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Tired of Being Timid?
October 5, 1980

St. Paul's United Methodist Church

1 TIMOTHY 1:1-14

Good news. You need not be timid. Timidity is not a Christian virtue. Humility is where we get a proper perspective into our relationship to God and to one another. But, timidity is not a Christian virtue. How often do you say, “Oh, I wish I would have said that, or I wish I would have done this, or someone ought to do something.” Well, God did not give us a spirit of timidity. God did not call us to be timid Christians, nor a timid church. These are times which require a strong church, an informed and empowered church. God does not call us to be timid. In our text this morning, Paul is writing to Timothy. Timothy is a young man and the leader of the church. Timothy evidently is finding himself overwhelmed by the situation. The church at that time was afflicted with heresies, divisiveness, turmoil, frustration, conflict— characteristics of not only our own day, but of the early church. And in the midst of this turmoil and divisiveness is young man Timothy, evidently feeling just a little bit uncomfortable. And so Paul writes this letter. 

Paul first encourages Timothy and tells him he has confidence in him. Then Paul reminds Timothy of his heritage—his family, a great faith, a great spirit in which he was raised by his grandmother and his mother. Paul writes in 1:7, “God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power and love and self control.” God's gift was not a spirit of timidity. Overcoming timidity begins with God, realizing it is God's gift. Paul in, two verses later tells us that the God who gives us power is the God who saved us and called us to be holy. It is God who acts. It is not necessarily of your own doing that you can overcome shyness and fear and timidity. It is God's gift. God has reached out and claimed you. God has saved you. God has called you, chosen you, selected you, appointed you to a task and God gives you the power to do it—not of timidity. 

In Romans 8:14, Paul writes, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear.” God doesn't call us to be timid and shy. God doesn't call us to be afraid, to be fearful, to be shrinking violets or wallflowers or doormats. Pam has a cartoon on her wall of a poor, shriveled up man sitting on a chair with his domineering wife hollering at him and saying, “Well, if the meek inherit the earth, you have to have several acres by now.” God doesn't call us to timidity and fear and to shrivel up. God doesn't call us to be meek followers and robots. 

Did you read this week of the preacher in a conservative, fundamentalist church that's in this politics business, organizing to influence the election? He was boasting. He was proud of the fact that he could count on just about everyone in his congregation to vote the way he instructed them. I don't know if you know that we don't have a church like that! You don't do much of what I tell you, certainly not how to vote! We're not to be followers and robots. God doesn't call us to be like everyone else. God doesn't call you to be submissive. God calls you to power, love, and self-control. Self-control is to be literally translated as self-discipline—to control yourself in panic and crises. When butterflies are in your stomach, when you feel nervous in a situation, God gives you the gift of self-control, power, and love. It is God's gift for you to have courage, confidence, calmness, and love. 

For what purpose? To what end? Paul goes on, “For God did not give you the spirit of timidity, but the spirit of power and love and self control, so that you need never to be ashamed of witnessing.” God gives you power not just for your own sake. God gives love not just for your own life, but to do what God has called you to do, to do the task as a church and as individuals what God has called us to do—testifying, witnessing, preaching, proclaiming,  acting in the world. 

Testifying is twofold. One is the necessity and the concern we should have for other people around us— your neighbors, your friends, your family who desperately need faith and a personal relationship with God. People need to be told of the love of Christ. They need to be witnessed to about how God loves them, how God calls them, and how God gives them power and love and self control. This kind of witnessing should grow out of your enthusiasm, gladness, wonder and joy when you experience what all God has given you. Out of that joy and wonder you witness to other people. Witnessing is personal. 

And secondly, witness to the whole world out of a concern for the world and the problems people have living together. On this World Communion Sunday, we're reminded of the world and our oneness in Christ as Christians all across this earth are celebrating Communion today. And we're also mindful of the kind of lives and struggles that they are engaged in, and all that's happening in this world that destroys life. And God gives us the power. God gives us the love to be concerned and to witness, to speak and act. 

Some of us are concerned about the movement of evangelical right-wing Christians to organize and influence the election. I guess I'm a little envious of all their power and their enthusiasm. But, I worry about their methods. They select two or three issues and judge candidates on the basis of two, three or four issues as if all morality, all ethics, all political philosophies, all the integrity of candidates can be limited to three or four issues. I worry about those methods. 

