Faith Is the Victory, Part Three
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, April 2, 2006
Copyright © 2006, P. G. Mathew
We have been discussing the subject of faith-saving, persevering, living, obedient faith-and the enemies of that faith-what we call "the aphids of unbelief"-that destroy the tender plant of faith by sucking its vitals. We have spoken about the aphids of guilt and regret; today we will deal with the aphid of anxiety.
First, though, I want to mention that we will not benefit if we only hear the word of God but do nothing about it. Suppose you are ill and your doctor gives you a prescription. If you refuse to take the medicine, can you expect to get better? In the same way, we must add faith to the word of God before it can do us good. God's word is the prescription for the cure of our various problems. Therefore, may we not only hear the word, but let us also do it, that we may walk in the liberty that God gives us in Jesus Christ.
The Aphids of Anxiety
In his sovereign will, God permits certain negative things to happen to us. As a result, we may become fearful, confused, and anxious. Such negative experiences may include being fired from a job; rejection by others; the death of a loved one; divorce; collapse of a business; or being diagnosed with a terminal disease. If we are true Christians, we will experience severe anxiety when we sin. We also may become anxious when we get a letter from the Internal Revenue Service; when we meet with unfamiliar people or face unfamiliar situations; or when we go to the doctor. We may worry about our children-about their salvation, their health, their future, and their marriages. We may fret about whom to marry, where to go to school, or what career to pursue. We may experience anxiety when taking tests and going to interviews. We may become uneasy when we think about dating and the possibility of rejection, about peer acceptance, and about the fear of failure. Above all, we are anxious about our own death. There are so many ways in which we experience anxiety.
Ultimately, anxiety comes from focusing on ourselves, which is a denial of faith in our God. When we trust in ourselves rather than in God, any negative circumstance can shake our faith. We may feel as though the ground from under us is gone, and we are falling. Our minds become restless and divided. Satan takes advantage of the situation, asking, "Where is your God? Where is your comfort and joy? You are going to die, and no one can help you; you are alone." Then fear grips us, and we may feel we are entering a very dark tunnel all alone. It seems all have forsaken us, even God.
But do not believe the devil's lies. We are God's people-we shall not perish! The Bible clearly says that Jesus Christ has taken away the fear of death for us. God's purpose is to bring "many sons to glory" (Hebrews 2:10); to do so, God became incarnate in Jesus Christ. "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil-and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death" (Hebrews 2:14-15). Christ destroyed death for us by his death; therefore, death can no longer threaten us. Nothing in all creation is able to separate us from the love of God revealed to us in Jesus Christ.
Tools to Fight Anxiety
A number of scriptures can be used to fight this aphid of unbelief. We should memorize them and use them whenever anxiety floods our soul.
"The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
God himself gives us weapons to deal with all the fiery darts of the devil, particularly the weapon of his word. The Lord Jesus himself used God's word in his fight against the devil. When we speak out the word of God in faith, it demolishes all arguments, even those that rise up within us. We must counter our anxious thoughts with the promises of God's word. Thus, if we are ignorant of the Scriptures, or if we are simply hearers of God's word but not doers of it, we shall not be able to deal with anxiety.
"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." 1 Corinthians 10:13
This scripture tells us several things. First, all people are tempted; the troubles we experience are not unique to us. Second, it assures us that God, who is our Savior, Shepherd, and Physician, is faithful to us and to his promises; he cannot lie. Third, God is sovereign; everything is under his control, and even the devil must get permission to tempt us. And, finally, we must remember that even while we are being tempted, something else is also happening: God is providing a way out for us, and we must look for it.
Joseph was given that way out when he was tempted by Potiphar's wife. The Spirit of God told him to run; he obeyed and was safe. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego prayed for a way out when they were commanded to worship an idol, and God provided deliverance for them. There is always a way out, because God is faithful to us. We should memorize this scripture and use it often. Speak it out, believe what it says, and look for God's way of escape.
"I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mortal men, the sons of men, who are but grass, that you forget the LORD your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, that you live in constant terror every day. . .?" Isaiah 51:12
Fear and anxiety is a manifestation of distrusting God, though he is our heavenly Father who cares for us by anticipating our needs and providing for us. God is saying, in essence, "I am the infinite, personal, almighty, all-wise, all-sovereign God. Why should you worry about mortal men, who are nothing but grass and mist? I created the world by my mighty power, and I sustain it every moment. I am for you; why should you fear?"
