God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 NIV
I’m finally doing it – I’m writing a book. (Cue the choir for the “Hallelujah Chorus.”) It will be a self-published paperback called “I Am the Clay” and will be a compilation of some of the things I’ve written for this blog adapted into book format. (There will also be a Kindle version.) But since I wrote them originally – or rather, God used or inspired or directed me to write them – it’s pretty much the same thing.
A real book – who’d a thought? (Some of you did – thank you for your ongoing encouragement.)
Not to dampen the “woo-hoo” moment of announcing a book-in-progress or anything (or muffle that choir), but let me linger here a moment so that I don’t blithely skip over the part about God using / inspiring / directing me to write.
Using this blog as His classroom for the past two-and-a-half years, He has helped and encouraged and taught me every step of the way. Every time I’ve waited on Him and asked for His guidance He’s faithfully and without fail given me something to say, as well as a forum on which to say it. And that faithfulness has been extended to include His two thumbs up (if He had ‘em) to move forward with the book.
So here’s the deal: His approval for the book, combined with the fact that 95% of it is already written, should make finishing it and preparing it for publication a piece of cake. But the adapting and compiling has been going on for, like, ever – all because of my foot-dragging. I see the same thing happening when it’s time to write a new post (like this one). I’ll have the Bible verse and the start of an idea and then…well, anything other than writing typically takes place.
I’m sure there are psychological implications of that hesitancy, but I’m more concerned with the spiritual implications, especially when some of my favorite Bible verses celebrate the support of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit:
If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31 NIV
I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 NIV
The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4 NIV
With all those sure-fire promises, it’s hard for me to determine exactly what drives my reluctance – fear, possibly; pride, likely:
- Fear that, when it comes times to write, God won’t be there with guidance and inspiration. (Of course, He always has been, so this particular fear has been proven to be unfounded.)
- Fear that I’ll get in over my head with the mechanics of book publication: formatting, coordinating ISBN numbers (whatever those are), hiring someone to create a cover design, and being sure nothing is amiss from a legal standpoint.
- Fear that it will be a big ol’ “fail” and my pride will be wounded.
- Fear of success, or of failure, or of going out on stage in my underwear. (No, wait – that’s a totally unrelated recurring nightmare…)
Since I know the Lord has called me to do what I’m doing, there really isn’t an excuse for not being about His business. I’ve closed my Facebook profile (no more wasting time endlessly scrolling), I don’t have a TV (no more wasting time endlessly channel surfing), I don’t have any distractions (except for the ones I seem to create) – so what else have I got to do but serve the Lord through writing, which I love to do in the first place?
Paul’s young protégé, Timothy, apparently went through some similar hesitancy, at least early in his ministry. In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he spent a little time being the older and wiser mentor, reminding Timothy that he not only had a gift but a responsibility to use it. Here are excerpts from what Paul told him:
I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you…For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:6-7 NIV [emphasis mine]
It’s verse 7 – the part about tapping into the power, love, and self-discipline available to us by the in-dwelling Holy Spirit – that I’m focusing on here.
Maybe you’ve felt that spiritual reluctance at times as well; reluctance to do something you knew the Lord wanted you to do. That could include:
- Sharing the gospel with a friend or family member
- Volunteering for some sort of ministry or missions opportunity
- Teaching Sunday School
- Serving the Lord in any capacity
- Giving sacrificially
Although hesitation to do some of these could definitely be out of timidity or fear, for some it’s just being selfish with time or money. For most of us, we have the ability and the time and the money to change lives; we just don’t seem to be able to tap into all that Paul says the Holy Spirit has given us – power, love, self-discipline – to make it possible for us to overcome our fear/pride/stinginess to do so.
So let’s explore these three separately to see if we can learn something new. And please know that, as much as anything, I’m looking for these answers for myself…
I’m not talking about the kind of power that allows the leaping of tall buildings in a single bound, but the power and resolve given us by the Holy Spirit to do whatever it takes to change hearts and lives of those around us.
- Do you share the gospel often – or ever – with friends, family members, co-workers? (I hardly ever do, at least not in person.)
- Do you support foreign missions work or contribute to organizations that put Bibles in the hands of people around the world? (I do that – but I could do more.)
If more people had access to the gospel and became followers of Jesus, we might see more people becoming Christians; more people with the power and resolve to change even more hearts and lives. We could even see a reversal – or at least a slowing – of the erosion of our religious freedoms.
I can hear the objections (‘cause I’m thinking them myself): “There’s nothing we can do – God is sovereign. The Bible even says people will turn away from Him toward the end.” Indeed He is and it does – but that doesn’t mean we have the luxury of just sitting in church with our hands folded in our laps, waiting for Him to come back and rescue us. At the end of Matthew 28, Jesus told his apostles to:
“Go and make disciples of all nations…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 NIV
All nations…to the very end of the age – no hand-folding allowed. Time to get busy.
