“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power,
and of love, and of a sound mind.”
— 2 Timothy 1:7
Whether we like it or not, we will have to confront fear in this life. It is unavoidable. Fear comes knocking at the door and looks for every available opportunity to make an inroad into the lives of committed believers, especially those endeavoring to make advancements for the Kingdom of God on the earth. The Early Church was no different. In fact, Timothy had such a spirit of fear come against him at one time that the apostle Paul was compelled to write a letter encouraging Timothy to push beyond his fears and fulfill his God-ordained assignment.
With a spirit of fear upon you — left unchecked and allowed to run its full course — you simply cannot do the will of God. Fear will stop you in your tracks and hinder the work that God has given you to accomplish. But today I want to teach you what the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write on this subject in Second Timothy chapter 1. I believe this revelation will encourage you to stand strong and free of fear in these last days.
In Second Timothy chapter 1, Paul used the word “spirit” to describe fear, which is very revealing. Fear is indeed a spirit. You can feel it when it comes into the room, and it brings with it panic and dread. But in verse 7, Paul wrote that God has not given you a “spirit of fear.”
The word “fear” is from the Greek word deilia, and it describes something that causes you to retreat and to feel the need to protect yourself. If fear is in your life, you are no longer advancing spiritually. Instead, you are in a position of complete and total retreat because fear carries with it the picture of one cowering and going into hiding. Having a spirit of fear is so dangerous and detrimental to your life as a believer because it paralyzes you in such a way that eventually you can no longer function normally in your life or ministry.
Fear devastates your spiritual life because it robs you of your ability to have a sound or a clear mind. When a spirit of fear is operating in you, you are incapable of thinking soundly. Your imagination runs wild with thoughts of every terrible thing that could possibly happen to you, and then you suddenly begin to picture them like a movie screen in your mind until, finally, you’re seized by that spirit and left completely and utterly incapacitated as a result. But that does not have to be you! Paul wrote in Second Timothy 1:7 that God has not given you a spirit of fear.
So why was Timothy so troubled with fear? What could have unsettled him to such a degree that he had to reach out in such desperation to his spiritual father Paul? To answer this, we must first take a closer look at this point in history. Let me give you a brief background of the book of Second Timothy.
Persecution in the Early Church
Up to this point in time, the persecution of the Church by the Roman Empire was almost non-existent. It was not until the rule of the emperor Nero that a shift occurred and Christians began to be brutally mistreated, assaulted, and martyred for their faith.
Nero came from a long line of wicked and perverse rulers, and he was thrust upon the throne at the young age of 16. He was twisted in every imaginable way, due in part to the horrendous sexual perversion of his family.
I want you to imagine for a moment being handed all the power in the world as a 16-year-old after being told repeatedly by your mother that you were a god and you could do no wrong. Naturally, Nero began to embrace his “divinity.” His depravity knew no bounds, and he viciously eliminated anyone who disagreed with him or challenged him.
Nero was filled with such pride that he truly believed he was the greatest architect (among other things) who had ever lived, and he wanted to design himself a new home. He called it “The Golden Palace” — a house entirely veneered in mother-of-pearl and then covered with gold leaf. That’s why it was called “The Golden Palace.” And this would not be a small home by any means. The house that Nero wanted to build was 300 acres in size.
But there was a problem. Nero wanted to build his house in Rome’s most ancient section where many houses already stood. So Nero went to the Roman Senate and said, “I want to tear down this section of Rome. I want to build my palace.” And they responded, “Nero, you may think that you’re a god, but we’re not going to let you tear down our houses for you to build your palace.”
Undeterred, Nero went to his village just outside Rome, called his servants, and said, “I want you to go into the main circus in the city of Rome, and I want you to set a fire when people are not there so they don’t know what’s happening.” And they obeyed him. The embers began blowing in the air, and soon the entire city of Rome was on fire. By the time the fire had gone out, the section where Nero wanted to build his house was complete rubble. Finally, he could construct his dream 300-acre palace.
Rumors began to circulate throughout the city of Rome that it was Nero who instigated the fire, so the Roman Senate called him for his trial and execution. But while Nero was en route to the Senate, he conceived a diabolic idea. He waited until he was sitting in front of the Senate and they had brought their charges against him. Then he said, “How could you think that I, Nero, would burn down my beloved city of Rome? I can tell you who did this. My spies have brought me information.”
The Senate senators said, “Tell us — who burned down the city of Rome?” And Nero told them, “Christians — this new group, this sect in our town — they have burned down the city of Rome.” Members of the Senate said, “Tell us what you know about these Christians.”
By the time Nero was finished, he had laid out charges so outrageous, yet so convincing, that the senators actually believed him. And for the first time in history, governmental persecution began against the Church in all the Roman Empire’s major cities, including Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and Ephesus.
Why Was Timothy Afraid?
Well, where was Timothy? He was living and pastoring in Ephesus. And he wasn’t pastoring just any church in Ephesus. No, he was pastoring not only the largest church in the city but the world’s largest church at that time, with probably about 100,000 members. They were living in extraordinary revival — but when the fires of persecution came, it began to reveal those who were not really committed to Christ.
You know, it’s easy to serve the Lord when times are good and it costs you absolutely nothing. But when the fires of persecution come, it always reveals who people really are.