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7
This passage begins, "Do not be anxious about anything. . . ." A better translation is, "Stop worrying about anything." We worry about many things, but the eternal Lord commands us, "Stop it!" Yes, anxiety is our natural reaction to poverty, sickness, divorce, rejection, persecution, and other troubles of life. But God stands with us, and he is in us. We are vitally united with him; therefore, we need not worry.
Notice, it says, "Do not be anxious about anything." There is no exception. We must not worry about anything that can happen to us, including a terminal disease, a child who goes bad, an unfaithful spouse, or any other trouble. Anxiety is a trait of pagans. Because they can only trust in themselves, they have no solutions to their problems. They are without God and, therefore, without hope in the world.
So, then, God gives us a negative command: "Stop worrying!" And if we have confessed Jesus Christ as Lord, we must obey his command. But ceasing to worry will not solve our problem completely; therefore, God also gives a positive command: "But in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." So we must not worry about anything, but must bring everything-there is no exception here either-to God in prayer. The Greek text says, "Let each one of your requests be made known." The way to be anxious about nothing is to be prayerful about everything. So make a list of all the things you are anxious about and bring your list to God in prayer.
To whom are we making our requests known? To God-our great, personal God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who loved us and gave his Son for our salvation. We may ask, "Doesn't God already know all our problems? Is he really waiting for us to give him a list?" Yes, God knows our needs. Matthew 6:32 tells us, "Your heavenly Father knows that you need them." But God wants us to demonstrate our dependence and our trust by bringing everything to him in prayer. This is the God-ordained means through which he helps us.
Isaiah 37 is a classic illustration of bringing our requests before God in this manner. When King Hezekiah received a threatening letter, he went to the temple, spread out the letter before God, and prayed, "O God, do something about this." God delivered him.
Notice, this verse does not say, "Go and tell others about your problem." No! We are to go into our prayer closet, close the door, and start talking to God. Bring him our list of worries and say, "Lord, this is my concern. Have mercy upon me and help me" and he will hear us.
We must, however, pray with thanksgiving, for God does not show favor to unthankful people. Romans 1:21 says thanklessness is the very nature of unbelievers. (PGM) Thus, we must mix our prayers with thanksgiving-thanksgiving for what God has done in the past as well as in the present. We must think about God's election from before the creation of the world and his mercy in saving us. We must think of how God sent his own Son in the fullness of time for our salvation. We must think of how God caused us to be born, and born again, and how he has sustained us throughout our lives, healing us, guiding us, protecting us, providing for us, and blessing us with innumerable blessings. We should write out some of those blessings on a list and bring it to God, thanking him for past and present mercies, as well as for what he will do for us in the future.
God makes a promise to all who come to him in this way: "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7). God gives us the peace that he himself enjoys to be a garrison to guard our minds, wills, and emotions. The peace of God will stand as a sentinel over us so that our inner life will no longer be shaken and divided, and we will no longer be anxious. We can rest, knowing that everything will be all right. This peace of God surpasses all human reasoning; we may try to understand it, but we cannot.
Now, God may remove our troubles, or he may not. But one thing is guaranteed: When we come to him in this way, he will give us his peace to calm our shaking, anxious, divided hearts, and he will strengthen us so that we can face whatever difficult situations he ordains. And we can thus rejoice, knowing that God is able to work in all things for our good.
Finally, notice that this peace comes only to those who are "in Christ Jesus." We are in Christ by faith.
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." Psalm 23:4
No one is exempt from negative experiences. God designs and ordains that we experience them for our eternal good. We recognize the benefit of trials when we look back over our lives, as Joseph did. He told his brothers, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives" (Genesis 50:20).
There are many things we do not understand in the present. We ask, "Why is this happening to me?" But in due time, every child of God can look back and interpret correctly his or her experiences. Thus David says, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil," and then we are given the reason why he has no fear: "for you are with me." God is not asking us to go through the valley of the shadow of death alone. He never asks us to go where he also will not come with us. What great comfort!
Our God is the God of comfort. Isaiah 40 begins, "Comfort, comfort ye, my people," and in Isaiah 51:3 we are told that God himself will provide that comfort. He sent his Son to die and be raised up so that our sins may be forgiven and his righteousness may be given to us (Isaiah 53:11). Then he invites us to come to his feast (Isaiah 55:1). That is comfort! Yes, we may have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but we will fear no evil. God is with us.
