Empowered to conquer fear (a meditation on how God enables us to live in faith instead of fear)

…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. ~2 Timothy 1:7

Several years ago a friend, Kevin, and I took a trip out west—7 days, 6 nights, 6 different hotels, and over three thousand miles in a car. One of our stops was Zion National Park in Utah. Somehow, someway Kevin convinced me to hike Angels Landing with him. For those unfamiliar, part of the trail includes a narrow path (only a few feet wide) with a 1000+ foot drop on each side.

Some might relish such an adventure, but I happen to be a person who grew up with a fear of heights. I’ll be the first to admit that my fear is not consistent. Strap me into the car of a roller coaster and I can happily go high, fast, and upside down with no problems. Give me a ladder and tell me to climb onto a one story roof and I’ll say, “No way.” So perhaps the fear is really being off the ground but not strapped into anything…

Anyway. Before we even made it to the part of the trail I described above, we took a break at a much wider section that was slightly slanted. Kevin crawled to the upper ledge, peered over, and urged me to do the same. I did and promptly backed away and had a mild meltdown where I was determined to go no further.

Fear can be a powerful thing.

After a few minutes passed, Kevin decided to go on and informed me that either I could join him or he would see me on the return trip. I took another minute to ponder. I reasoned that at the age of thirty and this being my first trip to Utah, I was not likely to return anytime soon. I reminded myself that as many years as the park had been open and the thousands upon thousands of visitors, only a handful had ever fallen to their death on the trail. With safety chains to hold on the more dangerous parts, the odds were in my favor to not be included in that number. Finally, I reminded myself that God is sovereign over life and death. On the one hand I should not put him to the test by tap dancing on the ledge of a cliff, but on the other hand if it was my time to go then it could just as easily happen with the bite of a rabid chipmunk as it could a fall.

So I got up, pressed on past my fear, and was happy I did. The views proved jaw-dropping.

Fear can be a powerful thing and too often it holds us back. It seems that in surveys the top reasons we as followers of Jesus keep quiet about our faith is that we are afraid. We’re afraid we won’t say the right thing. We’re afraid the person may respond negatively or lash out. We’re afraid they might ask questions we are unable to answer. We’re afraid they’ll think we’re weird.

Yet time and time again throughout the Bible God tells his people do not fear. Fear and faith are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Fear slows us down or paralyzes us due to the worry about negative consequences. Faith recognizes that God is in control even if everything indeed crumbles around us.

Fear blinds our hearts and minds to God’s will and purpose. Faith embraces his will and purpose even in the face of danger or the unknown.

The great thing is that God does not leave us to battle fear on our own. Paul wrote his final letter to his young friend Timothy to encourage him to remain bold in his work and witness. Timothy, it seems, had shrunk back due to pressure—a fear of man. Paul reminded him that he was gifted and had the Holy Spirit dwelling within, so there was no reason to be ashamed of Jesus and his word, even if being faithful meant suffering (2 Timothy 1:6-14).

In this Paul told Timothy that God does not give a spirit of fear. Rather he gives to us that we might be people who live by his power who walk in his love and who demonstrate self-control. Fear is powerful but God has given us everything we need to fight against it and overcome. Or to quote Paul from Romans 8, “We are more than conquerors through Christ.”

When faced with fear, keep looking to the God who is greater than your fear. Keep your faith focused on Jesus. Remember that you have the Holy Spirit of the living God dwelling within you. And remind yourself that God is the one who grants us power, love, and self-control.

2 tim 1_7

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.

Image credit: theversesproject.com/verses/28/2-Timothy-1.7

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