Whether you like it or not, fire comes in life. Fire comes to relationships, ministry, and business. And it’s not fire sent by God — it’s just life. Life brings fire, and sometimes, the enemy brings fire. But despite where it comes from, fire reveals the level of people’s commitment to God.
Suddenly, Timothy, who had been enjoying being the pastor of the world’s biggest church, discovered that some people he thought would always be with him were just “fair-weather” believers — including those he had raised up to be leaders in his church. They were coming to him, saying, “Pastor, we never knew our faith was going to come to this. If we remain faithful, we’re going to lose our lives,” and they began leaving the church.
Timothy went from pastoring a church in revival to pastoring a church in decline. And not only that, but because he was the church’s pastor, he was the most visible and influential Christian in the entire city of Ephesus. He knew that there could be a knock on his own door at any moment, and he could be arrested for his faith. He also knew that if the Roman authorities got their hands on him, they would make his death the most miserable of all in order to make him an example to the other believers who had remained faithful. So it was during this time that a spirit of fear began to work in this man of God, and that is precisely why Paul had to write these words to Timothy:
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. — 2 Timothy 1:7
When these words came to Timothy from Paul, he was in a terrible state. He was so hurt by losing the people he thought would always be faithful that he was having a really difficult time giving his heart to others. He couldn’t walk in love because he wasn’t dealing with his own hurt. He couldn’t walk in the power of God because he had been seized by a spirit of fear.
The word “power” used in Second Timothy 1:7 is from the Greek word dunamis. It means dynamite or power, but it’s so much more than that. The word dunamis is used to describe a force of nature — like a hurricane, a tornado, or an earthquake. It is also the very same Greek word that was used to describe the full might of the advancing Roman army — which means that when the power of God is operating in you, you become like a force of nature! You become a spiritual earthquake and can shake things up. You become a dynamic spiritual tornado. You become a hurricane that blows things out of the way. And when the power of God is operating correctly in you, you are like a one-person army with the power to force back darkness. But that power working in Timothy had been inhibited because of fear.
Paul said, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). The phrase “sound mind” is the Greek word sophronismos, which comes from the word sodzo — meaning to save or to deliver — and the word phren the Greek word for your head, your intelligence, or your brain. When you compound the two words, the word “sound mind” — sophronismos — really means a delivered head or a delivered brain. It is a mind that is set free from all inhibitions.
Timothy’s mind was utterly encumbered with fear. He wasn’t thinking freely. He was not the powerful force that God wanted him to be. He couldn’t choose new leaders because he was so affected by those who hurt him. He was not walking in love, power, or a sound mind. Timothy needed help, and desperately at that. Something had to change.
The Power of Remembrance
In verse 5, Paul wrote something very interesting:
When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.
— 2 Timothy 1:5
What does “unfeigned faith” mean? The word “feigned” is the Greek word for “hypocrisy” and was used to describe the masks worn on Roman and Greek stages. However, when you translate it as “unfeigned,” it means authentic or genuine — not a bogus or pretend faith, but a real, authentic, genuine faith.
Paul was saying here, “Timothy, I know what kind of faith you have. It’s not bogus or pretend. It is the same kind of faith that was in your grandmother and the same faith that she passed to her daughter, your mother. And now, Timothy, that same living, thriving, real, authentic faith is in you as well.”
Why did Paul feel the need to discuss Timothy’s family history? Why make mention of it? Because Timothy was looking at his future, and all he could see was darkness. He was so taken by the spirit of fear that he was paralyzed by looking at his future. Instead, Paul wanted Timothy to look at his past.
In Second Timothy 1:5, Paul was in essence saying, “Timothy, let’s put the present and the future on pause, just for a moment, and let’s turn around and look at your past. The only reason you have a spirit of fear about your future is, you’re forgetting your past. If you look at your past, you’ll find that God was faithful to your grandmother, and He was faithful to your mother. They both went through very difficult things but made it through everything.” He was telling Timothy, emphatically, “Remember!”
And then he said in the next verse:
Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. — 2 Timothy 1:6
The Greek says, “I’m reminding you of these things.” Paul was reminding Timothy of what things? That God’s faithfulness was part of his family’s past!
Paul went on to say, “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6).
How do you stir up the gift of God in your life? What did Paul mean by that? Well, to stir up coals, for example, you need a poker. In this verse, we find that God has given every person a poker. It is called “memory.”
This is how you overcome! When your future looks dark and hopeless, you must put yourself in remembrance of the faithfulness of God. Stop looking at how bad it seems right now and set your eyes on every good work of the Lord. That is what Psalms tells us to do too (see Psalm 77:11 and Psalm 111:4).
Time and time again, you have seen the faithfulness of God. He rescued you before, and He will do it again! For example:
- You didn’t think you could pay your bills, but you did.
- You didn’t think you’d ever receive your healing, but you did.
- You didn’t think you’d make it through that trial, but you did.
Friend, I want to put you in remembrance! Regardless of what you are facing now, you have to stir up the gift of God within you and break that spirit of fear off your life. Fear comes to us all, but what we do when that spirit of fear comes against us determines our outcome. God has given us the way out of fear and hopelessness and the way into a life of power, love, and a sound mind. It’s time for us to remember His faithfulness in our lives and stir up our faith!