2 Timothy 1:6-7. 6 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, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
I remember reading the Wizard of Oz to my children when they were young. We had seen the movie, but we also wanted to read the book. And, as always, the book is better than the movie.
What the book demonstrates so vividly is that the very thing the travelers wanted – the Lion, courage (power), the Tin Woodsman a heart (love), and the Scarecrow a brain (self-control or sound mind) – they actually already had. Before ever making it to the Wizard, the Lion fights off the flying monkeys, the Woodsman shows empathy and compassion, and the Scarecrow comes up with the best ideas. Even Dorothy had what she needed to make it home (the ruby slippers) all along. But instead of knowing what they already had, our heroes lived with a fear that they were lacking what they needed for the journey to the Kingdom of Oz, and for the resistance of the evil Wicked Witch.
Does that story sound familiar? What about us? Aren’t we constantly living in fear that we are lacking something we need to survive this life? There’s surely some aspect of God’s grace that I must still prove myself in. Surely I’m not completely forgiven. Once I get my life back on track, then God will begin to use me again. Once I put this sin behind me, then God’s unconditional love will return with his blessings.
And so the gift of God in us is just a smoldering wick, rather than a flaming bonfire of love.
But here’s the truth of 2 Timothy 1:6-7 – In Christ we have everything we need to live a fearless life. Do you believe this? Now I know that none of us will ever live a perfectly courageous life this side of Heaven. The truth is that much of our lives will be lived in a mix of fear and faith, won’t it? We will, more often than not, succumb to this fear and even become desperate. Oh, and I also know that the prosperity preachers like to use this “fearless” language to stir up our self-efforts and the “you can do it” mentality that sells their books.
But what if God’s grace in Christ, not our own efforts or “believe in yourself-ism,” could actually remove fear and give us strength?
2 Timothy 2:1. You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
What if knowing Christ meant knowing the power of his indestructible life in you? What if knowing you are loved fully and freely by Jesus allowed you to love others fully and freely? What if knowing who you are in Christ allowed you to have the perfect blend of both humility (I deserve the cross) and confidence (I’ve died with Christ and been raised with him) that allows you to be self-controlled, or literally “right headed?”
In other words, what if power, love, and self-control can only be found from the motivations of grace? Look at Paul’s language again – God has given us a spirit… This spirit (or we could say Holy Spirit) of power, love, and self-control is a GIFT from God. God has given us these inner graces freely in Christ Jesus (2:1) and our union with him. Like the Lion, Woodsman, and Scarecrow we already have all we need for the journey. Fear comes when we forget who we are and what we have been given. We don’t need to wait around for power, love, and self-control to show up from God at the next revival meeting or the next time we “re-dedicate” our lives to him. Rather, these are the very character of Christ that we received when we received God’s salvation, forgiveness, and redemption by the Spirit of Christ.
But there is a flip-side to this grace and it’s called faith. Faith that is learning to rely on Christ IN US moment by moment. Faith that trusts that Christ wants his life, his power, his love, and his self-control to be released through us in our thoughts and actions.
Christians, let’s not forget that faith is still the expression of a conscious choice, like “Today I will choose to trust God (power) even in this really difficult trial I am facing that’s tempting me to run away (fear).” Or, “Today I will choose to love that person, even though I’m afraid I may get hurt.” Or, “Today I will choose to think about Christ (self-control), even when I’m exhausted and would rather just distract myself from my worries (fear).
By God’s grace, as we choose to faithfully express Christ’s power, love, and self-control in our own thoughts, choices, and emotional expressions, this faith will become our soul’s habit, our controlling spiritual instinct, our ongoing disposition to the world. Now, our spirit of fear is being gradually replaced with the Spirit of Jesus. Living in fear is being replaced with “to live is Christ.”
Where is fear controlling your life?
You in Christ
How does being in Christ give us power, love, and self-control?
Christ in you
Where are you seeing power, love, and self-control flow out of Christ in you?
Playlist: No More Fear