May 13 – Fearless Preparation for Trials

“God has not given us a spirit of timidity [fear], but of power and love and discipline.”

2 Timothy 1:7


The true follower of Christ has no reason to fear potential sufferings and trials.

Concerning frustration and fear at the 1992 Winter Olympics, speed skater Dan Jansen said, “What happened was I skated a race that I can only describe as tentative. I looked good. I didn’t slip. Yet something kept me from going flat out.” The favored Jansen, haunted by well–publicized failures to win medals in 1988 or 1992, finally overcame his fear and triumphed in 1994 in the 1,000–meter speed–skating event.

Believers’ can also react with intense fear and painful disappointment to life’s trials if they are not prepared for the possibility of difficulties. But many centuries ago Proverbs 29:25 encouraged God’s followers not to be afraid: “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” Paul exhorted Timothy in a similar way when he wrote the words of today’s verse.

In Matthew 10:29–31, the Lord Jesus provides a wonderful reason for His disciples not to serve Him under a cloud of fear. The point of His common–sense illustration is simple. If the Father cares for small birds and numbers each hair on our heads, He is certainly concerned about our physical and spiritual welfare and the ultimate good of our souls. No matter how bad the situation is or how prolonged the trial may seem, God is able to sustain us.

Later Jesus provided an excellent summary of His teaching on fear with these familiar words to the Twelve: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). With such a strong promise and reassurance that the Holy Spirit will always be present, how can any of us who profess Jesus Christ make room for debilitating fear, no matter what tough tests and persecutions may yet face us?


Suggestions for Prayer: If you have a particular situation or person in your life that causes you much fear and anxiety, pray that God would strengthen you and remove the cause of that fear.

For Further Study: Read Psalm 118:5–9. Memorize verse 6 or another one in this brief passage that will be a helpful resource should you face persecution.[1]

Consider Your Resources

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. (1:7)

A second means for guarding against being ashamed of Christ is to consider our divine resources. The Greek verb (didōmi) behind has not given is in the aorist active indicative tense, showing past completed action. God already has provided for us the resources.

The Lord may withhold special help until we have special need. Jesus told the Twelve, “When they deliver you up, do not become anxious about how or what you will speak; for it shall be given you in that hour what you are to speak. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you” (Matt. 10:19–20). But God provided everything we need for everyday faithful living and service when we first believed.

From a negative perspective, we can be sure that any spirit of timidity we might have is not from God. Both testaments speak of a fitting and proper fear of God, in the sense of awe and reverence. But deilia is a timid, cowardly, shameful fear that is generated by weak, selfish character. The Lord is never responsible for our cowardice, our lack of confidence, or our being shameful of Him. The noun deilia (timidity) is used only here in the New Testament and, unlike the more common term for fear (phobos), carries a generally negative meaning.

The resources we have from our heavenly Father are power and love and discipline. When we are vacillating and apprehensive, we can be sure it is because our focus is on ourselves and our own human resources rather than on the Lord and His available divine resources.

Dunamis (power) denotes great force, or energy, and is the term from which we get dynamic and dynamite. It also carries the connotation of effective, productive energy, rather than that which is raw and unbridled. God provides us with His power in order for us to be effective in His service. Paul did not pray that believers in Ephesus might be given divine power but that they might be aware of the divine power they already possessed. “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened,” he wrote, “so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:18–20). Through Christ we have the resource of God’s own supernatural power, the very power He used to raise Christ from the dead.

Although Old Testament saints were not indwelt by the Holy Spirit in the same degree of fullness that New Testament believers are (cf. John 14:17), they did have the resource of God’s Spirit providing divine help as they lived and served Him. They understood, as Zechariah declared to Zerubbabel, that their strength was not by human “‘might nor… power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6).

It is of utmost importance to understand that God does not provide His power for us to misappropriate for our own purposes. He provides His power to accomplish His purposes through us. When our trust is only in Him, and our desire is only to serve Him, He is both willing and “able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Eph. 3:20).

God also has given every believer the resource of His own divine love, which, like His power, we received at the time of our new birth. In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul exulted, “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

The love we have from God is agapē, the volitional and selfless love that desires and works for the best interests of the one loved. It is not emotional and conditional, as philos love often is, and has nothing in common with erōs love, which is sensual and selfish. The love we have from God is constant. It does not share the ebb and flow or the unpredictability of those other loves. It is a self-denying grace that says to others, in effect, “I will give myself away on your behalf.” Directed back to God, from whom it came, it says, “I will give my life and everything I have to serve you.” It is the believer’s “love in the Spirit” (Col. 1:8),the divinely bestowed love of the one who will “lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). It is the “sincere love of the brethren” by which we “fervently love one another from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22), the “perfect love [that] casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). It is the love that affirms without reservation or hesitation: “If we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:8). Above all, it is “the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:19).

Our spiritual lives are measured accurately by our love. If our first love is for self, our life will center on seeking our own welfare, our own objectives, our own comfort and success. We will not sacrifice ourselves for others or even for the Lord. But if we love with the love God provides, our life will center on pleasing Him and on seeking the welfare of others, especially other Christians. Godly love is the first fruit of the Spirit, and it is manifested when we “live by the Spirit [and]… walk by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22, 25).

Sōphronismos (discipline) has the literal meaning of a secure and sound mind, but it also carries the additional idea of a self-controlled, disciplined, and properly prioritized mind. God-given discipline allows believers to control every element of their lives, whether positive or negative. It allows them to experience success without becoming proud and to suffer failure without becoming bitter or hopeless. The disciplined life is the divinely ordered life, in which godly wisdom is applied to every situation.

