June 29, 2020
By Mariam Kamel
“Timothy, I thank God for you – the God I serve with a clear conscience, just as my ancestors did. Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. I long to see you again, for I remember your tears as we parted. And I will be filled with joy when we are together again. I remember your genuine faith … This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:3-7 NLT)
Recently, I have found myself quite fearful of the future. Will things ever go back to the way they were? Will I ever be able to hold a hand, hug a friend, see the smile of a stranger? Or will we always be confined behind a pair of masks and gloves? My thoughts consumed my mind as answers began to seem unclear day in and day out. I turned to my Bible, and God led me to the apostle Paul writing his last letter to Timothy. It is in these four short verses that Paul teaches us that we cannot always pray our way out of a circumstance, but we can pray our way into peace.
Paul was an educated, wealthy man, a persecutor of the church, a killer of Christians. Paul was also saved by Jesus and was commissioned to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. He went on to travel all of Asia Minor, planting churches in the area. One major church he planted was in the ancient city of Ephesus, which would be current day Istanbul, Turkey. Ephesus was the largest city in Asia minor, and would resemble current day New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, New Orleans, or Detroit. The comparisons between Ephesus and these cities are that they are the center of business, population, religion, economics, and power. Also, these cities were hit hard by COVID-19, the same way Ephesus was hit hard by a ruler who would attempt to kill Christians.
Paul eventually left and handed the church to Timothy. You would expect Timothy to be filled with confidence and have a strong heart, because the church that was handed to him was every preacher’s dream. It was a known place of worship, big and successful. Timothy writes a letter to Paul, and although we do not have record of Timothy’s letter, we do have a record of Paul’s letter back to Timothy. Timothy appeared to be insecure, panicked, and fearful. Why? Well, the people were hostile towards the gospel in that city. The government in power was Nero, who was very powerful and wanted a brand-new Rome. He wanted to burn down the current city, blame and then kill the Christians so they could not defend themselves. Timothy had every right to feel the way that he felt.
At this point, Paul is sitting in prison and is about to be executed. He writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:3, “Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.” Paul, who needs encouraging himself, is sitting in prison encouraging Timothy. Paul shows us how sometimes the quickest way out of our own prison of thoughts is to focus on somebody else. Another theme here is remembrance. Paul calls into remembrance all that Timothy has read and heard and the genuine faith within Timothy. He calls into remembrance the genuine faith that is within you and me. We have so many Bibles, journals, notes, conferences, but when the winds of trouble blow over, we tend to forget it all, and more specifically, we tend to forget the God-filled faith within us. If a non-believer and I are both afraid, what is the difference? A non-believer might think, “Hey don’t you have a God who does not give you a spirit of fear? So why are you so afraid? What really is the point of following your God?”
Jesus is truly calling us to lead others during these dark times, and to have a spirit of faith and not fear. I will be the first to admit that yes, I am afraid. However, while you cannot stop fear from entering your heart, you can use faith to drive it out. Brothers and sisters, Jesus conquered even death! There is nothing He cannot handle nor take control of, therefore, why are we so fearful? Let us fan the flames of faith within us and let our faith rule over our fears. Amen!