Fear is an interesting emotion. You know it paralyzes people. You’ve heard of the deer in the headlights. It paralyzes and causes death. People sink because of fear. I think of Moses in the wilderness. He was there for 20 years and you would have thought that after 20 years of being in the wilderness, being led by fire by night and cloud by day, that having seen God part the Red Sea, that having seen God feed the Israelites every day and we’re talking over a million people by sending food from the sky, manna from heaven. Conquering the greatest army the world has ever seen, the Egyptian army, you would have thought after 20 years of physically hearing the voice of God, they would have had enough faith to conquer his fear after 20 years of this, to enter the Promised Land when God told him to. But instead, fear gripped his heart and he listened to the eight negative thinkers that came back and said we can’t do this, instead of listening to the two who said they could and most importantly, the voice of God who told them to do it. So they spent another 20 years in the wilderness.
Jesus called to Peter and Peter was on a boat and He said, “Come to Me.” And Peter got on the water and walked to Jesus. And not until fear gripped his heart, did he start to sink and then Jesus reached out and pulled him out of the water and pulled him into the boat.
Fear paralyzes, it destroys, it tears us down, it tears us apart and yet we realize that fear is overcome by the grace and the abundance of the will of God. That God does not give us a spirit of fear. But the Bible says He gives us a spirit of love, and a spirit of power, and a spirit of self-control.
St. Paul was really an apostle who was called by God as he was in the process of gathering Christians to persecute them. And in the process of that he had another assistant who was named Timothy, and this verse that I wish to share with you today is Paul’s writing to Timothy, encouraging his associate to hold firm in the faith and to be the person God’s called him to be. And in the process, he gave us these words. St Paul writes, “I have not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, and love and a sound mind.” I want to make sure you heard me. He did not give us a spirit of fear but what? Power, love and a sound mind. Now some of you heard me the second time. Let me try it one more time. I want to make sure you’ve got this. St. Paul told us that God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, and love and a sound mind. We’re almost there; I think I’ll hear you the next time. He did not give us a spirit of fear but a spirit of power, and love, and a sound mind. And now that I’ve got you understanding what this is all about, I want you to take these words with you wherever you go because these words are for every single one of us. God has not given us a spirit of fear. Fear paralyzes, fear sinks us, fear destroys us, we know that 85% of the ailments that people have are directly related to fear and stress. God does not give us a spirit of fear. He gives us a spirit of: power, and love and a sound mind.
And that’s what we know, that’s what the Bible tells us, that is what the Bible shares with us, and that’s what I truly believe with my entire being. The word power in Greek in the New Testament, if you’re to read the original language, the word you would read is the word dunamis. That’s where we get the word dynamite or dynamic. It is powerful! When you think of dynamite, what do you think of? You think of earth moving, you think of extreme explosions, you think of power. Dynamic speaker is one who has tremendous power and might really move people. Dynamic. However, in this specific passage of scripture, the context does not lead to an explosive power, but an enduring power. A power which has the ability to hold on through the toughest of times. A power that has the ability in the face of fear to continue to move. A power that has the ability to come from the gut and to say in spite of all these things, no matter what happens to me, I have the power to stand firm in my faith, in my beliefs, in my convictions. It’s the endurance power.
A young girl came to her grandmother, she was visiting her grandmother and when she woke up in the morning, she saw her grandmother looking at her hands. She was curious, she came over to her and she said grandma why are you looking at your hands? She said oh these hands have been with me my entire life. These hands mean a lot to me. When I was your age, these hands protected me when I would fall and save my face and save me from harm. When I was a baby these hands fed me. These hands have been with me through everything. These hands are what I fold when I pray. These hands have been used to clothe me my entire life. I’ve used these hands to hold your mother in my arms. And when she was a baby I would use these hands to wipe her tears and touch her face. With these hands, I displayed the love I had for your grandfather all these years, my wedding band. Let the world know how much I loved him. These hands I use to communicate. I’ve written notes, I’ve written letters, I’ve dialed the telephone. These hands have been everything to me. And the day will come when these hands will be held by the hand of Jesus Christ and He’ll lead me to the Father and I will meet God and I will touch Jesus’ face with these hands. That’s why I look at these hands. That’s enduring power. “I have not given you a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, and love.” Yeah, St. Paul knew what he was talking about, a spirit of love. He wrote the great love chapter: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love endures all things, hopes all things.” There is faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love.
An interesting thing is that the New Testament word for love is agape. You go elsewhere and you’ll read the Greek literature and you read erotic love, eros, and you read a friendship love, phileo, but in the New Testament, the love is agape. It is a unique love, it is a deep love, it is a divine love. And that’s the word we use here, is agape. It is the love of Christ, which surrounds, empowers, lifts, motivates and inspires us to be the people that He’s called us to be. It is truly the greatest of things.
