7 For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.
I’m finding that Paul’s second letter to Timothy is more “deep”. Today I feel as though I have been awakened more to verse 7. It tends to be a “go to” sentence for Christians, especially when they are feeling worn out and downtrodden. Let us read again the last half of the sentence: power and love and discipline. I don’t know about you, but usually I just remember the “power” part. It’s the “manly” element in the sentence that gives men an edge and a little bit of hope. We get pumped up with the reminder that living inside us is a spirit of power. How short sighted are we?
As humans we love power, don’t we? Lord Acton, a 19th century historian wrote once, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” We can all think of at least one example of this truth. The great thing about the Holy Spirit is that it does not operate under evil and corruption. Maybe some of you think that this is just an assumption. Paul reveals the good and perfect will of God in his letter to the Romans, “2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good andacceptable and perfect.” It is interesting that Paul put power, love and discipline as the three characteristics of the Spirit of God together. As I try to think of why or how we can trust the goodness of God, I realize it is because He loves us so much.
The love of God is unparalleled and unmatched in human reality. We have all been hurt by someone we love and someone who claims to love us. It is the simplest example of the brokenness of man. It seems that those we love the most we hurt the easiest and the deepest, doesn’t it? When we think of the enormity and power and might of God, it scares us to think that if we love Him in return, He can do the most damage to us. While that is true, the reality is that because He loves us so much, He doesn’t hurt us. If we look at God through the lens of humanity, of course we will have doubt, fear, and reservations because humans cannot be 100% trusted. However, our relationship with God will never flourish if we approach God as we approach humans. However, we no longer have to fear! Romans 5 tells us of this great love and redemption, “6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” God is so good that He loves us despite our infractions against Him. Not only does He love us despite them, but He gave us a way to escape the eternal ramifications of it. Interestingly enough, God still uses our sinfulness and brokenness to refine us and bring us in closer relationship with Him.
Personally, I’ve struggled a lot with the purpose behind the “dos and don’ts” of the bible. We create religion out of them, trying to create a magic formula that we think gets us into heaven or even forces God to bless us. I’ve come to understand, however, that while God doesn’t want to see us fail (what parent likes to see their child hurt?), He uses our brokenness to teach us. He tells us that we shouldn’t touch the hot stove because we will get hurt. Yet, there are just some lessons we cannot learn by being taught: we must experience them ourselves. Sometimes, however, we recognize that our actions can repeat themselves. We don’t quite know why, but our hand is always drawn to the fire, even if we do not want it to be. This is where the Holy Spirit comes in. As Paul describes the Holy Spirit as being a spirit of discipline, it is very easy for us to get things out of order. Many religions preach “doing good” or “doing the right things” with an emphasis on the blessing of God as a result as if we are manipulating Him in some way. How animistic of us. The truth is quite the opposite. It is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that changes us from the inside out and in fact helps us in those times of weakness when our desire is to not burn our hand but we tend to put it in the fire anyway.
I’ve witnessed and experienced in my own life the power, love, and discipline of the Holy Spirit. When I first decided to be a follower of Christ, suddenly my taste in music changed. I didn’t necessarily choose to listen to different music, rather I was quite surprised that the things I used to enjoy listening to no longer was an enjoyment. Other times, I realized there was something in my life that needed to be changed but I kept putting my hand in the fire, so to speak. We tend to distort how this works and think that the discipline comes from our own willpower; however if we choose to be a follower of Christ (also known as a disciple), He will give us the discipline needed to do so. Too often we act as though we are alone in our relationship with God, as if we have to earn our way. But He has already earned the way, He has made it possible and all we have to do is let Him know that we desire that relationship with Him. The spirit of power, love, and discipline can live in you and guide you, yet we still try to do it our own way and fail miserably.
With whose power are you operating today? Have you received the spirit of power, love, and discipline and do you rely on it to live your life?