September 24, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”—2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV)
Did you know there’s a difference between fear and fearfulness, or a spirit of fear? On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference, right? But when you peel back the layers and dive a little deeper, you discover there’s actually a huge difference.
You see, fear is the visceral, raw, instinctual, and natural emotion we feel when threatened or under duress. It’s a reaction to perceived danger. Everyone feels fear; it’s completely natural and unavoidable. And it’s something that comes in a moment and can be overcome, dispelled, and cast out.
A spirit of fear or fearfulness is different. Fearfulness is the state in which we linger in fear and allow fear to dominate and consume our lives. It takes the natural emotional response and turns it into a lifestyle. Fear is a feeling; a spirit of fear is a way of life.
To show the difference, I’d like to point you to the contrast in Daniel 1 between Daniel and the administrator placed over him. You see, Daniel had “resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine” and asked the chief official “for permission not to defile himself this way” (Daniel 1:8 NIV). In response to this, we see that this man was operating out of a spirit of fear. He was fearful of his reputation, his status, and his life. He lived in a constant state of fear, particularly as it pertained to King Nebuchadnezzar.
And truthfully, friends (and I say this with much gentleness and with a delicate heart), nonbelievers have cause for operating out of a spirit of fear. Why? They have no hope, no confident assurance, nor any security or peace to cling to, walk in, and rest on. They have no power to draw strength from and no foundation to stand strong in. But contrast the modus operandi of this official with that of Daniel and his friends (Daniel 3:16–18, 6:10–16). Do you see the difference? Daniel, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego had a true and living hope because they had put their trust in the true and living God. They may have experienced fear as the threat of a fiery death and being locked in a hole with ferocious lions loomed, but they didn’t operate from an attitude of anxiety or allow the spirit of fear to fester.
How? Romans 8:15 (ESV) declares, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” 1 John 4:18 (NIV) says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” And my favorite, 2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV, emphasis added), tells us, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
You see, Daniel and his friends could demonstrate the self-control necessary to refrain from defiling themselves, from bowing before an idol, or praying to anyone but the Lord because God had given them power and peace and confidence. As believers, we don’t have to live in a spirit of fear. We can live in victory and freedom. We can cast out fear and overcome anxiety by the power of the Holy Spirit and the transforming work of Christ, which enables us to stand firm, flee temptation, and live faithfully.
Pause: What’s the difference between fear and a spirit of fear? How does a spirit of fear erode our self-control? How have you seen this to be true in your life?
Practice: If you’re struggling with anxiety and fearfulness, know that there’s hope for you and that you can overcome this. Today, I encourage you to pray about what your next steps should be—speaking to a pastor, seeking biblical counseling, etc. There’s no shame in this. There’s nothing wrong with you. Freedom is waiting. If you need to reach out, I’m here! E-mail me at DanielS@CalvaryFTL.org.
Pray: Father, the power of the Spirit that is in me, which is greater than the spirit that is in this world, I ask that You would daily pour Your power, love, and peace into my life so I may walk in self-control, courage, and with a sound mind. When my thoughts race and my mind defaults to a spirit of fear, may Your perfect love cast out fear so I may stand firm and unwavering and live with conviction in a world of compromise. Amen.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.