Michael Youssef - Overcoming Fear
Never give up. Never give up on biblical truth. Never give up on the infallibility of the Word of God. Never give up on the faith that once delivered. Never give up on the biblical orthodoxy. And when you understand the backdrop to this epistle, Second Epistle of Timothy, and when you understand the importance of this message for our generation where the apostle Paul, the aged, imprisoned apostle, realized that his days are numbered and that the day of his meeting Jesus face to face is approaching, he decides to leave this epistle as his legacy for future generation of church leaders and church members. But in reality, this is an exhortation to this future generation of church leaders, church members, and any generation.
In every generation, there is falsehoods and compromise, and those falsehoods and compromises always start on a very minuscule component. They are so imperceptible most people sitting in the pews they don't even realize it, they don't even understand it. From the Book of Acts and from historical documents, we know that the apostle Paul was imprisoned twice. He was imprisoned twice. You remember when he had the shipwreck going from Jerusalem to Rome? That his first imprisonment was more like a house arrest, and he was in a rented accommodation. Sure he was under guard, but he was rented accommodation and he was able to receive visitors. But then he was freed because of lack of evidence against him. Then there is a strong indication that he went from there to Spain.
You remember when he wrote to the Romans and he said, "I have longing to come to you so that you might send me on my way to Spain"? The goal of his life, the desire of his life, the longing of his life was to go to Spain and preach the gospel there too. That way he would have covered the empire from side to side, and after he preached in Spain and came back, that he was arrested in Troas. This was during the time of the great persecution. You remember Nero burned Rome and blamed it on the Christian? And the severe persecution began back then, and it was so severe that Paul himself was arrested and he was placed in a dungeon. This aged, physically-weak apostle of God was languishing in a dungeon.
Now, my wife and I have been to Rome on several occasions, and every time I wanted to know where that dungeon was. Nobody knew. The last time, I was adamant. I said, "I'm going to find out where it is". And my wife wouldn't give up, and we found it. I am not a photographer. I don't take pictures very often, but when I gone into this place, I become so deeply moved, I couldn't help but take the phone and begin to take pictures. This is that dungeon, and my wife was able to read Latin. I couldn't. I can't even read English. These were four walls and a hole in the ceiling in the middle of the room where they can throw down the food and water to the great apostle. Four walls. No windows whatsoever to look out in the outside world. And I'm told that in winter it's so damp and it's so cold. You talk about plants in a hothouse. Far from it.
We don't know exactly how long the apostle Paul was in that dungeon, in the miserable place, but we know that from there he was taken to the place of execution on the Ostian Way. There he laid his gray head on a great stone, and in a moment the executioners axe decapitated him and Paul experienced absence from the body and presence with the Lord instantly. Sometimes immediately before that horrible, violent act, the apostle took pen to paper and he wrote for the future generation, "I am so grateful to the sovereign Lord for preserving such document". But also I believe that the apostle Paul wrote this epistle so that every person who's defeated may experience victory and triumph, that each one may know joy in the midst of their despair, that every one of us can experience encouragement in the midst of discouragement.
The one thing that comes through again and again and again is that the apostle Paul knew his spiritual son Timothy. He knew him only too well. He knew his strength, and he knew his weaknesses. He knew how prone Timothy was to discouragement, and how he's prone to self-pity, and how he's prone to the temptation of throwing in the towel and giving up. Timothy apparently was a timid soul. He was not assertive, which made unscrupulous people take advantage of him, and therefore the apostle Paul as he contemplates his own departure from this side to heaven he writes to Timothy, and basically if I can put it in few words, saying to him, "Don't ever give up". Can you say that with me? "Don't..."
At this stage in my life and ministry, that this is an urgent message to the church in the 21st century. We have lost our sense of urgency, and I pray unto God that he will indeed stir up that sense of urgency in every one of our hearts and even those who are watching around the world. So many in my generation are losing their grip of the truth, but I thank God every day. And God only knows that he is now raising up a new generation of young Timothys; and I believe with all my heart that these young Timothys in this church who by the power of God are unashamed of the truth of the gospel, those young Timothys that we are blessed to have in this church will guard the truth until Jesus comes back.
And so look with me at the first seven verses of chapter 1, 2 Timothy. At verse 1, you see the apostle Paul asserts, as he does in all the epistles. He asserts his unique calling in Christ Jesus, the unique call on his life. Like all the other 12, the apostle Paul was qualified to be called an apostle because their main qualification for being called an apostle is that they have seen the resurrected Jesus. And that is why the apostle Paul called himself an apostle because he not only saw the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus, but he was commissioned by the resurrected Jesus to take the gospel to the Gentiles, and that is why now he's not afraid to die in Jesus and for Jesus.
