The Spirit and Fear

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” – 2 Timothy 1:7-8

What I want to think about, for a few moments, is Paul’s promise that God has given you the Spirit. The Spirit has been given to us as a grace gift not to make us afraid, but to overflow in our lives with power, love, and self-control. God has given the Spirit, it isn’t something we need to work for, or save up for, it is a gift. I remember when I was much younger being obsessed with saving up for a “Tamagotchi.” If you have no idea what that is, it doesn’t really matter. It was a small, plastic, electronic device where you had a small, electronic, pet. I remember, though, saving up for it and my dad found out and just bought it for me. Wonderful! But in the end, it was slightly disappointing. It didn’t live up to the hype and expectation.

               The Holy Spirit is a gift God gives. We don’t need to save up for him, and when we receive him – he does not disappoint! Many of us, as we get a bit older, find it hard to receive gifts. I find it really hard. But, fortunately, I life with four gift experts. My four daughters know how to receive gifts! It is really simple, just ask and receive. The Father wants to give good gifts to his children. But he also desires to pour out the Holy Spirit afresh today. For the first time, or the fiftieth, God desires to give you and fill you with the Holy Spirit. One of the best descriptions of this is given by Martin Lloyd Jones. He says this:

“A man and his little child are walking down the road and they are walking hand in hand, and the child knows that he is the child of his father, and he knows that his father loves him, and he rejoices in that, and he is happy in it. There is no uncertainty about it all, but suddenly the father, moved by some impulse, takes hold of the child and picks him up, fondles him in his arms, kisses him, embraces him, showers his love upon him, and then he puts him down again and they go on walking together. That is it! The child knew before that his father loved him, and he knew that he was his child. But oh! the loving embrace, this extra outpouring of love, this unusual manifestation of it — that is the kind of thing. The Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.”[i]

You can receive the gift of the Spirit today! But the flip side of 2 Timothy 1:7 is that we are given a gift for a purpose. It is not about being afraid, but the Spirit gives us power, love and self-control. Then, in verse 8 Paul tells us the context for this is in evangelism. God gives us a Spirit of power, love, and self-control so that we won’t be ashamed of the testimony about Jesus! It can be really terrifying to take a step of faith and tell someone about Jesus – I really appreciate how hard it is!!

            I remember when I was first dating my wife, she took me to this place called “go-ape.” If you don’t know what that is, it is essentially a lot of climbing up high places and jumping off things. Rachel is a natural climber, but I am not very keen of heights! But, because I wanted to impress Rachel, I did it. I climbed up every obstacle, jumped off things, went down zip lines, and all sorts. However, at the end of the course there was one final obstacle. You had to climb up a series of obstacles in a large tree, and then when you got to the top you had to stand on a ledge, strap yourself in, and jump off. At that point you free fell for about 15 feet, until the rope tensed and it would swing you over a chasm to a net on the other side that you needed to grab on to. I remember standing there watching people do this, and I was terrified. Then it was my turn! I remember standing on the ledge, looking down, my heart beating, and all these fears running through my mind! In the end I didn’t jump, and I had to do this sort of “walk of shame” back down the obstacles.

            That is, perhaps, a little bit too close to my experience of evangelism than I’d care to imagine. Those sweaty palms, fears, worries and doubts seem to be there every time I need to take a step of faith. But the promise of the Gospel in 2 Timothy 1:7 is that God graciously gifts us with the Spirit so that we don’t need to be afraid. Rather, we have available to us today power, and love, and self-discipline so that we’re not ashamed to testify about Jesus.

[i] Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Joy Unspeakable, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1984), 95-96.

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