2 Timothy 1.7
The setting: January in Chicago - Northwestern University - a mediation class that has been beneficial in many ways. I met some fascinating people--an art dealer from Russia, a new attorney friend from France and another from Australia.
Then there was a new friend, Lynne from Rhode Island, a little blonde wisp and a successful litigator and brilliant mind. We walked through a rather unsavory part of town to get to a trendy restaurant one night. As I listened to stories about her life I detected something that bothered me a great deal—she was gripped by fear.
Life contains a good deal of sifting—sifting our never-ceasing thoughts, figuring out what to do with them . . . determining which are from God, which are not. And having come to terms, choosing to live from the best of those thoughts, in spite of the hand life deals us.
Paul wrote this short, super-charged verse to encourage and teach Timothy, but also to do what he had just told Timothy to do—to fan into flames the gift of God which was in him—that is, Paul was also reminding himself to persevere. He was reminding himself who he was, and whose he was, because while Timothy was ‘up against it’ as a young pastor in Ephesus, Paul was once again a Roman prisoner. Only … this time was different for Paul. Everything about it felt different; he was not just under house arrest, he was locked in a dank prison, and wicked, crazed Nero was on a tear. Christians were being burned at the stake for sport; the guy was sick. Paul knew it was not looking good for him—indeed, Paul would not likely survive this incarceration—rather, it appeared the end was near.
He writes, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”1
‘So, Timothy, Son—if you have thoughts that you can’t do what God called you to do, thoughts of fear that folks will continue to rip away at your authority because you are young--thoughts of fear--they are not from God.’
Indeed, Paul’s first phrase provides an instant reality check for all of us; when fear knocks at our door, when it threatens to overwhelm, overtake or become a way of life for us, it is not from God. This is such a practical statement! Got fear? It is not from God. In fact, over and over again in Scripture, God specifically says, ‘Fear not!’ ‘Do not be afraid!’ The spirit of fear is opposed to the Spirit of God, and does not emanate from him.
Rather, as people of genuine faith, God promises he has given us three things that equip us to be strong—power, love and a sound mind. All three come as a result of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives—the Holy Spirit who lives in us.2 Without him, we are no different than any other Joe.
Power - The Greek word Paul used for power is dunamis, and it is the same word from which dynamite comes. It can be used of any kind of extraordinary power--the power of growth, the powers of nature, the power of a drug, or the power of a man’s genius. It is an effective power."3. The Holy Spirit gives us power for living, and living well, especially when another course of action would be an easier route. Paul knew about this power, as it was what had enabled him to serve God and endure hardships of many kinds and yet be faithful. Listen to me: Neither intelligence, training nor experience can take the place of the Holy Spirit.
Love – The fruit of the Spirit is love, remember? Struggle with loving others? Perhaps you need to fan the flames of the faith that is within you by spending more time with Jesus, giving the Holy Spirit access to the deepest parts of yourself, allowing him to regenerate your heart.
Sound mind – A sound mind is a clear-thinking stable, healthy mind that is able to exercise clear judgment in daily living in large part because of the Holy Spirit of God within. And again, one of the earmarks of a life filled with the Holy Spirit is indeed self control! The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.4
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Let us then choose to intentionally live a life without fear!
Drive it home, listen to this song: Sinking Deep: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5o7gD5Q4ug
1 - 2 Timothy 1.7
2 – 1 Corinthians 6.19
3 – William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series
4 – Galatians 5.22-23a