Purchase the CD of this sermon.
In the new series, Profiles in Courage, Pastor Philip explores the lives of biblical figures who exemplify God-given courage. From Genesis to Revelation, these profiles of courage will inspire us to take a stand for righteousness and unwavering faith.
Courage is not limited to a select few; it is a quality all believers must cultivate. It involves putting ourselves at risk, sacrificing comfort, and persevering in the face of opposition. It demands a firm commitment to truth and an unwavering determination to do what others cannot or will not do.
More From This Series
Well, let’s take our Bibles and turn to 2 Timothy 1:6–7. As I said, we’re in the series Profiles and Courage. We’re challenging ourselves to act like men. Remember, Paul said that to the Corinthians. Given today and the cancel culture, where the culture around us is trying to intimidate us, we need to show courage. We need to remain committed to discipleship. We remain committed to biblical theology. We need to speak up and stand up for Christ—having done all to stand in this evil day. And so we’ve been looking at different profiles and courage, and we’re coming this morning to look at Timothy.
The focus of my message is courage to live fully. Don’t be falling beneath God’s best for you. It’s a message I’ve called “Fired Up,” and I love that. Here we are on the inside of a new year, and I hope you’re fired up. I’m fired up to speak to you on being fired up, because I’ve been in the company of this text for a couple of days.
Listen to what Paul says to Timothy, who is given to timidity (we’ll get to that). He’s given to timidity, and Paul says this in 2 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.” So reads God’s Word.
Over the years I have read several books on the life of Jim Elliot, books written by his wife Elisabeth Elliot. His life, his death, his legacy has stirred me and shaped me, and I commend his life to you as a memorial to God’s conquering grace. There are several quotes from him that have stayed with me and continue to stir me. One is: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” That’s probably his most famous quote. There’s a second quote I enjoy and have been edified by: “Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”
But I think my favorite quote in recent days and years is this quote. It’s actually a prayer. He said this when he was at Wheaton College. He would later be martyred by Auca Indians in Ecuador. “God, I pray Thee, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one, like you, Lord Jesus.” That’s powerful. And I want to pick up that thought. I love the challenge of that insight. You and I ought to seek to live a full life. Jim Elliot did not live a long life; he died at age 28. But he did live a full life—a life full of a desire to glorify God, a life full of biblical insight, a life full of eternal perspective and impact, a life full of gospel witness. And his life continues to reverberate to this day.
See, Jim Elliot as a young man understood that life is not simply a matter of counting your days but making your days count. That’s the true measure of life. Not its length but its depth. Not its duration but its donation. There are plenty of people who have lived long and empty and unsatisfying lives. I remember reading the description of a person somewhere who had died and was buried, and the person commenting on their life said about that man, “He died at 30 and was buried at 60.” You get the point? He was alive but not alive. He was breathing but not blossoming. He was living beneath his privileges and his potential. God forbid that that would be true of me or of you.
Remember that line in Braveheart? “All men die, but not all men live.” See, guys, this morning, here’s what I want you to think about. Death is not the thing to be scared of. The thing to be scared of is not having lived fully, is falling beneath your privileges, is living beneath your potential, is muddling your way through life half-speed with little direction.
Read the life of the apostle Paul—who we’re about to study this morning in his letter to Timothy—and you’ll see that he had no fear of death. That had been taken care of in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. What Paul feared was living and laboring in vain. You can read about that in Philippians 2:16, 1 Thessalonian 3:5, 1 Corinthians 15:52. He wants to know that his labor is not in vain. He wants to know that his time amidst the Philippian church and the Thessalonian church was not wasted.
Guys, remember, sin comes in two forms. There’s the sin of commission, and there’s the sin of omission. We tend to focus on the sin of commission, doing what we’re not supposed to do. But it’s equally sinful not to do what you’re meant to do, not to reach your potential, not to become all that God saved you to be. Think about it. Falling short is the very definition of sin.
Didn’t Paul say that we’ve all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory? When you and I fall short of the life God planned for us and the life God purposed for us, we are sinning. You can sin actively, and you can sin passively. Fear passivity. Fear sluggishness. Fear mediocrity. Ask for the spirit of Jim Elliot. “I pray not for a long life but for a full life.”
