Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:6-7, NKJV
The Scripture, quoted above, is the focus of this post, and in the context of enemies that are not always visible, nor are they always external.
On The Enemies Within
Many believers are familiar with warfare against “external enemies,” so to speak*, but there are those that fester and pester within as well.
These usually have to do with old thoughts and habits, heresies and wrong thinking we haven’t yet dealt with or that we are simply in the next phase of extricating from, such as leftovers of legalism from our past religious life, or perhaps even cult teachings that can effect us not only spiritually but mentally, emotionally, and psychologically as well.
Internal enemies also include depression, confusion, cognitive dissonance, and emotional and/or mental illness–human causes of anxiety whether aside from or connected to spiritual conditions.
Perhaps these “enemies within” our consciousness trouble us via some triggering event or thought, or perhaps by remembering and lingering over a past trial or tribulation.
Or perhaps they are old or new voices and vices or simply the vicissitudes of life as a flawed human being on this planet.
Whatever the cause or origin, however, it can be tempting to hoard such thoughts and impressions until they pile up into mild anxiety or full blow panic attacks.
Mostly, though, I think such internal troublemakers are like a low grade fever in the body. They suppress our “spiritual immune system,” you might put it, keeping us not quite as focused, not quite as ministry-oriented (and all work done in Christ is ministry of one kind or another), and certainly lacking in that “joy of the Lord” which is one of our strengths.
And there are many Christians, from prophecy scholars to anybody observing the signs of the times, who believe our time is short until the end of this “Church Age;” thus, we need to remain in our ministry fields at home, work, the world at large, or in our “prayer closet,” as there is yet a spiritual “harvest” to be tended, and as Jesus noted, “the laborers are few.”
(Aside: and guess “who” would like to keep us on the sidelines?)
So to today’s verse offering some encouragement to realign our focus from the always troubling world, flesh, and devil, to things above. It’s put like this is Philippians 4:8 (NIV):
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
First, some definitions of the terms in verse 7 of 2 Timothy 1.
On Fear, Power, Love, and Sound-Mindedness
First and foremost in this quest for God’s provision when one’s mind, emotions, psyche, and/or spirit are assailed by thoughts and/or beliefs warring against the truth of God’s Word is what is contained in verse 6: “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”
Of course most gifts from God may not include an actual, physical, “laying on of hands” (or prayers over one from an elder in a church, as in the specific reference to Timothy’s case), but all are called to serve in one way or another. And each person’s calling and gifting is important and unique, even as we are each a necessary “part” of the Body of Christ. See here for a recent post of encouragement that touches on this topic.
Along with the ministries God calls us to–and gifts us for (here is a list and summary)–He also gives us the ability to overcome our enemies whether from without or within.
Verse 7 of the 2 Timothy passage sheds light on the very human internal struggle (rooted in fear) and the very hopeful and encouraging reality of our spiritual condition, although it might not always seem hopeful at first–but here’s where the power, love, and sound-mindedness come in.
To the original language and nuances:
On fear: deilia–cowardice, timidity. See also: deilós (an adjective derived from deidō, “fear-driven”) – properly, dreadful, describing a person who loses their “moral gumption (fortitude)” that is needed to follow the Lord.
On power: dunamis—(miraculous) power, might, strength; universally, “inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth.”
On love: agápē–love, benevolence, good will, esteem; plur: love-feasts;properly, love which centers in moral preference. So too in secular ancient Greek, 26 (agápē) focuses on preference; likewise the verb form (25 /agapáō) in antiquity meant “to prefer” (TDNT, 7). In the NT, 26 (agápē) typically refers to divine love (= what God prefers). Affection or benevolence.
On sound-mindedness: sóphronismos –self-control, self-discipline, prudence. For an extended version, see** below for the root of this word which compares this type of sound-mindedness to “diaphram,” (which comes from the same root word), i.e., “the inner organ (muscle) that regulates physical life, controlling breathing and heart beat.”
Selah (pause and ponder this): in all of the external (and internal) fear and strife in the world ginned up by way of the triumvirate of trouble–the world, the flesh and the devil–God has graced us with the oasis of aid, comfort, and encouragement (power, love, and a sound mind) as promised in 2 Timothy, 1:6-7.
And when we get lost/worried/fearful in the ever-increasing strife, taking some time to reflect on this is a good oasis to retreat to–and recover from–what ails the soul.
For an excellent summary of the Scripture and its full, extended, inspiring, and empowering definition, I invite you to bask in the following commentary by Matthew Henry:
“Now God hath therefore armed us against the spirit of fear, by often bidding us fear not…Fear not the face of man; fear not the dangers you may meet with in the way of your duty…God hath delivered us from the spirit of fear, and hath given us the spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. The spirit of power, or of courage and resolution to encounter difficulties and dangers; – the spirit of love to God, which will carry us through the opposition we may meet with, as Jacob made nothing of the hard service he was to endure for Rachel: the spirit of love to God will set us above the fear of man, and all the hurt that a man can do us; – and the spirit of a sound mind, or quietness of mind, a peaceable enjoyment of ourselves, for we are oftentimes discouraged in our way and work by the creatures [of] our own fancy and imagination, which a sober, solid, thinking mind would obviate, and would easily answer. 2. The spirit God gives to his ministers is not a fearful, but a courageous spirit; it is a spirit of power, for they speak in his name who has all power, both in heaven and earth; and it is a spirit of love, for love to God and the souls of men must inflame ministers in all their service; and it is a spirit of a sound mind, for they speak the words of truth and soberness.”
Friends and co-laborers: carry on in power, love, and a sound mind.
*For information and commentary on enemies from “without” and how as believers we can deal with them, along with some very practical measures we can take, I invite the reader to choose from a list of posts here.
**On the root of “sound-mindedness” (I love this comparison):
sṓphrōn (from sōos, “sound, safe” and 5424 /phrḗn, “inner outlook” which regulates outward behavior) – properly, safe (sound) because moderated, referring to what is prudent because correctly (divinely) balanced (which is far more than being “the middle of the road”).
4998 /sṓphrōn (“acting in God’s definition of balance“) makes someone genuinely temperate, i.e. well-balanced from God’s perspective. True balance is not “one-size-fits-all” nor is it blandly static. Biblical moderation (4998 /sṓphrōn) describes “a man who does not command himself, but rather is commanded by God‘” (K. Wuest, Word Studies, 2, 46). This root (sōphro-, “soundness”) then reflects living in God-defined balance.
[The root (phrēn) is the root of “diaphram,” the inner organ (muscle) that regulates physical life, controlling breathing and heart beat.
Image of anxious face from Wiki Media Commons
Yes, as I have often said before, as far as many of the churches go, the enemy is no longer at the gates, he is within the citadel.
And what better place to seduce believers away from truth than in the sanctuary, whether literal or figurative? After all, why would our “real enemy” mess with non-believers and those actively resistant to the Gospel? Doesn’t need to.