Wellness of Soul - Bob Sawvelle

Wellness of Soul

Have you noticed an increase in anger and frustration in our nation? The COVID-19 pandemic has unnerved many. Excessive state-mandated lockdowns are being protested. Business closures and layoffs have inflamed others. To be sure, there is reason for concern; 36 million people are now unemployed in the US. Inadequate coronavirus testing and contact tracing early in the pandemic frustrated many. Others are offended over the issue of whether to wear face masks—to mask or not to mask!

As a follower of Christ, we are empowered to abide in His peace and joy, above the circumstances and frustrations of world conditions. After all, Jesus said “in the world we would have trouble.” Individually, we choose whether we respond to negativity in life with faith, hope, and love, or respond with worry, fear, and anger. As James stated, “…the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (Jam. 1:20 NKJV)

What is wellness of soul? I define it as the absence of unhealthy anxiety and fear, and the absence of negative thinking and emotions which displace us from God’s peace.

In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he has some specific instructions for his spiritual son to help him maintain a strong faith and persevere through hardships he and the church at Ephesus were facing.

Timothy, I thank God for you—the God I serve with a clear conscience, just as my ancestors did. Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. I long to see you again, for I remember your tears as we parted. And I will be filled with joy when we are together again. I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Tim. 1:3-7 NLT

After commending Timothy for having genuine faith, a faith observed first in his mother and grandmother, Paul instructs Timothy to “fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave” him when he laid hands on him. To understand Paul’s charge, the context is important.

Paul, imprisoned for his second time, writes this letter to his protégé Timothy around 66 or 67 AD. Timothy had become a son in the faith and one of Paul’s closest friends. Timothy converted to Christianity after Paul’s first missionary journey to Lystra (Acts 14:6-18). By Paul’s second visit, Timothy had grown into a respected disciple of Jesus (Acts 16:1-5). Timothy would later join Paul for his other two missionary journeys. Paul eventually left Timothy in Ephesus to oversee the church there (1 Tim. 1:3-4).

Paul wrote 1 & 2 Timothy just before his death by Roman Emperor Nero. The persecution against Christianity was severe. Nero blamed the Christians for the burning of Rome (historians attribute the cause of the fire to Nero), and was driven like a madman to arrest, torture, and martyr many believers. These letters (1 & 2 Timothy) provided Timothy guidance, instruction, and comfort during extremely challenging times.

Paul, after commending the faith of Timothy’s mother and grandmother, changes direction and tone. He specifically tells Timothy to act upon his genuine faith, and instructs him to “fan into flames the spiritual gift” imparted, and finally tells him, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

Timothy is charged with fanning into flames (or stirring up) the spiritual gift received. The text implies that as Timothy edifies himself spiritually, he will prevent fear and timidity from ruling him.

Some scholars believe Timothy was prone to timidity and Paul was trying to encourage him. The Greek word deilia translates as timidity in this verse and can also mean cowardice. Timothy needed courage to face the challenges of life in his time.

Keep in mind that Paul was Timothy’s spiritual father and mentor. He had a deep relationship with him and earned the right to speak into Timothy’s life. It is a mistake to speak this verse to others you have little or no relationship with, who might be struggling with worry or fear, and just tell them to renounce fear (or what you presuppose is fear – you could be judging them) and have more faith, etc.

Everyone responds to life events differently—there is no one size fits all! Therefore, be careful of Christian cliché statements about fear and faith—it could be damaging to someone else. Paul discusses in Romans 14 and 15 that we should consider others and their faith; we do not want them to stumble or be offended because of our behavior.

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. Rom. 15:1-2 NIV

From examining 2 Tim. 1:7, it seems clear that as we actively engage ourselves in the Spirit, stirring ourselves up through spiritual gifts, prayer, etc., we begin to operate from His power, His love, and His discipline or soundness of mind. These spiritual characteristics ward off thoughts of fear and overcome timidity with God’s courage.

