Posts Tagged 'anxiety'

Me Worry?

9e96fe1b1357b419f4b43967c62b7705The secret of living an anxiety-free life isn’t a secret at all; it’s found in the Bible.  The cat was let out of the bag some 2,000 years ago, so if you’re still one of the millions of American Christians lugging around cares, anxieties, and worries, you have no one to blame but yourself!   Here’s the alternative to anxiety:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  (1 Peter 5:7 | NIV84)

You may be thinking, “I’ve tried that and it didn’t work.”  If it didn’t work, then you’re doing it wrong.  The Bible is a book full of guarantees, not hit-and-miss advice.  Let’s take a look at 1 Peter 5:7 in context and you’ll discover what you may be doing wrong.

Broadly speaking 

First things first.  This letter, as all New Testament letters, was written to Christians.  So at the very outset we realize that the admonition to “cast all your anxiety on him” applies only to Christians.  The non-believer cannot possibly do that, therefore he cannot possibly enjoy a life free from anxiety.  Put another way, if you are a Christian and experiencing anxiety then you are living like an non-believer!  How pathetic is that?

Narrowing things down a bit more, this letter wasn’t just written to Christians but Christians who regularly attend church.  Ouch.  So if you are a Christian but don’t regularly attend church, then you can cast your anxieties all you want, but nobody is there to catch them.  The dirty little secret is that you must be in regular fellowship with the Body of Christ in order to receive so many of the promises made to you.

There aren’t very many verses in the New Testament about the necessity of attending church.  Ever wonder why?  It’s because Paul, Peter, John, and the other New Testament writers all assumed that Christians would be in church.  The thought that you could call yourself a Christian yet not fellowship with other believers within the context of a local church was completely foreign to them.  The one verse about church attendance most of us ignore is found in Hebrews:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  (Hebrews 10:24-25 | NIV84) 

It seems some believers were getting into the habit of laying out of church, and that’s the reason for this piece of advice.  But notice something else:  Regular church attendance is important so that its members may “encourage one another.”  This encouragement can take many forms, but as verse 24 says, we should be in church so that we may “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  In other words, we learn how to live righteous lives by being in church.

Back to 1 Peter, in the previous chapter we read this:

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.   (1 Peter 4:12 | NIV84) 

Peter was writing to Christians who were suffering at the hands of non-believers; they were facing some persecution on account of their faith.  In his opinion, that was the norm, not the exception.  Everybody suffers sometimes, but Christians can count on encountering some “extra” suffering because of their relationship with Jesus Christ.  Not just the norm, it is God’s will. That doesn’t mean God delights in His people suffering or that He necessarily causes suffering.  But remember Job?  He got it:

But he knows the way that I take;when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.  (Job 23:10 | NIV84) 

Like gold that is being purified, so Christians are being purified – not in a fiery furnace but in the furnace of affliction.  Ultimately God is far more concerned with our eternal state than with our present state, although He is certainly concerned about that, and He will use whatever means He has at His disposal to help us along in our growth toward Christian maturity, even if that means allowing some persecution to touch us.

For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?   (1 Peter 4:17 | NIV84) 

It’s not easy being a believer, and it’s even harder for the disobedient believer.  If we faithful Christians have a hard time, imagine how difficult it is those who ignore the Word of God?  In chapter 5, Peter takes aim at some select people within the church, starting with its elders.

Conduct of the pastor 

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed:  Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.  (1 Peter 5:1-4 | NIV84) 

In the church, the job of the pastor is a simple one:  shepherd God’s flock.  The shepherd had a threefold duty: to provide pasture, paths to the pasture, and protection along the paths to the pasture. The pastor, and by extension the elders of a church, is to preach and teach God’s Word, provide opportunities for his people to learn God’s Word, and to show by both his preaching and his example how to live God’s Word.  He is to do this willingly, not as one forced to or so that he may get a big fat paycheck.  And he is to somehow protect the sheep under his care.  He does that by praying and interceding for them, sometimes confronting them and admonishing them to shape up.  The pastorate comes with many joys and disappointments, laughter and frustration, but in the end, we who find ourselves behind a pulpit week after week will one day stand before the Chief Shepherd and explain why we did what we did, and though our earthly compensation may be slim from time to time, a crown of glory will be ours.