“Love,” as it’s used here, is an action word. A classic example of this kind of love is illustrated in Matthew 25, where Jesus tells of the day when He will reward His sheep – true believers who were faithful to Him – after recounting everything they did for others, and vicariously for Him, during this life. Jesus will say to them:
“I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Matthew 25:35-36 NIV
Do you contribute to canned food drives or give to organizations that feed the hungry? (I do that – being a chow hound, I can’t bear the thoughts of not doing something to help people who have nothing to eat.) Being the hands and feet of Jesus to others: that’s love [action word].
Testifying to the enormity of God’s grace and sharing His plan for salvation is another way to show love.
Jesus was pretty plain about that, too:
“Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation…” Mark 16:15 NIV
Not letting someone die without hearing the gospel: that’s also love [action word]. (Yes, Lord – I hear you loud and clear here. This makes it all the more inexcusable for me to hesitate to pound the keyboard for your honor and glory…)
Jesus showed that action type of love in everything He did, including the last and most important thing He did for us on this earth. Following His example, we should have that same love in spades.
I definitely want to be on the same side as the sheep, how ‘bout you?
Although lack of self-discipline is a biggie in our country right now, with over-eating, pleasure-seeking, and over-spending, it takes on a new dimension when it train-wrecks our self-discipline in doing the things the Lord asks of us – watching all six seasons of “Lost” non-stop on Netflix instead of praying or reading the Bible, for example, or spending beyond our means instead of tithing.
For me, there really isn’t any point in my getting all sanctimonious for not wasting time on Facebook or TV when all I seem to have done is swap those time suckers for something else. According to Paul, God has given us a spirit of self-discipline along with instructions to buckle down and do the things He’s called us to do (like write in my blog, for me)…
Do not neglect your gift…Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them… 1 Timothy 4:14-15 NIV
So what’s the solution?
The other morning as I was praying with this whole “procrastinate rather than write” business on my mind, the Lord spoke to me so plainly it was a little disconcerting. (I wish He wouldn’t do that when I’m just expecting to coast through Prayer Time. It totally catches me off guard – which I guess is the point.) I don’t mean to put words in His mouth, but it went something like this:
“So what’s your plan? How are you going to structure – or ‘redeem’ – your time better?”
Me: “I was kind of hopin’ you’d just supernaturally jump in here and take care of that.”
As an answer, He led me to this verse:
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV
As Paul says here, when I choose to do the good work God has called me to do, He will provide His grace in abundance to enable me to do it.
He wants me to be a sheep, too.
Power, love, and self-discipline – no doubt three very important tools in our spiritual tool belt – available to all of us who are followers of Jesus.
Paul told the Colossians:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. Colossians 3:23 NIV
I get that (and I’m ready for that inheritance), but I’m still seeing my resolve to do what I’m supposed to be doing teetering on the edge at times. So to do what Paul said, to “work at it with all [our] heart,” we have to put a practical plan in place, putting some thought and effort into our mission while trusting God to take care of the rest. It’s what I refer to as “the intersection between human volition and divine intervention.” He doesn’t force us to serve Him, but when our choice to do so starts to run in tandem with His will for us…
Looking at the earlier “spiritual reluctance” list, here are some ways to be super sheep:
- Write your tithe check first before anything else.
- Put some $5.00 fast food gift cards in your car to hand out to people on the side of the road carrying handmade cardboard signs asking for help.
- Many churches have some sort of food pantry or provide clothing to those in need. Spend an extra $10 on whatever canned veggies are on sale each week at the grocery store and drop them off at church. Stop by the Salvation Army store and get an armload of clothes (it’s amazing how much you can get for $10-$15). Or hit a yard sale in the neighborhood and buy whatever clothes they have – they don’t have to match your shoes or anything…
- Enlist a friend to partner with you in whatever ministry opportunity God has presented to you, whether that’s going on a mission trip together or just going next door to talk to your neighbor about Jesus.
- Set aside a specific time to prepare a Sunday School lesson or (for me) to write: two or three nights a week for an hour-and-a-half, or whatever works best.
I’m still working that out. Obviously, I was able to muster the wherewithal to finish this post, and I’ve made lots more progress on the book this past few days – that “redeem the time” discussion with the Lord had something to do with that. (Sheep are notorious for wandering off, but they always come back when they hear the shepherd’s voice.)
Moving forward, though, what’s the final answer going to be? The same answer as for every question: trust God and stand on His promises:
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 NIV
None of us can do it alone; but, then again, none of us has to.
So let’s ditch the fear and plug into the power, love, and self-discipline given to us by the Holy Spirit. If we’re not taking Him up on the gifts He’s given us…well, let’s just say that, when it’s all over and you stand before the Lord, you definitely wanna be a sheep…
…And not sheep-ish.