Fear vs The Spirit in You

I started studying 2 Timothy several weeks ago on my own and then got to share with my ladies at church last Wednesday night. Before I get started, I just want to say that if you aren’t plugged into a Bible study group of some sort, you are REALLY missing out. This group of ladies that I study with challenge me every week to know more, study more, learn more, depend on Jesus more, glorify the Father more, more, more, more! I am so glad I get to do life with them. The fellowship we have is so sweet. So if you aren’t a part of a Bible study group, let me encourage you right now, sweet sister, find one! (If you need help, let me know!) If you’re anywhere near Gonzales, I’d love for you to join us soon. There is always room for one more around our tables.

If you haven’t read through the blogs that cover 1 Timothy, you might want to go back and start with “Precious Promises in 1 Timothy” and read through the 1 Timothy blogs. Paul’s first letter to Timothy really helps us understand what’s happening with Paul and Timothy and the church in Ephesus and it sets the stage for Paul’s second letter to Timothy, which we are about to dive into…Are you ready?

Once again, Paul is writing to Timothy, who is the leader of the church in Ephesus. The biggest difference this time is that Paul is imprisoned in Rome and he knows he is about to die. He writes 2 Timothy as a sort of “final words” letter to his beloved understudy. These are the words he’s using to pass the torch of the gospel on to Timothy, who Paul loving calls his “beloved child”.

Paul starts his letter as he often does, by identifying himself and reminding the recipient that his apostleship and authority come from Jesus Christ. He doesn’t ever want to take credit for the authority he speaks with. He is a servant of Jesus Christ. He mentions his last encounter with Timothy and remembers Timothy’s tears. You know they must’ve been such close friends to hear Paul speak so longingly of Timothy. Paul references his ancestors’ faithfulness as well as the faithfulness of Timothy’s grandmother Lois and that of his mother Eunice. Paul acknowledges that Timothy’s strong faith must’ve been significantly impacted by the faith of his matriarchs. Wouldn’t we all love to have such an impact on the faith of our children? I can think of nothing greater than to know that my children love and serve the Lord! Which brings up our first discussion question…

How can we nurture our children to develop a faith of their own, not piggybacking on their parents’ faith? 

The answer is simple. We can do everything we can do, but ultimately, our children will be responsible for their own faith. We can pray for them, teach them Scripture, model what a close relationship with the Lord looks like, but one day our children will decide for themselves whether or not to follow Jesus Christ with their lives. We have NO control over that. It is their choice to make. Which is why the next words Paul writes are so important.

He tells us to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you…what is that gift? The gift of the promised Holy Spirit! One commentary I read put it this way, “It was not that the Spirit’s flame was weak or needed to be alive by human effort but that the Spirit only works in cooperation with those who desire his enablement. [1]” Do you desire the enablement of the Holy Spirit? If you do, your life is gonna look so different than the lives of the people around you. The Holy Spirit is REAL. He is not some magical, mystical being who hovers around like ghosts in scary movies. Acts 1:8 says that “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…” He will come upon you and give you power! Do you desire that? Do you desire the power he promises to bring to you? Keep reading in 2 Timothy 1:7. Paul says, “…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” So not only do we receive power, but we receive love and self-control too! But here’s the problem…far too often, we choose to live in fear rather than acknowledging the power that we have through the Holy Spirit in us.

Fear is comfortable. Fear is familiar. Fear is easy. Power? Power is risky. Power is unfamiliar. Power is difficult. Or so we tell ourselves, right? But the truth is that if you are a follower of Jesus, a Christian, you have received a spirit of power. It’s done. He’s there, in you. Squelch the fear. Embrace the power. And love? Well, Christians are marked by their love, right? It’s not a love that comes from ourselves though. It’s a love that comes from the Holy Spirit in us, the Spirit that we have fanned into flame through prayer and submission. And self-control? Here we go… This is not one we like to talk about. We like to say things like, “I just couldn’t help myself!” or “I’m not strong enough to withstand that kind of temptation.” or “I have no self-control!” WRONG. Did you read 2 Timothy 1:7? Go back and read it again if you need to. The Spirit that we have received is one of self-control. 

What causes you the most fear and insecurity? How can you begin to apply God’s promise of a spirit of power and love and self-discipline?

And then Paul seemingly switches gears and begins to talk about the fact that he is not ashamed of his faith in Jesus Christ. That’s a pretty big deal considering it’s the main reason he’s sitting there in chains. He’s reminding Timothy that he would do it all over again if he had to. He is not ashamed. He knows who he’s believed in and he is absolutely certain that he (The Holy Spirit!) will guard what has been entrusted to him until the day that Jesus Christ returns. What is it that Paul has been entrusted with? The gospel! There’s Paul, in prison in Rome, having endured hardship and persecution and abuse and ultimately facing death and what is he talking about? The Gospel. The good news that Jesus Christ came in to the world to save sinners. He just wasn’t going to give up on that. He was convinced that he was guarding a precious treasure through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and he was ready to pass that job on to Timothy. So Timothy, “do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God…”

So how do you suffer for your faith?

Most of us don’t suffer in any way that comes close to comparing with the persecution and martyrdom that Paul and Timothy and first-century believers faced. But we do suffer. What would happen if you proclaimed your faith, loud and proud, at your workplace? If you’re a teacher, you could get fired. (And it’s not just teachers, of course. Fill in the blank with many professions.) So should you keep quiet about it or should you shout it from the rooftops? Most of us keep quiet, making excuses, because we wouldn’t want to risk losing a job. If we really wanted to join Paul in suffering for the Gospel, we would boldly proclaim the God we serve!

I love how Paul ends this section in chapter one. He throws a few guys under the bus here. Old Phygelus and Hermogenes seem to have jumped ship, along with many of the Asians who began to follow Christ. Their dedication to Jesus sure didn’t last long. 2 Timothy was written sometime between 64 and 67 AD, which means that only about 30 years had passed since Jesus’s resurrection. It didn’t take long for people to turn their hearts to other gods again. But Paul does have one friend, Onesiphorus, who he brags on quite a bit. He tells Timothy that Mr. O  often refreshed him and wasn’t ashamed of his chains. He had gone looking for Paul in Rome and searched until he found him. Paul was encouraged by his friendship in the middle of persecution and suffering.

Who has refreshed you spiritually? How did they do it? What positive influence can you have on other Christians? 

If someone comes to mind, send them a note of encouragement or make a phone call to let them know what they mean to you. We believers have to stick together, especially when times are hard.

So in the middle of the suffering, in the midst of the hardships, you have a choice to make: Will you choose to wallow in the fear that wants to choke the life out of you? Or will you choose to believe this very precious promise of God…

“…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

[1]Larson, K. (2000). I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon (Vol. 9, p. 266). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

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