So, let’s think about that as we come to 2 Timothy 1:6–7, because here the apostle Paul challenges Timothy to fear passivity and to remain fired up about ministry and life in Christ. “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 [or an attitude] of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Here’s a summons not to live hesitantly, not to live fearfully off the back foot. Here’s a summons to live boldly and fully and enthusiastically off the front foot. So, here’s our ninth study: the courage to live fully, the courage to reach your potential.
Now, let’s just put the text in its context quickly. This is Paul’s last letter. From what we can tell, it was written around AD 64. Paul’s during his second imprisonment. We also know from verses 2 and 3 of this letter in chapter 1 that there was a close and special relationship between Paul and Timothy. He desired and longed for him greatly. He called him a son in the faith. It would seem by implication, and by connecting it with other verses, that Timothy struggled with timidity. I don’t want to cast him as a fearful figure totally. Paul had a lot of trust in Timothy. Paul sent him on missions. So, he expressed courage. He showed leadership. But I think there were times in which he had a proclivity to step back. He had a proclivity to become fearful and hesitant.
There were several factors that played into that, according to John Stott. His youthfulness. Remember Paul in the first letter had to say to Timothy, “Let no one despise your youth.” He was intimidated by his youthfulness. Also, his physical constitution. It seems at times he was sick and weakly. Paul says to take some wine for your stomach sick. It seems that he had perhaps some stomach disorder. And then, on top of that, he was dealing with false teachers. That required bravery and courage on his part, where they needed to be confronted, where they needed to be shown the door in the church.
And so, I think this combination of youthfulness and physical constitution and tough ministry context . . . And he has seen, if you read verse 8, that Paul has suffered for his testimony for Jesus Christ, and he will have to suffer. And at times he kind of stepped back and recoiled from that. So, Timothy was given to timidity. I don’t want to cast him, as I said, as some fearful figure that went through life looking at his feet, but he certainly was tempted to it.
He certainly seems to have had a proclivity to become timid and hesitant, and therefore we have this call to courageous enthusiasm, which is verses 6 and 7. “I want to 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 an attitude of fear or a spirit of intimidation” (paraphrased). He’s really reminding Timothy, “Timothy, you need to continue to stir up the gift. You need to live a full life, the life that God has called you to and equipped you for. You need to fight timidity. You need to embrace power, love, and sound judgment.”
This word “stir up” is a present infinitive, which means this is to be done on a continual basis. In fact, when you get into the etymology of this word, it’s the image of a fire. Some translations will have the idea of “fan into a flame” the gift that God has given you, which is in you by the laying on of my hands. Timothy was to fan into a flame his gift. He was to stir up every possibility to be all that he could be for the Lord Jesus Christ. He was not to neglect the development of his potential. He was not to leave his giftedness underdeveloped. In fact, if you go to 1 Timothy 4:14, that very thing is said: “Do not neglect the gift that is in you.”
See, we’re given gifts. We are given enablements. We are given potential, both natural and supernatural. In this case, I think this is a charismata, a spiritual gift, a spiritual enablement. You and I are given those gifts, and we’re called to exercise those gifts. But we can neglect that duty, and that means we fall short of our potential. That means we don’t live up to God’s purposes and will and plan for us, and that would be a tragedy, wouldn’t it? So, you and I need to heed that; we need to hear that.
I think it was William Booth who said, “The tendency of the fire is to go out.” Isn’t it? The tendency of the fire is to go out. I don’t know if you remember the days of coal fires. I do. All our homes in Northern Ireland had coal fires, and June delegated that to me, which meant the constant stoking of the fire and taking out the ashes and maintaining the fire. You’d put some slag on it at night, and then in the morning you would take a poker, and you would stir that fire up and fan it into a flame and fuel it with some more coal. That’s the image we have here.
Timothy was to maintain his spiritual glow; he was to be fervent in spirit (Rom. 12:11). May that be true of you and me. I hope you and I are committed to being fired up, to living life to the hilt, to being all there wherever we are, and to really being focused not on the maintenance and the length of our physical life but on the development and depth of our spiritual life. Better to die young in the full bloom of a life given over to Christ than to live too long, to grow cold, to become useless, to get disqualified. I pray not for a long life; I pray for a full life. Let’s get fired up about that. It was said of Richard Baxter, he would set the world on fire while another was lighting a match. Of William Booth, someone said he was always at 90 degrees in the shade. I want that to be said of you and me.
