God does not want His children held down or crippled by fear. Instead, what this verse teaches is that followers of Christ are clothed in power and love, and specifically, to have a sound mind means to be disciplined or exercise self-control rather than allowing our fears to control us.
The second letter to Timothy is one of many written by the Apostle Paul. Paul wrote to churches and individuals to address conflicts, teach, correct theological errors, and send encouragement and love to those he wrote to. In the second letter he wrote to Timothy, we find this familiar and often quoted verse.
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
This verse is reassuring to those who experience fear. God does not want His children held down or crippled by fear. Instead, what this verse teaches is that followers of Christ are clothed in power and love, and specifically, to have a sound mind means to be disciplined or exercise self-control rather than allowing our fears to control us or keep us from doing what God wants from us.
What Does This Verse Mean?
The original word in the Greek language for “sound mind” is sóphronismos. This word means discipline, self-control, or to act moderately. In this verse, we are instructed to not act in fear or be irrationally minded, but instead, to act within God’s will and be reasonable in our thoughts and ways.
Fear is often illogical, leads us to make wrong decisions, and eventually, keeps us from experiencing the fullness of having a relationship with God. This verse encourages the reader to not let fear consume them because the truth is that God has given His followers power, love, and a sound mind. We may feel fear at times, but it does not have to overwhelm our minds or dictate our choices.
What Is the Context of This Verse?
This verse is found in Paul’s second letter to Timothy. Timothy was a beloved fellow brother in Christ and minister with Paul (see 1 Corinthians 4:7). He was overseeing the church in Ephesus when Paul wrote this letter to him. At the time, Paul was imprisoned in Rome and knew his death was coming. The letter includes four chapters with distinct themes, such as an appeal for Timothy to stick to the true Gospel he was taught, a warning against false teachers, a charge to keep living a life of faith, and finally, some personal closing remarks by Paul to Timothy updating him on the ministry. Surely, this letter was written with the understanding that Paul would soon be put to death.
In the first chapter, where we find this verse about having a sound mind, Paul greeted Timothy and relayed his thanks to God for Timothy’s faith and ministry. It is apparent that Timothy was a faithful man who loved God and participated in the mission to share the Gospel. Paul went on to write to Timothy that he should not be ashamed of the Gospel or be fearful to give his testimony. Paul was honest that the suffering he endured was due to his mission to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but to not let that discourage Timothy or anyone else as they work to further God’s kingdom.
“And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day” (1 Timothy 1:11-12).
What great encouragement to Timothy, and surely, this gives hope to Christians today in continuing to spread the Gospel and tell our testimonies no matter what we may encounter or endure as a result. It will be worth it. Paul’s love for God and joy in preaching the good news of Jesus is evident in this chapter as he urges Timothy to stay the course of faith.
What Is a "Spirit of Fear"?
This concept of not being fearful is one found elsewhere in God’s word. Throughout Scripture there is a consistent instruction and warning that believers are not to be afraid. This focuses on the reality that as humans, we are prone to fear, we struggle with uncertainty or what-ifs, and dream up the worst-case scenarios. The enemy can cause us to have all sorts of thoughts filled with fear and worry. God loves His children and does not want them to be consumed by fear.
“For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you’” (Isaiah 41:13).
A spirit of fear is best understood when we consider what the original Greek word for fear in this verse means—deilia—timidity, cowardice, and reticence. The instructions in this verse were not to be timid or reticent when it came to sharing the Gospel because God has given His children power, love, and self-control.
Believers may feel afraid at times — afraid of people, situations, outcomes, or sharing the Gospel. If fear is causing someone to distrust God, it becomes sin. The problem with fear is found in making decisions out of fear rather than trust in God. Sin enters the picture when we let fear instead of God decide the course we take. We must walk in the love, power, and sound mind that God has given to His followers rather than being consumed by fear. God does not want us to be afraid, this will lead to missing out on the abundant life He has for each of us.
Why Does the KJV Include the Phrase "Sound Mind"?
Different versions of the Bible choose different words when translating the Greek language. In this case, the KJV uses the phrase “sound mind,” but other versions use the words self-discipline, wise discretion, sound judgment, and control of ourselves. The Greek language is a rich language where words have deep meanings. All of these translations are simply trying to capture the meaning of the original text, and they help readers understand the depth to the word.
Using the translation, sound mind, emphasizes the reality that fear can overwhelm our minds and cause us to be confused and doubtful. Fear leads us away from God’s truth and into the lies of the enemy who tries to deceive us. Yet God wants His followers to have clarity and take captive their thoughts so that even our minds are obedient to Christ (see 2 Corinthians 10:5). The KJV translation helps us understand the difference between fear and trust. It alludes to the fact that God has given us power and love and that fear has no place in the minds of believers. Jesus has overcome our greatest fears. When fear is gone, we are empowered to share the Gospel and walk in the freedom found only in Jesus.
A Prayer for When You Are Filled with Fear
I praise you because You are good and have good plans for me. You have called me to certain purposes in my life, and I do not want fear to ever draw me away from you, hinder me from doing what you want me to do, or prevent me from sharing the hope I have in Jesus as my Savior. I cast out fear in Jesus’ name and pray for me to be covered in Your power, love, and a sound mind. I pray that You would encourage me and help me as I seek to no longer be filled with fear, but to have complete trust in You. Lord, you know my battles, you know what’s in my heart and on my mind, so I ask for Your help as I desire to turn away from fear and turn toward You.
In Jesus’ name I pray,
Before Jesus left this earth, He gave all Christians a great commission — to go to all nations and make disciples. We have been called and equipped to share the Gospel and help others know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. As Paul wrote to Timothy, we cannot be ashamed of the Gospel, nor let fear keep us from boldly proclaiming Jesus to a world in need. Whatever we are facing in life, fear is not the answer. God is our help and will be with His children always, so that we do not have to be held captive by fear.
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Pamela Palmer is a writer, speaker, and the founder of upheldlife.com, the platform on which she produces devotionals and faith resources to inspire keeping faith at the center of life. She is in pastoral ministry and gets to share in the emotional and spiritual lives of others. She lives and thrives on Jesus, coffee, and music. She is the author of Living a Deeper Faith: Nurture Your Relationship with God and Live a Faith-Fueled Life. Pamela married the perfect man for her and they have two beautiful kiddos. She has been published on herviewfromhome.com, and you can follow her at upheldlife.com or on Facebook.com/upheldlife.