“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” —2 Timothy 1:6-7
One of the purposes of Paul’s letters to Timothy was to strengthen Timothy’s faith—and crucify his fear. Timothy had a great reliance on Paul as a mentor, and father in the faith. So, it shook Timothy when Paul was incarcerated. His faith was rattled, his hope was shook, and the Spirit inspires Paul to pen these words to remind him in the midst of his turmoil, “God gave us not a spirit of fear.”
We all need this reminder, don’t we? Fear is sweeping through our world, and our society is searching for answers. The news is tailor-made to create fear, and it can seem inescapable at times. Fears of sickness, fears of death, fears of financial distress—crippling, and debilitating fear marks our culture. And in some ways, marks many Christians. It doesn’t have to be this way.
In my own battles with fear, I find myself consistently coming back to this passage. Because the Apostle Paul instructs Timothy the same way I need instruction when I fall into fearful states of mind. As a Christian, I need reprimanded and reminded of who God has made me, and the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones says in his book, “Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures”
“Our fears are due to our failure to stir up—failure to think, failure to take ourselves in hand. You find yourself looking to the future and then you begin to imagine things and you say: ‘I wonder what is going to happen?’ And then, your imagination runs away with you. You are gripped by the thing; you do not stop to remind yourself of who you are and what you are, this thing overwhelms you and down you go. Now the first thing you have to do is to take a firm grip of yourself, to pull yourself up, to stir up yourself, to take yourself in hand and to speak to yourself.”
There is a type of fear that grips us the most, I believe—the fear of the future. It is the fear of the unknown, of mystery, and of tragedy. Fears of the future are the most difficult to battle—because our future is obscure. We don’t know, specifically, what tomorrow brings, and we have an imagination. I have to remind myself constantly, that my imagination is fallen—and the things it creates are not law. What the Lord says in His word about our future, should always supersede our imaginative future circumstances we create. Crippling fear comes when we fail to realize that our future is obscure to us, but it is not obscure to God. Faith in the future orientation of His promises, is the only way to combat this type of fear. He has never failed us yet, He has promised He won’t, and He has no intention of beginning to fail us sometime in the future.
We enter into these states of mind when we look at our past, and remember how weak we were—or how sinful we were, and it discourages us. Then we look to the unknown future. Concocting perilous situations in the mind, and imagining the old weak person we were attempting to wade through the imaginary circumstance. We cannot allow ourselves to do this. This is what Lloyd-Jones means when he says we have to, “Take yourself in hand.” In other words, you have to speak truth to yourself, to quiet the imagination.
The truth that Paul intended Timothy to remember was that of regeneration, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Paul also reminded the Roman church of this, because it is a glorious reality for every Christian,
“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” —Romans 8:11
If the grave couldn’t hold Jesus Christ, then fear cannot hold the Christian either. We need reprimanded, and reminded of this truth. If God can raise Jesus from the dead, then He can deliver me from all my fears.
Prayer: Father, we thank you that you are a God who cares about every detail of our life. You are not unaware of our shortcomings. We confess that our fear is a failure to trust you, and believe your promises. Please, be gracious to us, and lead us out of these conditions. Jesus, we are thankful that your work on our behalf gives us confidence that our sins are forgiven, our future is planned, and our present you are holding us. Holy Spirit, we ask that you bring to mind the promises you have recorded for us when we are weak. Thank you for being our Helper, Comforter, and Teacher. Guide us we ask in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.