So, let’s come to the text. Let’s see some factors that will help us to remain fired up, that will stoke our passion for Jesus Christ. There’s several things in the text. There’s six of them, so we’re going to move quick. But I want you to see them. I want you to hide these ideas in your heart so that you will not fall short of God’s glory.
Number one, what I call the encouragement. To remain fired up, guys, we need people in our corner who believe in us as believers. Let me say that again. To remain fired up, we need people in our corner who believe in us as believers. We need encouragers to encourage us. We need those who recognize the genuineness of God’s work in us and the greatness of His calling toward us. And such was the case with Paul and Timothy.
Our text is going to show us that Paul had a confidence in Timothy. He strengthened Timothy’s confidence, and he pushed him to greater things. Paul was Timothy’s mentor, his father in the faith, his encourager, one who stoked the fire. Look at verses 3 and 4 and 5 of chapter 1. The reason we should go back before we go forward is that verse 6 begins with “therefore.” “In the light of what I’ve just said, therefore, get fired up. Therefore, stay stirred up” (paraphrased). In verses 3–5 we read, “I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you.”
There’s a statement. “Timothy, as I look at you, I see a work of God. Timothy, as I look at you, I see grace operational in your life. I first saw it in your mum, and I saw it in your grandmother, and now I see it in you.”
“When I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also” (v. 5). Isn’t that beautiful? Here’s what Paul is saying: “Your faith is genuine, son, and God has greater things for you to do. Now, go after it.” That’s got to feed him, hasn’t it? You see Paul’s prayers, Paul’s passion, Paul’s perspective, and now in verses 6 and 7, you’ve got Paul’s push. Simple point. Having the right people in our lives is the key to spiritual flourishing. Proverbs 13:20; write it down, look at it later: “He who walks with wise men will be wise.” Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”
The import and the implication of those texts are simply this. When you and I have the right people in our lives—which are righteous people who love God, who are on fire for God—we’re going to catch fire in their company. They’re going to stoke us with their encouragement. You want to stay fired up? Make sure you’ve got friends who are friends of God. The right people pouring into us helps us reach our potential. Guys, take an inventory. Have you got some select friends, men you can call on at any time, whose company you enjoy, who challenge you, convict you, encourage you, and stir you up? If you don’t, seek them. Let us help you find them. Find them here. Find them in a small group. Look for them on a patio on a Sunday morning. But get yourself a mentor or mentors. Get yourself a father in the faith or fathers in the faith. Let them call you to greater heights and depths with God.
One of the writers we were studying a while ago talked about how there are two kinds of people: basement people and balcony people. There’s a lot of people in this life you can’t avoid, so I get that. But, when you have a choice, avoid the basement people and seek the balcony people. The basement people are those who want to pull you down, siphon your spiritual life away. But there are the balcony people, those above you, ahead of you, calling you up to another level of spiritual commitment. Watch out for basement people; look out for balcony people.
You know my friend Jack Graham in his book on Nehemiah tells the story of General Westmoreland, who was the chief of military operations in Vietnam. The story is told that he was once reviewing a group of paratroopers, and he asked one of the paratroopers, “How do you like jumping out of the planes, son?” To which the man replied, “I love it. Can’t wait for it. It’s my thing.” He asked another, and he said, “It’s the greatest experience in life.” Then he came to another soldier, another paratrooper, asked him the same question: “What do you think about jumping?” He looked the general straight in the face and said, “I hate it. Every time I jump, I hate it.” To which the general replied, “Well, why do you do it?” To which he replied, “Because I love being with those who jump.” I like that. I love being with those who jump. I want to be around people that are going to push me to do what I naturally don’t want to do. Look for a man like that in your life who can strike a match and set you on fire.
Number two, the endowment. To remain fired up, we need to remember that God has equipped us and gifted us for life in ministry and has ordained us to develop that ministry and cultivate that giftedness. Look at verse 6 again: “Therefore I remind you to stir up”—notice—“the gift of God which is in you through [the means of] the laying on of my hands.” The gift of God which is in you.
