Pastor Sam Crabtree shared some very helpful words on fear from 2 Timothy, which I’d like to summarize here (click here for a video of his sermon and for his sermon notes).
2 Timothy 1:7 says, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
God gives us a spirit of three things, each of which is antithetical to fear. That is, where each of these three things exists, fear does not exist.
The first one mentioned is power. Power works to stamp out fear. The example Pastor Sam gave was of a giant football lineman and a frail, 92-year-old woman. He asked if the lineman would be afraid of the 92-year-old. The answer is obviously no. Why? Because he’s a lot more powerful than she is physically speaking. Where power exists fear does not.
Next, God gives us a spirit of love. As is true with power, love and fear do not co-exist. The example Pastor Sam gave was a story he read many years ago in Reader’s Digest of a mother who saw her son grabbed and pulled into lake by an enormous alligator. What did the mother do? She headed straight for that alligator to get her son back, which she did! What compelled the mother to take on an alligator? Her strength? In this case, no. Would she have headed into the water after the alligator had it grabbed a million dollars? Probably not. So what did it? Love for her son overcame any fear she had of alligators and enabled her to perform a superhuman feat.
Finally, 2 Timothy 1:7 states that God has given us a spirit of self-control. (In other versions this word is rendered “sound mind,” “sound” referring to disciplined or controlled.) This, too, does not coexist well with fear. Pastor Sam’s example was of a hockey team who goes out to the middle of the hockey rink after a game to receive their medals. The players with ice skates have more self-control over their movements and therefore are not hesitant or afraid to waltz right out to the middle of the rink. The team’s coach and others who aren’t wearing ice skates and thus do not have much control over their movements are much more shaky and vulnerable and in that way are fearful as they make their way out on the ice.
So these three, power, love, and self-control displace and replace fear. Fear does not exist where these three things exist. It can’t.
Right after the declaration that God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and self-control, Paul says, “Therefore [as a result] do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord” (2 Timothy 1:8). God’s replacing fear with power, love, and self-control ultimately enables us to be bold witnesses of the gospel to those around us. The one who dwells in us is greater—as in, more powerful—than the one who is in the world, so why be afraid of anyone in this world? The love of an infinitely loving God has filled us. Let’s allow God’s love for others become our love for others and compel us to speak of that same love to others. Let us walk confidently, not fearfully, in the fruit of the Spirit, one of which is self-control. May we master our fear instead of letting it master us, and as we do so, may we speak with confidence the words of life to a dying world.
We believe, Father. Help us in our unbelief.