For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God… 2 Timothy 1:6-8
There once live a man who never risked, he never tried.
He never laughed, he never prayed, he never cried.
Then one day when he passed away, his insurance was denied.
They said since he never really lived, then he never really died! Anonymous
“If your vision doesn’t scare you, then neither your vision nor your God is very big!” Brother Andrew
Not to be harsh, but it’s my observation that a disproportionate percentage of American believers in Jesus are timid in the expression of their faith. There are “don’t-dare-miss-it” people and then there are “don’t-dare-try-it” ones. I think Christians should be more courageous, not only out in the big bad world, but even among themselves in their comfortable churches. Jesus has too many frail followers here – afraid to take any risks or do anything for the first time. There’s something about our middle class suburban spirituality that lulls us toward a tentative, rather than a forward form of faith.
When there’s plenty of actual adventure to be had in locating what God is doing and doing it with him, many Christians use up all their adrenaline in front of their computers and flat screens content with virtual adventure. They’d rather watch adventure on a screen than venture into God’s daily quest to bring heaven here. Their feet, instead of flapping in the wind holding on for dear life to God’s back bumper, have fallen asleep atop of their ottomans.
One of Satan’s favorite strategies is to get Christians all jammed up with lesser fears, apt distractions to our bigger purposes, fears about money or romance or public speaking or the neighbor’s disapproval. If he can, he’ll get us stalled over fears unworthy of God’s soldiers. The soldier who is afraid of bugs or germs or the dark doesn’t ever have the chance to face the bigger fears of war. “Be careful,” preached Jesus, “or your hearts will be weighted down with dissipation… and the anxieties of life and that day will close on you unexpectedly” Luke 21. The anxieties of life are often “pop-ups” generated by our adversary to get us off task of the grand adventure. Sometimes when I ask fellow followers how I can pray for them, I’m surprised by what’s on their screens instead of eternal kingdom purposes.
Jesus put things in perspective when he said, “Don’t fear those who can only kill your body…” What are you afraid of – the worst they can do to you is kill you! That’s not worthy of being on the list of things to fear. With those smaller fears as our predominant preoccupation, we may never get around to the scary adventure of advancing the kingdom. Preoccupied with fears of stock market lulls or our sports team … we won’t have space in our hearts for the truly important challenges of life. Risking a friendship to share Christ with a co-worker, deciding to take our vacation money and use it for a missions trip to India, or volunteering in an AIDS clinic will be so far down the list of messages in our inbox that we’ll probably never even see it…..
If we’re not derailed by lesser fears the “spirit of fear” will knock us off track by spawning qualms about the bigger causes for which we were designed. If his tactic of distracting us with pathetic phobias doesn’t succeed, and we’re considering taking on worthy eternal challenges, his stage two scheme will be to tempt us to balk with fear of the consequences of following Jesus in true cross-bearing. “What if I fail in that ministry or my career path is delayed by pursuing what it seems God is telling me to do? I might get hurt in such a dangerous neighborhood. I’m not sure I’m gifted enough for that ministry. Is it even wise to give that much money away to that ministry to orphans?” You see the difference between these fears and the former ones, right? But keep in mind, these are still fears, and most definitely not created by the adventurous Spirit of God. Small fears or large, we need power, love and self-discipline to overcome them.
I’ve heard that a sports team that “plays scared” doesn’t tend to fare well by the end of the game. If they play to “avoid losing” instead of to win, they have probably lost before ever stepping foot on the playing field or court. So many of our brothers and sisters are using up all their courage and faith to just stay saved. To them, the church is a safe-deposit box to keep us sheltered from difficulties and the devil. They would consider it a victory just to sneak into heaven, let alone get anyone else there.
I think we need a shove toward spiritual bravery, but rather than use some spiritual hero – a Joshua, an Elijah, or a John the Baptist – to do the shoving, I’ll use someone whose personality was, by nature, and maybe nurture, more timid than intrepid. He was called by God to lead a life of spiritual influence, but he tended more to temerity than to bravery. In my own battle to be a better servant of God I’m sometimes inspired more by people who aren’t natural-born spiritual superstars, people who struggle like I do, and yet, for the Bridegroom’s sake, have overcome their limitations and fears. Timid Timothy was such a man.
[part two coming soon…]