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, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
— 2 Timothy 1:6-7, ESV

All of us can identify with Timothy. He was, it seems, a sensitive soul, a little bit diffident perhaps, often fearful of causing offense, and prone to remain silent when he really ought to speak. In the very next verse, Paul exhorts him “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.” (2 Timothy 1:8, ESV). Which of us can’t identify with this? -- we know we should speak a word for Christ, but we are scared— scared that people might look on us with contempt. So, out of shame, we say nothing, and, compromised by our “need” for approval, with our minds clouded with fear, we lose sight of the face of God, and the only approval that really matters (Eph 6:6).

Now there is no doubt, these verses speak primarily to the context of evangelism, but it has recently struck me how similar fears can incapacitate us in other area as well. Think, for example, when we find ourselves in the horns of a dilemma. We aren’t sure what to do? Uncertainty and insecurity only increase when the decision is an unpopular or risky. When fear grips our soul, our thought processes become unavoidably pragmatic. We tend to think mainly of the adverse outcomes threatening to accompany our decision. When such thinking rules the day, we are simply not able to think clearly in terms of principles and priorities of right conduct. At such times, the main factor we must consider is not what might go wrong, but, simply, what is the right thing to do. Trust in God, do our duty, and let the consequences be what they may.

Fearfulness is especially a problem in leaders, incapacitating them inwardly and disqualifying them outwardly in the eyes of others. People can smell uncertainty. They can see it in the eyes and hear it in the voice. It unsettles them, and it ought to. In our heart of hearts, we all want to be led by those who know where they are going and why. A leader’s body language makes statements, ‘This is the way, walk ye in it!” By contrast, the demeanor of the fearful tends to beg more questions than answers -- questions like, “Do you think I’m making the right decision? I’m just not sure” No one wants to follow such a leader.

This has immediate relevance for men in the home. Our wives (and our children) can smell fear, uncertainty, and insecurity. It disquiets them, and it rots away both their respect for us and their confidence in us. It ought to.

What can we do? Well in a first instance, as our fathers were wont to say, “We should never take counsel from our fears.” Refuse to listen to them, choose rather the Word of God, His promises, His precepts, and the examples of the godly for your guides.

Second, we should beware of sharing too many of our fears with others, especially those whom we are responsible for leading (Psa 73:15). Fear tends to spread like a virus, and people do not respect a leader who cannot master his own fears and indecisiveness for Himself. As always, if we cannot lead ourselves, we will have a hard time leading others.

Third, we must take care that we don’t pretend to be confident by making ill-considered, impulsive decisions from a fear of seeming indecisive. This is not helpful. In the end, unbelief always overreaches itself. It lacks the balance to act with poise.

Fourth, we must beware of leaning too much upon the advice and counsel of those we should be leading. There is a fine line here. Please, don’t misunderstand me. My wife is almost always my best counsellor, and I never take a major decision without taking her thoughts into consideration. I would be fool not too! But here’s the trick. When I ask her for advice (or anybody else “beneath” or “beside” me in the chain of command), I must listen to her counsel with the grateful determination of a leader -- a man determined to be the man and to make the decision. I must listen to my wife’s counsel with a spirit of confidence in God, certain that with His help, through prayer, He will lead me to the right decision through her counsel. By contrast, when I lose this confident determination, and at times I do, I tend to listen to my wife with fear – the kind of fear that hates decisions, and that would really rather she made the decision for me – the kind of fear that tends to ask for advice in a spirit of laziness -- a spirit that refuses to think through the decision first for myself -- a spirit that runs too quickly to others, expecting them to do the heavy thinking and lifting for me with their counsel.

No Paul says, the answer to such fearfulness is found by those who look to God for their confidence, who determine to walk by the Spirit already inside of us. Notice, Paul does not promise the donation of the Spirit. No, for the Christian, this has already happened, the Spirit has already come: “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power…” We are possessors of the Spirit now through faith in Jesus Christ. This Spirit is not a spirit of fear -- at least not the fear of man. God’s Spirit enables us to rise above our own petty, self-centered desires and to esteem the needs of the other as more important than our own (love). His Spirit enables us to take control of the maelstrom of emotions raging with in, and to act in accord with right reason (self-control) – literally, a thoughtful awareness of what is best.

So, when we are in a difficult spot, whether we find ourselves with an opportunity to speak a word for Christ, or, perhaps, facing a difficult leadership decision, we must turn first to God and not to man, and certainly not to our own empty wisdom-tank. We must walk instead by the Spirit, pleading for the power, love, and poise His presence always brings. Then, with God’s help, we should find ourselves in a much better position to speak and to act for the glory of God.