For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:6-7, ESV
In this intro to a longer passage that ends at verse 14, Paul encourages Timothy to take the gospel out to the world, not being ashamed of it, or afraid of what might happen when he shares it. This leads me to believe that perhaps Timothy was having some fearful thoughts.
Fear permeates our culture. It’s mentioned everywhere. Much of what we do to protect our families and communities is driven by fear. I’m not saying we shouldn’t desire to protect…by all means we should.
Fear is nothing new. Using it to accomplish control isn’t either. Our enemy uses it against us daily. Some use fear as a tool to keep people in check; to convince them that they must constantly strive to attain God’s favor by right behavior, and if they don’t, they can lose their place in God’s family, or even face damnation. Even though I began this piece almost two months ago, I was reminded of its relevance in an exchange on a recent episode of “Young Sheldon” on CBS, where Sheldon’s mother is charged with overseeing her church’s annual “Hell House”:
Meemaw: “Hang on…y’all are trying to scare people into joining the church?”
Mary Cooper: “Yeah, but people like gettin’ scared on Halloween anyway; why not make ‘em jump in the right direction.”
Sheldon Cooper: “Actually, fear has been a recruiting tactic used by organized religion for centuries. When you add guilt to keep people in line, it’s an extremely efficient form of crowd control.”
“Do not fear” is repeated throughout scripture, so when we fear, we realize our shortcomings and might think that because of said fear, we’re without hope.
But in thinking that, we do ourselves a disservice. Performance is expected, and fear of failure is amplified. Change, get better, or else. Been there, done that. Everything I ever thought I was doing to get better in God’s eyes was useless. It just made me look for a sense of what I did as being important, but it was always overshadowed by the fear of failure.
I wish I could say I have no fear, but that would be a blatant lie. To be completely honest, my fellow humans…you who read this…are what I fear most. But that isn’t what I’m called to do. What I’m called to do is love. Love my neighbor despite my fear of them. Easy? No. Fear gets in the way, always.
Over the last couple months, since before I wrote this, I have been living in a rather constant state of fear. Fear of my own failure and it being a continuing and constant part of my life. Fear that The Beggar’s Bread men’s ministry would tank. Fear that my struggle with depression and anxiety will take me to the edge again.
I only have one answer. Jesus. Only He can give me the ability to live and love, despite my fear. I can love the wretch I see when I look in the mirror, realizing that he lives for a purpose. I can love those who are treating my illness and trust that they know their job well enough to not cause me to fear. I can love whoever walks through the door to the church on Friday night, whether it be just one or many…and whether they believe what I do or not. And, I can get up in the morning, put one foot in front of the other, and love those who God has placed in my path in my day-to-day life, even though I know I am going to disappoint them, fail them, and quite possibly hurt them in ways that I don’t realize I am capable of.
My purpose in this post has one reason…I know that lots of folks believe the Bible is a manual for better or correct behavior. I’ve been “trained” to believe that conquering fear is something that must be done to make you more like Jesus. I’ll just leave you with this…He did the conquering. We’ll continue to try, but when we make ourselves believe that we’re free of fear, we’re exercising self-reliance, rather than trusting in the finished work of Jesus. When (not if) you fear, look to Him.