For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7
I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet, and I have worked for non-profits for most of my life, but I do foresee difficult days ahead for our country and church! After all, a real and genuine prophet did warn an errant nation that to sow the wind is to reap the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7).
The state of our country takes me to the question that philosopher and theologian Francis Schaeffer asked a generation ago: “How should we then live?” That question presses hard on us as we watch a great nation crumbling and the sometimes stumbling response of the church.
There is no better person to answer how Christians should now live than the apostle Paul in today’s scripture. These are Paul’s final words as a prisoner in Rome, awaiting final trial before Nero and then the chopping block (2 Timothy 2:9; 4:16). Paul writes in this letter to his beloved apprentice, Timothy, facing tough days in the moral cesspool that is Ephesus. Things do not look good! Paul relates that most of those in the region where he long ministered (Asia Minor) have “turned away” from the Gospel and defected (2 Timothy 1:15). How should Timothy then live in that very region in which he will minister?
Paul begins final wrap up instructions to Timothy, aware of Timothy’s hesitant and fearful manner. Paul elsewhere thinks it even necessary to admonish Timothy not to be ashamed of the Gospel (2 Timothy 1:8). Paul exhorts a timid Timothy that, “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.”
There is so much to unpack in Paul’s words, but today I am struck by his words “self-discipline.” The two words are a translation of one of those wonderful and untranslatable Greek words, sophronismos, variously rendered as “sound mind” (King James Version), “discipline” (New American Standard Bible), “self-control” (Modern English Version), and “sensible” (The Message). It’s a big word to get our arms around!
The Greek word sophronismos comes from sophron, meaning “saved mind”; thus a saved mind is necessarily a sound mind, a disciplined mind, self-controlled, and sensible. Sophronismos was highly prized by ancient Greeks and Aristotle and Plato labeled it a “civic virtue”, indispensable for people to live with peace and harmony.
How should we then live at a time we see an exponential overnight increase in depression, mental illness, fear, despair, and opposition to the Good News? A persecuted, imprisoned Paul has it right! We meet these days with “a spirit of power and of love”, and yes: a saved mind; a disciplined mind; sensible and sober; not easily excitable or reactive.
Here are some of the things a “saved mind” will mean for me:
- Memorization of Scripture
- Less screen time (television, computer, smart phone)
- Weekly public worship
- Reading stories of conviction and courage (autobiographies, biographies, novels)
- Deepen relationships with one or more Christian friends
- Healthy diet
- Planned fasting for a day
- Regular exercise
- Good sleep
- Planned times to ‘do nothing’ but think (whence ideas and inspiration come)
- Daily prayer and meditation on 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people who are called by name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
Finally, encourage others by sharing what a saved, disciplined, sound mind means for you at this critical time
A fellow traveler,