What does Paul mean that God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power?
What is timidity? Timidity is the natural result after an accurate assessment of your situation through human eyes. Some people are blind to themselves so they overestimate their abilities and they are loud and proud. That’s not what I am talking about because those people have an inaccurate assessment of themselves.
Timidity is the result of an accurate self-assessment and survey of the circumstances.
Timothy is young, but he is no fool. He must have looked at his circumstances. He was a young leader at a church with older, more experienced teachers who were spreading false doctrine. And soon, he would be without the protection and backing of his mentor, spiritual father and hero, Apostle Paul.
If Timothy looked at his situation through human eyes and if he looked at himself through human eyes, he had every reason to be timid. He was thrust into an impossible situation. Timidity is the natural result after he assessed his situation and what he brought to the table.
We may look at Timothy and agree with his self-assessment because we think he is timid for good reason. If we just compare Paul and Timothy through human eyes, they are worlds apart. Paul is the great apostle. He’s fearless. You can beat him, you can put him in prison, but you can’t stop the guy.
On the other hand, Timothy is Tiny Tim and the only 4 things we learn about him in addition to his timidity are 1) he’s young, 2) he is emotional, 3) he is sickly, 4) he has a weak stomach. I don’t know about you, but Timid Tim constantly downing a bottle of Pepto does not evoke an image of power and strength to me.
But God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power.
Where does power come from? From looking at Paul and Timothy, it doesn’t seem that power comes from natural ability and talent and charisma. Paul and Timothy are on 2 opposite sides of the spectrum — Paul is the seasoned veteran, an apostle who is not afraid to get up in your face and Timothy is the young, inexperienced pastoral intern who is known for having to make frequent trips to the bathroom. But Paul is telling Timothy not to worry because power has nothing to do with the individual and what he or she brings to the table.
Power has everything to do with the presence of God. We can be quite religious and gifted with many leadership qualities but utterly powerless because we lack God’s presence.
It’s God’s presence and his presence alone that makes all the difference. Maybe we won’t “feel” the power of God the way Popeye immediately felt it when he ate spinach. You’ve seen the cartoons, as soon as Popeye swallowed that can of spinach after he had gotten a pummeling by Brutus, power immediately pulsated through his skinny body and over-sized forearms. Sometimes, I wish I could eat some spiritual spinach to become instantly godly. But spiritual power does not work that way.
In 2 Cor 12:9-10, Paul shares the secret of his spiritual power — “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness… For when I am weak, then I am strong.” When i am weak – or in other words, when I am powerless – then i am strong.
When we reach that point of feeling utterly powerless, then we are compelled to hunger for God’s presence and will do just about anything to get it. And ironically, in this pursuit of God’s presence, God does come to us and his power is made perfect in our weakness.
Power is entirely God’s job while we humbly acknowledge our utter powerlessness apart from him, and we seek Him and wait on Him.
So power is 100% God’s responsibility. All we need to do is to continue to go to Jesus, admit our powerlessness and ask for his presence.