As most of us know, rates of depression have dramatically increased since the beginning of the pandemic. The effects of isolation, anxiety, and the constant barrage of bad news have caused many to lose hope and enter into prolonged bouts of depression. Some of these bouts unfortunately end in suicide. In an effort to bring encouragement and practical wisdom to deal with this issue, I have been writing a series of articles about how to deal with depression. This will be the third and final article in this series which is about dealing with the spirit of fear. If you missed either of the first two articles, you can check them out here.
Toward the end of the Apostle Paul’s life, he wrote to his protege, Timothy, about how to overcome discouragement. Look at 2 Timothy 1:6-7:
6 Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7 is a very popular verse that many quote to deal with fear. One of the major negatives of popular verses like this is we can become so familiar with them that we don’t allow ourselves to see all these verses are saying. Verse 6 is linked with 2 Timothy 1:7 and reveals an important effect of the spirit of fear. In verse 6 Paul reminded Timothy to stir up the spiritual gift that had been placed on the inside of him. Why did Paul remind Timothy about this gift? Apparently Timothy had forgotten about it. This is why Paul told him to stir it up or literally fan it to a flame like we would a campfire. Unchecked fear caused Timothy to forget about his spiritual gift which was to lead the church in Ephesus and to preach the gospel. Unchecked fear in our lives will cause us to become overwhelmed and stop operating in our gifts and callings.
Timothy’s purpose in life was to pastor the church in Ephesus. The key to him fulfilling his purpose was operating in his gift to teach and lead. The spirit of fear was trying to to get him discouraged and steal his destiny. Today, the spirit of fear is trying to get many of us discouraged and get us to forget our gifts and callings and steal our destiny.
There were many natural things that led to Timothy’s fear. First, his mentor, the Apostle Paul, was writing him from jail because Paul had been arrested for preaching the gospel. During the day Timothy lived, many Christians had already been martyred or persecuted in other ways because of their faith. Persecution in Timothy’s day was very intimidating and it caused him to get into fear.
The second thing that caused Timothy to get into fear was all of the responsibility he had on his plate. Timothy was a young man and was responsible for overseeing a very large church. The church in Ephesus was estimated to have as many as 100,000 people. How would you like to be responsible for all of that? And like any other church, it had issues. These issues included how to combat heretical teachings, how to identify leaders and organize effectively, and how to determine how to do benevolence giving. This short list is just a few of the things Timothy dealt with; the entire list would fill an entire page single-spaced 🙂
Imagine for a minute that you are Timothy living in the year A.D. 60. You are responsible for overseeing a megachurch with a ton of issues and you have seen many key leaders in early Christianity already suffer persecution including death. Can you see him pacing around worrying, stressing, wondering why he got this job and how he can get out? I can see him getting overwhelmed and not getting very much done. Can you see that?
Often what depression looks like in our lives is becoming so overwhelmed with fear and anxiety that we stop functioning. In my own life, I have had times where all I did was worry about things I couldn’t control. This stopped me from doing the things I could control. I believe this was what was happening in Timothy’s life. So what’s the solution? 2 Timothy 1:7:
7 For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
This verse reveals that there is a spiritual force behind fear. His name is Satan. Satan likes to bring negative reports, negative words, and challenging circumstances into our lives so he can overwhelm us with a spirit of fear. This spirit of fear left unchecked leads to depression. In the previous two articles on depression I focused on the importance of proper perspective and the importance of natural solutions such as getting proper rest, exercise, and eating healthy to deal with depression. These things are important to do, however, these two things alone will not defeat depression. We cannot fight spiritual problems with natural solutions. The final piece of the puzzle is to deal with the spiritual world that is bringing the oppressive thoughts.
The way we defeat the spirit of fear is through the power of the word of God. The words “fear not” are used 365 times in the Bible. That is one “fear not” for each day of the year. The key is taking these promises and telling the spirit of fear to leave and declaring what God has said about our situation. You can learn more about speaking the promises of God in this article.
Many times in the gospels and the book of Acts, Jesus and the apostles commanded demonic spirits to leave people. One example is in Acts 16 where Paul and Silas cast a spirit of divination out of a young girl. It’s important to note they didn’t counsel the girl. Why? Because you can’t counsel a demonic spirit, it must be cast out. The same is true for you and me. There are times where Satan will try to attach a spirit of fear to us when he brings negative reports or bad news. These are situations where we have to use the power of our words to defeat him in his attacks against us. We match his fire with the significantly greater fire of the word of God! I want to encourage you that we don’t have to shout or scream at the devil to get him to leave. He’ll respond to a quiet but firm voice of a person who knows who they are and whose they are! I’m not teaching hype and emotionalism. I’m teaching us to declare what the word says. If you would like to learn more about spiritual warfare, check out this message I taught at Grace Life Church.
I hope this series of articles about how to deal with depression has helped you. If it has, I want to ask you to share them with anyone you know who is struggling with depression or discouragement. If you have any questions or comments, you can send them here or call our prayer line at 888-488-PRAY. As always, we are praying that you live victoriously in Christ Jesus!