Weekly Devotional: 2 Timothy 1:7
Today’s passage comes to us from 2 Timothy 1:6-7, which states the following:
“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.”
These are very familiar words to us. In fact, it’s their familiarity that poses a hurdle when interpreting them and applying them to our lives. Let me explain what I mean.
The apostle Paul wrote these words to encourage his protégé, Timothy, in the hard work of gospel ministry. When Paul wrote this letter, he knew that his time was short. He sat in a Roman prison waiting to be executed; therefore, Paul’s words will have an edge to them, a sense of urgency given his circumstances.
When Paul tells Timothy that “God gave us a spirit not of fear,” he’s not suggesting that Timothy was known as a fearful man. These words are meant to compel young Timothy to engage in gospel ministry with diligence and all the force of the Holy Spirit at his back. But here’s the interesting thing about Paul’s statement: the Greek word translated as fear here occurs only once in the entire New Testament. It only occurs in our passage. This word means the lack of inner, moral strength that leads to cowardice in battle.
When we examine the broader context of Paul’s second letter to Timothy, we see that it also supports this interpretation of this rare, Greek word for fear. For example, in 2 Timothy 1:14, Paul exhorts his young protégé to guard the gospel. In first century Rome, soldiers did the guarding. Then, in 2 Timothy 2:1-4, Paul likens Timothy’s leadership task to that of a faithful soldier who stays on task. Later, in 2 Timothy 2:15, the apostle exhorts his protégé to view himself as an approved—or battle-tested—workman. Finally, Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:7 that he has fought the good fight.
Make no mistake friends, Timothy knew the consequences for proclaiming the gospel. He was with Paul during the apostle’s imprisonment (see Philippians 2:19-22). Like any wise mentor, the apostle refuses to sugarcoat life as a follower of Christ. The pressure to cower in the face of Roman oppression in Timothy’s day was extreme and life-threatening. For this reason, Paul exhorts Timothy to rekindle his passion for the gospel. He’ll need that passion set on fire by the Holy Spirit, who hasn’t given him a spirit of cowardice.
Here in the United States, we don’t face death threats for our allegiance to Christ and his gospel. But you and I do face constant pressure to conform to the image of this world. We are presented with ever so slight variations of the truth that slowly and subtly cause us to drift from a pure and right understanding of God. The enemy of our souls is crafty and devious. We must be alert and confident.
There are no cowards in Christ’s army (Ephesians 6:10-13) and his kingdom (see Revelation 21:8).
Lord, open our eyes to the compromises taking root in us and around us, so that we may renounce them. Emblazon your truth on our hearts, and give us a spirit of boldness to proclaim Christ and your gospel to everyone we encounter. In Jesus’ name, Amen.