Dear Parish Family,
My wife, Meredith, shared with me a brief video this past week of an interview with well-known Christian author and speaker, Stormie Omartian. Stormie has written a number of books on prayer, and several of them focus on prayer for one's spouse and children. In this video, she was being interviewed about a book on prayer that she had recently written that contained commentary on II Timothy 1:7. In this passage, Paul is writing to Timothy about his ministry that had become challenging for him recently, and Timothy had become "timid" because of attacks that had been launched about him and his ministry. The verse is translated in a few different ways, but essentially it says: "for God did not give you a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power and love and a sound mind." I have seen it translated where "fear" is translated "timidity" and "a sound mind" translated "self-control." The words and context are close enough that the teaching is essentially the same, but let me make a few comments on this verse.
I have said several times in sermons and various teachings through the years, that the most frequent command in Scripture is "do not fear" said in various ways, such as in the verse that we are unpacking here. Scripture has 365 verses that address this command and in various contexts. But the important and most telling part is that fear can have positive and very negative results, depending upon how we respond to it. For example, "the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom" suggests that because we have sinned and need a Savior, our response will be “fear” until we come to that place where we receive His forgiveness and know Jesus as the Savior and Lord that we so desperately need. Further, when we are under attack from the Enemy, we need to respond to the fear that rises up in us resulting in a "fight of flight" action. We need to discern the best response, with our Lord's help and guidance. For example, at times we need to "flee Satan," and, at times, we need to resist or "fight" the temptation that comes at us. But, fear unrelated to examples such as these, or not dealt with effectively, can result in bad decisions and consequences that hurt us and others. We are seeing this in our culture right now! The "fear" that results from a pandemic; the fear that results from financial uncertainty; the fear that results from racial tensions; the fear that results from political and social unrest. Further, if we do not address these fears, the results could be more subtle: how we are handling the extra stress; how we are handling family relationships, work relationships, and friendships. I have seen the results of the constant barrage of "bad news" in our current climate that has caused people to be at odds with one another, and fractured or broken relationships.
Paul's encouragement to Timothy, which we need to take to heart today is: if we are "in Christ," then we do not have a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.
Power - The power does not come from our ability to control the social and cultural situations, but the power that comes from prayer and God's Holy Spirit. We may not be able to change these situations or the people around us, but we can be changed within, to deal with both the people and the situations in a godly way, bearing the fruit of the Spirit amidst the tensions, anxiety, and brokenness around us.
Love - Our culture, apart from Jesus, does not always understand Agape love; the love that comes from God alone, demonstrated by Jesus in His life, ministry, and death on the Cross. Because our culture has been dominated as of late with "me first" and "my rights" and "no one can tell me what to do," the "Christ-centered," "Spirit filled" love that is revealed in Scripture and by the Holy Spirit is lost on many around us. Our response is not to react as "the world" reacts, but to seek how our Lord Jesus reacted, and how our God through the guidance of Scripture and the Holy Spirit, with His power, might cause us to respond.
A Sound Mind - Consider how angry people have responded today to the various challenges in our country. Anger is really the result of fear, selfishness, or both. The resultant rage, violence, withdrawal, gossip and slander, self-centeredness, lies, divisions, tensions, and even depression has taken over many lives, or at least a preoccupation in many lives. A sound mind would be the "mind of Christ," where we are able to bear the fruit of both Love (Galatians 5:22) and Self-control (Galatians 5:23), the two "book ends" of the fruit of the Spirit! The kind of love that we are talking about (see above) and the ability to control ourselves in a godly way (not the result of willing ourselves to, but by being empowered by the Holy Spirit) will give us a "sound mind" and a calm spirit, along with wisdom to respond in such a way that we will bear "good fruit," His fruit.
I encourage you to take time to be in prayer and ask the Lord to show you where you may be living "in fear" and not "in Christ;" where you may be responding in a way that is not God honoring or blessing others; where you are not living with the peace of God that passes understanding (Philippians 4), but by the tensions and fears dominating our country in these days of unrest and fear.
May our Lord fill you with His Peace as you trust in our loving Father, Savior and Holy Spirit that will give you a spirit of "power and love and a sound mind".
With love, in Christ,