Now, there’s a debate among commentators as it relates to the “who” and the “what” of this gift. Is it the Holy Spirit Himself? Is He the gift? Is it a ministry gift, a charismata, a spiritual enablement to fulfill a ministry? It’s a great debate. Not sure you need to die on any one of those hills, but my own conviction would lead me—since we’re dealing with the church leaders, since we’re looking at the second letter of Paul’s pastoral epistles to Timothy—to believe we’re probably dealing with a spiritual gift, not the Holy Spirit but the gifts that the Holy Spirit gives. We might be dealing with the gift of leadership. We might be dealing with the gift of preaching, teaching, or maybe the gift of evangelism. As a matter of fact, when you get to chapter 4 of this letter, Paul will talk about “preach the word.” That’s your job. That’s your gifting. That’s your calling. Do the work of an evangelist; that’s your calling and giftedness also, perhaps.
So, I’ll reduce it down to this. My assumption is—whatever form we’re talking about, expression we’re talking about—we’re dealing with an ordination gift that equipped Timothy for future ministry. I think that’s where we’re at. “Timothy, you’re the whole package. You were gifted by the Holy Spirit. We recognized your potential at your ordination. We set you apart for Christian ministry. Now go after it. Develop yourself.” That’s the thought. “Don’t bury your talent, Timothy. Remember the story Jesus told, Timothy, about burying talents, leaving stuff underdeveloped? Don’t do that. God’s never pleased with that. So, go fan into a flame your spiritual potential. Go develop yourself to the fullest that you can so that you live a full life. My life’s about to end. God willing, your life will continue. Now make it count.”
Guys, implication. Timothy was the whole package, and he needed to keep driving forward and keep developing into something more. And, like Timothy, you and I are the whole package. We are born with natural gifts and skills and aptitudes. We’ve got a lot of potential—every individual one of us in different areas. We don’t all need to be cookie-cutter cutouts of any one particular person doing any one particular thing. Then, we get new birth, which loads us down with charismata, gifts, abilities, aptitudes from the Holy Spirit. You’re the whole package. But, as with gifts, they must be unwrapped, and so must you unwrap your gifts and fan them into a flame.
Have you truly discovered yet your sweet spots, your strengths, your abilities, your God-given talents? And, having discovered them, are you employing them and developing them? I mean, that’s Paul’s encouragement to Timothy, isn’t it, in 1 Timothy 4:12–16. Let’s just read those words: “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come”—look at this—“give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”
Timothy, progress; move forward; do something more. Guys, you’re the whole package. Are you unwrapping the package? Are you discovering the gifts? We’re to serve the Lord indiscriminately in all kinds of areas, but there are some areas we need to focus our energy and attention and skill on so that we can be our best doing the best thing we can do for Christ. Gifts may not be a choice, but the discovery of them is a choice, and the development of them is a commitment. Guys, you’ll discover your potential by studying the subject of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:1); by sensing divine desire (Psalm 37:4); by simply serving, for gift makes room for itself (Prov. 18:16); by seeking confirmation by godly leaders or mentors in your life (2 Tim. 1:6–7); and by seeing where you are most fruitful, where your abilities shine. (1 Tim. 3:2). Make that a goal for 2023. Just double down on who am I in Christ, what am I in the Spirit, and what must I become more for God’s glory?
Because, see, we’re after a full life, not just a long life. We must develop our giftedness, sharpen our skills. King David set apart 288 men for service in the temple through music, and here’s what we read of them in 1 Chronicles 25:7: they were trained and skilled in music. Core classes will help you discover some of your giftedness. For those who qualify, our core ministry training track will help you develop your abilities for Christ. Be your best self for Jesus in 2023. You know my story, so I’m not going to repeat it in any great depth. But in the ministry in Northern Ireland, through a friendship with Dr. John MacArthur, I came out to The Master’s Seminary, was exposed to The Master’s Seminary in Shepherd’s Conference, and saw a level of commitment, saw a pursuit of excellence I hungered for. So much so that I went home and told June, we’re packing up, we’re leaving our church, we’re leaving our country, we’re leaving our family, we’re leaving our friends—because I want to go and be the best that I can be for the Lord Jesus.
And I was reinforced by a study of a sermon by Spurgeon. He was speaking to young men in London who were street preachers and didn’t think there was any necessity to go to Bible college and learn languages and history and theology. God can hit straight licks with crooked sticks. No doubt! But Spurgeon said, “Serve God with such education as you have, and thank Him for blowing through you if you are a ram’s horn, but if there be a possibility of your becoming a silver trumpet, choose it rather.” God can blow through any ram’s horn, but if you can become a silver trumpet, choose that rather. Guys, if you can become something more with a little bit of elbow grease and heart and pursuit of God, choose that rather. Don’t go through 2023 at the same level you did in 2022. That would come back to bite you at the judgment seat of Christ. You won’t like the thought of that on your deathbed, and you won’t want to look into the face of the Son of God who gave everything for us.