Some people think the pastor has it made.  He doesn’t.  His is a career of submission; submission first and foremost to God and God’s will, then to himself – to the sense of his own calling – and finally to the church under his care.  And to be sure, the pastor would be adrift without the support and direction of his elders.

Conduct of the people 

Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.  (1 Peter 5:5-11 | NIV84) 

The church of Jesus Christ ought to be marked a “humble, mutual submission.”  That makes sense since the pastor is to submit himself to God first and foremost.  The people should learn from his example and submit themselves to God but also to their fellows within the congregation.  This submission doesn’t involve letting other members trample all over you, but rather it suggests caring for each other and taking the position of humble service – a willingness to meet their needs, whatever those needs may be.  It means putting their needs ahead of your own.  If that sounds hard – or impossible – that’s because it is.  In the natural, we can’t live like that.  But Christians are supernatural people, not natural people.

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.  Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  (Ephesians 5:18-21 | NIV84) 

When you’re filled with the Spirit, you can do precisely what is impossible for those without the Spirit to do. And here’s the rub.  Casting your anxieties on God is all part of submitting to Him.  Or, to look at it a different way, you and I often cringe when we hear the word “submission” because it carries with it very negative connotations.  For example, we submit to the IRS when we pay our taxes.  Only a moron enjoys paying taxes, and ignorant morons think they need to pay more.  In the middle of the night, when we drive through town and we’re the only car on the road and we hit every single stop light, we submit and stop even though there are no other cars!  Sounds silly when you put it like that, doesn’t it?  Yet casting your cares on God sounds equally silly, especially for, say, young parents who live anxiety filled lives as they raise their kids.  They’re anxious about germs, fevers, shifty neighbors, an inadequate school system, and so on.  In fact, it’s not an exaggeration to say that anxiety is seen as a virtue; as part of being a responsible parent. It’s not.  it’s a sin and it’s an insult to God when you are anxious about anything.  It’s telling God that you don’t trust Him.  And those grey hairs and tension headaches might just be the light hand of His subtle judgment, as He tries in vain to show you the benefit of submitting to Him on this.  God is not some cold, calculating federal bureaucracy or law enforcement agency that you need to fear or loathe.  He cares for you, and that’s why He wants you to be obedient and once and for all cast your anxieties on Him.

He is the “God of everything,” after all.  He is sovereign.  It doesn’t matter what you are anxious about – your kids, your health, your future, your whatever – God is absolutely sovereign and in the know.  Don’t let the circumstances of your life pile on top of your faith.  Keep your cool.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  (1 Peter 5:8 | NIV84) 

Get that?  Be “self controlled and alert.”  Don’t be a fool.  Don’t give in to your anxieties, and recognize who your enemy is:  the Devil.  When you stubbornly  refuse to cast your anxieties on God, you are playing right into the Devil’s hands; you’re giving him a foothold in your heart.  Don’t do it!  Get a grip!  Keep your head!  Think before you get all anxious.  Then think again, and give your anxieties to God.  It’s the smart way to live.  You’ll be happier, you’ll live longer, you’ll be easier to live with, and most importantly, you’ll be living in obedience to God’s will.

The “All” Psalm

download-12

Psalm 34 is one of those psalms that Christians quote verses from all the time without knowing exactly which psalm they’re quoting.   In that sense, it’s we might call it “the anonymous psalm.”  But it’s also the “all” psalm, and you’ll see why shortly.

This is really a psalm of deliverance; deliverance from all kinds of things, including fear, danger, trouble, and affliction.  The historical context behind Psalm 34 is interesting and can be found in 1 Samuel 21:10 – 15, where David pretended to be crazy before King Achish of Gath.  Achish may also have been named Abimelech.

That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath.  But the servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances: ” ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands’?”  David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath.  So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.  Achish said to his servants, “Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me?  Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?”  (I Samuel 21:10 – 15  TNIV)

Bless God all the time

I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.  (Psalm 34:1  KJV)

The psalm begins on a positive note, and one that hymns and gospel songs have echoed.  Matthew Henry makes a succinct observation on verse 1:

If we hope to spend eternity praising God, it is fit that we should spend much of our time here in this work.

