I’ve never had a death sentence either, but I would imagine that knowing I was scheduled to be executed would multiply the darkness, loneliness, and fear a hundredfold.
That’s why reading Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 1:7 puzzled me:
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
How could the apostle Paul be fearless when he was sitting in a dark, smelly, nasty Roman prison, chained to guards and awaiting execution? At his trial, all his friends had forsaken him. Even those who had previously stood by him fled for fear of similar persecution. Some had even spread lies about him, hoping to add to his afflictions. Winter was coming, and he lacked appropriate clothing. Death and disease were all around him.
Yet he encouraged Timothy, his beloved son in the faith, “Don’t be afraid. We are not powerless. Love others. Think on those things that are true.”
I’ve heard the phrase, “Dying grace,” and I see it manifested in the latter days of Paul’s life. As he sat and waited for the day of his execution, probably by decapitation, as was the way of the Romans, he was fearless. In a strange way, he was even looking forward to the day.
"For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better,” he wrote in Philippians 1:23.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve felt more than a few twinges of fear lately, and I’m nowhere near a prison cell.
We live in a culture that no longer respects and values Judaeo-Christian ethics. It sees Christians as menaces to society, not assets. Our laws and public policies are becoming increasingly hostile to men and women of faith.
And then there’s the election.
Feel a tremor of fear yet? Have I ruined your first cup of coffee? Cinched that knot in your gut a little tighter? Well, stay with me, because the secret to Paul’s fearless acceptance of his circumstances is also our key to a fearless life:
“For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Tim. 1:12).
Paul’s eyes weren’t on the cold stone of his jail cell. They weren’t on the death sentence hanging over his soon-to-be-decapitated head. They weren’t even on his own inner strength. Paul’s eyes were on Christ.
“I know whom I have believed. . .” he said.
Paul didn’t find his peace within himself. He found his peace in the person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus, who could not lie. Jesus, who promised to keep his soul from hell.
Jesus, who swore to reward his efforts with gold, silver, and precious stones.
Jesus, who defeated death and proved it could be done.
Jesus, who endured the cross, despised the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God because his work of redemption was finished.
“I know whom I have believed,” Paul said. “I know he is able to keep my soul from perishing and make everything right in the end.” In this he found hope, strength, and courage. And fearlessness.
Do you want to live a fearless life? Take a lesson from Paul. Know the Christ in whom you believe. Study his life. Read his book. Follow his example. Trust him with everything that is dear to you and never look back.
“. . . Keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry” (1 Tim. 4:5).
Then, when the day comes, we can say with the mighty apostle,
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (1 Tim. 4:6-8).
What promises of Christ help banish fear from your life? Here are a few of my favorites:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deu. 31:6).
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10).
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear” (Psa. 46:1).
Why not commit one of these verses to memory this week? Then whenever fear threatens to overwhelm you, you’ll have a powerful weapon to use to defeat it.
What about you? How do you banish fear from your life? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts. If you’re reading by email, click HERE to visit Hungry for God online, scroll down, and leave a comment at the end of the post.