Faith, Trust

Fear Not: 9 Biblical Ways to Trade Worry for Trust

Originally published April 24, 2015fear not

Did you have any fears as a child? Monsters? The dark? Dogs? When I was a little girl, I had this record of the story of Peter and the Wolf, and I was afraid of wolves at night (Look at the picture and listen to him growl. Can you blame me?). I just knew they were skulking around my bed in the dark, black as midnight, drooling rabidly, ready to shred me to ribbons should I stick so much as one toe out from under the covers. It was terrifying.

As adults, we look back on those childhood fears with some degree of smugness or embarrassment and think about how silly it was to be scared of something that was never a threat in the first place. But even if we don’t like to admit it, fear is something we grown ups still struggle with, at least from time to time. Finances, health, and our children’s futures may replace wolves, darkness, and the boogeyman, but fear is still fear, whether you’re four or forty.

And God is well aware of that fact.

In my Bible, the phrases “fear not,” “do not be afraid,” and other similar expressions appear over 75 times. Fear is a normal, God-given reaction that can be healthy and keep you safe in the event of a real threat. Fear is a blessing when it motivates you to jump out of the path of a speeding truck or stay away from a rattlesnake, but just like everything else affected by the Fall, fear can often be misdirected and thwart our growth in Christ.

Most of our fears as adults have nothing to do with tangible, imminent, life or limb danger. Usually, we are fearful of “what if’s.”

“What if I get a bad report from the doctor?”

“What if I get fired?”

“What if my teenage daughter gets pregnant?”

In other words, we worry about what might happen.

It’s really easy to sing “‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus,” on Sunday, but much harder to actually do the work of trusting Him on Monday. Worry almost seems woven into the fiber of our DNA. In fact, worry has been such a common theme in the human experience that Jesus took time to address it during his Sermon on the Mount:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Matthew 6:25-34

Clearly, it is not God’s will for us to worry. No matter how strangling our fear may feel, God wants us to trust Him in everything, from the most dire situation to the most mundane. But how?

1. Make sure the object of your trust is the right one.

A popular false teaching from the Word of Faith (prosperity gospel) camp these days is that it’s never God’s will for you to be sick, poor, or experience tragedy. If you just have enough faith, and decree and declare enough, you can yank whatever outcome you want right out of the hands of God. Do you know why that’s not true?

Arguably the mightiest men of faith in history, eleven of the twelve disciples were martyred. So was Paul. David, whom God said was “a man after His own heart” suffered tragedy after tragedy. Jesus Himself prayed in Gethsemane that God would keep Him from having to go to the cross, and God said no.

Like these godly men, as Christians, we do not place our faith in positive outcomes. We place our faith in Christ, and His sufficiency for us in all things, regardless of the outcome. Make sure you’re trusting Christ, not what you want Him to give you.

2. Get off the guilt train.

Sometimes we can fall into Satan’s trap of believing that if we’re really saved or really trusting the Lord or really have faith, we’ll never fear anything. Then, when those worries creep in, we start feeling guilty. We’re not supposed to have those feelings.

Have you ever read the story of Gideon? Gideon was one scared dude, and he had good reason to be. But even though he was scared and fumbling, he believed and obeyed the Lord. And the Lord commended him for being a man of great faith.

Trusting Christ doesn’t mean you’ll never be afraid of anything. Trusting Christ means you keep believing Him, keep loyal to Him, and keep obeying Him even when you are afraid.

3. Take reasonable precautions.

Trusting God doesn’t mean you should be careless. Eat healthy and exercise. Be frugal. Watch your children carefully. God gave us a whole book about using wisdom, and He gave us brains, so let’s use them.

4. You’re not in this by yourself.

God has promised never to leave you or forsake you. He has promised to give you the strength to deal with anything you come up against. He has promised you a way out of temptation. Trust that God is with you and will help you.

5. Rehearse your trust instead of your fear.

A lot of therapists will encourage you not to “repress” your fears but, rather, talk about them, write about them, examine them, etc. In other words, rehearse them (which only leads to more fear, because fear feeds off itself). But the Bible never says to do that. It says, “do not fear” and “trust in the Lord.” Period. No analysis required.

Those worries may start creeping in, but you don’t have to set the table and turn down the bed for them. Push them right out of your mind, slam the door behind them, and say (out loud is helpful), “No. I’m not going to worry. I’m going to trust the Lord.” You’ll still feel worried at first, but “fake it ’til you make it.” Your feelings will eventually follow.

6. Replace fearful thoughts with biblical thoughts.

After you’ve pushed those fearful thoughts out of your mind, consciously redirect your focus to trusting the Lord. Spend a few minutes in prayer asking God to help you trust Him. Put on some biblical worship music that focuses on the goodness of God, and sing along. Be thankful- start listing all the ways God is good and has blessed you. Recite and meditate on Scripture about trusting God. Some of my favorites are:

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. Psalm 56:3

For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. Psalm 112:6-7

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7

 7. Get your mind off it.

Watch a good movie. Have coffee with a friend. Better yet, serve someone who needs your help. Share the gospel with someone who’s lost. Get your mind off the worries and on to something better.

