When You’re Afraid to Follow God
2 Timothy 1:1-12
Dr. Jim Denison
We’re talking this morning about fear. Apparently, the experts think we have much to discuss.
It’s a new year, so you could have Neophobia, the fear of anything new. Given your location, you might suffer from Ecclesiophobia, the fear of being in church. Most people find this phobia increasing as the offertory time draws near. You might earlier have experienced Melophobia, the fear of music. You might now feel Homilophobia, the fear of sermons.
I’ll try to help you avoid my favorite phobia: Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, the fear of long words.
Today I want to talk with you about Theophobia, the fear of God. More precisely, Fiduciatheophobia, the fear of trusting in God. As we begin the new year by seeking to live in the purpose and will of God, let’s discuss the greatest obstacle standing between most of us and such obedience: our fear of following God’s will.
The fact is that most of us, somewhere in our lives and stories, are afraid of what would happen if we were to trust God fully. Our Western culture likes to trust what we can see, measure, and predict. We like five-year plans and long range goals. We see history as linear, and the lack of contradiction as the test for all truth. We want our future to be planned and predictable. But we cannot see God. And we cannot plan or predict his will.
And so we’re afraid that he will ask more of us than we can give, more than we are able to do or give to him. He’ll ask us to teach when we can’t teach, or to give more than we can give. Or we’re afraid that he’ll ask more of us than we want to give, that he’ll lead us where we don’t want to go, that the price of following him will be higher than we want to pay.
Most of us have an area or person in our lives which we are afraid to surrender to God’s purpose and will. Do you? Where’s yours?
Remember who you are (vs. 1-7)
Fear of following God was young Timothy’s greatest problem in his life and work.
“If Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am. No one, then, should refuse to accept him. Send him on his way in peace so that he may return to me” (1 Corinthians 16:10-11).
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).
Timothy wept when the apostle left him in Ephesus on his departure to Macedonia (2 Timothy 1:4; cf. 1 Timothy 1:3).
His first fear was ours: we are unable. If we trust fully the will of God, he will want us to do things we can’t, to give more than we can give, to do more than we can do.
Moses stuttered, so he told God he couldn’t speak to Pharaoh. Jeremiah told the Lord he was too young. Isaiah confessed that his lips and life were unclean. When Peter saw Jesus perform a miracle he exclaimed, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
Most of us feel the same way. If you surrender your life and year to God, he might lead you to do more than you can do, and you’ll fail. Here’s what to do.
First, remember who you are: a child of God (vs. 1-2).
Timothy was Paul’s “dear son” in the faith (v. 2). And he was the child of God before he was the “son” of Paul. So are you.
Your culture says you are what you can produce, or how you look, or how well your kids do, or what you own. God says you are his child: “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16). And no good Father will ask his child to fail.
Next, remember where you’re from: your heritage in faith (vs. 3-5).
Timothy’s father was not a believer. The people of his hometown of Lystra stoned Paul and left him for dead; what might they do to this young disciple of his Lord? But God used his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois to lead him to Christ and nurture his faith. God protected him and then gave him the greatest apostle in Christian history as his ministry partner.
God has brought you this far. If your parents were godly, remember their gifts to your soul. Remember your salvation and those who helped bring you to Christ. Think of Sunday school teachers, pastors, friends who have helped you in the faith. Think of times and places where God protected you from harm. He didn’t bring you this far to leave you. He’s not going to fail you now.
Now, remember what he has given you: your spiritual gifts (v. 6).
Timothy was given spiritual gifts which are exactly what he needed to fulfill God’s will for his life. So have you. He has already given you whatever you need to do what he wants you to do.
But like young Timothy, we must “fan into flame” this gift. How do you fan a spark into flame? You feed it the fuel of wood and oxygen. You protect it from winds which would extinguish it. You continue to grow it, adding more and more fuel as it is able to use them effectively. You diligently focus upon it, not sporadically. You do this with urgency, for the fire is important to you in the cold or with the food to be cooked.
So with your spiritual gifts. Do you know yours? Are you feeding them through prayer, Bible study, and worship? Are you focusing upon using them to fulfill God’s will for your life? God’s gifts will not let you fail his purpose for you.