In this series on Leadership I hope to encourage us all in our walks with Jesus. Last we I spoke about the Heart of Leadership, reminding us that biblical leadership begins with God especially in light of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Their example of relationship and roles in the context of leadership is wonderfully inspirational. Our response to God is one of love and trust as we discover this model of leadership. Foundationally, Scriptural leadership begins in the home as we see in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve and is to be passed on down through the generations following. Paul highlights this in writing to the church in Ephesus where he addresses husbands, wives and children; Eph 5:33 - However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Eph 6:1 - Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
This morning I would like us to consider what it means to be courageous as a leader. In as much as this is a leadership series, the messages that will follow are more about everyday issues that everyone faces and that can bring us hope and encouragement as we mature.
By way of introduction, I believe it is important to give some definition to courage. There is physical courage is which someone overcomes physical danger; fighting in a war, overcoming a bully, rescuing someone from drowning. Then there is moral courage which is the ability to act righteously in the face of popular opinion, shame or scandal. It is the capability to overcome obstacles and personal setbacks in life. Courage, bravery, valour, and heroism are all qualities we admire in life. Courageous leadership speaks to me about the potential within everyone to become a person of influence and to change the world around us one courageous act at a time.
Jesus exemplified courage; in standing against religious leaders, in reaching out and touching and healing the lepers, in confronting his closest friends, and especially going to the cross. Jesus wrestled with challenges and fears that are common to us all, and he overcame.
It has been said, “courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear” (James Hollingworth, aka Ambrose Redmoon). Courage is the overcoming of fear in spite of fear. Greater courage is something we desire in our lives but often comes as the result of facing our fears. What are three of your greatest fears? I see courage in action in the relationship between Paul and Timothy, so let’s turn to 2 Timothy.
Courage under fire
It is historically believed, that Paul wrote this letter to Timothy as he awaited execution in Rome around 67 AD. Despite all that Paul was facing, death and the end of his ministry, rejection by most of his friends for fear of persecution – he faithfully directed his spiritual son Timothy to the hope that is in Christ. Paul exhorted Timothy to boldness, endurance, and faithfulness in the face of both physical persecution and moral opposition.
Timothy was a young leader who faced physical persecution from a hostile Roman Empire, from religious Jewish leaders and from false teachers. He also faced moral decisions within his own life in the face of Christian ministry; not to fear, not to be ashamed of the gospel or Paul who was in prison, to guard his own heart and the deposit of the Holy Spirit in his life. Paul exhorts him to be strong and to endure hardships like a soldier, compete as an athlete to win and to be a hardworking farmer. Paul commands Timothy to flee the evil desires of youth, understand that difficult times will come in the last days, and to keep preaching even though there is strong resistance. This was Paul’s last letter to Timothy and Timothy would soon be facing the future without his spiritual father. All of these situations would be extremely challenging for him to face and yet somehow the church in Ephesus succeeded under Timothy’s leadership. How was this possible? Let’s turn to 2 Timothy 1:6-7 and discover the answer to the question.
2 Timothy 1:6-7
The relationship between Paul and Timothy was very personal. Paul writes to him as a dear son, recalling Timothy’s tears, his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice; there was a spiritual connection based in a common faith in Jesus. Paul’s life is coming to an end and he wants Timothy by his side.
Paul knows that in the midst of Timothy’s circumstances he needed some encouragement. So, he gives Timothy some very good advice. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline (2 Tim 1:6-7).
Firstly, Paul is again reminding Timothy of his call to ministry which he wrote about in 1 Tim 4:14 - Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Paul does not doubt the reality of Timothy’s faith but is concerned that will all of the challenges and obstacles, Timothy needs to fan into flame, stir up the fire of faith and Holy Spirit, to revive the spark and to rekindle… This is the exact opposite of the warning not to quench the Holy Spirit in 1 Thess 5:19. What a blessing to receive the “gift of God”!!! There is something supernatural about God’s gift. In this case, it could refer to the Holy Spirit, God’s grace, the empowering of one’s calling or ministry. For Timothy, he needed fresh momentum and courage to fulfill his duties of ministry; evangelism, guarding the flock, preaching God’s Word, and so on.
Secondly, Paul makes a profound statement to his spiritual son who is pastoring a significant regional church in the midst of difficult circumstances. God did not give us a spirit of timidity, fear, cowardice or weakness. Fear on the inside exaggerates the fear on the outside. Most likely these were the very inner struggles Timothy was struggling with; a feeling of agitation and anxiety caused by the presence or imminence of danger whether physical or moral. Timothy’s personal fears could have been reinforced by a demonic spirit of fear as well. The challenges he was facing would most certainly have been both natural and spiritual in conflict.
So, what has God given us to overcome fear? The answer is surprisingly simple - the Spirit of God. Paul starts off this his last letter to Timothy with the spirit of power, love and self-discipline. This powerful triplet of spiritual grace is the means to living a courageous life in the midst of the challenges and obstacles we face.
Power – Paul uses this word (dynamis in the Greek) in over forty verses in the Scriptures. This is a notice to Timothy that God’s Spirit is of dynamite power capable of dealing with fear, whether physical, moral or spiritual. Holy Spirit and Power go hand in hand in the Scriptures. This power will enable Timothy to fulfill the full potential of his call. The power of the Spirit will completely cast out the power of fear.
Love – One of my favourite verses is “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 perfection of God’s love in us as sons and daughters helps us to understand that God has not given us a spirit of fear. For Timothy, this reminder would have been so refreshing in the midst of so many fearful circumstances. God’s agape love has been given to us so that we can overcome.
Self-discipline – There are several different ways to translate this word into English; sound mind, sensible, common sense, moderation, sound judgment and self-control. The idea behind the word is this – the causing of someone to become wise. Timothy would have been confronted with all kinds of nonsense trying to affect his thinking. Paul is saying that the Holy Spirit wants us to think with a spiritual heavenly mind.
This morning it has been my desire to help us live up to our full potential as followers of Jesus. We all have a leadership gift and potential within. The lessons from 2 Timothy are very practical for us all. Both Paul and Timothy had very difficult circumstances they were facing. By God’s grace they were able to overcome fear and walk in greater courage. The same is true of us in varying ways. To some degree we all have fears that we struggle; some are big fears that can paralyze us and some little fears that irritate us.
We can stir up our faith gift and the Spirit of God in us and step into the potential that we were created for. We need to renew, rekindle, and push the reset button and move forward.
We can embrace the three gifts of power, love and self-discipline which are preferable to any miraculous powers.
We must engage in the gifts of power, love and self-discipline by putting them into action and overcoming our fears.