No Fear Part 2
In the opening verses of Paul's second letter to Timothy, we read his encouragement and admonition of his protege. Paul acknowledges Timothy's faith and the faith of his family as a prelude to reminding Timothy of the particular gifting God had given him for ministry.
It seems that Timothy was naturally timid. In his first letter to his young lieutenant, Paul admonished Timothy not to let people look down on him because of his youth (1 Timothy 4:12). At another time, Paul admonished the Corinthian Believers not to intimidate Timothy or dismiss him as a "junior apostle." (1 Corinthians 16:10-11).
In verse six of the first chapter, Paul instructs Timothy to bring to mind a particular gift God had given him through the "laying on of hands." We may assume this was a gift particular to his ministry and it may be the same thing Paul refers to in the next verse. If so, Paul's use of the plural (God has not given us a Spirit of fear), is designed to soften the criticism of Timothy's leadership. On the other hand, Paul may be referring to the gift of the Holy Spirit possessed by every follower of Jesus Christ.
A hint concerning Paul's meaning is found in Romans 8:15. There Paul writes, so you have not received a Spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God's Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, "Abba, Father" (Romans 8:15). Obviously this is not an exact repetition of the thought in 2 Timothy 1:7 but the connection seems clear. In other words, to Timothy and the church in Rome, Paul says that the Spirit of God who possesses us should drive out fear. In Timothy's case the Spirit should drive out a fear of man and empower him in the work of ministry. To the church in Rome the Spirit of God gives assurance of relationship and status as joint heir with Jesus Christ. Thus, the Spirit Paul speaks of to Timothy is the same Holy Spirit he referenced in his letter to the church in Rome.
Nevertheless, it is the Spirit of God that energizes and empowers the gifting we have been given from the Lord. Timothy had received a particular gift for ministry through the laying on of hands. It is the Holy Spirit that gives life and energy to every gift. Therefore, Paul's thought moves easily from one to the other. Timothy has been gifted for the ministry and the Spirit of God empowers him in exercising that gift and ministry.
The Spirit of God is not a Spirit of fear. He is a Spirit providing confidence in approaching the throne of God and courage in the face of opposition to the work of the ministry. Indeed, the Holy Spirit gives followers of Jesus courage regardless of the difficulty they may encounter. As Paul reminded the church in Rome, we have an intimate relationship with Almighty God. We call him "Abba Father." It is a relationship that enables us to have peace and confidence no matter what we meet with. In Timothy's case, Paul wanted him to confidently discharge the duties of church leadership.
The exercise of power is inescapable. In the modern world, we do not like to use the term but the fact remains, someone is in charge in every relationship. The abuse of power has made this a difficult concept to embrace. However, a Christlike expression of power in a relationship is not abusive but service oriented and life giving.
The reason Paul told Timothy the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of power is because Timothy had leadership responsibilities. He could not adequately fulfill those responsibilities if he was timid. It is hard to bring dsicipline. It is hard to administer correction and reproof. Indeed, it is hard to present the authoritative Word of God through teaching. Yet, this is what Timothy had to do in order to effectively carry out his ministry.
The exercise of power must be closely coupled with the actions of love. Thus, Paul reminds Timothy that the Spirit of God is also the source of true love. Paul wanted Timothy to remember that his ministry of leadership must be long-suffering, kind, without envy, without arrogance, always polite, thinking of others more highly than self, patient and so on (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8). In the character of God, power and love are inseparable. God never exercises power apart from love nor does love in any way exclude his power. We are frail creatures and find it difficult to maintain the equilibrium between power and love we see in God. It is only by the presence and energy of the Holy Spirit we may hope to do so. This is what Paul tells Timothy he must do. For, it is often in the timid man that a Spirit of despotism arises under pressure. In an effort to compensate for his shortcomings, the fearful leader will rage against those who oppose him. But that is not acceptable for the follower of Jesus Christ. The exercise of power, the expression of authority required of Christian leaders, must be accomplished with love.
The Greek word translated as sound mind or self-control is sophronismos and literally means, "sound minded; vigor of mind, moderation, self-control." Hence, either "sound mind" or "self-control" is an acceptable translation. It seems to me "sound mind" is the best rendering because it embraces the idea of self-control. In other words, a person who is not of sound mind - not mentally stable - will certainly be unable to exercise self-control.
So, Paul admonishes Timothy to cultivate mental toughness. He must be able to think clearly under pressure. He must be able to remember God's word and its application when faced with the strident opposition of those who wish to undermine his authority.
Every Christian has been given the Spirit of God. Every Christian has a Spirit of power not of fear. Moreover, every Christian has a responsibility to take authority (under Jesus Christ) in their own life and arena of activity. For some, this is limited to their personal walk and the few things over which they exercise a true influence. Even the lowliest individual has this authority. Indeed, this authority extends much farther than we might imagine, especially in a nation such as ours. In other words, even the most "insignificant" Christian has the authority to pray for God's will to be done in their society and culture. In our nation, even the most "insignificant" Christian has the right and authority to admonish civil leadership toward righteousness (the most "insignificant" Christian also has the right to examine the Scriptures to see if what their ecclesiastical leadership is saying is true – but that's another topic for another time).
In these troubled times, Christians have the power to confront the forces of chaos and evil. We must not be fearful but must look hardship in the face and claim the protection of God in our life and those for whom we have responsibility. As detailed in the first article of this duet, God's care for us does not guarantee the absence of suffering; it guarantees the loving presence of God as he works through all things to produce Christlikeness in us.
We are a people of power not fear. We are a people who can march through the valley of the shadow of death, fearing no evil. We are people who can present a deep-seated demeanor of peace and joy while the rest of the world quails in fear. We must be sure to explain our attitude to those we come in contact with. It is because of Jesus Christ and what he has done for us in his substitutionary death that we have the confidence to courageously meet with any trial or tribulation.
The follower of Jesus Christ must also be constantly expressing the love of the Lord. It is in times of crisis that our Christlike character should shine. Now is the time to extend love to others. Now is the time to share with those in need. Now is the time to volunteer to be in the thick of things with specialized ability - or simply the calming presence of the Lord Jesus. Our behavior must be guided by love not fear. For instance, we cannot be among those who hoard necessities to the detriment of others. Instead we should be sure others have what they need.
Finally, it is imperative we exercise a Holy Spirit empowered sound mind. While everyone else around us is losing their head, followers of Jesus must remain cool, calm and collected. In addition, we must be able to offer sound advice to those who ask of us. Indeed, we should be able to offer sound advice to those who do not ask of us. This would include communication with civil leadership at the local, state and federal level. It may be that civil leaders ignore our input but we must discharge the duty of exercising a sound mind nonetheless. And the exercise of a Holy Spirit empowered sound mind has little effect if it is hidden under a basket.
It seems the entire world has been swept up in hysteria. Fear has gripped much of the world's population; followers of Jesus the Christ must not succumb to the temptation to fear. Instead, we must take authority in our own life and arena of activity. We must express the love of Jesus Christ always. And we must keep our wits about us, understanding and applying the word of God in these current troubled times.
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