He’s right, of course.  If you’re a Christian yet find it difficult spending a few moments in praise of God, then you’re in big trouble!  You’ll never make it in Heaven!  But does this mean engaging in the singing of worship choruses all day long?  Does it mean blessing God even when you don’t feel like it?  Or praising Him when your car breaks down or your microwave oven ignites and catches on fire?

Let’s look at what David is saying we should do.

First, he says we should “bless” the Lord.  The word “bless,” barak, essentially means “to kneel before.”  But the idea is not so much posture but attitude.  We are to acknowledge God.  We are to thank God.  We are to praise God.  Now, depending on your circumstances, it would be just plain foolish to thank God for your house burning to the ground.  Or for the flat tire.  But you should always acknowledge Him; take time to remember that He is always with you, even in those bad situations.  Always acknowledge His presence.  Always acknowledge His abilities to help you and meet whatever need it is you have.

And you should never stop praising God.  There are all kinds of reasons for praising God, and if you can’t think of any at the moment, then you are truly the most miserable of creatures and probably beyond help!  This verse helps a lot, and if you can keep in the front of your mind, you’ll always be praising Him:

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.  (James 1:17  KJV)

When you take a look at your life; at all the good things in it and realize they all came from God, why wouldn’t you praise Him?

But what if you have a truly miserable existence?  If you honestly can’t praise God for what He’s done for you, then you can certainly praise Him for who He is!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.  (Ephesians 1:3 – 6  KJV)

There is never a time when you can’t bless the Lord!

God delivers from all fears

I sought the Lord , and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.  (Psalm 34:4  KJV)

The first three verses of this psalm can be considered a kind of general introduction. At this verse, though, David gets personal.  This is his personal testimony about something God did for him.  Despite his faults and failings, David was never shy about telling others what his God did for him!

Have you ever stopped to think about all the things people are afraid of?  But did you know that fear is the opposite of faith?  It’s a sin, and there is no virtue in fearing anything.  Now, it’s good to respect certain things, like the ocean or fire or grizzly bears.  You’ll live longer.  But fear has NO place in the Christian’s life.  Purkiser was absolutely right when he wrote:

Fear and an attitude of faith in the goodness of God are contradictory moods.  “The fear of the Lord” destroys all unnatural fears and anxieties.  

I believe that to be true.  A healthy fear of God should cancel out any other fears you may  have.  If you, like so many people today, struggle with fear, then do what David did:  seek the Lord!  When you do that, verse 5 comes to pass in your life:

They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.  (Psalm 34:5  KJV)

When you take the time seek God – to look to Him – your very countenance will change.  You won’t look fearful or anxious.  You’ll be encouraged and you won’t be let down or disappointed.

And ye shall seek me, and find me , when ye shall search for me with all your heart.  (Jeremiah 29:13  KJV)

Struggling with fear?  Anxious about something?  Let God deliver you from those things once and for all!  Moffatt translates verse 4 like this, and it’s how you will look when you look to God:

Look to him, and you shall beam with joy.

That’s what Christ-likeness is all about.  When we adopt His character and allow His perfect personality to overtake ours, we will shine with His presence and “beam with joy” regardless of what’s going on in the moment of our lives.

God will save you from all your troubles

This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him , and saved him out of all his troubles.  (Psalm 34:6  KJV)

The “poor man” here is David; this verse is autobiographical.  King or pauper.  Rich or poor.  Trouble makes all men the same!  All the resources in the world can’t chase away fear or create lasting satisfaction.  Spiritual poverty afflicts most everybody, even some Christians.  It’s sad that so many believers allow themselves to think that they are spiritual paupers; that they actually lack the things they need.  Does any Christian seriously think that God would ever withhold anything from him, if he needs it?

For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.  (Psalm 84:11  KJV)

If you believe that, and you should since it’s in the Bible, then start living like it!  If you truly believe that God gives you what you need, then you’ll walk fearlessly and courageously.  Years ago, we used to sin a chorus that went like this:

This smile on my face wasn’t always there the struggles use to get me down,

Hassles and problems from every direction use to make me wear a frown.

In the midst of the storms I found a deep contentment to help me face this night and day 

You see the world didn’t give it to me and the world can’t take it away!

That’s how we should be living our lives!  The attitude we all need to adopt.  It’s Biblical!  You should be living in obedience to the Word.  You’ll be happier, and the people around you will be happier.