Let’s move on. This is a quicker thought, what I call the endorsement—still on this idea of his ordination, the laying on of hands by Paul here in 2 Timothy 1:6 and the laying on of hands by the Presbytery, the body of elders over a local church, in 1 Timothy 4:14. Here’s another thought. To remain fired up, we have got to be mindful of the coming judgment and our eternal accountability to God. Say, pastor, where’d you get that thought? It isn’t in the text? I think it’s by inference. I think it’s there. See, this thought comes from the implication of the elders laying hands on Timothy and Paul laying hands on Timothy and, listen, setting him apart for gospel ministry.
Because I want to tie that into 2 Timothy 4:1. Because, you see, at ordination services, when people are set apart for gospel ministry, they are given solemn charges. And Paul says about Timothy’s ordination, about the charge that was given to him, “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word!” (2 Tim. 4:1–2). Fulfill your ordination vows. Live up to the potential of the laying of hands ceremony that set you apart for gospel ministry. Timothy, you’re accountable to God. Now, you said some solemn things in front of us and before the church, but I’m calling God in as a witness, and I’m calling Jesus Christ in as witness—who’s coming, and His kingdom’s coming with Him. That’s a verse that supports pre-millennialism, but we’ll leave it there. The kingdom’s not here; it’s coming when Jesus comes. But I’m calling God to witness against you and Jesus Christ to witness against you. Are you being faithful? Will you live up to your potential? Will you develop the giftedness that we recognized at the laying on of hands?
So, the point is simply this, guys. The backdrop of eternity, the judgment seat of Christ, the evaluation of our stewardship during time, the loss or gain of eternal reward—that should fire us up. I mean, if the thought of eternity, living somewhere forever, standing before God to give an account for every word spoken, every minute lived, every action done, and every thought conceived . . . that’s scary stuff. That stirs the soul of a man who’s alive to God and gets you up and stops you muddling through life at half speed without any direction.
Now, we’re headed to the judgment seat to Christ. We’re headed to the bema, where our lives will be judged. Did we do what was useful, or were we useless? I mean, this is what fired Paul up. In chapter 4 of this very letter, he says I’m ready to be “poured out as a drink offering”—it’s a pictorial manner of describing his death—“and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6–8). Paul ministered. Paul fought temptation. Paul loved God’s people. Paul courageously reached the world under the overhang of the coming judgment. It kept him on the straight and narrow, kept him fired up, kept him stirred up about spiritual things.
A couple of years back, I read a wonderful book called 50 People Every Christian Should Know by Warren Wiersbe. And in it he quotes Bishop Lightfoot—a wonderful man of God, part of the Church of England, a scholar, pastor, trainer of men. And one day he’s speaking to young pastors, up-and-coming scholars, and he talks about their ordination that’s about to happen. Listen to these words in the context of what we’ve just talked about with Timothy. Wiersbe quotes Lightfoot as saying, “Forget me, forget the [ordination] service of tomorrow, forget the human questioner. Transport yourselves in thought from the initial to the final inquiry. The great day of inquisition, the supreme moment of revelation, is come. The chief Shepherd, the universal bishop of souls is the questioner. . . . The ‘Wilt thou’ of the ordination day is exchanged for the ‘Hast thou’ of the judgment day.” Wiersbe comments on Lightfoot’s words, saying, “This is good counsel for all of us, but especially for those who serve as ministers and who want to hear our Master say, ‘Well done.’”
That’s powerful. Someday the “will you” will become “have you.” Will you and I have lived up to our potential? The “Wilt thou” of our ordination will be exchanged for the “Hast thou” of the judgment.
All right, keep moving. The empowerment. Here’s another thing, if you’ve been keeping track. To remain fired up, we can rely on the infused power of the Holy Spirit to stay enthused. How do you keep going? How do you sustain this commitment to excellence and pursuit of God and realizing your potential? Well, thankfully, you don’t do it by yourself. You’re not alone. You have assistance. You’ve got human assistance. You’ve got men like Paul in your life, encouraging you and pointing you in the right direction and patting you on the back and all of that. But you’ve got divine assistance. You have the indwelling power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Amen?
