“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.”
—2 Timothy 1:7 (CSB)
When I was younger, I considered myself to be a bit of an adrenaline junky. I surfed, skateboarded downhill, jumped my bike off homemade ramps (without a helmet, by the way), jumped off huge rocks into the ocean, rock climbed, and basically tried anything that might allow me to experience a little bit of fear that would raise the adrenaline level in my body.
However, as I have grown older, I realize that fear is not always enjoyable. In fact, now I try to avoid fear.
Our family went to an amusement park a couple years ago. Our goal was to ride all the roller coasters and stay until the park closed. Toward the end of the day there was only one roller coaster left to ride. It was by far the largest roller coaster in the park and the largest I had ever been on. As the coaster started to climb up the first hill, I actually started to panic. It was dark, it was high, and the safety belt didn’t seem like it was enough. Fear gripped me and paralyzed me to the point where I could not breathe. All I wanted to do was get off that roller coaster. The fear was very real and it was not worth chasing.
Everyone deals with fear on some level — sometimes real, sometimes imagined. This seems especially true for the culture that we live in today. Whether someone is trying to sell us something, trying to get our vote, or persuade us of a particular worldview, fear is one way to attempt to convince us. Many times, social media is the vehicle that is used to do so.
We need to be mindful because fear can be destructive. It can diminish the greatness of God and elevate the impact of worldly opinions in our lives. It can cause us to try to control the situation rather than to trust God.
Fixing our gaze on fear has a tendency to lead to more fear. Just like the Israelites wanted to go back to Egypt (Num. 14:4), fear can cause us to go in the wrong direction.Fear can cause us to try to hide our sin instead of dealing with it, repenting, and seeking others for help. Fear can paralyze us as well as cause us to isolate ourselves from others.
However, for those of us who are followers of Christ and have been reconciled back to the creator of the universe, we have hope.
Paul writes to Timothy, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment” (2 Tim. 1:7 CSB).
Not From God
We do not really understand what caused Timothy’s fear. All we know is that Timothy was timid or fearful.
The word Paul uses for fear in verse 7 is not the normal word used in the New Testament for fear, which is phobos. Paul uses the word, deilia which carries a negative implication. Therefore, it is clear that Paul wanted Timothy to understand that his fear did not come from God.
Paul’s concern about Timothy’s fear was that it caused him to lack the courage to carry out the ministry he was commissioned by God to do. Paul’s answer to Timothy’s fear was to remind Timothy that the fear he was facing was not from God.
Our first step to overcome fear is to recognize that any fear that paralyzes us and causes us not to share the gospel of Jesus Christ is not of God. In fact, the Lord gives us great resources to overcoming fear in our lives, which gives us hope.
Our Hope: Power
The first resource Paul mentions in overcoming fear is that the spirit we have in us is one of power. The word here for power is dunamis, from which our word dynamite is derived.
The Lord provides us with an explosive power that allows us to be effective in carrying out the purpose and mission of the church without fear. This is the same power that raised Christ from the dead as well as enabled the apostles to carry out the Great Commission in the book of Acts: “With great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them” (Acts 4:33).
Just like Timothy, we need to be constantly strengthened and reminded that hope in the midst of fear begins with understanding that the same power that accomplished these great things continually dwells within us.
Our Hope: Love
The second resource Paul mentions in overcoming fear is love. Paul wants Timothy to recognize that he is still greatly loved.
Paul uses the word agape, which is a selfless and sacrificial love that looks to the interest of others. It is the love that is spoken of in the Gospel of John. “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). John also writes, “There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment” (1 John 4:18).
Paul believes that knowing the love of God is so important that he prays: “I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love” (Eph. 3:17–18).
Understanding the magnitude of God’s love for us leads us to hope.
Our Hope: Sound Judgement
The third resource Paul mentions in overcoming fear is sound judgement. Sound judgement can be best understood as “self-discipline.”
Fear can distract us from what we should be doing. It can grip our hearts as well as our minds. Years ago, I heard a pastor say, “nobody talks to you more than you do.” If fear is in control of our minds, it will replace the things we should be thinking about.
“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col. 3:2). God has already given us the gift of self- and spiritual discipline. To overcome fear means to practice the self-discipline of spiritual habits.
“Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable crown. So I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified (1 Cor. 9:24–27).
Fear tells us that things are bad. It tells us that everything is not going to be OK. It tells us that God cannot be trusted and that you need to take control.
What we know as believers is that God can and already has taken care of us. We will always struggle with fear because we live in the “already not yet.” However, when we experience fear, we can fully place our trust in Christ who has given us what we need to face it and win. Soli Deo gloria!
Lee Dymond lives in Hoover, Alabama, with his wife, Holly, and his two daughters, Caroline and Anna. He currently serves as the missions pastor at Hunter Street Baptist Church in Hoover. He formerly served as a state missionary/Baptist campus minister Auburn University at Montgomery.