The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.  (Psalm 34:17  KJV)

I love this verse; it’s so matter-of-fact.  There’s no ambiguity or question.  When a child of God calls out to God, God hears.  Period.  Do you know what a singular privilege that is?  To know without any doubt that God hears your prayers?  There’s no begging involved.  Or convincing.

But there is something else here; an inconvenient truth tucked away in these verses.  The assumption is we will have troubles.  Apparently many.  God, for reasons that seem good to Him, allows them to come into our lives, but the promise is that when we ask Him, He will deliver us from them.  Of course, that deliverance may or may not be immediate.  We always have to trust that whatever is going on is not going to harm us and that in some way we will actually benefit from the trouble.  Sounds crazy, but it’s a profound truth Joseph well understood:

As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil, for he brought me to this high position I have today so that I could save the lives of many people.  No, don’t be afraid.  (Genesis 50:20, 21a  TLB)

And of course, Jesus made it clear that trouble would be the lot of Christians:

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.  (John 16:33  KJV)

And that’s really the secret, isn’t it?  To be of good cheer when it doesn’t make sense to be.

God delivers you from all evil

Many evils confront the [consistently] righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.  (Psalm 34:19  AMP)

Like it not, if you are among the “consistently righteous,” then you have a following.  But it’s probably not the kind of following you want!  If you’re a Christian and trying to live the good life – the righteous life – you might as well be walking around with a target painted on your back.  The demons have you in their sights and they want to take you down.  That’s evil.  That’s what David is talking about here.  God will deliver you from that kind of evil.  You have nothing to fear from this world or the world beyond for God takes care of His own.

And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.  Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.  (1 John 4:3, 4  KJV)

Again, that’s a statement of fact:  You  have overcome the “spirits” that are not of God.  It’s an accomplished fact.  There is not doubt.

And when you feel overwhelmed, you call out to God and He will deliver you.  Period.

God preserves even your body

Disciples so often get into trouble; still, God is there every time.  He’s your bodyguard, shielding every bone; not even a finger gets broken.  (Psalm 34:19, 20  MSG)

Some Bible scholars believe these verses allude to Jesus and the fact that He died without any broken bones.  That’s probably forcing an interpretation onto this psalm that isn’t warranted.  The power of these verses is that they applied to David, though the specific incident isn’t known, yet they also apply to all believers.  God loves and saves His people from a myriad of trouble.  In fact, God cares so much that He won’t even let a finger get broken!   It’s a statement of the caring concern that God has for His people.

Now, you may wonder:  “If God cared that much, why not keep all trouble from ever getting close to me in the first place?”  That’s a good question.  But I keep going back to Joseph.  All the awful things that happened to him were for a very specific reason.  Of course, at the time he didn’t know that there was a reason.  But he never gave up on God; he never lost faith.  And we shouldn’t either.  God’s ways and purposes are seldom clear.  They become clear in hindsight, but not always.  That’s why we need faith.  That’s why we need to stay in the Word.  It gives meaning and perspective to what we may be going through.  And as one commentator noted:

I’d rather have a thousand afflictions and be delivered out of them all, than half a dozen and get stuck in the midst of them!

 

The Futility of Fear, 2

Help.jpg

Help Is On the Way!

Isaiah 35:2

Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.  (Isaiah 35:4  KJV)

Anybody with a car can appreciate this “fear not.”  No, they didn’t have cars in Isaiah’s day and cars have nothing to do with the context of this, our second “Fear Not.”  If you’ve ever run out of gas or gotten a flat tire miles from home, you know what it feels like when a friendly, helpful person stops to offer you a hand, and thanks to their intervention, you were on your way.  Even in our rushed, paranoid, cold world, there are people who don’t mind helping others, and we who have been the beneficiaries of their generosity are thankful.

We’ll look at the context of Isaiah 35 in a moment, but let your eyes take in verse 2.  Can you appreciate what’s being said in it?  There was no need for Isaiah’s people to be fearful.  On the contrary, they could be strong and courageous because God was on their side.  It was just a matter of time before He would arrive with help enough to save them.

We often grow impatient with our Lord when the rough times persist.  We wonder how He can let us suffer for so long if He loves us so much.  Even though these ancient words were intended for other ears, we can learn something very important that will make our lives a little easier.

