Paul’s second epistle to Timothy is best known for two passages that seem to contradict one another:
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:1-7)
This passage offers sober counsel regarding the hazards of our time. There is no item in this list that does not apply to our day. The perils we see here can and should cause us to feel some apprehension: in part, because we could find ourselves surrounded by enemies, or worse, we could find ourselves ensnared in these vices.
Perhaps the dangers Paul enumerates add to the confusion in the next passage:
“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)
So on the one hand…be frightened of perils…
On the other hand…God has not given us a spirit of fear…
We can gain some insight with a look at the Greek in the first passage. The term “fear” is translated from Greek δειλίας (delias). This is different than the source of the term “fear” in Philippians 2:12 (where the Philippians were instructed to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling). The source in Philippians is φόβου (phobou – related to phobia). The term δειλίας is related to cowardice.
The distinction between these ideas is important. It is unwise to disregard danger, but it is even worse to avoid doing what is just, necessary, and good because of danger.
The spirit that God seeks to give us is not one of rash decision-making, rather it is of power of love and of a sound mind.
Be aware of the peril – and let that awareness motivate you to hold to Christ: His Gospel, His word, and His kingdom. God seeks to give you a spirit of courage in perilous times!
Perhaps Joseph Smith said it best:
“Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!” (D&C 128:22)
- Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: New Testament 2019, October 28-November 3.
- “Build a Fortress of Spirituality and Protection” -Elder Ronald A. Rasband, April 2019
- “The Call for Courage” -President Thomas S. Monson, April 2004