Look at verse 2. Paul addresses Timothy as son. Of course, he's not his physical son, he's his spiritual son. Timothy came to the Lord through the ministry of the apostle Paul, and Paul becomes his spiritual father. If you follow "Leading The Way," you know that we have the 2025 Vision that I believe God gave me after fasting and praying, and the vision is that when I get to heaven, I want to see 1 million people, spiritual sons and spiritual daughters with me in heaven. And I thank God that this is already happening. Look with me at verses 3 to 6. Here you find not some of... the most intensely, personal words that you ever hear from the apostle Paul. These are the most intensely, intimate words that the apostle ever expressed in all of his writings.
Here he said to Timothy, "I remember you in my prayers, not just when I pray in the morning, not just on occasions". Not like he said to others, "On remembrance of you, every time I think of you, I pray for you". No. No. No. He said, "I pray for you day and night". What an encouragement. What a shot in the arm to Timothy to know that the great apostle Paul prayed for him day and night, day and night. And he said, "As I pray for you day and night, Timothy, I recall your tears, I recall your sincere faith, I recall your godly heritage, I recall your godly mom and your godly grandma who have prayed for you, and who have ministered to you, who has instructed you so much so that you were prepared. As soon as you heard the message of the gospel, you believed it".
Now, beloved, I want to stop here for a minute and I want to tell you sowing seed in the minds and the hearts of your children at home and grandchildren will bear fruit. Trust me. I say it on the authority of the Word of God. You might not see the fruit right away, you might not experience that fruit immediately, but make no mistake about it. Sooner or later, the fruit will come about. In Timothy's case, obviously his mom and his grandmother have trained him well in the Old Testament and who showed him the prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament. They prepared his heart to be expectant of the coming of the Messiah. They obviously taught him to hope for the coming Messiah from the pages of the Old Testament. They taught him the importance of living expectantly of the coming Messiah. No wonder that kind of preparation compelled him that as soon as he heard from the apostle Paul that the Messiah came, that he lived, that he died, that he rose again, that he's ascended into heaven, and that he's soon coming back as judge, Timothy put his faith in Jesus Christ. We don't know, but apparently Timothy's father was a Gentile and possibly a Greek. He's not mentioned here.
So I'm not going to speculate. But what Paul is doing here, he's giving us an example of what I taught you when I preached through 1 Corinthians chapter 7. When Paul said that the children of a believing spouse, one parent, doesn't have to be both, one, a sanctified and that believing parents, meaning that God has a plan for the children if even one parent is a believer. I hope that you vividly remember that. And here what the apostle Paul is doing is saying, "Here's an exhibit A. Here's an exhibit A of what I'm teaching about how the children of believing parents will come to Christ".
Exhibit A is Timothy. Timothy, because of his faith of his mother and his grandmother, and the preparation, and the seeds that they have planted in his heart and his life, now he became the successor of the great apostle Paul. And Paul, remember, he says, "I remember how you received the Holy Spirit when we laid hands on you, I remember how you got the gift of the Holy Spirit, like we all have the different gifts of the Holy Spirit, and I remember how you exercised that gift of the Holy Spirit". And here he says, the great encourager, the apostle Paul is saying, "I remember all of that, Timothy, and I thank God for you". Those are truly magnificent word to a discouraged Timothy.
Now, beloved, probably the same devil who was working on Timothy to discourage him, the same devil who was trying to tempt him to give up is the same devil who's working on some of you today. No doubt that it's the same devil. It's the same devil. Probably the same devil who was tempting Timothy to throw in the towel and give up and slow down and give up the fight is that same devil who's tempting you today. I will do whatever it takes to encourage you to get up. Get out the family album. Get out the Word of God and start remembering, start remembering God's past blessings, start remembering God's past protection, start remembering God's past watching over you, start remembering how he rescued you. Sometimes you did not even know it. Start remembering how God used you in the past, how God worked in you in the past. And today that same God wants to bless you, encourage you, and use you again, which brings me to the very heart of what Paul is saying to Timothy in this particular passage.
Here's what he's saying. He said, "Timothy, shake off your timidity, shake off your fear, shake off your discouragement, shake off your weariness, shake off that temptation to give up, and take it easy". Look at verse 7 with me. "For God did not give us a spirit of fear or timidity," it's really the same word, "but the spirit of power and of love and self-control". I need to do a whole series of messages just from this verse. I know won't take that much, but so let me summarize the best I know how. I understand from this that there is a specific spirit, evil spirit, not from God, has nothing to do with God, an evil spirit, and he specializes in fear. Can I get an amen? He specializes. You know, you got to understand. If you read Ephesians, you understand that there's a hierarchy. If you read my book "Conquer," I show you the hierarchy in the spiritual realm among Satan and his demons. There is powers and authority, and they all have a hierarchy. And this evil spirit who's not from the Lord, as I said, specializes in fear.
