An Unlikely Source - Exploring What The Bible Says About Fear
October 5th, 2021
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT
I am certain I had heard 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT a million times prior to that day, but for some reason it finally struck me. The phrase “a spirit of fear,” echoed in my mind and I found myself drawn to understand it better. You see, for most of my young life, I did not properly appreciate the true complexity of fear. Sure, I knew what it was like to be afraid of the dark or to fear failure, but this depiction of fear fascinated me. Over the course of the last 16 years, I have learned that fear is not just the innocent, scary emotions from childhood. Fear is eerily complex and is often made of many layers. What started with a single passage in the Bible, compelled me to want to know more.
An Unlikely Source
While I never would have chosen the Bible as a source of information about fear, by this point in my search I had looked everywhere else for an explanation. All of my searches had left me feeling angry, frustrated, and empty. All of these worldly sources only told part of the story. They all seemed to know a little bit about fear, but not enough to truly help me.
Since prior expeditions in search for answers had come up empty, I decided to explore what the Bible had to say about fear. And what better place to start than in 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT, the very verse which had peaked my interest. As I attempted to gain a better understanding of 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT, I needed more, or perhaps a better description. I began to look at the verse using a variety of translations. As I studied the verse, I could see that Paul was making a point about the Holy Spirit.
A Spiritual Boogyman
At first, I thought the author was describing two separate beings, the Holy Spirit and a darker, sinister, evil spirit. A part of me envisioned a spiritual boogyman, who went around invoking fear in the hearts of people. And while this makes for great storytelling, I could see this is not what Paul is trying to convey. As I began to look deeper at the CEV(Contemporary English Version), the NCV(New Century Version), the ESV(English Standard Version), and the AMP(Amplified Bible) translations, I began to see a distinct pattern.
Paul is describing the Holy Spirit the entire verse. Often times when trying to describe something to another person, it is best to start by telling what the object is not. That is exactly what Paul does in 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT. Speaking of the Holy Spirit, Paul says that the spirit God gave us is NOT a spirit of fear or timidity.
Two Things We Can Draw From Paul’s Description
- A spirit of fear is not from God
- The Holy Spirit does not bring us fear
In the second part of the verse, Paul contrasts a spirit of fear by describing the Holy Spirit as a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. The verse is describing key, distinguishable characteristics of the Holy Spirit. The same Holy Spirit which dwells in the hearts of every follower of Jesus. While Paul could have described countless other characteristics of the Holy Spirit, he chose to focus on three, power, love, and self-discipline. Later, we will dive deeper into these characteristics of the Holy Spirit. For now let us talk about why Paul chose to talk about fear early in his letter to Timothy.
Paul’s Letter To Timothy
In his letter, Paul is trying to encourage his young protégé, Timothy. Paul has watched as Timothy has grown in his faith from its infancy until now. Likewise, Paul has also seen Timothy grow into his calling to preach the Gospel. Paul is in prison 2 Timothy 1:12, he is lonely2 Timothy 1:4, and perhaps he realizes that his time on earth is coming to an end(insert reference).
Paul Revisits The Past
Paul starts off by describing how he is thinking of and praying for Timothy. Paul commends the roots of Timothy’s faith and the spiritual gift Timothy has received. Paul starts to encourage Timothy to hone the spiritual gift given to him when Paul and elders laid hands on Timothy to pray over him at his ordination. Right before Paul arrives at the main part of his letter he stops to remind Timothy of the Holy Spirit which lives within him 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT. Let us place a mental bookmark here as we will revisit this later.
As Paul is wrapping up his letter in 2 Timothy 1:13, he encourages Timothy to “Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me—a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus. “ Then in verse 14, Paul says, “…carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you.” The wording and tone here in verses 13 and 14 tells the reader of both the importance of this task and struggle this will be for Timothy.
What is Paul thinking? How exactly does Paul expect Timothy to do all of this? Maybe it is the spiritual gift Timothy received when he was ordained? Could Timothy be a super hero with supernatural strength as his super power? That sounds like fun, but NO! If we go back to the first part of 2 Timothy 1:14 NLV Paul states, “Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us...“ BINGO!! Here is where we need to pay close attention because Paul’s point applies directly to us today.
If we take a step back for just a moment, in 2 Timothy 1, we see Paul reminding Timothy of the Holy Spirit in verse 7 and again in verse 14. In verse 7, Paul is reminding Timothy of the character of the Holy Spirit who is alive within him. He is also showing Timothy that a spirit of fear is not from God. In verse 14, Paul is telling Timothy to embrace the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish what God has called him to do.
So Many Questions
After studying this chapter in depth, I started to ask myself a few questions which lead me to even more questions. I wanted to know what this means for modern day believers in Jesus Christ? How could this possibly speak to our situation? Are there any possible implications for those battling fear?
My Top Questions:
- So what lessons can we draw from all of this?
- How does this apply to those battling fear and anxiety?
While this chapter is not focused on fear and anxiety, there are lessons about fear in Paul and Timothy’s story. I believe that Paul knew fear was a major obstacle in Timothy’s journey to following God’s calling on his life. This is why he addresses it early in his letter. I also believe Paul knew that Timothy could not accomplish God’s calling in his own strength. Paul knew Timothy would need the fellowship and power of the Holy Spirit.
- Fear Was A Major Obstacle For Timothy
- Timothy Needed the Holy Spirit To Live Out His Calling
Life Lessons For Us
- Fear can be a major obstacle for us
- Like Timothy, we need the Holy Spirit to live out our calling