Until just recently, the spirit of fear was not something I thought much about. I’ve certainly heard about it most of my adult life. If you’ve spent any time hanging around or participating in Christian gatherings, church meetings or conferences you’ve definitely heard about it. You may have even seen it “cast out” of someone or some group. It’s been the bogeyman for so long, we’ve become accustomed to it or what we’ve been told it is.
What we see taking hold in 2020 is no average, everyday, garden-variety fear. This is the real deal. Capital “S” Spirit of Fear. Perhaps you can relate to Denethor from Lord of the Rings. This is what has been let loose in our time.
You see, for the real spirit of fear to be unleashed on a group of people, everyone has to buy in. The youngest, the vulnerable, the elders, enough of the general population and of course the leaders. Yes, the leaders are key because their authority is not only evident in the visible realm as seen in their organizational and government structures but also in the invisible spirit realm. Everything they say and do matters because of the influence they hold. The people they lead defer to them and posture their souls and spirits toward them.
Unless they don’t.
Perhaps one of most familiar and oft quoted passage from the Bible regarding fear is found in 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” We’ve all probably used it more than once. Furthermore, we’ve likely heard it preached and certainly quoted just before an attempt to cast it out. However, it is much more practical than what we may have been led to believe.
Let’s unpack this passage in a different way and apply it to our current pandemic of worldwide fear (notice that I did not say COVID-19 pandemic). That is intentional. It is clear now our enemy is not a virus. It is a mindset. A conviction and yes a real Spirit of Fear. The kind that can do significant damage.
“God has not given us…” Let’s be clear. This is not from God. It has nothing to do with God. It is nothing like “The fear of the Lord” which is so often referenced elsewhere in the Bible. That fear is reverence and awe for something majestic. There is nothing about a virus or any medical “plague” that is to be reverenced and awed. Unless of course you make it your god.
The transition word “but” leads to what God has given us:
“Power” – the Greek word used is dynamis, which is translated elsewhere as “mighty work”, “strength”, “miracle”, “might” and “virtue”. Regardless of how you translate the word the implication is clear. God has given you a tangible source of something to oppose or stand against fear. Put another way, you have what it takes to oppose it. As many have said in other settings, you are a powerful person. Live like it.
“Love” – this Greek word for love is agape, which is an interesting choice for an antidote to fear. An extended definition is “love, i.e. affection or benevolence; specially (plural) a love-feast”. The essence of this word is a self-sacrificing affection for others. The same love God expressed when he gave his one and only son (Jesus) for us. What is especially interesting about the application of this to our current pandemic is the plural aspect of the word. It seems agape is best expressed in groups, especially affection or benevolence toward them. Self-isolation much?
“Sound mind” – the Greek word here is sophronismos, which can be best expressed as “an admonishing or calling to soundness of mind, to moderation and self-control”. Wow! When the spirit of fear is rampant, this is the first thing to disappear from the scene. Fear-filled people, living in their emotions, seem to stop using their minds and thinking. More tragically, they seem all too willing to let others think for them. If you doubt this, read the comments section of any recent Facebook post on the pandemic. Astute observers might also notice that dispensers of fear often encourage people not to think for themselves and just “trust us” or worse attempt to silence others who are thinking for themselves or asking difficult questions. Fear hates a good question.
So let’s put this all together in a modern paraphrase that may be helpful for what we are all facing today:
Don’t give in to fear. Especially what is rampant in your world. You have the strength and ability to oppose it. Use your mind to assess everything you are hearing and seeing, discern the actual risk and then come together with those in your community, putting others before yourself.
Does this look like self-isolating and cowering from impending doom to you? Even if the risk is real, do true leaders cower from it and encourage others to do the same?
Until the past few weeks I don’t think I ever expected to see such an irrational, overbearing fear permeate our entire culture. This is not your everyday fear. This must be what the real Spirit of Fear looks and feels like. Livelihoods and the future of our youngest generation are being sacrificed on the altar of this Spirit, which is given the attributes of a God by our culture bowing to it. While I won’t argue the numbers or details here, this is no longer about a virus. It has become much more than that and much worse than any harm a virus could do as noted in this recent National Post story.
You have what it takes to oppose this spirit. Will you take up the challenge or will you be like Denethor and amplify the fear that surrounds you? Watch what happened to Denethor when a true leader like Gandalf challenged him and took his place. Let’s do the same or pray that leaders like Gandalf be raised up to challenge the Spirit of Fear that rules our world.