Fear, trepidation, withdrawal, holding back, behaving weakly is not from God. If that’s where you and I are at, at any point in our life, faithlessness on our part has created that spirit. Giving into the temptations of the devil has created that spirit. Listening to the world or giving into its pressure has created that spirit of fear. God didn’t create that. The Holy Spirit doesn’t produce that. God has not given us an attitude or spirit of fear, trepidation, or withdrawal. No, God has given us power. Love that. An attitude of fear, a spirit of cowardliness is antithetical to Christianity, given the power of the Holy Spirit that is being bequeathed to us and given to the church. Verse 7 of 2 Timothy 1: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power.” In Acts 1:8, the Spirit of God is described as power that will come upon us so we may be God’s witnesses.
Remember when Jesus promised His disciples that “I’m going to go, but if I go, the spirit will come, the Comforter who is now with you, but in that day will be in you” (paraphrased). We’re talking about a dispensational transition from Old Covenant to New Covenant, where the Spirit of God is no longer on us and with us but actually in us. There’s an inwardness and a permanence to the work of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament believer. Aren’t you glad you’re living post-New Testament, post-Pentecost, where you and I have the company of the Comforter wherever we go? And that was given in the context of troubled hearts (John 14:1, 14–16). You know, the word “comforter” means paraclete. It’s a Greek word made up of two words; it’s a compound term, “to come alongside, to strengthen.” Isn’t that beautiful?
That’s what the Holy Spirit does. That’s who the Holy Spirit is. That’s what the Holy Spirit wants to do for every man in this room and sanctuary this morning. Wherever you are in life, no matter how difficult it is, no matter how high the problems are, the Holy Spirit has come alongside you to make you adequate to your circumstances. If your circumstances find you in God, you will find God, the Holy Spirit, in your circumstances, making you able to become overcomers. You and I are the dwelling place of God, and when God comes into a life, fear goes out. When God comes in, fear goes out. We saw that, didn’t we? In John 20:19–20, they’re playing out of that idea. The disciples are fearful. They’re behind closed doors, and Jesus comes in and says, “Peace.” And their hearts were glad.
See, when Jesus comes into a life, fear can be expelled, trepidation can be sent packing. Guys, Paul is telling Timothy that his critics must not be allowed to define him. His feelings of fear must not be allowed to defeat him. And his sense of inadequacy must not be allowed to dominate him. What should define him is the one who lives within him. Let me say that again about you and me. What defines him is the one who lives within him. And that must be true because, listen, greater is He that is in us than he who is in the world. So, we have the greater one on the inside. You and I can live triumphantly. We don’t need to become victims to fear, prisoners to anxiety. You and I are a life-from-death, Spirit-indwelt child of God. We stole that from one of the writers on 2 Timothy. You and I are a life-from-death, Spirit-indwelt child of God.
I want to think about that more. I want that to become more real in my life and your life. You and I don’t need to fear that we will not be able to live the Christian life. Greater is He that is in us. You and I don’t need to fear not being able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Greater is He that is in us. You and I don’t need to fear life with all of its troubles and death, with all of its terrors, because greater is He that is in us. God has not given us an attitude of fear but of power. The old writers were right. We fear man too much because we fear God too little. And when we talk about fearing God, that means having the right estimation of who He is and the right proportion of what He is. And when you and I fully understand the greatness of our God (we sang about it earlier) and the magnificence of His mercy and the inexhaustible nature of His grace—we don’t need to fear anyone or anything, not life, not death.
Adrian Rogers famously said, “If Christians understood they were inhabited, they would be less inhibited.” Isn’t that good? Just write that down. That may just be worth coming this morning—that little statement in itself. Write it down, take it to work with you tomorrow. Meditate on it throughout this week. If Christians realized they were inhabited, they would be less inhibited.