Abraham Lincoln was in South Carolina, and when he was there he saw something that kind of rocked his world. He saw human beings being auctioned off for sale. And he saw this one young girl being auctioned off, and he decided he was going to buy her. He didn’t care what it cost; he’s going to buy her. And he won the bid! And she came up to him and she said now what are you going to do with me with a scorn on her face. And he said I bought only one thing today: I bought your freedom. I set you free. You’re free. And she’s dumbfounded, she didn’t know what to do and finally she looks at him and she said if I’m free, I’m going to go with you. And that’s agape love. “For God so loved the world,” for God so loved you and me, “that He gave His only son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” We have the freedom then, to follow Jesus. When we have that experience, where we make that commitment to follow Jesus Christ, our fear is gone. For St. Paul said it, “I have not given a spirit of fear but a spirit of power, and love and a sound mind.”
It’s interesting, the Greek word for a sound mind is something that isn’t used in the New Testament, in fact, this is the only place it’s used. And even though I know Greek quite well, I’m not familiar with this word. I know a derivative of it, the derivative is a sophia, which is wisdom, but this is sophronismos which actually has a different character to it, a different understanding. That’s why if you go and you read different translations you’ll get very different words. You have sound mind. It might be self-control, it may be self-discipline, it may be self-mastery. But what it comes down to is the fact that the spirit that is given to us, which we translate as well as untranslatable words, but let’s just translate it as sound mind is the ability for us to keep our positive thoughts alive and real in spite of the most dastardly circumstances we might find ourselves in. Our minds have the ability to realize that somehow, someway all things work together for good. And therefore, we have nothing to fear. But we have everything with which to praise God for because we have the power and the love and the sound mind that is promised to us by God. As a result of that, we cannot fail.
Washington DC airport ticket agent has offered us some examples of why our country might have some problems. Being in Washington DC, she hears all kinds of requests. For instance, she had a New Hampshire congresswoman ask for an aisle seat so that her hair wouldn’t get messed up by being near the window. Think about this, this is on an airplane. Okay? She got a call from a candidate staffer who wanted to go to Cape Town and she started to explain the length of the flight and the passport information, and then she interrupted me by saying hey, I’m not trying to make you look stupid, but Cape Town is in Massachusetts. She said without trying to make you look stupid, I calmly explained Cape Cod is in Massachusetts. Cape Town is in Africa. A senator’s aide called to inquire about a trip package to Hawaii and after going over all the cost info, she asked would it be cheaper to fly to California and then take the train to Hawaii? These are true. A senior senator called and had a question about the documents he needed in order to fly to China, and after a lengthy discussion about the passports, I reminded him that he needed a visa. I don’t need a visa; I’ve been to China many times and never have had to have one of those. I double-checked and sure enough, his stay required a visa. When I told him this, he said look I’ve been to China four times and every time I’ve been there they’ve always accepted my American Express. I’ve got 12 of them. Tell you what, I’ll put them online, you can read them there, all 12 of them. That’s just three. A sound mind.
We have been given a spirit of a sound mind so that we can use our abilities to think, to reason, to understand. And in the process of reasoning and understanding, it is our faith that creates the foundation upon which our emotions are created. So we face our fears with faith.
John Wimber is a mentor of mine. He actually was one of the few men who was allowed to teach at Fuller Theological Seminary without a master’s degree. I think all of their professors have at least a master’s now, if not a doctorate degree, and yet he had more students in his classes than all of the others put together. Hundreds of them. His class was called Signs and Wonders. He started a movement in California and across the nation called Vineyard Ministries. And he died of cancer several years ago. And his second bought with cancer was really inoperable and he knew that his days were numbered. And he went and he delivered a message in the church and one of the things he said in that message was, “I have been in a valley and I can tell you that the view is not that bad. The view is not that bad.” All we have to realize is as we go through life, and as we go in through those valleys and those very, very difficult times, the view isn’t that bad. We can see the beautiful vistas of the mountaintops because God has in store for us something far greater than we could ever possibly imagine in our human existence. So our minds tell us, and our hearts follow because God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and a sound mind.
Just recently, we were reminded of the 40th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr. There’s no question that that man changed American history. His very last words and his very last speech, he said, “I will fear no man.” I will fear no man. Why? Because God has given us the spirit of power and love and a sound mind and it is that sound mind that keeps us in the assurance of the realization of the promises and the truth of God. That neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things to come, nor things present will ever be able to prevent us from the love of Jesus Christ. And that love holds us and carries us to that day where we come face to face with Him. And we use these hands to hold His hand and to touch His face.
So we leave this place with the assurance and the conviction of God’s power, God’s love and God’s sound mind embedded into our hearts and our souls forever. Dear God we thank You that You just continue to embrace us with Your love. That You have given us a spirit that goes beyond our human thoughts. It is a spirit that is real today. It’s a spirit of power, it is a spirit of love, it is a spirit of a sound mind. So we thank You Lord, for what You’re doing today, and we love You always, Amen.