A look at context

A promise for the future

This is a prophecy of the future – the far future.  Isaiah paints a beautiful picture of a wonderful future for the righteous in “the day of The Lord.”  That Old Testament phrase refers to two aspects of the future; a time of both judgment and salvation.  For the righteous, the people of God, there will ultimately be salvation.  Isaiah used his considerable talents to encourage a discouraged people by assuring them that one day God’s people would return to their city; that they would be happy and redeemed.  God hadn’t abandoned them nor had He forgotten them.

Even the wilderness and desert will rejoice in those days; the desert will blossom with flowers.  Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! The deserts will become as green as the Lebanon mountains, as lovely as Mount Carmels pastures and Sharons meadows; for the Lord will display his glory there, the excellency of our God.  (Isaiah 35:1, 2  TLB)

Naturally this is poetry.  The Greeks wrote about “the music of the spheres” and in Job, this is how God described the creation of the world:

What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?  (Job 38:6, 7  TLB)

Yes, the glory of the Lord causes both man and his environment to rejoice and to sing His praises.  Nothing else; no one else is capable of doing this.  The knowledge and the presence of God is what causes all creation to experience joy.  It’s unfortunate that so many Christians seem to miss out on this joy.  For believers, the source of our joy is in God, yet how much time and energy – not to mention money – do we expend looking for it elsewhere?  We are a restless people; always looking for something we already possess!

Hope for the present

With this news bring cheer to all discouraged ones.  Encourage those who are afraid. Tell them, “Be strong, fear not, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.”  (Isaiah 35:3, 4  TLB)

This chapter in Isaiah was written with a very discouraged people in mind.  God’s people reading this were strangers in a strange land; dispersed all over the Babylonian Empire.  Some were facing the long trek back to Jerusalem, which was in rubble.

This was the reality.  Yes, the future looked wonderful but what about the present?  How would God’s people deal with the present misery and fear that had gripped the hearts of so many?  Fear is a debilitating affliction. It can manifest itself all over the body:

And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unstop the ears of the deaf. The lame man will leap up like a deer, and those who could not speak will shout and sing!  (Isaiah 35:5, 6  TLB)

Everybody’s “real life” falls far short of what Heaven will be like.  Sometimes “real life” obscures God’s promises of our future.  We are not so far removed from these ancient Israelites.  Their problems aren’t ours, but what God promised Israel applies to believers in any age and in any location!  The sense of Isaiah’s words is this:  How can Israel fear since the Lord is near and will defend them and fight for them?  That’s a message for any Christian facing any difficulties:  get your eyes on the eternal, almighty Sovereign of the Universe!  Imagine that!  He is on YOUR side!  As one Bible scholar put it:

Vengeance is His prerogative.  Recompense is His retribution.  Salvation is His deliverance!

He saved Israel; He will save you, too.  It doesn’t matter what your “enemy” may be, God is more than able to deal with it.  Your enemy could be your health, your finances, your emotions, your job, maybe your mind.  God will cause you to be the overcomer you are promised to be.

What deliverance looks like

The beauty and value of these verses is that they show us what Biblical deliverance looks like.  Throughout Isaiah’s big book of prophecy, we read a lot about spiritual  blindness and deafness and the promise that one day, our “spiritual” infirmities will be healed.  That in itself will be a monumental day.  Can you imagine seeing God clearly; unfiltered by the filth and pollution of our sinful world?  Or how about hearing God’s voice with crystal clarity without having to block out all those other voices?  That will be a great day!  Deliverance looks like that.  The great thing about God’s deliverance is that no child of God has to wait until he’s physically dead, or until the Lord returns to experience it!  Right now, in our sin-cursed world, all saints of God are able to experience at least glimpses of our ultimate spiritual deliverance.  And that itself is cause for cheer!

But the New Testament alludes to what Isaiah wrote here and takes it literally.

