For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”—II Tim. 1:7
The great elderly apostle Paul is writing to Timothy, his son in the faith, for the last time. Like a mentor, Paul had taken Timothy into his ministry and shared a tender affection with him. Paul was rightly concerned that Timothy, who was by nature less aggressive than Paul, would be strong and would continue faithful to the ministry and the message.
Paul had laid his hands, along with others, on Timothy at his ordination. It may be that he received the filling of the Spirit at that time. In any case, there was conferred on him by the Spirit of God a special anointing for the ministry. According to verse six, the divine gift of the Spirit, which was from God and qualified him for the ministry, would need Timothy’s continual efforts to rekindle and maintain the original flame. Paul encouraged him to stir up, or fan into a flame, the gift of the Spirit that God had given to him. General Booth of the Salvation Army said, “The tendency of fire is to go out; watch the fire on the altar of your heart.” Conversely, I would add: The tendency of fire is to burn; it has only to be supplied with fuel.
Paul reminds Timothy that God has not given us the spirit of fear. According to verse eight, Timothy needed counsel to beware of any spirit of weakness and cowardice in proclaiming the message of Christ, in identifying with Paul in his persecution, and in enduring personal sufferings as a messenger of the gospel. We may have natural tendencies to weakness and timidity, but there is nothing about the Spirit of God that is weak and cowardly. We may know that any spirit of fearfulness to freely and fully engage in standing up for Christ is not of God, but is to be resisted and overcome.
Paul further reminds Timothy that the Spirit of God is characterized by power, love, and soundness of mind. Power (Gr. dunamis) is the divine enablement to boldly rise to the occasion for the honor of God. Love (Gr. agape) is the divine enablement to be rightly-affectioned toward God and all people. Sound mind (Gr. sophronismos) is the divine enablement to maintain a disciplined spirit and be self-controlled. Its effect is that we are scripturally sound, spiritually sane, morally discerning, and intellectually sensible. Dr. T. M. Anderson once said that he heard a man testify something like this: “I served the Lord a number of years before I came to realize that God has good sense.” It should be said that divine power as a manifestation of the Spirit will always manifest itself with the added elements of divine love and “good sense.”
We are living in difficult days. Spiritual and moral deterioration are occurring all around us. The state is increasingly secular and is imposing its godless thinking on the church. People in high places are increasingly outspoken against God, truth, and righteousness. Genuine Christians are in the minority and are marginalized and threatened with persecution. Besides these things, in our church world we are faced with a spiritual declension and a wholesale defection from the way of holy separation from the world that has always marked God’s holy people. There seems to be an insidious spirit of drift and even deception that is manifesting itself in questioning virtually everything and departing frequently from the Word and sound doctrine, from solid spiritual experience, and from a serious regard for lifestyle issues. We seem to have come once again to a day like that of the Judges in which everyone is doing “that which is right in his own eyes.”
What is the answer? The answer is what it has always been: We as God’s people must focus on and pursue a fresh outpouring, filling, and anointing of the Spirit. This is not a time for fear, but for a restoration of holy boldness. This is a time to once again give the Holy Spirit his rightful place in the church and in our lives. This is a time for a fresh enduement of the Spirit’s power, energizing and enabling us to stand firm in our own relationship with God, to stand firm on the unchanging Word of God, and to stand firm for biblical truth and holy living. Added to the Spirit’s power is the need for our living and our message to be set forth with a holy love and sanctified common sense. William Penn once said, “Truth often suffers more by the heat of its defenders, than by the argument of its opposers.” Reckless and extreme statements can undo all that we hope to accomplish and greatly harm the cause of Christ. Only a fresh outpouring of the Spirit can save us from the problems we face today.
Like Timothy, we need to keep stirring up the gift and keep fanning the flame through prayer, faith, obedience to the Spirit, reading the Word, reading inspiring materials, attending church and revival services, Christian fellowship, listening to spiritual music, etc. By doing these things we will enable the Spirit to keep on working in and through us in power, love, and wisdom in these troubling times.