Sometimes we feel our stress level rising because of fear, and we need the antidote found in 2 Timothy 1:7. Fear and responsibility often sit on either side of a razor-thin line. Fear can cause us to be rational and responsible, or to be irrational and irresponsible.

            Think of the ways fear enters into our mental calculations in life:

            •Politics: Candidate A convinces voters bad things will happen if they vote for Candidate B.

            •Insurance: It’s predicated that bad things will happen to a certain percentage of the population: fires, auto crashes, illnesses. It’s responsible to have insurance, but underlying insurance is fear of what might happen.

            •Health: Think of all the supplements and schemes sold to people who fear losing their health. 

            Fear and responsibility are in a constant tug o’ war. If we rust-proof our car, are we fearful or responsible? Maybe both. Our challenge is understanding the nature and power of fear, and our response.


The Good and Bad of Fear

            Fear is a source of stress, which causes a chain of events in the body leading to the release of the hormone cortisol into the bloodstream. The result is a super-human response to stress and fear. It allows you to grab a toddler out of the path of a speeding car. In that case, fear is good.

            Another good fear keeps us from making stupid choices. Those who wisely heed the voice of fear “will not be afraid;” their “sleep will be sweet” (Proverbs 3:24). Fear of consequences moves many to turn their back on temptation.

            The ultimate good fear is “fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10). That fear is manifested in respect, honor, and obedience to God.

            When we fear God we put the future in His hands, and we don’t worry. But if we don’t trust God with the future, we’re consumed with fears that lead to spiritual, emotional, and physical problems. Those are bad fears.

            How many things can we be stressed about? Money, health, employment, relationships, and more. Temporary stress (a good fear) is meant to be a short-term situation. It allows us to respond, acting safely and responsibly. For Christians, that means discovering biblical principles, praying, reorienting our focus toward God, and so on.

            People living in a constant state of fear and stress maintain a constant high level of cortisol—a pre-disease state that the body is continually trying to overcome. This is not good! God has not given us that kind of fear.


What We Haven’t Been Given

            Timothy, Paul’s young pastoral protégé, was stressed, having been given oversight of the large church in Ephesus. He was stressed about being mature enough for the job (2 Timothy 1:6), the shame of his mentor Paul being in prison (verse 8), the possibility of suffering (verse 8), and guarding the purity of the Gospel (verse 14).

            Paul wrote to Timothy: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear” (verse 7). The stressful fear Timothy felt was not from God! What is the source of negative, dangerous fear? Man’s natural, carnal condition is fear when fellowship with God is broken. Adam’s immediate inclination after he sinned was fear—he hid (Genesis 3:10).

            Can a Christian revert to carnal responses and act like he doesn’t know God? Yes. That’s why fear can be helpful if temporary. It makes us stop and think: “Why am I afraid? I need to trust God.” Our challenge is allowing that immediate stress response to cause us to stop, examine, discern, and recommit ourselves to God.


What We Have Been Given

            Timothy needed power to preach and teach. He needed love to respond to critics and shepherd the church. And he needed a sound mind to be stable, steady, and not impulsive in confronting the needs of every day. To think clearly and rationally, depending on God’s Spirit to guide Him.

So what do we need to counteract fear? Courage! This formula expresses how we get it: Power + Love + Sound Mind = Courage. There’s no room for fear when these three gifts are fully embraced.

            Do you need courage now? Do the math. To the power of the Spirit add love of Christ and a mind renewed by Scripture—and courage will be yours. 


David Jeremiah is the senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church and the founder and host of Turning Point for God. For more information about Dr. Jeremiah or Turning Point, visit