There are hints in Paul’s letters that Timothy was naturally more timid. But Paul, as his father in the faith and mentor, wanted to encourage and strengthen him. This summary verse gives an overview of the working of God’s Spirit in us. God gives us power through the Spirit, but that power must be controlled by that essential characteristic of God, Love. “God is love,” and He wants us to “Love one another; as I have Loved you, that you also Love one another” (1 John 4:8; John 13:34).
The third element, “a sound mind,” is also translated “self-control” and “self-discipline.” In doing God’s work “often the deciding factor between success and failure is the matter of self-discipline” (Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 910).
Sound mind implies much more; it means a clear understanding, a sound judgment, a rectified will, holy passions, heavenly tempers (thoughts and feelings); in a word, the whole soul harmonized in all its powers and faculties; and completely regulated and influenced, so as to think, speak, and act aright in all.
Spirit of Unconditional Love conquers all the evil in the world. Living with unconditional Love in our heart and soul is the only way we can truly live in the Heavenly Will of God, and bring it here to Earth as it is in Heaven. (Our Father Who art in Heaven give us this day our daily bread…make things here on Earth as it is in Heaven. The dwelling place of The Spirit of The Creator of ALL!)
A spirit is a force that influences the will of people. … If we feel under the power of a spirit we do not want, we can command the spirit to leave in the name of Christ since we are His people, and the devil’s forces have no power over Christians unless they cooperate. ALL things have been made subject to Christ 1 Corinthians 15:27 For The Scriptures say, “God has put all things under His authority.” (Of course, when it says “all things are under His authority,” that does not include God Himself, Who gave Christ His authority.)
When you look in the dictionary the word fear has two main definitions: A distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, threat or evil whether the threat is real or imagined; and a reverential awe, as in the fear of the Lord.
With this in mind, what does the verse “God has not given us a spirit of fear” mean? Let’s start by looking at the whole verse which is found in 2 Timothy 1:7:
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (New King James Bible).
Based on the definition of the word, it can’t mean reverential awe because that wouldn’t make sense. Clearly fear means something else so let’s dig deeper to understand what it means. Let’s also consider the proper response we should have to fear.
Who Wrote 1 Timothy?
The letters to Timothy were written by the Apostle Paul. They are a part of what are commonly called the Pastoral epistles, which include 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. Timothy was Paul’s younger protégé and was a pastor in the church of Ephesus. Paul’s message to him was to encourage him in his role.
The first letter to Timothy gives him detailed instructions as to how the local church should look and function. By the time we get to the second letter, which is Paul’s last letter written, Paul is aware that the end of his own life is near. He is writing to Timothy again as a final encouragement to keep the faith and keep going.
By the time we get to verse 7 we are made aware of a struggle Timothy had. He battled with a spirit of fear. It seems Timothy had a timid personality and Paul was encouraging him to speak the truth of the gospel with boldness.
So What Does This Verse Mean?
This brings us back to the question what does the verse “God has not given us a spirit of fear” mean? The word in the Greek is deilia (di-lee-ah). This word means cowardice or timidity. A person with a spirit of fear or timidity may shy away from proclaiming the gospel or upholding the truth of God’s word. This happens because of an impending sense of threat or danger whether it is real or imagined.
Another way of thinking about it is they are afraid of the consequences of their actions. When this fear takes over, doing the work of the kingdom of God, while still important, takes a backseat. This person becomes paralyzed and ineffective – not because they don’t have power but because they stop taking action, because of fear.
Paul is reminding Timothy – and us – that when it comes to preaching the gospel or doing work for the kingdom of God, we should do it with courage and boldness. If you recall in the early church in the book of Acts they would often pray for boldness. In Acts 4:29 they actually prayed “Now Lord consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.” God does not want us to shrink back from proclaiming the gospel but to declare it courageously, even in the face of opposition or persecution. If the spirit of timidity takes over, you will take a step back. But when the Spirit of God takes over you will move forward empowered to do God’s will.
The second thing to recognize about this verse is that the spirit of fear does not come from God. When you consider that the word in the Greek means cowardice or timidity these character traits do not describe God in any way. God is not timid, cowardly, shy, fearful, afraid, nervous or worried about anything and because you have the Spirit of God living inside of you, neither should you. Notice the verse in the amplified version:
“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].”
As believers there is this internal struggle happening, and Timothy was experiencing the same thing. If you focus on your abilities or the potential threat that can come from doing God’s work, then fear or timidity will arise. However, if you are constantly being filled with the Spirit of God (Ephesians 5:18) then he will help you overcome the spirit of fear.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Aaron Burdennull
What Does This Verse Not Mean?
Thus far we have addressed the question what does the verse “God has not given us a spirit of fear” mean. Let’s now turn the tables and look at what this verse does not mean. When you look throughout the pages of Scripture, one of the things you will notice is that God never tells anyone to be fearless. Fear or timidity can be a normal human emotion especially when you consider the circumstances.
In Luke chapter 1 for instance the angel Gabriel visits Mary and one of the things he tells her is do not be afraid. I have never seen an angel (at least that I am aware of). Gabriel has never appeared to me with a message from God, but I am sure if he did, my reaction would be just like Mary’s – fear. Under those circumstances fear is a natural human emotion.
If you are facing persecution, a bad diagnosis, an uncertain future, a job loss, financial challenges or if you are about to step out into new ministry … fear or timidity may arise. God does not want you running around with a big S on your chest, trying to be superman or superwoman, acting like you aren’t afraid of anything. You don’t have to be fearless. But you also don’t have to be overcome by fear.
The Bible and Fear
As you search through the pages of Scripture you will often find God encouraging his people to fear not or don’t be afraid. It has been estimated that there are 365 “fear nots” in the Bible – one for each day of the year. This lets you and I know that God understands our human character and our human emotions. Notice some of the “fear nots” mentioned in the Bible:
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you” (Isaiah 41:13).
“The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1).
“But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened’” (1 Peter 3:14).
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29-31).
I believe at some point in our lives we have all faced these types of fears. Worried about provision. Worried about protection. Worried about other people and what they will say, think, or do. Wondering if God will help. Unsure if God will go with you. Questioning if God really care. These are all different expressions of fear that you may experience at some point in your life. It’s important to acknowledge that these are natural human emotions and because God understands who we are, he encourages us not to be afraid.