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Christian Union: The Magazine
April 3, 2024

We Have Not Received a Spirit of Fear 

 By Michael Racine, writer and ministry fellow at christian union lux at yale


Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord. I give thanks to God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day, longing to see you, having been reminded of your tears, so that I may be filled with joy, receiving remembrance of the sincere faith that is in you—which was first in your grandmother, Lois, and in your mother, Eunice, and which I am convinced is also in you.

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For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but of power and love and good judgment. So may you not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me, his prisoner, but suffer together with me for the gospel according to the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our deeds but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before all time, and which has appeared now through the appearance of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who abolished death and gave light to life and immortality through the gospel for which I was appointed herald and apostle and teacher, for which reason also I suffer these things; but I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have trusted, and I am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted until that day.
  — 2 Timothy 1:1-12

God has not given us a spirit of fear. If you hang around in certain Christian circles, you will hear this statement repeated often—and it’s well that you do. We know that the scriptures repeatedly call God’s people not to fear anything or anyone but God Himself; which is to say, we recognize God’s proper authority and honor Him with faithful obedience. The more we recognize how wonderfully good God is, as well as how strong He is to deliver His children from trouble, the more gladly we will submit to following His instructions as we rejoice that He is with us and for us. Whatever you may be facing, if you align your heart with God’s will you have nothing to fear. But let’s take a moment to pay closer attention to Paul’s words in the context of his message to Timothy, his young protégé.

The apostle is exhorting Timothy not to be ashamed of the testimony of Jesus, nor of Paul as a prisoner, but to “suffer together with [him] for the gospel according to the power of God.” Paul has surrendered everything to Jesus, so that there is nothing left of his that the world can take; as he says, “I know whom I have trusted, and I am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted” until the day Paul finds himself eternally rejoicing in the new Jerusalem.

In the book of Revelation, chapter 21, John sees that new Jerusalem coming down from heaven as God establishes His dwelling place with His people forever. And he hears the Lord say: 

It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give freely from the spring of living water. The overcomer shall inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But as for the cowardly and faithless and detestable and murderers and sexually immoral and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their portion shall be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

Hear that again: The overcomer shall inherit the blessings of God’s kingdom, but the cowardly and faithless will not. This is the same language Paul uses when he tells Timothy that “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice.” There is overcoming to do, hardship to be borne as we strive to accomplish what God has put us on the earth to do. As we work and pray that God’s kingdom come and His will be done on earth as in heaven, we will face opposition from the world, from our own human nature, and from the devil. So we must not give in to fear and unbelief.

The flesh is weak. But the spirit? God has not given us a spirit of cowardice. No, He has given us His Holy Spirit, a Spirit of power and love, so that we can subdue our fleshly impulses and walk according to His good judgment. He has given us the same Holy Spirit who empowered the apostles, after they had all run away scared when Jesus was brought to trial, to become bold and courageous witnesses to His resurrection, with signs and wonders confirming the death-conquering power of which they spoke.

So let us not shrink back in fear but pray, as the apostles did, for the boldness and strength we need to overcome all opposition to the Lord’s purposes in and through us.

Heavenly Father, we declare that You created the heavens and the earth, all things seen and unseen, through and for Your Son, by the power of Your Word and of the Holy Spirit who proceeds from You. We declare that Jesus is our King, the King of kings; we acknowledge no other, nor will we submit to any word that contradicts what You have spoken.

Father, we also acknowledge that we cannot fulfill our own best intentions except where You give us the grace to overcome our weakness. We need Your Word to renew our minds, and we need Your Spirit to transform us from within. 

King Jesus, we thank You and praise You for all that You are and all You have done. Thank You for humbling Yourself beyond what we can comprehend when You emptied Yourself of divine majesty to be born among animals and laid to rest in a feeding trough. Thank You for showing us what is possible when a man is filled with the Spirit of God and lives in complete, trusting obedience to the Father. And Lord, we cannot thank You enough for offering Yourself in loving sacrifice for our sins. Wherever the enemy of our souls would bring accusation against us, wherever we would condemn ourselves and shrink back from serving You in guilt or shame, let Your blood wash away every stain of guilt, as it is written that Your blood cleanses our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

And as we put our trust in You and Your sanctifying grace, let it be true of us as again it is written, that “A wicked person flees though no one is chasing him, but the righteous are bold as a lion.” Holy Spirit, burst forth afresh from the spring of living water Jesus has opened within us and fill us with all courage and strength to overcome all opposition, endure all hardship, and be neither afraid or ashamed of laying our lives down on the altar each and every day, in sacrificial service to the glorious King who laid His life down for us.

Lord, open our ears to hear Your Word. Open our eyes to see what You are doing. Grant us the gift of faith to respond as You so lead us, and may we rejoice to see the dead come to life, the blind see, captives set free, and the poor delighting in good news. God, You are great, You are awesome, You are holy, You are righteous, You are faithful and just and true, the Giver of every good gift and Author of all that is noble and beautiful. So consume our affections today and fill our gaze that we find ourselves caught up in Your glory and refashioned in the likeness of Your Son.

To You, Father, King Jesus, Holy Spirit, be all honor and praise today, and tomorrow, and forever. Amen.