In fact, Adrian Rogers, in his book on miracles, tells the story of a little boy who was trying to turn over a big rock as his father watched, amused and bemused. The little fella was grunting and straining and heaving to overturn this rock, and his father went out and engaged him. And with a whimsical smile, he said, “Son, are you using all your strength?” And the little fella, a little frustrated, looked up at his dad. “What do you mean? Of course I’m using all my strength!” To which his father replied, “No, you’re not. You haven’t asked me to help you.” Isn’t that good? Here are you and I in the middle of life, huffing and puffing, exhausted, and maybe our excuse to God is, “Lord, I’m doing my best. I’m giving You my all.” I think God would say, “Well, what are you doing that for? Why don’t you ask Me for help? Or why don’t you recognize I’ve already given you help in the Helper, the Comforter, the Strengthener?”
Let’s get these last two thoughts very quickly. The endearment. Boy, I hope you’re enjoying this as much as I’ve enjoyed studying it. The endearment. To remain fired up, you and I need to constantly warm ourselves at the fire of God’s love for us in the Lord Jesus. We’ve got to live loved if we’re going to live a full life.
That’s what Paul goes on to say here. For God has not given us an attitude, a spirit of intimidation or fear but of power and of love. The Holy Spirit not only supplies power; He supplies love (Rom. 5:5). It’s the Spirit of God who shares and sheds the love of God with us. As the Comforter, He comforts us with a knowledge of God’s love for us and the gospel in Christ demonstrated on the cross, measured in the blood of Jesus.
Now, here’s the thing. We’re going to connect Paul with John. We’re going to connect 2 Timothy 1:7 with 1 John 4:18. Paul is right, and I think John puts it more explicitly where he says in that verse, “Perfect love casts out fear.” See, when love comes in, fear goes out. You and I are to live loved.
I was asking myself this question this morning. In what ways does God’s love liberate? Why would a knowledge of God’s love, an experience of God’s love centered on the cross, which is the greatest expression of God’s love . . . Why would that liberate us? Well, start thinking about the character of God’s love and the character of God. Number one . . . I’m just going to read this. I’m not going to explain this, but I think this’ll resonate with you. In what ways does God’s love liberate? Number one, learning God’s selfless love in Christ helps to overcome the self-centeredness—which can be one of the many weaknesses of a sensitive person taken up with their own anxieties.
Number two, learning God’s eternal love in Christ helps us overcome our insecurities about the past, the present, and the future, because nothing will separate us from that love. Learning God’s costly love in Christ helps us overcome diminished views of ourselves, and it helps us to see the value God put upon His creation and the price He was willing to pay to redeem it.
Number four, learning God’s perfect love in Christ helps us cope as an imperfect person in an imperfect world. Five, learning God’s patient love in Christ helps us know that God remains committed to us even when we waver and we wobble and we fall down. Number six, God’s pre-existent love, the fact that He first loved us. God’s pre-existent love helps us to know that God loves us in Christ, and His love is fully informed, totally aware of the worst things about us, and still He loves us. He loved us before the foundation of the world. He loved us before we were born—knowing that we would be born, knowing that we would be born and chipped by sin, knowing that we would live a life beneath His glory, knowing that we would live in a manner that would offend His holiness. God knew all of that and still set His love on us, elected us, and adopted us.
Listen to J. I. Packer: “What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it—the fact that He knows me. I am graven on the palms of His hands. I am never out of His mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me. I know Him, because He first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend. . . . There is tremendous relief.” I want to say that again because it’s true. I hope it relieves you this morning of some of your anxiety. “There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion Him about me.”
Man, when you get a grasp of that’s the kind of love God has shown to us in Christ, you can’t live in fear. You can’t live being molested by the devil and his accusations. Love casts out fear and helps us live a full life. God loves us—always has, always will, and nothing will change that fact. That stirs you, doesn’t it? That gets you fired up—when you warm yourself at the fire of God’s love in Christ.
Finally, the enlightenment. Back to verse 7. Here’s our last thought. To remain fired up, we have to think straight, through the cultivation of a sound mind. You see, stinking thinking is the ruination of many a life. Wrong behavior, wrong direction is based on wrong thinking. A sound mind, a balanced mind, a mind that thinks right and rightly is one of the keys to being fired up and stirred up. Look at verse 7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
Listen, guys, very simple thought but profound. Everything in life and everything about you and me presently began with a thought, and that includes the bad things alongside the good. That’s how profound your mind is, how important a sound mind with sound judgment is. As a man thinks, so is he. We know it. The mind and the heart are the control centers of life. Everything in life, everything about us begins with a thought. That’s why we’ve got to cultivate a mind founded on sound judgment, informed by the Word of God and the character of God and the wisdom of the Spirit of God. Now, there’s a debate among commentators about this word “sound mind.” That’s how the New King James translates it. I’m not about to get into the weeds of that debate; I think it’s fair to say that Paul is encouraging Timothy to cultivate a balanced biblical mindset.
