through miracles and changed lives. It did in the early church and throughout history. When God’s power is flowing through His people, it is evident to the world and lives are changed.

It is God’s power that gives us courage and resolution to face difficulties and dangers. It’s not about our own power or courage. Paul writes to the church at Ephesus and tells them to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” He writes in 2 Corinthians that God’s power is made perfect in his (Paul’s) weakness and that when he is weak, then he is strong. So, it has nothing to do with what you bring to the table, but everything to do with what He has already brought.

In his famous sermon on the mount, Jesus didn’t say blessed are the weak. He said, “Blessed are the meek…” Don’t confuse meekness for weakness. Meekness is power under control. A person demonstrating meekness exercises restraint, which implies an ability to do something that they are consciously choosing not to do. Restraint can not be a choice if you don’t have the power and ability to actually do something.

So, when should we choose to take action? I would suggest that you let love be your guide.

Looking at verse 7, that’s the next thing God has given us – rather than a spirit of fear, He has given us a spirit of love. The Apostle writes in 1 John 4 that God is love and if we love one another, then God abides in us and His love is perfected in us. He also writes that there is no fear in love.

Love for God and for our fellow man is what gives us the courage us to act in the face of fear. Running into a burning building to save someone or facing down an armed gunman trying to kill innocents are examples of selfless love compelling a person to action. Love should be what motivates the Christ-follower to act. Where there is love, there is not cowardice, but courage, because perfect love casts out fear.

It is not loving to sit idly by and pray that God help the poor old man being robbed across the street. It is not loving to just call the police when a husband is beating his wife in the Wal-Mart parking lot. It is not loving to just “trust in God” and pray that “everything works out for His glory” as your wife is being raped and beaten in front of you. It is not loving to allow evil to be inflicted on innocents when you have the ability to do something about it. To allow evil when you could have done something about it is a sin of omission.

The true test of our love for God is our love for one another. John writes that you cannot have one without the other. We are commanded – he who loves God, must also love his brother. Love is a verb and it compels us to action.

But there is one more thing that God has given us a spirit of. Rather than fear, God has given us a “sound mind.” The phrase sound mind can also be translated as discipline and sometimes, self-control. It is defined as a person who executes sound judgment, wise discretion, is sensible, sober minded and at peace (quietness of the mind).

A sound mind can be characterized by three things. First, it is reasonable. A sound mind uses reason and logic to think critically and make reasonable assumptions and decisions. Reason allows us, through His spirit, to process information, be able to discern what’s right from wrong and then make decisions. An unsound mind is often characterized by illogical incoherence, confusion, contradiction and disagreement. A person whose reasoning is invalid cannot know anything to be true. If everything you claim to know could be wrong, then you know nothing. But the fact is, we do know things; and the only way we can know things is because we know the one who knows everything.

Second, it is rational. A person with a sound mind gives thoughtful consideration toward the consequences of their actions (or inactions). They consider options, weigh pros and cons and intentionally make decisions based upon their findings. A rational mind understands delayed gratification and also has the ability to withhold judgment until it has necessary information. For a Christ-follower, a rational mind also considers others before itself. An irrational mind operates on impulse and whimsy, inconsiderate of others and self-serving, often going off, half-cocked, making snap judgments based upon limited information.

Not only is a sound mind reasonable and rational, but third, it is realistic. A sound mind operates in the reality of both circumstance and consequence of actions. There is a realism of expectation that we must live in daily to ensure that while we fix our eyes upon Jesus, we don’t forget about our neighbor and that we remember that we live in a fallen world full of sin and evil. We don’t bury our heads in the sand hoping and praying that everything will just work out for God’s glory. A sound mind thinks about real solutions to real problems and isn’t overly concerned with all the possibilities of what might be. An unsound mind lives in the world of fantasy and delusion.

It is because of the Spirit that God has given us – His Holy Spirit – that we possess the things we need (power, love and a sound mind) to face any situation without cowardice.

There is one last thing for today.

If God wants your life, it’s His to take. But until He does, He has given it to you for His purpose.

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both body and soul in hell.” – Matthew 10:28

When you have certainty in your eternal destiny you don’t need to be afraid of dying, because if the worst that can happen is you die, is being in Heaven with your Father really so bad? If you are still alive to read this, and you fear death, you still have time to make your eternal destiny secure as well. Acknowledge your personal sin, repent (turn from them) and accept the gift of Jesus’s sacrifice on your behalf. Unless you comment, I look forward to talking to you about this in Heaven.

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