I’ve been a dad for about eight years now. I’ve spent much of that time thinking about the kind of father God wants me to be. My thoughts turn to my own dad and the things he taught me. Several of our conversations were about what it means to be a real man. I’ve never forgotten those talks, the times when he went to the Bible and showed me the kind of man God could make me into if I would let Him. One time he took me to Paul’s words to Timothy because they’re very similar to what a father would say to his son (2 Timothy 1:1-2). He encouraged Timothy to be a man who did not have “a spirit…of fear but of power and love and self-control” (v. 7).
Look at that last verse again. God did not give His children – Christians – a spirit of fear. Granted, men and women of God don’t always start out courageous. Peter’s courage failed him at times (Matthew 14:30; 26:69-75; Galatians 2:11-12). Even Paul was afraid at times (1 Corinthians 2:3). Yet, men and women of God developed courage over time. Peter would later boldly defend Christ even in the face of death (Acts 4:13). Paul had confidence in the face of hardship (Acts 20:24; 21:13). As their faith and love for God increased, their courage grew. Fear indicates little faith (Matthew 8:26). Perfect love – obedience of God’s commands (1 John 5:3, which takes place only when we have real faith (James 2:26 – casts out fear (1 John 4:18). As our faith grows, we grow more obedient to God, which increases our love for Him, which in turn increases our faith even more. Add prayer to the equation and our fear decreases (Ephesians 6:18-20).
God also makes men and women who are strong and powerful (2 Timothy 1:7). We may start out weak. The apostles were weak when Jesus needed them the most (Matthew 26:40ff). When we obey the gospel through faithful, penitent baptism and become Christians, we are “born again” (John 3:5), “infants in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1). We are spiritually weak. God wants us to grow stronger (1 Corinthians 16:13; Ephesians 6:10). That’s why He gave Christians spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:10-17) and a relationship with His Son (John 15:5; Philippians 4:13). As we grow in truth, righteousness and prayer, Jesus provides us with the help we need to be strong as we serve Him. That help is found in the strength we get from the Spirit-inspired Word of God (2 Peter 1:20-21; cf. Ephesians 3:16).
God also makes men and women who love (2 Timothy 1:7). Again, we don’t always start out loving like we should. The apostles were jealous of each other because they all wanted to be top dog (Matthew 20:24; Luke 22:24). James and John were called the “Sons of Thunder,” probably because they wanted God to kill a village who had been rude to Jesus (Mark 3:17; Luke 9:54). However, God helped them develop love over time. One of the “Sons of Thunder” would later write that we must love each other (1 John 4:7, 11). God taught him and others how to love by first loving them (1 John 4:10-11; 1 Thessalonians 4:9). He provided Jesus as an example of love (John 13:34-35). We too will love others more if we allow ourselves to be moved by God’s love for us.
God also makes men and women who have self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). Mature people have self-control and sound, sober minds. They are prudent, discreet, well-balanced folks who see things in their just proportions. They’re not easily excited or short-tempered. They’re stable and disciplined both in life and doctrine. This is why in the church older men, older women and younger women, younger men, and church leaders are all commanded to have this quality (Titus 2:2, 4-5; 2 Timothy 1:7; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8). Those who always act childish and immature no matter their age do not obey Jesus. If they did, they would be like a rock (Matthew 7:24-25). They don’t set their minds on the things of the Spirit, i.e., God’s Word (Romans 8:5-6; 2 Peter 1:20-21). If they did, they would walk by the Spirit and have His traits in their lives, one of which is self-control (Galatians 5:16, 22-23).
God can make you into fearless, strong, loving, disciplined men and women. Will you let Him?