The two disciples found Jesus while he was curing many sick people of their various diseases—healing the lame and the blind and casting out evil spirits. When they asked him Johns question, this was his reply: “Go back to John and tell him all you have seen and heard here today: how those who were blind can see. The lame are walking without a limp. The lepers are completely healed. The deaf can hear again. The dead come back to life. And the poor are hearing the Good News.  And tell him, ‘Blessed is the one who does not lose his faith in me.’ ”  (Luke 7:22 – 23  TLB)

John the Baptist was in prison and was losing heart.  Freedom for him, John knew, was a thing of the past.  In a moment of doubt he wondered if the Man he heralded as the Messiah really was or not.  Jesus got word back to Him that he was right:  Jesus was truly the Messiah and the Kingdom had come.  Evidence of that fact was all the physical healings and spiritual ones.  But note the last sentence:

Blessed is the one who does not lose his faith in me.

Jesus knows it’s not easy holding onto your faith and that’s why there is special blessing reserved for those who don’t lose it.  Some of you reading this may be feeling like John the Baptist did while he was sitting in his prison cell.  Your prison may not be a literal one, but perhaps your faith is waning; things you used to believe you now wonder about as real life has beat you down with one defeat after another.  God’s Word to you is a simple one:  HOLD ON!  Keep your faith.  Help is on the way!

God makes a way

Isaiah 35:8 is the a jewel; a focal point of the the whole chapter.  Translated from the Greek version of the Old Testament, it looks like this:

There shall be a clean way and it shall be called a holy way, and there shall by no means pass over there anything  unclean, neither shall be there an unclean way.  But the dispersed ones shall proceed upon it, and they shall in no wise be deceived [caused to err].

Remember, Isaiah 35 is a prophecy about the future of Israel.  They are the dispersed ones; they are the ones scattered all over, miles from home.  Essentially Isaiah’s  message was for the Babylonian exiles; the ones who would be making the long trip back home to Jerusalem to resettle it and rebuild it.  But it’s also a far reaching message to the Jews of our future; the ones who, at the Second Coming, will stream back to Jerusalem.

This “clean way” or Holy Highway, will be the route home for the homeless.  It’s a wonderful picture of how the Lord makes a way for His people.  Those believers walking along the Lord’s highway will be safe and secure and surrounded by people of like faith.

But how does this apply to us, today?  Today, we believers belong to the Body of Christ.  We are able to surround ourselves with other redeemed people who believe what we do.  We can belong to a local church and be involved in a local congregation as we walk through our lives.  No Christian needs to feel isolated or alone!  God established His church for many reasons, and this is one of them.

Back to Isaiah’s Holy Highway for a moment, Naegelsbach wrote:

The Lord built it and destined it to lead to His house.  It is a pilgrim way.  Hence nothing unclean, neither unclean person or thing, may come up on it.  Whoever goes on it is a sanctified one, under God’s protection and care.

The message for believers today

These verses were were not written to us.   They were written to a specific group of Jews about a situation specific to them.  Be that as it may, the Holy Spirit thought they were important enough to include them in the canon of Scripture for us to read.  Why?  Why do we, Christians in the 21st century, need to pay attention to promises made to people long dead?

Scripture may only have one meaning or interpretation, but there may also be many applications.  Isaiah’s message to his people is also a message to the downtrodden and oppressed; to people struggling because they have been wronged and experienced injustice.  To those, God’s promise is clear:  Vengeance is the His.  Justice will be meted out.  The broken hearted will be healed and restored.

It’s also a word to all those who see the wrong and the sin all around them and are appalled and frustrated that sinners seem to prosper and that the truth appears to be smothered.  It’s easy to become cold and cynical when wrong prevails and right seems lost.  But God’s Word is to hang on; God sees what’s happening and help is on the way.  God will come and He will make things right.

We can all take heart and be encouraged because in spite of the present, the future is well worth waiting for.

...all sorrow and all sighing will be gone forever; only joy and gladness will be there.  (Isaiah 35:10b  TLB)

The Futility of Fear, 1

C2976585-1400178209201015large

Don’t Fear the Future

Isaiah 41:13 

For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’  (NKJV) 

Fear is a big problem today.  America, once “home of the brave,” has become “home of the fearful.”  We fear everything these days.  We’re afraid of living; we’re afraid of dying.  We’re afraid of warm weather; we’re afraid of cold weather. We’re afraid of driving our cars; we’re afraid of riding our bikes.  We’re afraid of eating too much; we’re afraid of eating too little.  Honestly, we have become a nation in desperate need to getting a grip!

