A Better Power (2 Timothy 1:7)
[For] God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. —2 Timothy 1:7
Don’t be afraid, be powerful. That’s what I used to take from this verse. As if God gifted me a secret weapon before leaving me to figure it out on my own–a sort of just do it charge. After misquoting it—don’t be afraid, you have power!—I’m glad for the opportunity to meditate on it afresh.
In context, verse seven is part of a letter Paul was writing in circumstances that could tempt young Timothy to fear. His mentor and father figure was in prison for preaching the gospel. He was entrusted with heavy responsibilities, in a hostile culture, under an emperor opposed to Christianity. False teachers were in the church. Threats, dangers, and enemies surrounded him. But Paul didn’t focus on external threats. He urged Timothy—and us—to remember the power at work within us. It’s the power to share in suffering for the bold proclaiming of the gospel. And that power is not a what, but a Who.
John Piper says,
Unashamed speaking for Christ, courageous suffering with Christ, is by the power of God in Christ. Just like the disciples in Acts 4:31: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.” No one can even say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3)—let alone say it in the Coliseum, or in Afghanistan, or the university classroom ("Feed the Flame of God’s Gift").
Piper says, “Paul wrote this letter for Timothy—and for you—because the flame of unashamed courage in us is always being smothered by the deadly, seemingly innocent pleasures of this world.” Did you catch that? We can be spiritually diminished just as easily by embracing pleasure as we can by suffering pain.
Our greatest enemies may yet be rulers who imprison us for boldly speaking the gospel, or guards who torture us there. Presently it feels more likely they’ll be culture warriors trying to shame us into celebrating sinful behavior, or social media platforms pressuring us to bend the knee on a variety of issues lest we be “canceled.”
In either case God has given us power—not fear—to patiently endure evil and gently correct our opponents with the gospel (2 Timothy 2:25). Why? So that “[He] may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil after being captured by him to do his will” (25-26). The Holy Spirit empowers us to proclaim the gospel—the gospel that is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16).
To speak the gospel in our day, and to speak it boldly to the point of risking suffering, will require not superhuman strength, but supernatural power. Thanks be to God, that’s precisely what He has promised to give us.
How is the promised power of the Spirit better than the world’s fascination with superpowers in movies and personal power in self-help books?
Have you seen the Holy Spirit’s power at work in your life? Ask Him to replace fear of man and empower you to speak boldly about the gospel with other people.
Are you tempted to use your tongue, or keyboard, like sword thrusts to wound (Proverbs 12:18)? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you speak and write words of life, motivated by the love and self-control that is a fruit of the Spirit.
Candice Watters is the Fighter Verses editor. She is the author of Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help it Happen, and co-author with her husband Steve of Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies.The Watterses have three sons and one daughter. They are passionate about encouraging moms and dads to disciple their children.