Doesn’t it feel like the world is in total chaos right now? It can be pretty scary to feel this way, not knowing how the future will turn out and what dangers might await you.
In times of uncertainty, worry, and doubt, I find myself going to the same verse in Scripture: 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” These words have the power to encourage by themselves, but in the context of 2 Timothy they become even more inspiring.
As Paul wrote 2 Timothy, the only thing he knew for certain was his imminent death. He was imprisoned and left to rot in a place intended to rob him of any sense of joy. Surrounded by darkness and decay, Paul’s Roman captors were certain they could break his spirit. Yet Paul did what he had been doing for many years: He wrote letters to believers. This letter was his second written to Timothy, the young man he had mentored and had taken with him in ministry.
Paul’s encouragement not to fear specifically concerned Timothy’s faith. He encouraged Timothy “to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (v. 6) and to “not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord” (v. 8). So while this principle may have been meant for sharing one’s faith in the Lord (which is always our priority as believers), the applications of the passage are important in our current struggle with this coronavirus pandemic.
How hard would it be for you to be a happy, helpful friend if you were isolated from the world and on death row? Probably almost impossible! Yet Paul deliberately chose to use his time not to complain about the injustices he suffered or petition for his legal release. Instead he spent his few remaining days encouraging a fellow believer.
I’m happy to say I’ve seen lots of encouraging social media posts and company initiatives over the past few weeks. Such gestures go a long way, but if such help is ignored on an individual level, people can start to feel pretty lonely in a hurry. If you’re fully healthy, you might not be thinking about those who are at a higher risk of contracting coronavirus and those isolated from the world, perhaps confined to their room in a nursing home or to their apartment or house where they live alone. Try to think of a few such friends and remember to encourage them by texting or calling them!
Before sharing the blessings of the spirit that God offers, Paul first noted the prime suspect that most often prevents us from living in the freedom of Christ: fear. It’s funny to think about fear when you know how things will end up. Thanks to Scripture, we know that believers will spend eternity with the Lord with perfect joy. With that knowledge in mind, should we ever have any reason to fear?
Think of your favorite action/adventure movie. Chances are the hero survives and saves the day by the end of the movie. You probably even knew that for a fact before you started watching. Yet those little bumps along the way make you wonder what if? What if the hero fails, falls, gives up? That’s what makes the success at the end so much more enjoyable—the triumph over trials that leads to victory.
Yet in the moment, fear is paralyzing. It narrows your perspective. It immobilizes you and leaves you with tunnel vision in which all you can see is the giant problem ahead of you. But it doesn’t have to be this way! God didn’t give us a spirit of fear. It should have no place in determining how we act. But it takes a conscious decision to reject fear. Something must take its place, which leads to Paul’s next statement…
Embrace the Spirit of God
To combat fear, Paul lists three attributes of the spirit God has given us. These three ingredients very specifically make up the recipe for a cure for a spirit of fear.
With power, we can attack fear head-on. This power comes from the Lord, so we can be assured that in no situation is fear going to be greater than power from God. All throughout Scripture the Lord assured His people in their times of fear that His power was all they needed. The power to defeat fear comes from the presence of God.
The power to defeat fear comes from the presence of God.
Joshua recognized the key to Israel’s strength was the Lord’s presence: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:9). Isaiah identified this key, too, saying to Israel, “Say to those who are fearful-hearted, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you’” (Isa. 35:4). With God’s presence, we have no reason to fear and every reason to feel rejuvenated by the power of the Lord.
John the apostle shared the key to defeating fear: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (1 Jn. 4:18).
It’s fair to say that love is God’s antidote to fear, its foil, its exact opposite. Where love is present, fear must flee. Fear in the presence of love is like a fish out of water or a body without blood—it can’t survive. Make a conscious decision to love, and fear will have no place in your heart.
A Sound Mind
Fear clouds our minds so easily. It impairs our judgment and leaves us prone to making poor decisions we wouldn’t normally make. These decisions lead to panic and chaos. It’s a good thing God has given us exactly the type of mindset we need to fight fear!
Much like the key to power, the key to a sound mind lies in God’s presence. As he prepared for devastating judgment to trouble his nation, Isaiah wrote, “You will keep him in perfect peace,
whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isa. 26:3). Those whose minds meditate on the Lord will experience peace, which enables us to keep a sound mind in the war against fear. Let this sound mind characterize you as you deal with our current pandemic calmly and effectively.
Hope Conquers Fear
God’s Word is perfect. He used men of faith to communicate His character and His message. Paul’s encouragement of using a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind perfectly relays God’s intention to equip us to overcome fear. In this time of global crisis, we need this spirit more than ever.
Another great writer of Scripture, David, penned these words thousands of years ago that resonate with us now: “And now, LORD, what do I wait for? My hope is in You” (Ps. 39:7). Fear can’t breathe where God has control! Remember God’s promises as you wait on Him and trust Him for deliverance today.