2 Tim. 1:6-8
Therefore, I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Therefore, do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God…
We enjoy certain religious freedoms here that are not common elsewhere. That can lead us to forget that we have brothers and sisters who are suffering as Paul suffered for his faith. Perhaps you have read stories similar to those I have read of modern day Christians suffering for Christ in ways we cannot imagine enduring. It is not an irregular practice for a Christian family in an area known for Christian persecution to have its patriarch imprisoned or worse as a way to try to break the faith of the family he no longer can support. It is a method used to strip that family of its security and power, to raise fear and insecurity. Yet when we peel back the layers of that onion, what we find is an opportunity for God’s power and love to manifest in an incredible way.
Here we have Paul beginning a letter to Timothy instructing him on how to carry on his own ministry. Paul is nearing the end of his life, and his words in the last chapter of this letter tell us that. He has suffered for the gospel, and that suffering certainly caused fear in many who followed his teachings. In this letter he specifically names Demas as one disciple who ultimately returned to the world he loved. Paul’s persecution during his time of ministry and the circumstances leading to his death seem dark, and they might have made the early Church nervous, but they are a bright light for the true follower of Christ. That is what he is trying to bring home for Timothy in this letter. The enemy might mean all his suffering for fear, to make one consider abandoning the gospel for false comfort and security, but God uses that same suffering to bring about great things in the spirit.
Our Lord often seems to do things a little backwards. He tells us that the last will be first, and the first will be last. The Son of God obtained his victory over sin by going through what looked to many like an obvious defeat. It should be no surprise, then, that we derive our spiritual power from submitting to God and letting ourselves occupy very lowly places. Paul’s words about fear and power and suffering and love are there to show us the inverted kingdom in which we live, where persecution is turned to joy. Pain is nothing; fear is an allusion. What the world and our great enemy design for our humiliation is used by God to glorify himself and give his kingdom spiritual victory. The trial is a treasure we should desire to collect. Father, thank You for the spirit You give us to defeat fear, to see it for what it is and use it to bring You glory.