Friday, November 18, 2011

Impediments to Spiritual Growth--Fear

This is a repost of #4 in a series.

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

Those of you who learned this from the King James would substitute the word fear for timidity, and, of course, both words are correct.  The Greek word used here is deilia, and it is the only time it is used in the New Testament.  The normal word for fear that is used in the NT is phobeo, from which we get our word phobia; and it usually conveys being frightened.  The word deilia conveys more the result, the condition of the psyche because of the fear; and, as such, is most literally translated cowardice.  If you read the book of II Timothy you understand that Paul is telling Timothy not to be a coward in light of the persecution, suffering, and hardship he is facing.  Fear was causing Timothy to retreat from the ministry to which God had called him, and Paul is encouraging Timothy to rekindle the gift God had given him and to stand firm in preaching the word amidst all obstacles.

Fear is one of the great weapons of the enemy, and all of us have our fears; and if I were to list them all, this would be the longest post in history.  Fear is a great controller and most of us let our fears, whether rational or irrational, control us; which is just what the enemy wants.  And it can be the biggest impediment to our spiritual growth and progress in Christlikeness.  You notice that I said, "Let our fears control us." because fear only has the power over us that we allow it to have.  What then is the antidote to fear?  How do we combat it?  How do we control it, versus letting it control us? 

We need to understand how to handle fear, our fear(s), because we all have them.  The question then is not do we have fear, but how do we handle fear when it comes up and puts its grip on us. Courage is not the absence of fear, but doing what needs to be done, doing what is right, in spite of the fear.  So how do we appropriate spiritual courage?

Paul gives us both general and specific remedies for fear in this letter to Timothy. The general remedy is found in II Timothy 2:1 as he tells Timothy, "You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus."  And in II Timothy 1:7 we see what God, by His grace, has specifically supplied to all of us to combat fear/spiritual cowardice, and that is power, love, and discipline.  In fact, what the verse tells us is that spiritual timidity is not from the Lord, He has not given it to us; but instead has given us the opposite.  Power, love, and discipline are the elements of spiritual courage, and God by His grace has supplied them to us.  So let's see how they aid us in our battle against fear.

Power Overcomes Fear
In essence, power overpowers fear, and God has given us a spirit of power, or spiritual power.  It is not our power, but His power in us, working in us and through us.  Listen to these verses from Ephesians:
1:18-20 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know...what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe, 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.
3:16, 20 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man...Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us..

Where does God's power reside, His resurrection power?  Within you, in your inner man, through the indwelling person and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself.  I John 4:4 tells us this, "Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world."  The same power that raised Christ from the dead is the same power that resides in you, and God's power in Christ, in all its greatness and magnificence, is directed toward you like a laser beam.

How do we access this power?  We do so by humbling ourselves in obedience to Him.  James 4:7 tells us, "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble."  In Isaiah 66:2 God tells us this, "But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word."  We have the perfect example of humility and its corresponding obedience in Christ.  Philippians 2:8 tells us this, "Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." When we are confronted by fear, we are to look obediently to Him, and be obedient to Him; and in our obedience His power will be supplied to us, and in our obedience we will overcome the fear.  Our focus on Him and being obedient to Him will take our focus off of the fear. 

Love Casts Out Fear
Where there is love there is no room for fear.  Sounds almost too simple doesn't it?  We must understand that fear is a great motivator, and most of us, really all of us, are motivated by fear.  In other words, the reason we do what we do is because of fear.  However, as great a motivator as fear is, there is a greater motivator, really the greatest motivator, and that is love.  Our love of God and love of others should always be the reason we do what we do.

I John 4:18 tells us, "There is no fear in love; but perfect (mature) love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment (retribution/consequences we don't want), and the one who fears is not perfected (mature) in love."  Also, in II Corinthians 5:14-15 we learn, "For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf."  If you are living for yourself, concentrating on yourself, worrying about yourself, then fear will always control you.  When you love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; love your neighbor as your self and love the brethren as Christ loved them; then you aren't preoccupied with yourself and it is the love of Christ that is controlling you, and fear has been moved out of the driver's seat and to the back of the bus.  When it is our love for God that is motiviating us we will be like Paul, who suffered the loss of all things and considered them but rubbish because he had gained Christ.

Discipline Controls Fear
The Greek word for discipline is sophronismos, and means a sound mind, sound judgment, literally a mind under control.  It is a rational mind in contrast to the irrationality of fear.  It is a mind controlled by the truth, thoughts that are guided by the truth, thinking that is permeated with the truth.  Proverbs 3:25 tells us, "Do not be afraid of sudden fear."  This speaks to the terror that irrationality, those irrational fears, bring upon us.  We are not to be gripped and controlled by such fear.  In John 8:32 we see that when we know the truth, the truth will make us free.  In other words the knowledge of the truth releases us from bondage.  Knowing the truth breaks the grip that fear has on our life and controls our thoughts instead of fear.  It does not let fear in the driver's seat of our mind. 

Philippians 4:8 tells us what our minds are to dwell upon, and these attributes serve as filters to keep fear in its proper place, under control.  First, we are to think only on what is true.  If it is not true, totally true, we are to reject it. Fear always dwells around the borders of the truth, and will always skew the truth or be based on partial truth.  Secondly, even if it is true, if it's not honorable we are not to dwell on it.  Thirdly, it must be right, the right thing to think about, something that causes and promotes right thoughts...right about God, right about others, right about ourselves, and right about the situation (It is amazing how fear promotes thoughts that are not right or true about God, others and ourselves, dishonoring all; and causes us to blow the situation out of proportion).  Next, it must be pure, promoting holiness in our thinking, not rottenness.  This is to be followed by thinking about what is lovely and is of good repute.  Thoughts based on fear are never lovely.  And, interestingly, the word for good repute means words of good omen.  Fear never brings about words of good omen, but always the opposite...doom, gloom, and tragedy.  Finally, we are to have our minds dwell on those things which are excellent and praiseworthy.  When we allow ourselves to think upon and dwell upon what is less than the best, thoughts that are worthy only of the gutter, we are supplying fear with rich fertile soil from which to grow.  Fear always assumes the worst and dwells upon all that is bad.

So when fear assails you remember it is not from the Lord, but from the enemy, through our flesh.  God has given through His Spirit and by His grace, all that we need to combat fear so that it is not the victor; and thanks be to God that He always leads us in triumph in Christ. (II Corthians 2:14, I Corthians 15:57)  Our victory was achieved by Christ on the cross.  Christ tells us in John 16:33 that in this world we will have tribulation (which is the truth), but to take courage (literally, to be of good cheer) because He has overcome (subdued, prevailed, conquered, achieved the victory).  So let us live in light of that victory, ever mindful of the power, love, and sound mind that are ours in Christ as the result of Him abiding in us and us abiding in Him. 

No comments: