A few days ago I had a great talk with a friend about fear. We got on the subject because of our children. Both of us see our kids sidelining themselves, reluctant to try new things because of the fear of failure. It’s hard to teach your children to be bold when you’re a little afraid yourself, right?
She said that II Timothy 1:7 is a staple verse in her house, one that she had her daughter memorize so they can intentionally confront anxiety with God’s word.
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
II Timothy 1:7 (ESV)
I nodded as she quoted the familiar verse. It comes to mind often, but as we talked, something new stood out. I’d always given my attention to the first half of the verse–that fear isn’t from God. If it’s a spirit and it’s not from God, then guess where that spirit’s from? Demons out, I say.
But I’ve always prattled through the second part of the verse without realizing the importance of power, love and self-control when confronting fear.
The Holy Spirit is not only powerful–He exerts His great power toward us. Paul prays for the Ephesians’ “hearts [would be] enlightened” to know, among other things, “the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe” (Ephesians 1:18-19, ESV). In John 14:15-27, Jesus said that the Holy Spirit is an advocate to be with us forever, the Spirit of truth, a teacher to remind us of all Jesus said. He then punctuated the promise of this powerful Holy Spirit by saying, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27, ESV, emphasis added).
Interesting. Jesus tells the disciples all about the Holy Spirit, assured them of His peace, and then says not to fear. It implies that what the Lord gives covers us so completely, that nothing should cause us too much concern.
And, as if the immeasurable power of the Holy Spirit isn’t enough, God gives us the Holy Spirit in love–the love of a perfect heavenly Father providing for His children.
“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Luke 11:9-13 (ESV)
I had a great dad. He struck an interesting balance between giving things that we wanted and giving things that we needed. He did not give things that I wanted relative to his financial resources. Had he done that, I’d have been a colossal brat. The scale tipped heavily toward our needs, and as a young teen I thought he was just uptight about money. Looking back, and with a few years of parenting under my own belt, it’s obvious that he was so intent on providing for my needs that one might say he was indulgent.
God gives–and when it comes to giving what we need according to His purpose, He gives indulgently. Our heavenly Father is keenly aware that fear is the great obstacle to walking in faith. Jesus Himself told His followers that the Holy Spirit would come to help them live out their faith and not to be afraid. Friends, how can we be immobilized by fear after reading the truth in His Word? When we seek Him, what we receive is by the power of His Spirit–which is immeasurable, exerted toward us, and given by a loving Father.
So, you might be thinking, “Got it. God loves me. We have His Spirit and He’s powerful and all. But why am I still freaking out?”
Ah. There’s the rub.
I believe this is where the self-control comes into play. That may sound a little unfair. It did to me at first.
“Great. I can feel less afraid if I can just make myself feel less afraid? Thanks for nothing!”
But remember that self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). These are qualities that God builds in us as we follow Christ. Again, His Spirit is powerful and our advocate, and He exerts that immeasurable power toward us. He works in us so that we will bear the right fruit. Put simply, God gives us what we need to master our fears and walk in obedience to Him.
Lately I’ve been studying in the English Standard Version (ESV) of the bible, but other versions use the term “discipline” or “self-discipline” in place of “self-control.” It’s true that confronting fear takes discipline. We can let our anxieties keep us on the bench, or we can put in the time, do the workouts, go through the paces. Discipline helps us become better at different skills. It will also help us to improve our performance when we encounter fear.
A lot of recent Christian songs deal with fear. I love Francesca Battistelli’s “The Breakup Song“, Zach Williams’ “Fear is a Liar“, and Josh Baldwin’s “Stand in Your Love.” But the one I keep playing over and over is United’s “Not Today.” My favorite line is “Fear is just a liar running out of breath.” Dang, I wish I’d written that.
God didn’t give us a spirit of fear or of lies. That’s not who He is. He could never give a loveless, powerless spirit because that contradicts His character. Our loving Heavenly Father gives us His powerful Spirit which fosters the self-discipline we require to follow Him fearlessly.
As I write, I am praying to be transformed by the truth of His Word. I need God-given power and discipline to confront fear and walk in faith. Are you in this boat, too? Know that I’m praying for this post to find those who need it.