In fact, go to chapter 4, verse 5: “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” Be watchful in all things. I love the NIV here. If you’ve got an NIV, you know how it’s translated. Let me translate it as the NIV says: “But you, keep your head in all situations.” Isn’t that good? That’s a verse worth memorizing. Wherever you are, whatever you’re facing—work, family, life—keep your head in all situations, which means that you’re going to bring the Word of God to bear upon your thinking. You’re going to ask yourself several questions: Is this sinful? Is this expedient? Is this helpful? Is this holy? Is this my best choice? Will this indeed advance the work of God in my mind? Does this comport with the whole counsel of God? Am I mistaking worldly wisdom for heavenly wisdom? Do I know the difference? That kind of stuff’s got to go on. You’ve got to be a strategic critical thinker.
Most men don’t do a lot of thinking. We just go by instinct. We react. It’s not good, guys. Keep your head in all situations when others are losing theirs. Ask God for sound judgment. Develop an ability to think theologically, to think thoughts after God, as Van Til would talk about. I love that. I’m going to give you some homework and wrap this up. Warren Wiersbe has a wonderful outline for the book of Philippians, which is all about the mind. We often talk about Philippians is about the gospel, or Philippians is about joy. But actually, Philippians is about the mind.
He talks about a single mind (Phil. 1:27). He talks about a submissive mind (Phil. 2:5). He talks about a spiritual mind (Phil. 3:15). He talks about a secure mind (Phil. 4:7). Let me say that again, because this is what you need to cultivate. Ask God to help you develop a single mindedness, a single mind (Phil. 1:27); a submissive mind, a mind like Christ (Phil. 2:5); a spiritual mind that is set on that upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:15); a secure mind, a mind guarded by the peace of God (Phil. 4:7).
Guys, clear thinking clears the way to a full life. Clear thinking clears the way to a full life. You know the story of Martin Luther King and how he said, as a boy in Atlanta, he would get onto the buses that were segregated. At the front of the bus, there were seats for white people only, and at the back of the bus, there were seats for Negroes and black people. Even if the seats in the front of the bus were empty, no black person could sit in that seat. And he said this: “I would end up having to go to the back of that bus with my body, but every time I got on that bus, I left my mind up on the front seat. And I said to myself, ‘One of these days, I’m going to put my body up there where my mind is.’” Love that story. Our bodies end up where our minds are, so develop a sound judgment and a critical thought pattern. Conform to the Word and will of God.
All right, we gave you three quotes to begin with from Jim Elliot. I’ve got a fourth. It’s going to lead me right into my prayer. I remember actually using some of these quotes once, and someone in their church came up and said, here’s another Jim Elliot quote. “Sometimes we need less pats on the back and more kicks in the pants.” That’s a good quote. “Sometimes we need less pats on the back and more kicks in the pants.” Paul just gave Timothy a kick in the pants.
Father, we thank You for your Word—its relevance, its eternal nature, its power and sufficiency. It equips us unto every good work, and every time we read, it finds us. It speaks to the life we’re living or we’re not living, and we know it. And, Lord, this is a passage that kicks us in the pants. Stir up, fan into a flame your giftedness, your spiritual potential. Don’t be taking your foot off the accelerator. Don’t be putting your gear in neutral. Don’t be putting it in reverse because of fear. For God has not given us an attitude of fear.
Lord, we thank You that that’s your design and desire for us. You don’t want us to live in trepidation. You don’t want us to live as prisoners to fear, living beneath our privileges and our potential. You’ve given us power, sound judgment, love, the encouragement of the body and the presence of the Holy Spirit and the inspiration of a coming judgment. So, help us to take these truths to heart and take them on a road trip as we head further down the path of life. Lord, we thank You for these profiles and courage. Thank you for this challenge to have the courage to live fully. Lord, we thank you that many of us get to live out a long life, but help us to be concerned about a full life. Life is measured not by its duration but by its donation. Better to die young and full of a passion for God than to live long and watch the fire go out for Jesus’ sake. Amen.