"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." 1 Peter 5:6-7
God gives grace to the humble. If we are arrogant, we will not trust in the promises of God. Instead, we will be weighed down by anxiety. So the first thing we must do is to humble ourselves before God. We must declare, "I acknowledge that I am but a finite, sinful, mortal creature. God is infinite, uncreated, and self-existing. He created me; therefore, I must humble myself before him." We must come under God's mighty hand-the hand that can save us and lift us up, as well as the hand that can discipline us. Pharaoh arrogantly asked, "Who is the Lord that I must obey him?" and he found out when God exercised his mighty hand in judgment.
Second, we must cast all our cares on him, for he cares for us. The Greek word epiript˘ means to take something and throw it away from us. It is used also in Luke 19:35, where people took off their outer garments and threw them on the donkey to be a saddle for Jesus. The idea is that when we cast our cares on Christ, we do not have them anymore. We have rolled them onto the mighty shoulders of God, and they are now his responsibility.
Have you committed all your anxieties once and for all to God in prayer? Then they are now God's business, and we must trust him to deal with them, for he cares for us. God is always caring for us. Hebrews 4:15 says that he is our great high priest who is able to sympathize with us. He is for us, and he will help us. He will either solve our problems or give us peace and grace to endure them.
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. . . . For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them." Matthew 6:25-34
These verses tell us how much greater we are to God than the plants and birds. We are God's treasure, his inheritance; thus, his eyes are always on us. He has an interest in protecting and saving us.
Have you ever seen an anxious bird? The truth is, we are greater than the birds, the plants, and even the wicked people of the world, for all of whom God provides. We are God's special people; therefore, we can count on his special attention, grace, and mercies. We have a unique relationship with God: he is our heavenly Father, and we are his eternally loved children. And if we, as parents, anticipate the needs of our children and provide for them, how much more will our heavenly Father anticipate our needs and provide for us!
Verse 32 says, "Your heavenly Father knows that you need them." God knows our every need. Young Isaac asked, "The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" (Genesis 22:7). And his father Abraham said, "The Lord sees," meaning, "The Lord knows; therefore, the Lord will provide." Think about it. We are near and dear to the very heart of God. And if he did not spare his own Son for our salvation, do you think he will now forget us? God is for us, he is with us, and he is in us. He knows our needs!
Jesus once said, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed" (Luke 10:41). Some people say he was telling her, "Do not worry about cooking many dishes; only one is needful." I disagree with that interpretation. Jesus meant that one thing is needful: to live by the word of God. One thing is needful: to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. If we embrace his kingdom and do his will, then "all these things" will be added to the multitude of past blessings that we have already received. God guarantees it.
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me." John 14:1
The cure for anxiety is trust. Jesus is telling us, "Trust me, because I am God, and, therefore, I am competent, I am able, and I will take care of you." We find the same counsel throughout Psalm 37: "Do not fret. . . . trust in the LORD. . . . delight yourself in the LORD. . . . commit your way to the LORD." No matter what our situation is, even as we face death itself, when we read these verses, we know everything is going to be all right.
"Praise be to the LORD, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens." Psalm 68:19
We face problems every day. What should we do? Cast our burdens on the Lord. He is God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.
An alternative reading of this verse says, "who daily loadeth us with good things." I think both ideas are correct. God lifts our burdens off us and loads us down with good things. This promise alone should drive away anxiety and unbelief from our hearts, and cause us to sing his glorious praises.
How many people are loaded down with burdens, anxieties, troubles, worries, fears, and confusion! But Jesus tells us, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened" (Matthew 11:28). The devil puts burdens on us, and we can be crushed by them, stooping down under their weight. No one can lift a finger to help us-no one but Jesus. He tells us, "Come unto me. I will remove your burdens, and in their place I will give you rest and peace." When we combine this promise with faith, the peace of God that passes all human imagination will flood our souls.
All who are anxious and of little faith, God has given you his prescription! You can read this and go away miserable, anxious, and worried, or you can believe what God says and be set free from the crushing burdens on your souls. I pray that all of us will begin this day to take God's medicine regularly, so that we can be comforted and strengthened to face the future unafraid.
Copyright © 2006, P. G. Mathew
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