The Spirit of Power
Text: 2 Timothy 1:3-12
Rev. Garry E. McCaffery
Have you ever been afraid? Have you ever felt powerless? Have you ever felt inadequate for a task? Have you ever questioned your profession or your calling or wondered if you were really doing what God wanted you to do with your life? Perhaps you can respond with a “yes” to each and every one of those questions; I know that I have. I have, at times, been afraid. I have, at times, felt powerless. I have, at times, felt inadequate to do what God has called me to do. And that has really bothered me because, during those times, I have also questioned my relationship with God. That is a very uncomfortable place to be. And who wants to be uncomfortable? Then I made a wonderful discovery. I am not alone with these feelings. I am not the first to have them and, as a matter of fact, they are a part of our growth process as Christians.
One of the greatest blessings that I have received was when I came across Paul’s letter to Timothy. Timothy was a young pastor in the early church. This is probably why I connected with him so easily; he was a young pastor, just like me. In the early 1990’s when I was beginning my career there were not many really young people coming into the pastorate. This is true even today in the United Methodist Church; sad, but true. Many are coming in as second or third career.
Timothy, however, was a young man and had taken on a great deal of responsibility under the leadership of the apostle Paul. As seems evident in the text of the letter Paul wrote to Timothy, Timothy was concerned about his age in relationship to the people he was ministering to. He felt inadequate to the task of leading the church because he didn’t have the same life experiences as some of the older people in the church. And, some of the older members may have criticized him because he was young and perhaps energetic and exuberant in proclaiming the faith.
Due to these things we find Paul encouraging Timothy in his first letter to him, by stating, “…Let no one despise your youth…” (I Timothy 4:12). In other words, Timothy, God has called you and gifted you to do what you are doing. Age doesn’t matter. What matters is a willing heart, a heart open to receiving the wisdom and experience only God can give. “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12).
Timothy took some courage in this and he faced his work with great zeal and passion. Yet, as with all things, after a while some of his fears and frustrations returned. He continued to face challenges and struggles and new opposition. This opposition made Timothy feel anxious and fearful. He even began questioning his call to ministry and questioning his power to carry it out. He might have even become fearful about living his faith in front of others.
Have you ever been there? Have you ever been afraid of living your faith in front of others? I know when I worked for J.C. Penny’s it was difficult. Come Monday morning, after being in worship on Sunday, as I went into work, I was thinking about how I was going to live out my faith. I was thinking about how, while serving the customer and working with my associates, I would live out what I had learned on Sunday morning. Many of my associates would often be coming in, sad to say, slightly hung-over. They had had a far different kind of weekend than I. They would be sharing stories about the parties they’d been to and how and whether or not they had, for lack of a better term, found a new friend, over the weekend.
In part I think they wanted to give me the sordid details of their weekend because they knew I was a Christian and that I was studying to become a pastor, and they wanted to see if they could offend me in some way. It was truly a challenge to live my faith and share my faith in that setting. Mind you, I was not often, actually, I was never invited to hang out with my fellow co-workers when we were off the clock. Sometimes that would feel hurtful because you want to be able to make friends and connect with your co-workers. It is not easy to keep your principles and your faith when you are excluded because you’re a Christian. Yet, many times you’re better off being excluded. You tend to stay out of trouble that way.
For Timothy it had become difficult. Mind you, his difficulty wasn’t in relationship to those who wanted nothing to do with God or Jesus. What I find interesting is, in Timothy’s case, is that it was becoming difficult to live his faith and proclaim it in the context of the church, in the context of the faith community. You know it is getting rough when people in the faith community don’t want to hear about Jesus.
So, Paul again wrote Timothy to encourage him. And in this second letter he wrote, first, that he was thankful for the faith that he (Timothy) had in Christ. That would be some great encouragement right there! Timothy, take heart, because I see the faith you have in Christ through the way you pray, live, and work in the church you serve. I am thankful for your faithfulness to Christ and His work.