In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul uses the verb form of the term, admonishing, “I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment [sōphrone], as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (Rom. 12:3). In his first letter to Timothy (3:2) and in his letter to Titus (1:8; cf. 2:2), he used the adjective form to describe a key quality that should characterize overseers, namely, that of being prudent and sensible.

When we live by the godly discipline that our gracious Lord supplies, our priorities are placed in the right order, and every aspect of our lives is devoted to advancing the cause of Christ. Because of his Spirit-empowered discipline, Paul could say, “I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:26–27).

The great spiritual triumvirate of power, love, and discipline belong to every believer. These are not natural endowments. We are not born with them, and they cannot be learned in a classroom or developed from experience. They are not the result of heritage or environment or instruction. But all believers possess these marvelous, God-given endowments: power, to be effective in His service; love, to have the right attitude toward Him and others; and discipline, to focus and apply every part of our lives according to His will.

When those endowments are all present, marvelous results occur. No better statement affirming this reality can be found than in Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus, to whom he said,

For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. (Eph. 3:14–21; emphasis added)[2]

The ministry is, indeed, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and this is the Spirit of power (Acts 1:8; 6:5, 8). Accordingly, Paul continues, For God gave us not a Spirit of timidity but of power and love and self-discipline.

In this passage some (in agreement with A.V., A.R.V., R.S.V.) spell Spirit with a small letter (“spirit”), while others capitalize. The former sometimes argue that the descriptive genitive (“… of power and love and self-discipline”) rules out any reference to the Holy Spirit.116 But the use of such a genitive does not in itself settle the question, for a similar modifier is also used in passages which undoubtedly refer to the Holy Spirit. Thus, Jesus, in speaking about the coming Helper or Comforter, calls him “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13). There are other similar phrases in which many interpreters find a reference to the Holy Spirit (Is. 11:2; Zech. 12:10; Rom. 8:2; Eph. 1:17; Heb. 10:29). Moreover, the idiom, “not the Spirit of … but (the Spirit) of …” is used by Paul in other passages which, in the light of their specific contexts, seem to refer to the Holy Spirit, though not every interpreter is ready to grant this (Rom. 8:15; 1 Cor. 2:12). And besides, do not charisma (verse 6) and pneuma (verse 7), in the sense of Holy Spirit, go hand in hand?

The gist of Paul’s argument, then, would seem to be as follows:

“My dear child, Timothy, fight that tendency of yours toward fearfulness. The Holy Spirit, given to you and me and every believer, is not the Spirit of timidity but of power and love and self-discipline. Avail yourself of that limitless, never-failing power (δύναμις cf. our “dynamite”), and you will proclaim God’s truth; of that intelligent, purposeful love (ἀγάπη see N.T.C. on John, Vol. II, pp. 494–501), and you will comfort God’s children, even to the extent of visiting me in my Roman prison; and of that ever-necessary self-discipline or self-control (σωφρονισμός, note the suffix; hence, sound-mindedness in action, a word used only here in the New Testament, see footnote ), and you will wage God’s battle against cowardice, taking yourself in hand.”

If a person fears Satan’s persecuting power more than he trusts God’s ability and ever-readiness to help, he has lost his mental balance. Surely, Timothy has not reached that point! Let him then hold on to the truth. Let him cling to it by giving it away … as did Lois and Eunice![3]

7 As Paul reminds youthful Timothy (1 Ti 4:12; cf. 1 Co 16:10), “God did not give us a spirit of timidity” (pneuma deilias, GK 1261; only here in the NT; cf. Lev 26:36 [LXX]; Ps 55:5 [LXX]; Sir 4:17; cf. the similar wording in Ro 8:15; see C. C. Ryrie, “Should a Christian Be Afraid?” BSac 110 [1953]: 76–81). Jesus had similarly encouraged his followers not to be afraid (Mt 8:26 par. Mk 4:40; Jn 14:27). John noted that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 Jn 4:18). God has given us a spirit of “power” (dynamis, GK 1539; elsewhere in the PE only in v. 8 and 3:5; cf. Mic 3:8), “love” (agapē, GK 27; v. 13; 2:22; 3:10), and “self-discipline” (sōphronismos, GK 5406; cf. 1 Ti 2:9, 15; 3:2; Tit 1:8; 2:2, 4–5, 12). This triad shows that the power exercised by church leaders must be constrained by love (cf. Eph 4:15) and self-discipline.[4]

1:7 Facing martyrdom himself, Paul takes time out to remind Timothy that God has not given us a spirit of fear or cowardice. There is no time for fearfulness or timidity.

But God has given us a spirit of power. Unlimited strength is at our disposal. Through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, the believer can serve valiantly, endure patiently, suffer triumphantly, and, if need be, die gloriously.

God has also given us a spirit of love. It is our love for God that casts out fear and makes us willing to give ourselves for Christ, whatever the cost may be. It is our love for our fellow men that makes us willing to endure all kinds of persecutions and repay them with kindness.

Finally, God has given us a spirit of a sound mind, or discipline. The words a sound mind do not completely convey the thought. They might suggest that a Christian should be sane at all times, free from nervous breakdowns or other mental ailments. This verse has often been misused to teach that a Christian who is living close to the Lord could never be afflicted with any kind of mental ills. That is not a scriptural teaching. Many mental ills can be traced to inherited weaknesses. Many others may be the result of some physical condition not connected in any way with the person’s spiritual life.

What this verse is teaching is that God has given us a spirit of self-control or self-mastery. We are to use discretion and not to act rashly, hastily, or foolishly. No matter how adverse our circumstances, we should maintain balanced judgment and act soberly.[5]

[1] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 2 Timothy (pp. 16–18). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Vol. 4, pp. 229–230). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] Köstenberger, A. (2006). 2 Timothy. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 569). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2110). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.


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