I recently had an opportunity to teach on a trip to Brazil. As I was preparing to share a message in front of 350 Brazilians, fear gripped me. This would be by far the largest group of people I had ever spoken in front of.
My pastor had spoken two days before and absolutely crushed it. The next day he was followed up by my friend Ryan and he knocked it out of the park as well. Now it was my turn.
I’m not much of a “preacher” in the sense of an exhorter or encourager with my message. I’m a teacher through and through. I am passionate but it never takes precedence over the meat of what I want to teach. I never want to distract anyone with myself for fear of them losing focus of the message. No one else that spoke before me had my style. I wondered how I would fare.
As I was preparing, the Lord was showing me how fear relates to our identity. Fear is the single most destructive force warring against the sons and daughters of God. It seeks to strip us of power, strip us of love and cause us to lose all sense of control of who we are. Fear robs us of our identity in Christ and ultimately causes us to bring down others with us. Because after all, misery loves company.
We all know the single most popular verse in regards to fear:
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7
As I read this verse, the Lord began to illuminate these 3 things to me in a deeper way. If he didn’t give us a spirit of fear, then clearly he DID give us a spirit of power, a spirit of love and a spirit of self-control.
The Spirit of Power
Power is linked to authority. Matthew 10:1 says that Jesus gave his disciples authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. If the disciples operated in fear, there is no way they could have used the authority they had been given.
In a more practical sense, I got this illustration. In my church, at times I teach the 1st-5th graders. I’ve been given authority over them. The funny thing about kids though, is that they can smell fear. If I don’t walk into that room with confidence and authority, they will run all over me. Even though I have been given authority over them, if I don’t exercise it, they will recognize my weakness and take advantage. I believe the illustration applies to our walk with the Lord.
Fear strips us of power. It strips us of the authority Jesus has given us as sons and daughters. Skip forward in Matthew 10 and verse 7-8 says “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” (emphasis mine)
The disciples had been commissioned to preach the kingdom of heaven. They had been given authority to bring it with them. It had been given to them freely for the purpose of them giving it out freely. You can’t give what you don’t have. Fear will close your hands to the power you have been given.
The enemy does not want us to understand the power we have. He will use fear to strip us of our authority. We become so preoccupied with a sense of worthlessness, failure, false humility and everything else we say about ourselves that we can’t accept the authority that has been “freely given”. When you see the world walking all over Christians, you can bet those sons and daughters are operating in a spirit of fear. God wants us free from fear and operating in the spirit of power. This is our inheritance.
The Spirit of Love
Love and fear are enemies. Love is the antithesis of fear. Love in it’s purest form is unequivocally devoid of fear. John, the apostle of love, (Which by the way is an awesome name. If you call me that, I won’t stop you.) said it decidedly:
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18
The spirit of this age has been gunning for the purity of love for a long time. Love has been warped, perverted and twisted in so many ways that pure love is looked upon as naiveté.
One of the ways fear manifests in love is through control. What we fear, we try to control. Our relationships suffer due to fear and insecurities. It can manifest through jealousy, anger, selfishness and many other ways. However when fear is removed, we can operate in the spirit of love. We have the ability to love the unlovable. We can love our enemies. We can love those that do not show grace. When we are free from fear, we can love as we are loved by the One who loves perfectly.
The Spirit of Self-Control
As I said before, fear manifests itself in control. When we attempt to control others, it is damaging. However, when we operate in a spirit of self-control, we are only concerned with managing our own heart.
The spirit of self-control gives us the ability to maintain the internal environment of our heart. It gives us the ability to respond to situations as opposed to reacting to situations. James 1:19 says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” This can only be accomplished when we are freed from fear and operate in the spirit of self-control.
The Spirit of Adoption
So how do we break off the spirit of fear and walk in the spirit of power, love and self-control?
Yup, you guessed it. It’s all about identity. When you know who you are, you will understand what you have been given. That’s why Paul talks about the spirit of adoption:
“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!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” ~Romans 8:15-17
It is vital that we understand the spirit of adoption because it defines who we are. We can embrace the truth that as His sons and daughters, we no longer have the spirit of slavery which leads to fear.
Until you understand that you are an heir of the kingdom, you will continue to live like an orphan. Only orphans live in fear because they have no one to care for them. We are not orphans. This isn’t something we have to strive for. It is ours. We simply have to receive it.
I went through a time where I had to repent from the spirit of fear. The word repent literally means “change of mind”. Once I had the shift in my mindset to the reality of my position as a son of God, I began to realize that I was no longer subject to fear. The enemy comes with intimidation tactics, but he is really just like those little kids that I teach in the children’s ministry. Once I stand my ground, he has to flee (James 4:7). It’s time for the sons and daughters of God to take their place and resist the spirit of fear!
Are you living under a spirit of fear or living as a child of God?