Common phobias in our day and age include: Fear of Germs (Mysophobia), Fear of Heights (Acrophobia), Fear of Snakes (Ophidiophobia), Fear of Spiders (Arachnophobia), Thanatophobia (Fear of Death), and Glossophobia (Fear of Public Speaking). Jerry Seinfeld once stated: “According to most studies, the number one fear people have is public speaking. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’d rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.”
Why are so many of us afraid of so much? It’s because we are not trusting Jesus Christ. Christians should not be fearful. In 2 Timothy 1:7, the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy and told him: “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” This verse is comforting because God tells us that we do not have to be afraid. While there are many things we can be afraid of, God tells us there is nothing we should be afraid of. But what about sickness? What about death? What about this? What about that? What about the Coronavirus?! The list could go on and on because there is no limit to situations that tempt us to be afraid. While these things should concern us, they should not cause us to fear. Let’s discover together why this is true.
Not a Spirit of Fear
First, notice that God does not take credit for the spirit of fear. “Spirit of fear” speaks of fearfulness and timidity. It is cowardice in the face of hostility and/or uncertainty. In Timothy’s case it was the fear of an unknown future that did not include Paul helping him in the ministry. Paul wrote this letter to Timothy shortly before he was executed for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Timothy, no doubt, was fearful of losing his father in the faith, Paul. He was afraid of ending up in a prison similar to Paul and afraid of receiving the same sentence of death as Paul. He might have even considered stepping away from his pastoral duties. Timothy felt as if he had much to fear. Paul wrote to Timothy to encourage him to continue on in boldness and humility and started by reminding him that the fear he is experiencing is not from God therefore it must be resisted.
The Holy Spirit
God has not given us a spirit of fear, but the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:5 that God “has given us the Spirit as a guarantee”. What does the Holy Spirit guarantee? The Holy Spirit indwells the Christian and is a downpayment/promise/guarantee from God that we will be resurrected (2 Cor 5:1-8). The Holy Spirit is active in our lives and one crucial aspect of His work is that of the Comforter (John 14:16). When Paul wrote 2 Timothy 1:7, he was speaking of the work and role that the Holy Spirit works in our life in three important ways for Timothy: power, love, and a sound mind.
Spirit of Power
God has not given us a spirit of fear, but the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 5:5). One characteristic of the Holy Spirit is power. His power is mighty and strong. The Holy Spirit was powerful at the moment of Creation as He “was hovering over the face of many waters” (Gen 1:2). It was “by the Spirit of God that [Jesus] cast out demons” (Matt 12:28). It was the Spirit of God who overshadowed Mary so that she conceived Jesus without ever knowing a man (Luke 1:35). It was the Spirit of God that rushed upon the timid, fearful disciples and transformed them into bold apostles. Peter, for example, went from being fearful and cowardly in the presence of a servant girl to being bold and powerful before the Jewish religious leaders as he proclaimed “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36). The Holy Spirit brings power, not fear. Because we work according to the power of the Holy Spirit, we can be bold in doing everything God calls us to do.
Spirit of Love
Another characteristic of the Holy Spirit is love. Jesus said in John 15:12, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” This point is very important and 1 John 4:13-21 explains it perfectly:
By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
The Holy Spirit, who is given to us, gives us confidence (not fear) in this world because He gives confidence in the Day of Judgment. This perfect love of God casts out all fear because “there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). Because we have received the love of God, we can love those around us.
Spirit of Self-Control
Another characteristic of the Holy Spirit mentioned by Paul is Self-Control (or Sound mind). The Holy Spirit gives us wisdom to know what to do and what to avoid. This wisdom manifests itself in a sound mind that exercises self-control. When we speak of spiritual maturity, knowledge of what God says is important, but without obedience, our knowledge just puffs up (1 Cor 8:1). Being able to answer all the questions in Bible Trivia is nice, but is not necessarily a sign of spiritual maturity. Remember, in the Great Commission (Matt 28”18-20) Jesus told us to teach others to obey all things that I have commanded you. Learn to trust Jesus. Learn to be content in all situations (Phil 4:11).
Martyn Lloyd-Jones said fear is “our failure to realize what God has given us, and is giving us, in giving us the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Let’s be intentional this week in refusing to be afraid and having faith. Resist sin (and fear) and live a life pleasing to God because we have the Holy Spirit.
Home Bible Study Guide
Read 2 Timothy 1 and go through the following six questions as a family:
- What does the text say? (What other passages teach about this?) This question helps everyone better understand the details of the story. After the story is told, take your Bible and discover the details of the story. What was missed? Discuss the basics of the story.
- What does it tell us about God? This is a very important question that helps us reflect on the nature and character of God. What is God doing (or not doing) in the particular story? What does He like and dislike? How can we grow in our knowledge of our Creator?
- What does it tell us about ourselves? Another great question that forces us to see what the human characters in the story are doing (or not doing). Often we see the thoughts, words, and actions of characters and learn what to do and not to do in a particular circumstance. Because we are similar to the characters, we can often see ourselves in them.
- What do I like about this passage? This question causes us to think about what we like and address why we like it. This highlights the positive elements of the story and God’s good behavior for us to employ.
- What caused me to struggle? This question causes us to think about what we do not like and address why we do not like it. Usually this highlights the negative aspects of the story and the thoughts, words, and behavior that is sinful. It could also reveal good teaching that brings us conviction because of our failure to obey.
- How am I going to think, speak, and live differently because of what I learned? This is the application question. It is not enough to know what the story says, it is important to apply the truth of the story to our lives. James writes that we should be doers of the word and not just hears (James 1:22).