One final post from my dear friend Dr. Ken Chant….
Aesop has a fable about The Fox and the Pheasants, in which a wily old fox compels a group of pheasants to watch him dance until they are so terrified they fall off their perch and into his hungry mouth. The moral is ‒ Too much attention to danger may cause us to fall victims to it.
It reminds me of Paul’s great affirmation ‒ “God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
A Spirit of Fear
Paul strikes a contrast between the law and the gospel. The law came with such thunder and lightning and awful majesty that it terrified the people. For ever after they were fearful of approaching God (cp. Ecc 5:1-2). The law means fearfulness. That ancient piety still rules many people, and makes them timid in prayer and expectation of good things from God. But we should discard those old trembles and bravely accept the incredible freedom that God has given us in Christ! We may and should go boldly to the throne of grace and find all the grace and mercy we need to help us in every time of need! (Hebrews 4:16; 1 John 5:14-15)
Our text also refers to life in general, and the need to seize the courage and boldness that are God’s gift to us. The Greek word used by Paul in our text occurs only here in the NT. It means fearfulness ‒ that is, succumbing to anxiety, dread, worry, fretfulness. These are people, like those pheasants, who are focussed on peril rather than deliverance, on bad things happening to them, instead of a good answers to prayer..
Jesus spoke about this too, in his Sermon on the Mount, and told us not to behave like heathens, who worry about where they will live, what they will wear, how they will eat, how they can escape sickness, and the like. Such people forget that God is their Father, unfailing in love and kindness..
A Spirit of Power
Paul does not mean that we must all turn into people with a powerful personality, because most of us will never be like that. Nor does he mean that we can do whatever we please, nor act the despot, nor compel others to bend to our will, nor oblige life to obey our every whim.
Rather this is power to do the will of God, to claim his promise, to defeat the devil, to overcome sin, to press steadily on until we gain the prize in Paradise. The Greek word is dunamis, from which comes dynamite. So it is also power to live in the realm of God’s supernatural provision, to see miracles of answered prayer.
How wonderful to know, as we face life, in all our frailty, that this power to overcome, to succeed, to make it to the prize, is resident within us!
We are not helpless victims! We have the power either to hold firm or to overthrow, to stay standing when the world is falling over, to do what God wants, to fulfil our own best dreams of ourselves, and even better, God’s dream!
A Spirit of Love
Tertullian (3rd century) records the saying, “See how much these Christians love one another!” Those words are often misquoted as evidence of the ancient world’s admiration of the church; but it was actually a piece of pagan mockery. Thus Tertullian describes how the church does many good things ‒ prays for the emperor and for peace and prosperity, cares for widows and orphans, looks after the sick, feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, nurtures the weak and the elderly, and the like. Then he says ‒
“But it is mainly because of our godly and loving deeds that so many put a brand upon us. ‘See,’ they say, ‘how much these Christians love one another,’ for they themselves are animated by mutual hatred. And they say, ‘How these Christians are ready even to die for one another,’ for they themselves will sooner put others to death.
“And the ungodly are angry with us, too, because we call each other ‘brethren’; for no other reason, as I think, than because among themselves names of consanguinity are assumed in mere pretence of affection.” (Apology 39)
Nowhere is this quality of Christian love shown more strikingly than in the six injunctions to “Greet each other with a holy kiss” (Ro 16:16; 1 Co 16:20; 2 Co 13:12) . . . “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus with a kiss” (Ph 4:21) . . . “Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss” (1 Th 5:26) . . . “Greet all the believers with the kiss of love” (1 Pe 5:14).
The early church quickly embraced this command and commonly shared the kiss immediately after the eucharist each week. It demonstrated their genuine fondness and care for each other, their true fellowship. It marked their triumph over pagan passions, for despite coming out of an environment where every kind of depravity was widely and openly practised, they were able to embrace each other in holiness.
I do not mean that we necessarily have to show our love in the same way, but that nonetheless there is no faith worth mentioning unless it is warmed by love. A church that is not marked by real, active, caring love is merely a religious club, a pile of ashes.
And a Sound Mind
Not driven by emotion, or passion, or whim, or impulse, but exercising sound judgment in giving, in prayer, in service, in worship, in marriage, indeed in everything, every aspect of life. The Greek word, which too is used only here in the NT, describes a person who is prudent, discreet, well-balanced.
But the best thing about our text is that it describes something God has already done for us. So there is nothing for us to do but to believe that the gift is ours, to obey the command, and begin to live it out! For it is true ‒ “God has not given you a spirit of fear but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
Thank you one and all. Dr. Ken Chant