But, let us not so react to that kind of witnessing to the world that we forget God has called you and me, and God has called our church to be concerned about the world and society and how people must live in it. A concern for social justice has been long in the history of Methodism. Early Methodists in our country fought against, took controversial stances, struggled against slavery, smuggling and cruel treatment of prisoners. Those were three big issues in the early days of this country, and our church took stands and our church still encourages us to take stands and to be involved in controversy, to be concerned about the problems of human living. 

Our 1980 Discipline, just written by the General Conference which meets every four years, has many statements about the world, society and our relation to it. Those statements include this challenge as we think about the world. “Gods world is one world. The unity now being thrust upon us by technological revolution has far outrun our moral and spiritual capacity to achieve a stable world. The enforced unity of humanity, increasingly evident on all levels of life, presents the church as well as all people with problems that will not wait for answers. Injustice, war, exploitation, privilege, population, international ecological crises, proliferation of arsenals of nuclear weapons, development of transnational business organizations that operate beyond the effective control of any governmental structure, and the increase of tyranny in all its forms. We commit ourselves as a church to the achievement of a world community that is a fellowship of persons who honestly love one another.” 

How the world needs not timidity from Christians, not timidity from the church, but power, and love and witness! How the world needs us. How the world needs you as an individual to exercise all the power that you have and that God gives you to influence, to participate in the causes that make for a better world. How the world needs you to take your citizenship seriously especially now as we approach November to vote. We have a table outside the door with registration forms. The deadline for voter registration is tomorrow. If you've moved recently, or if you haven't voted in recent elections, or if you've never registered, you need to register. As you leave today, register, and we will deliver it tomorrow. Take that very seriously as your Christian responsibility to exercise your citizenship. 

God calls us to be in this world and to make it the best we can. God calls us as a church to witness to the community and to the world. Let me tell you the story of one church who took this seriously. Bethel Church in Baltimore, Maryland in 1975, like many city churches was dying. The church has a difficult time in the cities. Its membership was down, participation was down and its building was almost empty. They were talking about closing. In 1975, they took a turn and decided as a church to do something. First, they began with their own common life. They looked at their worship service—the center, the focus of their life. They decided their worship service needed more joy, needed more warmth. They began holding hands and touching one another. They began greeting warmly new people, the strangers. They hired a music minister to put more joy into the service. And now they have eight choirs. 

Secondly, they took seriously their commitment to the community, to the world, and challenged their members to give. Today 15% of that congregation tithes. They really take their commitment seriously. As a result of that kind of enthusiasm and that kind of commitment to the community, listen to the kinds of things they do. They have a bus ministry. They serve meals to senior citizens. 300 persons work in eight different missionary circles working in prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, homes for dependent children. They run a tutoring program for the children of the neighborhood in reading. They have a dance and drama group for all age groups. They are concerned with national areas of need and they have missionary circles dealing with global concerns. And now in 1978, when this was written, they have three worship services and their membership grew from 600 in 1975 to 3,000 In 1978. 

God gives us a spirit of power, not of timidity. How do we get such a spirit as an individual person and as a church? Paul tells us in 1:6, “Fan into flame the gift that God gave you.” Picture an ember in a fireplace or in a campfire, just a small little red ember. How do you fan it into flame? I get down on my knees, blow on it and surround it with little twigs, sticks and leaves until it catches fire. Fan into flame the embers God has given you, the gifts that are inside you and the gifts that are in our church. How God has blessed us with so much. Let's not retreat, let's not act afraid of the future. Let's not back up. Fan the flame God has given us. Go ahead with a spirit of power and love fanning the flames. Let's get down on our knees and blow. Get down on our knees in prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to blow on us and to blow on our gifts. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill us, ask the Holy Spirit to use us, ask the Holy Spirit to magnify and multiply all that God has given you, me and our church. Surround that little fire with the support of prayer, study and Communion. 

Fan into flame the gift God has given you. God has not given you a spirit of timidity but the spirit of power and love and self control so that you need never to be ashamed of witnessing.

© 1980 Douglas I. Norris