Secondly, Paul praised God for Timothy’s faith and his faith heritage. Paul was glad that Timothy came from a strong faith background. His mother, Eunice and his grandmother, Lois, had been strong teachers and encouragers to Timothy as he was formed in the faith. Timothy had strong supporters he could lean on.
Third, Paul wrote to Timothy to encourage him to stir up the gift given to him by God and to proclaim the gospel of Christ. Then Paul reminded Timothy, 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
Wow! Did you hear that? Did you let that penetrate into your mind and heart? God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. This verse, I am sure, encouraged Timothy! “Timothy, you don’t have to be afraid of those who oppose you, of those who want you to be afraid of all the “what if” scenarios that could happen, or of anything else that may come at you to oppose the proclamation of the gospel of Christ. Timothy, through the power of the Holy Spirit, you’ve got this.” I can imagine Timothy feeling his heart strengthened. I can imagine him nodding his head in agreement with what Paul is saying to him. I know what Paul wrote here to Timothy was a great encouragement to my faith, and I hope that it encourages you too!
Listen to these words again: God has not given us a spirit of fear! This is great news, yet, how often we live our lives as though that is what we have, a spirit of fear. That spirit of fear has been ramped up to ridiculous over the past year. Over the past year we have been programmed to do one thing: be terrified of the Covid19 virus and stay sheltered in our homes, separated from people, covering ourselves with masks, wiping everything down, and using so much sanitizer that I think I’ve bleached my fingerprints off. That’s not to say we haven’t had to be responsible and be cautious and use the God given capacity God has given us, through the Spirit of power, love and a sound mind, to do things in a way that honors and respects each other’s health. I think responsibility, respect, and honor is important, and having had, and thankfully recovered from Covid, I encourage us to be responsible even after we’ve been vaccinated. However, I don’t think we have to continue to live in a state of fear. Rather, we choose to live in the confidence of the people of God who have been given the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
We have not been given a spirit of fear…How we choose to live can be a tremendous witness to people. We don’t have to continue to be afraid. We don’t have to be afraid to connect with other people, we don’t have to be afraid to gather to worship. Whether we come in person, or take the time to gather on-line, when we do so at a common time we make the statement: I am not afraid. I am not afraid because I have not been given a spirit of fear, no, I’ve been given a Spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind.
We have not been given a spirit of fear…yet, we are often afraid to live our faith, let alone speak of it or share it with other people. Why? Because we are afraid of what other people will think of us. We’re afraid we might be criticized for being a “holy roller” or “Bible thumper” or something. We might be afraid we’ll offend. So what if we do? So what if we do offend someone? At least we’ll have knocked them off the fence so they will be forced to make a decision as to whether or not they will follow Christ.
Consider the kind of transformation that would take place in the world if we simply lived and shared the love of Christ to others. The world might become a better place. If more people fell in love with Jesus and allowed their lives to be transformed by the touch of his hand, then imagine what could happen.
Boldly living our faith is quite often easier said than done. We can work and work and work, at times making in-roads wherein we really see amazing impact being made through the message of Christ, and other times we face set-backs that make us wonder why we’re trying so hard. Like Timothy, we get discouraged in sharing the gospel, we become concerned whether or not we really have what it takes, and we think about our number in relationship to the size of the task at hand. Then, we are reminded about the Spirit of God that has been poured out upon us.
We have not been given a spirit of fear! The Bible tells us that as Christians we are called to be a people set apart so we can be the salt and light Jesus has called us to be. We are called to live IN the world and not be OF the world. We have been called to carry the cross of Christ and follow after Jesus and we can do this because, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are not powerless! The same Holy Spirit that came upon the early believers is the same Holy Spirit that God can and will pour upon us so we can stand firm in the face of opposition, in the face of fear and doubt. Be encouraged to live your faith, here in the sanctuary of God, and even more so out in the world with those you live with, and work with, and are blessed to influence in the name of Jesus! Be encouraged: FOR GOD HAS NOT GIVE US A SPIRIT OF FEAR, BUT OF POWER AND OF LOVE AND OF A SOUND MIND. Amen.