“For God has not given us a spirit of fear but one of power, love and of a sound mind.” - 2 Timothy 1:7
We all know and have experienced the thing called fear. It can manifest in many different ways thus I am assured that we have all felt the feeling and lived the experience of being afraid. Some people fear things, for example planes or sharp objects. Some are afraid of animals like sharks or snakes. Others are afraid of experiences, milestones, confrontation, threats, death, love and some are even afraid of other human beings. We all experience fear.
I have a confession to make... Please do not laugh - we are only just becoming friends. I am afraid of mushrooms. Yes, the fungus that you eat and I am especially afraid of the ones that you don’t eat. Whilst my fear is a lot less severe now, it used to be a major inconvenience.
I once ran out of the hall at church because they were serving mushrooms for lunch and a so-called friend asked for extra then sat next to me. I tell this story to make a simple point. In all 23 years of my life, the one thing that FAILED to get me to stop being afraid of mushrooms is everyone telling me not to be afraid. It just doesn’t work. If telling someone to stop being afraid was enough to cure their fear then we would all be living fulfilled lives where no one is scared of failure, where I regularly eat mushrooms and my mum has a pet snake. Therefore, I'm not here to tell you to stop being afraid, rather I'm here to get you to question why you’re afraid? What is the source of your fear?
The answer to your question is a very simple one and it is found in 2 Timothy 1:7 which says:
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear but one of power, love and of a sound mind”.
Whilst the Bible is full of verses that subvert expectations, this one took me by surprise. I mean yes I understand not being given a spirit of fear but what do these other 3 things have to do with that? Why would they be grouped together like this? Well let's examine it.
If telling someone to stop being afraid was enough to cure their fear then we would all be living fulfilled lives where no one is scared of failure...
1. Weakness induces fear.
Many times when people are afraid of something, it is because they feel weak or not strong enough to face whatever it might be. Whilst this doesn’t sound particularly remarkable given that weakness is an obvious trait – it sheds some light on the source of certain fears. My fear of lions and sharks is not because they can and will eat me, it's because I know I'm powerless to stop them. However, although other things could do the same to me, because I know I can stop them, I am not afraid of them. Being weak, feeling powerless has had so many of us stuck in fear. We feel we are not strong enough to fight the battles that life brings, we feel we are powerless to stop and go against all the injustice we see around us. As mentioned before, I can’t tell you to stop being afraid, but I can help you realise that you’re far stronger than whatever stands in front of you. God says in your weakness his strength is made perfect – so tell me is your problem stronger than God?
“Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me.
If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.”
Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.”
On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.” - 1 Samuel 17:8-11
Not only were the Israelites soldiers dismayed, they were terrified. They were all afraid of Goliath; honestly after hearing his description, I would have been too. They knew the limits of their own strength and knew that they were weak compared to Goliath. His size, stature and confidence instilled fear in them because they didn’t have the power to go against him. However, we see a stark contrast to the approach of David who was not afraid of Goliath. He saw the same giant, who had the same blasphemous words and instead of being afraid, He instead chose to see a bigger God:
“Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.
The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.” - 1 Samuel 17: 36-37
Goliath didn’t scare David because David knew how powerful his partnership with God was. He knew that the spirit of power given to him by God was greater than any man, animal or force on this planet. He trusted in the strength given to him by God and wasn’t afraid to claim with confidence not only his willingness to fight Goliath but his sure victory.
So to come back to 1 Timothy, God has not given a spirit of fear, but one of power. Next time you find yourself fearful of something, ask yourself if it's weakness that makes you afraid. If it is, remember that you have the power given to you by God. Power that can take down any lion, giant or obstacle that stands in your way.
2. Fear and Love do not co-exist
This one was a hard one to swallow. Whilst the first point talks about our fear as it relates to external things, this one is directly linked to our interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships. That is how we relate to other people and how we relate to ourselves. An absence of love is an easy way of fear to creep in. You’re only afraid of a partner cheating on you when you doubt the strength of the love you have. We are afraid to get into friendships and relationships because there isn’t enough love to work through the hard times. Every time we are faced with fear that is to do with our relationships with others - check the level of love that is there. Where there is love, there is no fear.
Think back to a time you were afraid, what feelings do you associate with that?
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails” - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Of all the things that love is described as, fear is not one of them. It is difficult to be both fearful and patient or kind. At the heart of it, this type of fear is self seeking (which love is not) and in order to protect self interests, fear does nothing or does whatever it takes to move away from the situation.
Every once in a while you need to check your love. Is this fear you experience there because you don’t love the people involved? Or maybe you are lacking that all important self love. It is when we do not love who we are and who God has made us to be that we are afraid to do things, pursue dreams and answer his call. The presence of love not only dispels the fear in us but has the power to do the same for others. When we are living as loving and loveable people, fear has a hard time showing up in our lives. God has not given us a spirit of fear but one of love.
It is when we do not love who we are and who God has made us to be that we are afraid to do things, pursue dreams and answer His call.
3. Without Sound Reason
Remember that fear of mushrooms I mentioned earlier on? Well it’s an irrational fear to have. There is no logical reason why I should be scared of mushrooms. There are strict regulations put on mushrooms that can be sold in stores. I live inside a house where last time I checked, mushrooms don’t grow inside and most importantly, mushrooms do not have legs so they will never come and get me. I have no reason to fear.
If we were to write down two lists for reasons to be afraid and reasons not to be afraid, there would be a lot more reasons not to be afraid. In all honesty, sometimes we are not in our right minds when we are afraid of things.
The first was in relation to things, the second people and then ourselves. This last one is about God. We are afraid of God sometimes: not in the reverential fear expressed in the Bible, but in the afraid type of fear. We are scared He will leave us when we mess up or that we are too far gone to be saved or afraid He has stopped caring about us.
This one is quite probably impossible to help with because when we are in a bad situation, it is difficult to see clearly and think critically about who God is. In times of hardship, we become afraid because we lose sight of God, we don’t even think about Him at times.
However, if we examine the Bible and even if we were to look into our own lives – God is faithful, loving and He is always there. He never leaves, His timing is always right and even in the harshness of life, He continues to teach, refine and better our lives. It is more rational to rely on God, given his track record for us. In the times where we have trusted God, things have always worked out; differently to what we expected but they worked out. What fear does is cloud that thought process, make us think He won’t be there for us or He doesn’t love us enough to help without sound reason, fear thrives.
If you are ever in that place where you are afraid and your relationship with God is suffering, I urge you to go to Romans 8:31-39 which says:
“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.
Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
As it is written:“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Nothing can separate you and God, nothing can rip you apart from Him and nothing will stop Him from chasing after you.
God has not given us a spirit of fear but one of a sound mind. You have every reason to believe God can dispel any fear within you. You have every reason to count on His strength adding to your weakness and every reason to know He wants to remove the fear that’s stopping you from enjoying life as He would want it for you.
As we go through life let us not hesitate to question our fears, I cannot tell you to stop being afraid, but I can assure you that once you know the reason for your fear you can use the power, love and sound mind God gave you to overcome it.
About the Author
My name is Tinopuwanashe (Tino) Masanga. I am a singer/songwriter from Nottingham with a passion for sharing what God has done for me through music and now through writing. I love planes, dad jokes and connecting with people.
Even though I grew up in the church, it took me a while to develop my own relationship with God. Chasing after Him and growing that relationship has been a humbling and transformative experience. I look forward to sharing all that I am learning and experiencing so if you wanna be a part of the journey:
find me on Instagram @_tino.masanga