For several weeks I’ve been praying about the year 2022 as it approaches. There is, of course, nothing special about a new year other than the fact that it serves as a good time for reflection. The transition from one year to another provides an opportunity to reflect on the past year, and to consider the new one.
As I prayed, I sensed the Lord leading me to develop a theme for 2022. Over and again the words, “I am not afraid” came to mind. This was odd because I’ve never really seen myself as one who struggles more than usual with fear and anxiety. And yet, as I prayed and asked to Lord to search me, I sensed that deep down there are things that give rise to fear within me and that have a significant impact on my relationship with the Lord and in my life.
My sense is that the Lord wants me to focus in 2022 on discovering the things deep within that cause me fear, and through faith and trust in him to conquer them. A portion of Scripture that comes to mind as I ponder this theme is found in the New Testament book of 2 Timothy.
The Lord inspired Paul to write this letter. Paul was in prison, and was likely facing execution for his faith in Christ. He wrote to one of his young co-workers in the Lord named Timothy. The Lord revealed to Paul that difficult times were coming. For example, in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (ESV) Paul writes:
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.
These “times of difficulty” began after Jesus was taken up into heaven, and will continue until his return. In fact, as time progresses, the difficulties will increase. This is spoken of in Matthew Chapter 24, and even in verse 13 of this same chapter. In 2 Timothy 3:13 Paul says that that “Evil people and imposters will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
Paul knew that Timothy would need to have strong faith in Christ and to trust in God during the increasingly difficult times that were approaching. With this in mind, Paul wrote the following words in 2 Timothy 1:5-7:
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
Facing very difficult spiritual times, Timothy needed to be reminded that God’s Spirit within us does not lead us to fear, but to power, love, and self-control.
There’s no question that now, some 2,000 years later, we need this same reminder. I need, and I suspect all Christ followers need more of the power, love, and self-control that are only available when we place our faith and trust in God.
As noted above, it’s my sense that I need this more than ever in 2022. I sense that the Lord wants me to increase my faith and trust in him, and in doing so to discover and conquer the fears that are so deep within me that I’m not even fully aware yet what they are. As I seek to grow in these ways, I’ll do my best to remember the theme that the Lord led me to adopt for 2022 – “I am not afraid.” The letters IANA will serve to help remind me of this.
What a blessing that we have not been left alone. Recall that it’s the Holy Spirit that enables us to grow in the power, love, and self-control available only to those who follow Christ. May 2022 be a year for us in which we grow in these areas, and in doing so draw closer to God than we’ve ever been before. Amen.