As I read through Paul’s second letter to to his friend and co-worker Timothy, I can’t help but get excited about the possibilites of living the Christian life in response to God’s calling. Paul very clearly understands that he has a purpose and place in the Kingdom of God. In this case, it is being an apostle, teacher and preacher, but the same principle applies to us. I have a place and purpose in God’s Kingdom. So does everyone who follows Christ. It may not be as dramatic as Paul’s, but it is certainly just as important. To think about that is exhilarating; to know that I can be part of God’s great plan for this earth makes me tingle, but then reality sets in. What if I fail? What if I’m not up to the task? What if people reject me? What if…What if… What if…? Fear takes over and paralyzes us. Fear keeps me from pursuing God 100%. It keeps me from engaging my gifts and calling. It forces me to sit on the sideline and watch from a distance. That is not what God had in mind.
As I read verse 7 of chapter one, I suddenly understood that the Father had graciously provided an antidote to our fears. Fear speaks to us in three different ways and each time it does the Spirit that God has given us – the Holy Spirit – is able to neutralize the power of Fear. Here is what is says,
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (NKJV)
Fear speaks to us about inadequacy. It tells us that we are not able. We are not strong enough, smart enough; that we are simply not enough … anything. Fear creates in our minds all sorts of scenarios in which we fail, are humiliated or embarrassed. They seem so real and so plausible these scenarios, why would I even attempt what God is asking? So there we are bound up in our adequacy. But the truth is that we have not been given a spirit of inadequacy but a Spirit of Power. The Holy Spirit enables and empowers us to accomplish all that the Father has prepared for us to do. The Truth is that we have whatever resources – emotional, physical, spiritual – to fulfill His calling. The Truth is that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13). Where does Fear come off telling I can’t, when Christ has already said I can?
Fear also speaks to us about rejection. It tells us that people won’t like us, they will reject us, they won’t understand me or love me. We believe the pictures projected in our imagination of the isolation and aloneness that is sure to come if we live God-focused lives. Now the fact is that Christians will be rejected and perscuted just as Christ was, but the wonderful promise God has given us is that we will never, ever be alone. He has given us the Spirit of Love to live with us. He has given us a Comforter to live in us. We can know that God’s love is secure, constant, consistent and sure no matter what other people my think or say. “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). And since we know the One who is Perfect Love, we can live fearlessly.
Finally, Fear speaks confusion into our lives. Our thinking gets so muddled. Making decisions seems impossible. There are so many options, so many directions. What if I pick the wrong way? We get so worried and frazzled that it is easier to do nothing. But we have not been given a spirit of confusion but a Spirit of Sound Mind. In fact, we have been given the “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). The Spirit that hangs out with us is totally tapped into what Christ is thinking about us and our lives. He can communicate to us and we can hear him. We simply need to rest in the assurance that He wants us to know what He wants. He doesn’t play hide and seek with His will.
So there it is, inadequacy, rejection and confusion are no match for the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life. Fear does not need to control. Fear no longer can deter or discourage me. And as I think about the possibilities, as I consider the adventures that come with following Christ, I can walk securely knowing that my Father just stomped all over Fear.