Now, I don't know how many demons, could be billions or trillions. We don't know. We have no idea how many demons he would have deployed this particular evil spirit. He would deploy to work on God's believers. We don't know. We don't know how many of those demons are doing the bidding of that evil spirit. It doesn't matter. What matters is that we recognize, A, that is not from the Lord. That's an evil spirit. The Bible says, "He who's in us," that's the Holy Spirit, "is greater than he who's in the world". That's the evil spirits, all of them put together. "He who's in us is greater than he who's in the world". Can you say that with me? "He who's in us is greater than he who's in the world".
The evil spirit of fear has one overarching task. Oh, yes, they're focused. I don't think the demons have ADD, and I do, and I have to work hard in concentrating. They are laser-focused. What is it? What do they want to do? They want to paralyze your effectiveness. They want to neutralize your impact. They want to numb your spiritual senses. They want to terrify you into a prison cell of your own making. I hope the irony is not wasted on any of us. Paul is in a dungeon of a Roman prison, but he knew that if we live in fear we are in a prison worse than his, if we live in fear, we're behind bars more powerful than steel, if we live in fear, we are in a prison more inescapable than Alcatraz. Fear can destroy your abilities. Fear can hamper your drive. Fear can paralyze your commitment. Fear can stunt your spiritual growth. Fear can destroy your marriage, your family, and your relationships. Fear can destroy your health and even can kill you, which is a desire of the devil anyway.
And that is why Paul wants Timothy and every one of us to know that because the devil controls the spirit of fear and because the devil is a liar, he will masquerade. He will not come and say, "I am fear and I'm here to terrorize you". No. No. No. No. He will come to you something like being super cautious. You know what I'm talking about? Just being careful. I'm just want to make sure I'm doing the right thing. Let's not take risk. Let's not do crazy things. Let's not trust God with things that we're not sure he's going to do or not. It is being incapable and feeling inadequate or insecure or lacking in confidence, false humility. Oh, others can do better. Of course, they can, but God's calling you and you and you and you. I know what I'm talking about. I have experienced raw fear within inches of my face of facing death, but the Holy Spirit of God breathed in me and said, "Fear not".
In fact, that is why those two words are repeated by our Lord Jesus again and again and again. Fear not. Fear not. Say it with me. "Fear not". Fear not life. Why? Because Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life". Not a life, the life. Fear not death. Why? Because Jesus said, "I am the one who lives, was dead, and behold, I'm living forevermore". Fear not the unknown. Why? Because Jesus said, "I'm the Alpha and the Omega. I'm the beginning and the end and everything in between". The one thing the great apostle has learned in over 30 years of walking with the Lord, serving the Lord, preaching the gospel of the Lord, the one thing he understood that there's only one antidote to fear, beloved. Listen to me. There's only one antidote to fear. What is it? What is it? What is it? The God who is in total control of your life can banish fear out of your life. It might not happen in an instant, but it's a daily thing.
Ask yourself the question what is stopping your effectiveness? What excuse do you have for not serving and giving and doing? Is it fear of failure? I know all about failure. I've experienced it my life many times, but I would rather try to do something and fail than succeed at nothing. Listen to me. You cannot be defeated unless you accept defeat in your heart. Let me repeat this. You cannot be defeated unless you accept defeat in your heart. Please hear me right. I'm about to finish. Falling down does not make you a failure, staying down does. Did you get that? Falling down does not make you a failure, but staying down does. It's never a dead-end street when you are in Jesus. It's only a detour.
Sometimes I hear people say, "Well, Michael, my past sins are just haunting me". Not if you place them under the blood of Jesus. Amen? God buried your sins in the deepest sea, and there he put a sign, "Fishing is not allowed". Is it the fear of the unknown? The Bible said, "No weapons formed against you will prosper". It might look like succeeding, but it will not prosper. "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear"? And so, the Word of God to us today, all of us, well, regardless of where we are, the Word of God as he spoken to Timothy, it's spoken to every one of us. We need to know that God is in control of every aspect of our lives no matter how much the devil might bark. We already have received the victory because he has given us the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit gives us power, gives us courage, gives us strength, give us power, gives us the ability to love the unlovable, gives us all that we need to be faithful soldiers of Jesus Christ.