Right now the question “Are you afraid?” relates to the current Covid-19 pandemic, but it’s a question that can be asked in many situations. I’m not going to ask you the question, but I know some are afraid. I don’t know that I’m afraid, but at my age, and with diabetes, I am well aware of the need to be aware and alert.
I have not counted for myself, but I’ve always heard that the instruction “Fear not” is in the Bible 365 times. Does that mean that to be afraid is a sin? My definitive answer is “yes” and “no.” Fear is not always a sin, but it can be.
While he was writing in a different time and under different circumstances, Paul’s reminder to Timothy in II Timothy 1:7 is applicable to Christians today, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline”(NIV).
Note Paul affirms that God gave the same spirit to both Timothy and himself. My sense is that he is speaking of the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to everyone who determines to follow Jesus. That means, I think, that Christians today can claim that God’s Spirit does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
The word translated timid in the New International Version is the only place it is used in the New Testament. Other translations render the phrase “a spirit of fear” or “a spirit of cowardice.” The New Living Translation covers two bases with “a spirit of fear and timidity.”
So God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, but he gave us a spirit of power and love and self-control. What is a spirit of power? It doesn’t mean power in the way we usually understand it, but rather strength of character to “go boldly forward” (NT scholar Donald Guthrie).
What is a spirit of love and self-control? It means that the power (or strength) God gives us is to be used in the guidance of love and under self-control. While some use the word enabling, I don’t because of the negative connotation is sometimes has. My preference is the word empower. If we take advantage of the spirit God has given us, he will empower us to deal with fear (I don’t believe we will always be free of fear) and help us live the way he has called us to live.
That’s what I’m trying to do and what I encourage you to do as well.
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