Remember, Paul is giving Timothy instruction on how to lead the church in Ephesus. The times are tough; extreme persecution has erupted against Christianity in the Roman Empire. Paul is giving Timothy principles to overcome in trying times and how to maintain wellness of soul.

To say that we are living in a trying time is an understatement! Anxiety and frustration levels are high, and fear has gripped many.

Before I go further, do not make the mistake of labeling everything as “fear-based.” In other words, there is a healthy balance with faith and science—COVID-19 demonstrates this. We need to trust God, live in faith, and believe for His supernatural protection; while at the same time, adhere to proven scientific and medical guidance. To maintain a balance between faith and science does not mean we are given to “a spirit of fear.” Let me give you a personal example.

One year ago this week, I suffered a heart attack. I was living in faith, believing God for health, protection, prosperity, etc. The heart disease was growing within, but I was unaware. I was not lacking faith; a health event occurred suddenly. Science and modern medical practice saved my life that night as the hospital did emergency heart catheterization and placed two stents in my heart. Faith was at work through the medical procedure and during my recovery. There was an intersection of faith and science, a healthy balance between the two.

So, here we are in this Coronavirus pandemic. Currently, there is no vaccine; therefore, all we can do, besides living in Christ, standing in faith, and prayer, are the practical things science has proven to stop viruses and germs. You know them by now:

Do not leave home if you are sick. Wash your hands frequently. Do not touch your face with your hands. Stay at least 6’ apart. Wear a face mask when social distancing is not possible. Avoid crowds if you are at risk, etc. Again, practicing these guidelines does not mean we are given to fear. Rather, we are proactively taking care of ourselves while trusting God for divine health and protection from the virus.

Again, using my heart attack as an illustration. In one year, I lost 40 lbs., I began to eat healthy, exercise daily, get 8 hours of sleep at night, take prescribed medications, and more. But I had to change my thinking about how to live my life. As my thinking changed, so did my behavior patterns, for example: what I ate, making sure I exercised daily, and so on. Now I feel great, my blood pressure and blood work are right on target, and I do not fear having another heart attack. Why?

I trust God AND I continue the proven medical practices to stay heart healthy. If I discontinue doing the practical, proven things to take care of myself, I will have reason to be concerned about another heart event.

Active faith (fanning into flame) begets God’s power, love, and a disciplined mind. Wellness of soul can be achieved! Again, what is wellness of soul? I define it as the absence of unhealthy anxiety and fear, and the absence of negative thinking and emotions which displace us from God’s peace.

I have taught previously how to fan into the flame our faith and gifts. Here is a partial list:

Maintain genuine intimacy with Jesus. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8 NKJV

Pray without ceasing. 1 Thess. 5:17

Pray in the Spirit. “…praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit…” Eph. 6:18 NKJV

Worship Routinely. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Col. 3:16 NIV

Read daily God’s Word Daily. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” 2 Tim. 2:15 NASB

Serve Others. “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” 1 Pet. 4:10 NKJV

As you fan into flames your faith, three things occur: a reliance on God’s power, a release of God’s love, and a disciplined life occurs.

1)   Power “… but of power…”

Power from the Greek: δύναμις (dunamis): miraculous power, might, or strength.[1] It is the same word used in Acts 1:8 “…but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” NKJV

Paul is telling Timothy, “you have received something, God’s miraculous power!” Be confident in God’s power at work through you!

Paul discusses power with the Ephesians, the church Timothy was overseeing:

And [so that you can know and understand] what is the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His power (dunamis) in and for us who believe, as demonstrated in the working of His mighty strength (kratŏs),” Eph. 1:19 AMPC

For Paul, the greatest display of God’s power, or that the world has ever seen, is confirmed through the resurrection of Christ (Eph. 1:20), and Jesus, who is now enthroned-on the basis of God’s power—over all of the universe.

Therefore, at the center of this prayer for the Ephesians in chapter 1, Paul desires that they would realize and know God’s resurrection power that is available for their daily use.

