Simply described, fear is a distressing emotion aroused by a perceived threat. Most experts agree that it is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to specific stimulus such as pain, danger, risk, hazard, or the threat of trouble. But, what does the Bible say about the “spirit of fear?” How and why does it suddenly invade a person’s life for no apparent or logical reason? What is its source, and how does a believer defeat it?
The apostle Paul, in the epistle to his young protégé Timothy wrote these words when addressing both the real and perceived fears that threatened Timothy’s effectiveness for Christ. As you read this, take note of the Apostles encouragement to Timothy and the powerful instructions he gives him to overcome the invading “spirit of fear.”
“I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also. Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” (2 Timothy 1:3-12)
When dealing with and defeating the “spirit of fear” the Apostle Paul gives some fundamental truths that, not only aided young Timothy, but will also aid us today. First, the Apostle appeals to the “genuine faith” that is in Timothy to combat the “spirit of fear”. Fear and faith are sometimes polar opposites. It was vital for Timothy to activate his faith when facing both the “real” or “perceived” threats that came upon him. Faith is like a “shield” according to Ephesians 6:16, which quenches “all the fiery arrows of the wicked one.” Faith in God is the believer’s “protection from deception” and the source of victory in every battle. In 1 John 5:4 we read, “This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith.”
Second, the Apostle calls upon Timothy to “stir up the gift of God which is in you”. Here, the Apostle refers to the gift of the Holy Spirit and “rekindling” the activity of the Spirit of God within him, which apparently was waning. To “stir up” the gift of God refers to a believer’s personal, measurable and structured acts-of-love for the Lord Jesus and obedience to His call that “rekindles” the Spirit’s supernatural power and strength within. The “spirit of fear” many times assaults believers with feelings of intimidation meant to immobilize their faith in, and love for the Lord Jesus. It also can hinder them from accomplishing the work they are call to do. Paul reminds Timothy that one of the keys to combating and defeating the “spirit of fear” is our ability to “stir up” our “fiery” relationship of love for and obedience to Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.
Third, the Apostle Paul assures Timothy that God “Has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and a sound mind.” Having the knowledge of God’s original plan to transform our lives and empower us to live victoriously, is a great spiritual and psychological advantage for us when defeating fears. Paul tells Timothy that the “spirit of fear” is not from God. He reminds him of three very important Spirit-given faculties that are from God and would aid him in his clashes with the “spirit of fear” – love, power, and a sound mind. Most of us understand the love and power given to us by God, but what about the “sound mind” that He has given? The original language refers to a “sound mind” as a “disciplined mind”; the “right way of thinking”; the “God way of thinking” and processing life’s trials, triumphs and tragedies. I just recently finished a teaching series at LifeChurch entitled, “Renew Your Mind”. One of the most important things believers can do to gain the upper hand in spiritual warfare is renew their mind through reading and meditating upon the Word of God. This spiritual activity not only fortifies the believer against the toxic traits of the carnal mind, but provides a catalyst for believer’s to experience the transforming power of the Spirit of God that, according to 1Corinthians 2:16, graciously imparts to us the “mind of Christ”. What a powerful weapon we have when we can “think the thoughts of God” and control the toxic traits of the carnal mind through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Fourth, Paul reminds Timothy that man’s greatest enemy, death has been defeated by Christ. When considering the source of all fear, it usually comes down to the perceived threat, pain or uncertainty of death. Paul deals one final blow to the “spirit of fear” harassing Timothy with this powerful exhortation. “Our Savior Jesus Christ… has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Now, even the threat of death has been destroyed through the work of Christ on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. Armed with this truth, the early disciples seemed to thrive in hostile environments and threats against their lives as they worked to propagate the gospel. On the other hand, how often does the “spirit of fear” cause believers today to become “self-preserving” and avoid threatening environments or situations? I am a firm believer that when the church at-large overcomes its “self preservation” and timidity, and embraces the empowering work of the Holy Spirit, there will be no stopping the spreading of the gospel around the world and its inherent power to rescue the perishing in any country, culture or condition.
Finally, the “spirit of fear” was a definite threat to Timothy and too many of us who desire to do the will of God in our generation. If left unchecked, the “spirit of fear” can spoil the work that God desires to do “for us” personally and “through us” corporately. If confronted and rejected by believers, the “spirit of fear” can be resoundingly defeated emboldening believers to supernatural, Spirit-inspired works of God.
Is the “spirit of fear” harassing you, or someone you love? Is there “slow growth” or “no growth” in your spiritual life due to the “spirit of fear”? Beloved, you are not alone. Not only are there many who have faced this enemy of fear and defeated it, but there are many struggling to overcome it even now. The fact is God has not given you the “spirit of fear”, but He has given you the Spirit of love, power and a sound mind. You, like Timothy and millions of believers through the centuries, can “stir up” the gift of the Holy Spirit within you and experience the power He brings when you activate a fiery love for Jesus through humble prayer. It is your faith in God that brings ultimate and permanent victory over all your foes, including the “spirit of fear”! Today is your day of vindication and victory. Call upon the Lord right now, take the Word of God in hand, declare its eternal truths out loud over your life and watch how the Holy Spirit responds to you. He will come with power, love, peace and faith that can move mountains. He will come and strengthen you! He will empower your life and destroy all the works of the enemy meant to defeat you. Your best days are ahead of you! Your greatest accomplishments for God are waiting to be realized! Now is your time! Remember, the “spirit of fear” is no match for the “Spirit of God” within you. Indeed, you are more than a conqueror through Jesus Christ who loves you!
God Bless You,