The Bible has a lot to say about fear and the need to “fear not.”  It’s important for Christians to understand that the opposite of fear is faith.  We are called to have faith, not fear.  Fear not only robs us of joy and the anticipation of all that life has to offer, it’s also a sin; it shows that in spite of what we may say, when the rubber hits the road, we just don’t trust the Lord.

Let’s take a look at our very first “fear not” and discover that as far as the future is concerned, God’s got it all under control.

The setting 

Our “fear not” occurs in verse 13, but verse 13 doesn’t occur in a vacuum.  We need to establish the context—what was going on that necessitated God telling His people not to fear.

In chapter 41, God’s attention is on the idolatrous nations surrounding Israel.

“Keep silence before Me, O coastlands, and let the people renew their strength!  Let them come near, then let them speak; let us come near together for judgment.”  (Isaiah 41:1  NKJV)

That’s quite a contrast with the last verse of chapter 40:

But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.  (Isaiah 40:31  NKJV) 

The promise of renewed strength was for the people of God, and the nations surrounding them were warned to leave His people alone; to let them rest and get strong once again.  It’s helpful to remember that this prophecy has to do primarily with the deliverance of Israel from Babylon.  Even though this whole address was to the nations, the message was really intended for Israel to hear.  God wanted to encourage His discouraged people; they needed to know that He had not abandoned them and that He would renew their strength.  The gods of all those heathen nations were impotent.

A human deliverer, 2—4 

“Who raised up one from the east? Who in righteousness called him to His feet?  Who gave the nations before him, and made him rule over kings?  Who gave them as the dust to his sword, as driven stubble to his bow?  Who pursued them, and passed safely by the way that he had not gone with his feet?  Who has performed and done it, calling the generations from the beginning?  ‘I, the Lord, am the first; and with the last I am He.’ ” (NKJV)

The Lord, the Righteous Judge in the courtroom of the universe, directs the attention of all these heathen nations (and the attention of Israel) to Himself, as the great Sovereign of this world and the Author of its history.

The identity of this “one from the east” is unknown.  Some have thought God is referring to Abraham, but that seems unlikely.  More likely, God is actually referring to Cyrus, one whom God would raise up to fulfill His purpose for His people.  Here we see the absolute sovereignty of God in action.  Cyrus would be God’s instrument of deliverance.  God would choose His deliverer.  Cyrus was the right man at the right time and it was by God’s design.  He may not have been the man the Jews would have chosen, but he was born for this purpose:  to deliver God’s people from their Babylonian captivity.

Verse 4 is a statement of God’s sovereignty over history.  From the beginning of time, God is the One behind the ebb and flow of the history of the nations of our world.  Earthly kings, prime ministers, and presidents only think they are in control.  It is really God calling the shots.

What is true of the world is true of your life.  If God can keep this world on course, do you think He’s incapable of managing the comparatively puny affairs of your life?

The arrogance of man, verses 5—7 

The coastlands saw it and feared, the ends of the earth were afraid; they drew near and came.  Everyone helped his neighbor, and said to his brother, “Be of good courage!”  So the craftsman encouraged the goldsmith; he who smooths with the hammer inspired him who strikes the anvil, saying, “It is ready for the soldering”; then he fastened it with pegs, that it might not totter.

All these nations were aware of Cyrus; they could see his armies on the move.  The “coastlands” were afraid of him.  All these nations were coming together in fear and turning to their idols for strength.  Perhaps they were making a new idol to deal with Cyrus.  In their superstition, they met together—all the scientists and political leaders and religious leaders and came to a consensus, honestly thinking they could stop God from accomplishing His will for His people.  And in a deft touch of irony, the idol had to be nailed together so as not to fall over.  The twilight of the gods had come!  In an atmosphere of panic, these arrogant, thoughtless nations discovered Dutch courage.  They had deluded themselves into thinking another god—or more gods—could save them.  But that kind of thinking is just plain vanity.

