Thursday, October 16, 2008

BE ANXIOUS FOR NOTHING



Mark Twain once said, “Drag your thoughts away from your troubles... by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it." Certainly, many of us would agree with Twain’s advice in theory, but in practice we often find ourselves drowning in a sea of anxiety prompted by circumstances over which we have no control. Why does the “inner peace” which is the Christian’s birthright so often elude us? Is it really possible for the Christian to be anxiety- free? The Scripture commands, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6,7). As I examined this exhortation I was immediately impacted by the notion that nothing is to take hold of the Christian’s mind which would keep him from enjoying God’s peace. Knowing that His gracious supply is all-sufficient, the children of God must never begin to doubt the wonderful truth of God’s provision in Christ for all their needs. Our heavenly Father will never promise what He cannot deliver. “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

But how does this help when the dark clouds of life gather above your backyard and the hard rain begins to fall? What are you to make of your worries and fears? Are you sinning in worrying? First, we must understand that God knows the weakness of human flesh: “For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). I take this to mean that the Creator’s knowledge of the creature is comprehensive. This includes intimate knowledge of our spiritual, physical, and emotional state at every point in time. Moreover, God attends to our sorrows as well as our joys. Thus, we should not be surprised that the verse preceding God’s knowledge of His children speaks of His benevolent compassion on His sons and daughters in the faith: “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him” (Psalm 103:13). To some extent, to be human is to worry, which means that Christians will worry at times without sin. The key lies in the word extent. The idea expressed in Philippians 4:6, “Be careful [anxious] for nothing,” is best understood to mean that the child of God must not allow his mind to continually be held captive by thoughts which undermine his faith in God’s care for him. This is one of Satan’s greatest tactics. He assaults the Christian’s mind with every possible worst- case scenario about the future outcome of the trials he may be facing. The prince of darkness is equally the prince of doubt. He calls into question the goodness, love, and faithfulness of God. The Christian’s “bulwark never failing” under such a wicked assault is what we find in Philippians 4:6: “ ... prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.” Prayer (proseuche) is bowing the heart in the presence of God through the ministry of the Holy Spirit who is the Divine Comforter (John 14:26). Supplication (deesis) is the mighty utterance of a mighty need to a mighty God. Thanksgiving (eucharistia) is a form of praise which sees the source of all goodness and blessing in God alone. These spiritual weapons will keep a frail mind from dwelling upon circumstances which can rob it of the joy of the Lord, wherein lies the believer’s strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Charles Spurgeon said, “The believer who is in a spiritually healthy state rejoices mainly in God himself; he is happy because there is a God, and because God is in his person and character what he is.” Brethren, I think this is the secret of victory over worry. If we set our hearts on the perfection of God’s character and petition Him on that basis, we will not wander the dark halls in the castle of despair. Let us never forget that “... the Lord God omnipotent reigneth” (Revelation 19:6). Even in the most troublesome times we can be certain that the promise of Scripture is true: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Turning to Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus,” we discover the blessed truth of the certainty of incomprehensible tranquility for those who earnestly seek communion with God and offer up the sacrifice of praise. They are assured that the Prince of Peace will bestow His peace upon them, and it will guard their hearts and minds. The word guard means to keep close watch over. In military terminology it describes a sentry on duty who is vigilant, always watching out for the enemy. In context, the enemy would be the negative and fearful thoughts that lead to a state of anxiety. The Old Testament parallel truth is found in Isaiah 26:3, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” This must not be reduced to a mere human endeavor. Trying to overcome our thoughts by sheer will power does not work. God comes alongside those who turn to Him in faith. He is the “lifter up” of our heads (Psalm 3:3). We have a friend in Jesus who will all our burdens bear: He does not want you to carry them alone. The hymn writer had it correct: “In His arms He’ll take and shield thee, thou wilt find a solace there.”

Brethren, I would never pretend that the battle for a victorious thought life is easy, but it is winnable. The abundant resources of God are at our disposal. In addition to prayer and praise, we have the power of Scripture and the fellowship of the other believers to comfort us, counsel us, and encourage us. Never go it alone. If you are struggling in this area, find a trusted brother or sister in Christ and share your burdens (Galatians 6:2). There are those within the body of Christ with the God-given spiritual gifts of faith and exhortation. Others can help by way of life experience. They can be found in the local church, but you must be there when the church gathers. “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). This is great news. No matter how difficult the testing, we can all praise God that the day of the Lord’s return is approaching. We are inching closer and closer to it. In the twinkling of an eye, the darkness of the night will give way to the glorious light of eternity in the presence of the Lord: “For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). Wow! What an encouragement to lift up the downtrodden. On that joyful morn, “life’s trials will seem so small,” so never give up. “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,” and let us not forget that His reward is with Him (Revelation 22:12)!

May His Strength be your portion,

Pastor Tom

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10).

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