Mighty strength in this verse from Greek κράτος (kratŏs), krat´-os; perh. a prim. word; vigor [“great”] (lit. or fig.):—dominion, might [-ily], power, strength.[2]

The word especially signifies exerted strength and power demonstrated in a reigning authority. It primarily refers to God’s Kingdom authority, dominion, and majesty. It is God’s dominion, manifested power, and strength. Kratos is also used in Eph 3:20 & 6:10.

Too many Christians today, as well as in Paul’s day, are unaware this power is there and available. We are the dwelling place of God, the very temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16)! We must learn to live from this reality!

It takes fresh revelation and wisdom to observe God’s power. The very fact that so many say they “don’t see God’s power” at work is even more reason this prayer is needed—the church must see what is occurring now!

Our confidence is in Christ, in His power and dominion. As we recognize our authority as a believer, and begin to walk in the fullness of Christ, we impact our world. It is about surrender and consecration to the Lord.

2)   Love “… but of power, love …”

Love is from the Greek ἀγάπη, (agapē) love: esp. brotherly love, charity; the love of God for man and of man for God[3] Can also mean love feast …

Paul writes the Ephesians,  … I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,” Eph. 1:15 NKJV

Notice faith and love in this verse, they are pillars to Christian character and to walking in His power. Faith and love had grown to such a point in the Ephesian church that it was being discussed abroad. There was a great revival and power in that city (see Acts 19), but it was their faith and love that was being discussed.

Paul told the Galatians “…but faith working through love.” Gal 5:6 NKJV Faith needs love to function properly—love fuels faith! Faith working through love overcomes fear and timidity.

As a pastor, I desire a church united, walking in the surpassing greatness of His power. It begins with faith and love. Honor towards each other and to everyone.

Paul wrote Timothy earlier, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith.” 1 Tim. 1:5 NKJV

To walk in His power begins here, with love, purity, and sincere faith. The Church would be transformed if the body of Christ resolved to keep this primary goal of growing in faith and love.

A worthy goal is for others to hear of the great things God is doing in our midst as a church; however, we must be known for the right reasons—starts with faith and love. We should be known for deeds of love and acts of faith.

3)   Disciplined or Sound Mind, “…but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

Self-discipline (or sound mind) is from the Greek σωφρονισμός (sōphronismos) and means exercise of prudence, moderation, self-discipline, prudence.[4] In this verse the intent is that the Spirit functions in such a way that Christians learn to exercise prudence.[5] To exercise prudence means to use wisdom.

Paul says God gives us self-discipline, or the exercise of prudence or wisdom. Sometimes we say, “well I’m not very disciplined!” That’s an ungodly belief! The Spirit empowers us to function in God’s love, power, and discipline and wisdom.

An important aspect to possessing wellness of soul is to embrace a lifestyle that is disciplined, operating in prudence and wisdom. In other words, we participate with the Holy Spirit in spiritual disciplines, as well as being disciplined in all areas of life. We are good stewards of our time, treasure, and talents. We take care of our bodies and minds. We choose to live healthy lifestyles, getting proper rest, nutrition, and exercise.

When I was a young Christian, I began to focus more on spiritual disciplines than in maintaining a healthy lifestyle complete with exercise.

For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. 1 Tim. 4:8 NKJV

I read Paul’s instruction to Timothy as “exercise was bad!” No, Paul is trying to give Timothy, and us, proper balance—both are needed. Making positive lifestyle changes, eating healthy, exercising routinely, refusing negative thinking, etc. all begin with proper thinking and attitude. Paul encouraged the Philippians:

From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us. The God of peace will be with you. Phil. 4:8-9 CEB

As we choose to keep our minds uncluttered and focus on what is pure, true, and admirable as Paul describes in Phil 4:8-9, we put into practice self-disciplined thinking that will affect our behavior and keep us in wellness of soul!


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For a more in-depth look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message “Wellness of Soul”


[1] Robert L. Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries: Updated Edition (Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998).

[2] James Strong, A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), 43.

[3] H.G. Liddell, A Lexicon: Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996), 4.

[4] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 987.

[5] Ibid.

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