For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don't be ashamed of me, either, even though I'm in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. (NLT)
Spirit of Fear and Timidity
What might have been Timothy’s greatest fear? When I look a these verses, it appears that he was afraid of witnessing. If he was like the rest of us, he didn’t have any problem talking about Jesus to a room full of Christians. But, when it came to talking to a non-Christian, whether that person was a stranger, neighbor, or even a relative, he was fearful. I recently took an evangelism class and this was the first subject discussed. What causes us to fear telling someone else about the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ?
Paul was in prison for sharing the Gospel; he had been stoned and beaten multiple times (2 Cor 11:25). This is Timothy’s mentor; Timothy is called to be like him. On top of it, Paul tells Timothy (and us) that we need to be ready to suffer for the sake of the Gospel. I can’t blame Timothy for having a spirit of fear and timidity. Most of us who read this will never face this kind of harassment when we witness to others. However, many in the world are still suffering and dying for the Word.The spirit of fear didn’t come from God. If it didn’t come from God then there are only two other options. Fear and timidity comes from our own sinful souls or it comes from Satan. I would venture to say that most often it is rooted deep inside our hearts.
What are some of those desires or idols of the heart that cause us to fear witnessing to others? An idol of the heart is anything that is more important to us than doing what Jesus wants. It could be threat of death in some parts of the world. That’s a tough one, but no matter where we live, we should have the same attitude as Paul.
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24 ESV)
This is the primary attitude that we need to have about all aspects of our lives. Jesus emphasized this twice in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt 10:39, 16:25). If we really want life then we need to be ready to give it up for Jesus. If we are more concerned with saving our bodies it shows that we idolize ourselves and believe that we are more important than Jesus. We may save our bodies but lose our souls forever.
We may fear that sharing the Gospel will affect our lifestyle. In Luke 17:26-33 Jesus told how people ignored Noah so they could continue in their lifestyle. He pointed to Sodom and even Lot’s wife as she looked back at what she left. Perhaps our fear (or excuses) for not sharing the Gospel comes from inconvenience. We may have to go out of our way or take some of our precious time to invest in the eternal lives of others. Where are the idols in this?
We often fear rejection. What if we share with people who then insult us or make fun of us? It’s just another idol of self showing up in another way when we make our feelings more important than obeying Jesus (Matt 28:19-20).
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (Matt 5:11-12 KJV)
Do we really believe we will receive a reward in heaven if we are insulted when we witness? Do we believe we are blessed by God or do we mope in our rejection and think it’s all about us? Whenever we fail to obey God’s Word, it reveals that at our deepest heart level, we don’t believe something. If we did believe we would follow it.
I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me. (Neh 6:12-13 NIV)
This is a good example of when Satan causes fear. In this case, he used people to keep God’s work from proceeding. Satan’s fear comes from the outside instead of the inside. It is designed to prey upon our weaknesses and stir up self-preservation or other weaknesses in our hearts. In Nehemiah’s case, he was attuned to God so that he perceived that the prophecy was false. Part of it was true, that people wanted him dead, but the solution to hide in the temple would have been sinful. Satan will use our fear to stop our work or to cause us to sin so that we will be discredited and that will also accomplish his goal.
Spirit of Power
But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord, And of justice and might, To declare to Jacob his transgression And to Israel his sin. (Mic 3:8 NKJV)
A true spirit of power can only come from the Holy Spirit. Any other power is a pretender or our own self-confidence. A pretender is very dangerous because it could be like the spirit that was sent to deceive Ahab so that he would be lured to his death in battle (1 Kings 22:19-23). A pretender could also be the source behind those who Paul called fierce wolves (Acts 20:29). They could be people in our own congregations who twist the truth and draw people away (Acts 20:30).
An unfortunate spirit of power is our own self-confidence. There are many type A personalities who are very effective in preaching, teaching, and witnessing. However, when they are working in their own power they are simply good at what they do. Certainly, God can use them for His purposes but they are slow to give God the glory or don’t acknowledge His work. They train others to do the same thing as they build programs that put God into a formulated box. Even though the Gospel is spread, the unfortunate part is that their rewards are here instead of heaven. They have a form of godliness but deny His power (2 Tim 3:3). Eventually the rote programs become lifeless and people wonder why they don’t work anymore.
Another pretender is a spirit of power that focuses on our personal needs preaching a gospel of prosperity and well-being for anyone who follows Christ. The Spirit of the Lord gives power to convict of sin and point out transgressions. He is concerned with people’s well-being but in the context of justice and righteousness. Taking care of orphans, widows, and others who are disadvantaged rather than seeking comfort and peace for ourselves is the work we do along with keeping from being polluted by the sins of the world if we want to show God’s power in our lives (James 1:27).
And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24:49 RSV)
Have you ever thought about being clothed with power from God? I’m not up on the latest super heroes, but isn’t Ironman clothed in some special suit that gives him all his abilities? How does that compare to being clothed with God’s power? We aren’t looking for power in the same way the world does. Instead we have power to defeat a subtle enemy. Our enemy takes people captive by sin. We have the power to demolish those fortresses and release the prisoners. We take captive our thoughts to make them obedient to Christ so that fear and timidity are no longer issues when we witness (2 Cor 10:3-5).
Are you in the battle like this or are you still more concerned with what people will say about you? Are you a good witness but you’re doing it like a good salesman because that’s your personality, not by God’s power? That can change when you rely on God’s power.