Indeed they are all worthless; their works are nothing; their molded images are wind and confusion.  (Isaiah 41:29  NKJV) 

Hope for the future, grounded in the past, verses 8—10 

“But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the descendants of Abraham my friend.  You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest regions, and said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not cast you away:  Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’”  (NKJV)

During Cyrus’ day, the Jews were living and many were prospering in Babylon.  It wasn’t home, but many had built lives and were doing well.  But now, Cyrus’ Babylon is being threatened by outside forces.  In time, Cyrus would fall, as all political leaders do.  The fear the surrounding nations felt for Cyrus was creeping through Babylon.  The exiles, far from home for decades, were now facing the possibility that they would lose their homes in Babylon.  Fear and uncertainty were on the rise.  God reassured them that their future was in His hand, and He did this by pointing to the past.

In spite of its present exile, the election of Israel through Abraham guaranteed that Israel would prevail no matter what was happening or would happen.  God chose Israel for a purpose and that purpose had nothing to do with being lost forever in exile!  God chose Israel and set Israel apart from all the nations on earth to serve Him, and that’s why they would have a future.

Recall the words of the old song:

He didn’t bring us this far to leave us
He didn’t teach us to swim to let us drown
He didn’t build His home in us to move away
He didn’t lift us up to let us down. 
 
There are some promises in a letter
Written a long, long time ago
They’re not getting older, they’re getting better
Because He still wants us to know.
 
I read those promises in His letter
And now I claim them for my own
Filling my heart and making life better
And I just wanted you to know. 

As Christians, we are not Israel.  Their future is not ours.  But, like Israel, we have been called and set apart and God has a purpose for each one of us.  Our future is assured because, like Israel, we have a job to do and a purpose to fulfill.  God didn’t save us to just let us struggle in fear.  God didn’t call us to Himself then hide, like He’s playing some kind of game on us!

God is not afar off.  Someone put it like this:

No distant God have we,
Who loves afar to be!
Made flesh for me,
He cannot rest until He rests in me! 

Seven mercies and blessings of God’s Hand 

God holds us close; His grasp on us is firm.  What does that mean?

  • Salvation, Psalm 18:16 

He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters.  (NKJV)

When we read that verse we think about Peter, sinking in the water.  He called out to Jesus to save him and our Lord reached down and grabbed his hand.  It doesn’t matter what those “many waters” in your life may be, God can and He promises to reach down and pull you up out of them.

  • Security, John 10:28 

And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  (NKJV)

Nothing can pull us away from Him!  He holds us in a vice-like grip.  He loves us that much—this is what eternal security means.

  • Friendship, Isaiah 41:13 

For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’

The “right hand” of friendship.  Can you imagine God as your friend?  You can stop imagining it, because He is!  God is your friend and He won’t let you go.  He’s the One you can depend on for all eternity.

  • Confidence, Hebrews 13:5, 6 

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?”  (NKJV 

What can a mere man do to a child of God?  Now that’s confidence!  And, unfortunately, this is what is missing in so many Christian lives.  So many of us live in fear because our confidence isn’t in the right person!  It must be in God.  Imagine what we could accomplish for Him if we weren’t afraid of offending somebody, or of what so-and-so would say, or of not having the right words.  The Lord is your helper.  You either believe that or you don’t, and if you do, then you’ll live fearlessly.

  • Assistance, Isaiah 41:14 

I will help you,” says the Lord.  (NKJV)

God’s hand is extended to help.  How can we think of failing in His work if He is helping us?

  • Strength, Genesis 49:24 

…the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob… (AV)

Imagine unlimited strength at your disposal!  It’s there; it’s inside of you.  God’s presence in you guarantees that you will have the strength to get His job done.

Conclusion 

God’s people were scattered throughout a godless empire; they were making the best of it, many of them, but it wasn’t home.  Many of these folks felt as though God had abandoned them; that He had forsaken them—or worse, forgotten them.  This may be you.  Maybe your “rough patch” has turned into way of life.  Maybe good times are a dim memory.  Worst of all, maybe you’re riddled with fear—fear of the future; fear of the past.  God wants you set free from those fears.  Fear is a word that should not be a part of any believer’s vocabulary!

 


Bookmark and Share

Another great day!

Blog Stats

  • 285,617 hits

Never miss a new post again.

Archives

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 279 other followers

Follow revdocporter on Twitter

Who’d have guessed?

My Conservative Identity:

You are an Anti-government Gunslinger, also known as a libertarian conservative. You believe in smaller government, states’ rights, gun rights, and that, as Reagan once said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

Take the quiz at www.FightLiberals.com

Photobucket