Sometimes we hear a verse so many times, we forget the original context. Unfortunately, this can cause us to miss the main point of the verse. I’ve realized this myself recently with a key verse from 2 Timothy.
At some point or another, I’m sure most of us have either heard or read the following passage:
“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).
Beautiful words, ones we often turn to for encouragement when we’re afraid or anxious about a certain situation. However, there is a particular emphasis Paul is making that becomes clear when we take a few moments and get a little broader view of the text.
Paul begins with a pretty typical greeting, but in the first two verses, he uses the term “Christ Jesus” three times (vv. 1, 2). This is the first thing to note, and I’ll come back to it in a moment.
In the following lines, Paul uses language of assurance. Notice these phrases: “clear conscience” (v. 3), “I am mindful of the sincere faith within you” (v. 5), “I am sure” (v. 5). He is confident, convinced of certain truths, and they are all related.
What ties all these phrases of assurance together is that they all refer to our “faith” in the true gospel of “Christ Jesus” (vv. 1, 5). Paul is reminding Timothy to think back to the truths he had heard about Jesus “from childhood” (2 Timothy 3:15). These are settled truths, things Paul and timothy knew beyond a shadow of a doubt. We can have the same assurance.
Paul then uses verse 7 as a hinge verse. In other words, he is telling Timothy, “My son, listen—you know these truths, and I assure you that we can stand firm on the gospel. The Spirit within you is powerful, and He is doing a mighty work in your life. Therefore, go forth with confidence because you know the truth.” This is significant, for if you read 1 and 2 timothy, it seems that this young man struggled with self-confidence. Paul was constantly encouraging him to be bold, to stand firm, to be unwavering. He could stand firm, but not because he psyched himself up, but because he knew the gospel.
This is insightful, but like I said, verse 7 is only the transition. Paul reminds Timothy of the certainty of the gospel, emphatically states that “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power,” and then calls Timothy to “join with [him] in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:7, 8).
Now we might be putting on the breaks. Wait a minute—we are called to suffer? To tell the truth, we are, and Paul makes no bones about it. For instance, he tells timothy later in this letter, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). No might’s or maybe’s. Simply, “will be persecuted” (v. 12).
Now we have the overall message Paul was communicating in 2 Timothy 1:7. He was telling Timothy “that in the last days difficult times will come,” and he needed to be ready for it (2 Timothy 3:1). But Timothy didn’t have to fret, didn’t have to worry, didn’t have to despair. The “spirit” we have received is One “of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). We are not left alone. Timothy could have peace as he faced the future because of the One empowering him.
And this is what Jesus Himself told us. He told His disciples to expect persecution, saying, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). He spoke those words hours before He was betrayed. Yet in that same conversation, He also said, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). There is confidence in knowing Jesus and in knowing that the victory is already secure.
So back to what we learn from 2 Timothy 1:7. We need to understand that uncertainty about the future should not hold us back from living for Christ. We need to be bold, realizing that we can be confident because our assurance comes from Someone else, not ourselves. Not flaunting in a self-righteous or arrogant way, but a simple, genuine, humble confidence that we know the truth. Jesus told us, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32).
I’ll be honest, this can be difficult. We worry about acceptance by others, we desire their approval, and sometimes we cover our light a little bit. I know I do. But the Lord has been showing me that I can have confident boldness because I know Him, the Creator and Ruler of the world. Jesus said that “no one is able to snatch [us] out of the Father’s hand” (john 10:29). I can stand firm, regardless of what other people might say. I am not living to please them, but “God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling” (2 Timothy 1:8, 9).
So will you join with me? Will we stand firm for the gospel, drawing our confidence from Jesus rather than ourselves? Let’s be honest, “difficult times” are coming (2 timothy 3:1). We are going to need strength and “power” (2 timothy 1:7). If we rely upon ourselves for that, we are going to fall. So let us look to Jesus, cling to Him, and go forth in the confidence that He gives all those who know the truth of the gospel.