by David C. Grabbe
CGG Weekly, December 14, 2018
"The education of a man or woman is never completed until they die."
Robert E. Lee
In Part Two, we began to consider the antidotes to the wrong kinds of fear by parsing Paul's instruction to Timothy in II Timothy 1:6-7: "Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." We looked at faith, mentioned earlier in the chapter, as well as power.
"A sound mind" means that one possesses self-restraint or discipline, thus an individual with a sound mind does not jump to conclusions. It implies being sensible and sober, having a clear understanding and sound judgment. A sound-minded person practices prudence and discretion.
A sound mind banishes fear because any fear—aside from the fear of God—will be an irrational one, illogical and unreasonable, a fear that is groundless and without any real substance. Irrational fears have a lie or some sort of falsehood at their cores. The sound mind that comes from having God's Spirit gives us the ability to discern, judge, and recognize the truth about a situation, providing us practical understanding of how a person with the fear of God should react in any scenario. As long as we keep our fear focused on the right thing—God—we will not have to fear anything else.
Solomon writes in Proverbs 9:10, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." The proper fear of God goes hand in hand with the sound mind that comes from exercising the Holy Spirit because together they produce wisdom and understanding. "Knowledge of the Holy One" entails much more than just knowing that God exists. Denoting "personal experience with," it implies that a person is in a close and intimate relationship with his Creator. When a man knows God, his understanding of spiritual truths cannot help but be increased because he is being taught by the very Fountainhead of truth. Likewise, having the proper respect and regard of God in every aspect of life will give an individual priceless insight into how to live his or her life. This wisdom, like the sound-mindedness that comes by God's Spirit, is available only from God, and only those whom God calls to Himself have the opportunity to be blessed with it.
If we stay focused on fearing God, we can grow and overcome through continually making the right choices throughout our lifetimes, and ultimately, we will be resurrected into His Family. If, on the other hand, we begin fearing things other than God, our spiritual growth becomes stunted. When we fear other things, we stop overcoming because any non-godly fear will involve self-centeredness, the very antithesis of God's way of life.
II Timothy 1:7 also mentions love as an opposite of irrational fear, which is shown even more strongly in I John 4:18: "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love."
II Timothy 1:6 reminds us that the battle against fear begins with an act of God—God giving us His Spirit. I John 4:18 explains that casting out fear is a process, reiterating that the abolition of our fears cannot be based on our own confidence or courage. The apostle John teaches that fear leaves us as God perfects His love in us. However, this perfecting of love does not happen all at once by divine fiat. It is a process, just like sanctification, salvation, and character development. In fact, they are all part of the same process.
How is love made perfect or complete within us? The short answer is that it can only come from the source of perfect love—God Himself. If we want more complete love, we must receive it from God. This is where our efforts come into play. We receive His love by spending time with Him and by focusing on the relationship with Him—especially through prayer and Bible study—but also by experiencing life with Him.
Notice how complete this picture is. We receive a portion of God's Spirit at baptism, one aspect of which is His love being "poured out in our hearts" (Romans 5:5). At this point, it is an incomplete love, but it is a beginning. As we deepen our relationship with Him, we receive wisdom, that is, we receive the practical application of the things written in His Word. We begin experiencing His faithfulness in everything that He has said in all of His instructions. At the beginning of our walk toward the Kingdom of God, we may know intellectually that God will provide for us and protect us and that we will not be tried beyond what we can bear. But as we continue walking, we will begin to know this personally. We will experience God's faithfulness again and again. His words and His promises become ever more real to us as we experience life with Him.
As we come to know this very embodiment of truth, the falsehoods that lie at the root of our irrational fears will be exposed to us, and our fears will fade. As we broaden our understanding of truth on which to base our decisions, our minds will become more and more sound and properly discerning. Through the power of God's Spirit, we will be able to serve Him and our fellow man.
God perfects His love in us as we go through this process. With our focus and energies dedicated to God and to this process, and with an ever-increasing faith in God's character, there will simply be no room for other fears. Self-centeredness will find little place in us.
We have seen that irrational fears—whether they are rare phobias or more spiritually destructive fears—are banished by faith, by love, and by truth, all of which are possible only within a thriving relationship with God through His powerful Spirit. We have been given the responsibility to throw everything we have into this relationship and to ask ourselves continually: Am I fearing God? Or do I fear everything else?