2 Timothy 1:7 KJV For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
I’m a KJV guy…not “KJV only” guy, but I often read the KJV, and when I do memory verses I always use the KJV. I have become a big ESV fan lately for reading and studying though. Anyway, the reason I share this is because I would like to show you how studying multiple versions is essential sometimes for proper understanding of the scriptures. It’s also a lot easier for people to do than studying Greek or Hebrew!
So let’s look at 2 Tim 1:7 NASB, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” Now that’s a little different, isn’t it? What if I told you that the word “cowardice” could be used instead of the word “timidity” or “fear?” It is worth noting that the word translated “fear” in this verse is different from the word translated “fear” in the following verses: Rev 14:7, 15:4, 19:5, 11:18, 1 Pet 2:17, Heb 13:6, 11:27. There are several others as well, if you do a word search for G5399 “phobeo.”
My point is this. There are (at least) 2 definitions for fear that we must understand. The first definition, the one used in the verses above that describe a proper fear of God, implies reverence. The word used in 2 Tim 1:7 is a different word. This word has more to do with the cowardice and timidity that people often have out of a desire for SELF-preservation. Let me be clear. God DID GIVE us the SPIRIT OF FEAR and AWE and REVERENCE OF HIM. If you have this, it is from HIM. What God has not given us is the spirit of cowardice that Paul was warning Timothy of in 2 Timothy. If you read the 2 letters to Timothy, you will see that Timothy struggled with the fear of men. He feared persecution for the gospel; I also infer that he was even afraid of some of his own church members’ opinion of him and “his youth.” (1 Tim 4:12) While it is clearly true, and biblical to look up to “elders,” (people of the faith for many years), it is also true that the Holy Spirit may choose to work in any believer’s heart at any rate. Take Paul for example…he wasn’t a Christian for very long before he began preaching and teaching and sharing God’s Word with others! Now he had a lot more special revelation than anyone else, but the concept still applies; the Holy Spirit can and will reveal to a man that which He chooses, and we should test men by what the Bible says, not their apparent reputation, education or age. (Although these factors can be useful!)
Now I’m finally getting to the point of the verse! Paul is telling Timothy that any timidity or fear he had, (as it pertained to his duties as a preacher-teacher-pastor-evangelist), was not the result of God. On the contrary, God had already provided Timothy (as well as all believers) with a spirit of Love, power and self-control, a disciplined mind. Fear of persecution, rejection, or loss of relationships is a self-centered, self-preserving thought, and if captured by your mind and subjected to Christ (Philippians 4:8, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5) you will not be able to remain that way for long. Even if the fear remains, the cowardice or timidity which paralyzes you, and keeps you from acting correctly, (e.g., sharing the gospel), will be overcome by your love for God, the power you know He possesses and will display through you, and the disciplined mind you have cultivated as the result of the fruit of the spirit (Gal 5:22-23)! As Tony Miano has reminded me, the cowardly will see the Lake of Fire too (Revelation 21:8), not because works reconcile a person to God, but because if 2 Tim 1:7 is true, then truly regenerate people are no longer “cowards!”
Finally, what are we to conclude about fear anyway? Is it a God-given instinct which aids in preservation of the species? Is there a true fight or flight reaction to external stimuli that God put in us so that we would survive? While this is possible, and there is circumstantial data to show that these phenomenon do seem to occur, I will maintain that biblically we are NOT given a spirit of fear by God. Our sound mind, if anything is that which, and ought to be that which, we use to determine whether to approach a situation, although it does seem we use this to interpret the feelings of timidity we often experience. Let me put it this way. Imagine a person filled with the Holy Spirit, completely trusting that God is sovereign and powerful and Good. Imagine this person believes that every moment of their life is already known by God and every event falls into God’s Holy decree (as the Bible declares). Is it reasonable to believe this person would ever experience self-preserving fear? How many cubits might he add to his stature, (Luke 12:25) or how many years to his own life will he add with this worry? (see Luke 12:22-30) A person who truly trusts the One True God cannot worry! The problem, as always, is a heart problem. We all need to have our hearts turned more toward Him, our focus on Christ as Savior and Lord and Provider, Author and Perfecter (Heb 12:2) of our Faith! It is impossible to worry about self-preservation when you believe that it is God who grants your every breath! It is unreasonable to fear rejection of men when you know you are a child of the King and are but an ambassador on His behalf. None of us, in this life, will ever be fully filled with the Spirit and perfectly live this out, but we can grow in this direction, and trust that the cowardice and timidity we face here will be gone once the curse is lifted. I can say with certainty that Adam did not experience this problem before the fall, and we will not know these terrible emotions after Christ returns. Our world is sin-cursed, and this is just another byproduct of the unholiness we love as sinful men. Praise Jesus for the rebirth of men’s souls, yours included if you are one of His!
If you are finding ministry difficult and fearful, why? Are you actually sharing God’s Word or are you sharing your thoughts and words as the emphasis instead of His? Are you concerned with what people think of you or where they spend eternity and How Christ is magnified? Be unashamed! (Romans 1:16) If there is anything to fear, it would be Christ denying you before His father! (Matthew 7:21-23, Matthew 10:32-33) Make sure you are right with Him and then trust Him for every need!