Spirit of Love
We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world's goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? (1 John 3:16-17 NASB)
We usually look at the love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, to define love. However, what that chapter contains is summed up by John. John shows us in the actions of Jesus what love is and how to show it in the simplest way. Jesus is the perfect example of love. He didn’t put His own interest ahead of His own life. It is quite clear that when we are afraid or timid, then we are not thinking about the eternal life of those who don’t hear the Gospel. If we have a spirit of love, then we will want those people to know eternal life as well.
The world doesn’t understand why we share the Gospel. They tell us that we are being intolerant if we insist that Jesus is the only way to heaven. They may even accuse us of being verbal bullies. However, they will not be able to say anything against our demonstration of love when we share our material possessions with those in need. However, don’t expect them to understand God’s love if we don’t tell them why we are giving. Even the world takes care of others to some extent.
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. (1 Peter 1:22 NIV)
A spirit of love doesn’t come automatically. Some say that all we need to do is love one another but they don’t explain that this kind of love, which denies self and puts other first, isn’t based on emotions. They think that it is something that you can work up inside yourself by your own determination. Peter shows that sincere love is a result of purification. Purification or sanctification is first of all a work of the Holy Spirit in us, but it is also accomplished by obedience to the truth that we learn. The spirit of love that is effective is one that has a foundation of faith. We learn how to add to our faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and then love (1 Peter 1:5-7). Love that doesn’t have this foundation is fickle. It is usually based on feelings and can easily disappear under pressure or when it doesn’t get its way. Paul even says that younger women need to be trained to love their husbands (Titus 2:4). This kind of love comes from knowledge. It is learned and produces discernment, purity and blamelessness (Phil 1:9-10).
The word for self-discipline Paul used is also translated as self-control or sound mind. Having a father who had to be institutionalized for a time concerned me that I might inherit the same problem. When I was a new Christian attending a conference, this verse was quoted using sound mind. I realized at that time, that I didn’t need to fear losing my mind in the way my dad did. It was a great relief.
However, there is a connection between a sound mind and self-control or self-disciple. Many Christians can’t claim to have a sound mind because they haven’t learned how to control themselves. Instead, they allow fears, lusts, desires of the world, and patterns of behavior that they’ve learned from the world to control and shape their thinking. The psychiatric community would say they have a mental disorder but most of the time it is really a sin problem.
We are familiar with Romans 12:2 that says we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. If we want to have self-discipline, we can’t do it unless we transform our minds. At the heart of transformation is repentance, a complete change. We can’t make that kind of change without the Word of God. The transformation must be significant. The same word was used to describe Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt 17:2). It is also used to describe our transformation from one degree of glory to another as we focus ourselves on the Lord and are daily in His presence as was Moses (2 Cor 3:13-18).
Can you imagine your life being transformed so that your face glowed like Moses or that your whole being is changed to be like Jesus when He was transfigured? We probably won’t see that completed until we see Jesus face to face but that is exactly what we can expect in our character when we allow God’s power to transform us and give us a spirit of self-control. This isn’t the pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps kind of self-control that the world advocates. This is otherworldly in that it is powered by God Himself living in us. We will eventually have our bodies transformed but now, we are working on our minds.
Have you ever been ashamed because someone you know or are related to did something wrong and ended up in jail? That may have been what Timothy was experiencing when Paul ended up on jail. Without a godly perspective, we could be ashamed that the Gospel causes divisions in families or causes people to do things that are against the law.
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. (Matt 10:34-36 ESV)
We can’t second-guess what God will do when we present the Gospel. He is sovereign and He is in charge of peoples’ souls, not us. If we are afraid of the consequences of what may happen, then we are ashamed of the Gospel.
I once had the opportunity to share the Gospel with a couple while on a church visitation. I had two trainees along with me who were learning to witness. During the presentation, it became obvious that the wife was not interested in receiving Christ but the husband was and did accept Christ. Afterward, in the car, one of my trainees said that I had driven a wedge between the couple by leading the man to Christ. This trainee was ashamed of the Gospel if she believed that forfeiting eternal life was more important than any earthly relationship. She was unable to let God do His work by bringing the husband to be the spiritual leader of the house. In spite of the trainee’s fears, the couple stayed together and continued to attend church together.
We shouldn’t be ashamed of anyone who is actively sharing his or her faith either. What do you think of people who stand on the street corner with signs that say Jesus saves? Do you consider them crazy? Are you ashamed of them? Certainly there may be some who are distorting the Gospel or are being very unloving in their statements. Those things can’t be condoned. We shouldn’t be ashamed of those who are being bold while presenting the Gospel even if it is unorthodox by our standards. Paul was considered out of his mind for the way he shared the Gospel (Acts 26:24).
If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. (2 Cor 5:13 NIV)
The goal is to do what is necessary to bring people to Jesus. No, we are not to do anything sinful, which would not honor God. However we too often tend to expect people to come to Christ only by the way we did or by the traditional methods that our church uses.
Suffer for the Gospel
To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. (1 Cor 9:22 KJV)
We like to say that we will be all things to everyone so that we can save them. That includes being a little crazy or silly at times. There are people who minister to racecar drivers, football teams, and others in high profile places. We may all want to have a ministry to the rich and famous, but who wants to suffer for the Gospel? We won’t all have to suffer for the Gospel but we should all be ready.
I’ve heard it said over and over again that we can’t know how we will respond to suffering and I’ve said over and over that we need to be prepared so we will respond in godly ways. Paul says the same. But we must remember that Paul said it is by God’s power that we can be ready. If we aren’t depending on God’s power in our lives to overcome fear, timidity, and a lack of self-control, then we will not be afraid to suffer for the Gospel.