8. Get physical.

Go running or do some physical labor around the house or something like that. Either you’ll get some endorphins going and you’ll start feeling better or the shin splints and backache will completely erase any memory of whatever you were afraid of.

9. Repent and get a fresh start.

Sometimes (often, if you’re like me), you’re going to blow it. You’re going to give in to fear and let it control you instead of trusting God. You’re going to act on your fears and disobey God instead of trusting and obeying Him in spite of your fears. When that happens, don’t run away from the Lord. Run to Him. Repent and be forgiven. That’s what His mercy and grace are all about.

Worries are a normal part of life in a fallen world, but, in Christ, we are not to be enslaved by them. We have a Savior who is sovereign over all things. He clothes the grass with lilies. He feeds the wild birds. And He cares oh so much more for you. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and fear not.

How do you deal with worry in a godly way?


Additional Resources:

Do not let your hearts be troubled at A Word Fitly Spoken

Faith, Justice, Throwback Thursday, Tough Passages

Throwback Thursday ~ Shall Not the Judge of all the Earth Do What Is Just?*

Originally published July 10, 2013
Republished July 8, 2014 at Satisfaction Through Christ

judge

221Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him.
Numbers 31:17

That’s a pretty tough verse, isn’t it?

Married women. Widows. Little boys.

When I read that verse, I think of somebody like me. Or, somebody like my ten year old. It’s hard for me to put myself in a Midianite woman’s sandals and imagine the Israelites coming for my son. My son, who’s basically a good kid, and certainly hasn’t done anything worthy of an army coming after him to execute him.

Do you ever follow criminal trials in the news? With 24-hour news channels and courtroom TV channels, we’ve probably all oj-simpson-trial-gloveswatched for the verdicts of a few. Have you ever been surprised by a jury’s verdict or a judge’s sentence? Maybe you were certain the defendant was guilty, but the jury acquitted him. Or, you figured a life sentence was a sure thing but only a few years were handed down.

It’s easy to lambaste a judge or jury for making what we consider to be the wrong decision. But, think about it: that judge and jury sat through hours of testimony, legal arguments, instruction on the law, and presentation of exp.ac.foreman.anthony.moments.cnn.640x360evidence. They know much more about the case and all the players in it than we do. They know things we don’t know. And those things we’re ignorant about are likely the very things that led them to make a different decision than we, with our limited knowledge of the case, would have made.

What if your spouse, parent, or best friend had been a juror in one of those cases in which you were appalled at the verdict, and he had voted opposite the way you thought he should have? What if he told you, “Look, I’ve been told not to discuss the case, but, trust me, this was the right decision.”? Would you trust him?

It’s the same way with God.

We come to passages like this one, and our first reaction is righteous indignation. How could God make a decision like this? It seems so unjust. An arbitrary, capricious, and callous verdict. It’s easy to throw stones thousands of years later.

But, if God is God, He is, by definition, absolutely perfect in 102011_attri_just (1)justice, perfect in love, perfect in mercy, perfect in patience, perfect in wisdom, and perfect in His knowledge of every detail of every situation on earth, ever, including people’s thoughts and intentions. He never makes a wrong decision. If He were lacking one iota in any of these areas, He would cease to be God, and there would be no reason to trust Him.

But He isn’t. So we can.

We generally trust human judges and juries to carry out justice in the cases they’re assigned, despite the fact that we know of cases of judges who have been bribed, juries that have been tampered with, defendants who have been framed, and jurors who vote guilty based on race, sex, status, or some other irrelevant condition.

But God doesn’t fall into any of those categories. He is the perfect Judge, able to mete out perfect justice, because He’s also the perfect eyewitness. He knew everything about the case of the Midianites because He saw each of them, and everything that was going on in the world around them, inside and out.

I can’t say that about my knowledge of this case. Can you?

God’s not discussing the case of the Midianites with us, but, “Trust Me,” He says, “This was the right decision.”

He’s got a pretty good track record of being right. I’m going to trust Him on this one since I don’t know all the details. How about you?

*Genesis 18:25

Blog Swap, Sovereignty of God, Trust

Blog Swap ~ I Haven’t Been Trusting the Lord

blog swap

It’s time for another awesome blog swap! Blog swaps give me the opportunity to share other talented bloggers with you, plus offer you fresh content that’s a great supplement to our regular fare here. If you’d like to do a swap, click on the link above for more information.

I’m happy to be introducing another new blog to you today: Highly Sensitive Christian. Highly Sensitive Christian is a blog about one woman’s journey as a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), a condition not many are familiar with. (You can find out more about HSP here.) Highly Sensitive Christian has some great articles on coping with HSP, how to relate to people with HSP, living as a single Christian woman in your thirties, and other fantastic Christian Living articles.

It’s one of these Christian Living articles I wanted to share with you today. Recently, God made me aware of the fact that when I pray, I often “micromanage” Him, spelling out exactly how, when, and what I want Him to do to answer my prayers. I realized this demonstrates a lack of trust in His wisdom and sovereignty. “Coincidentally” Highly Sensitive Christian has a great article on this topic that – while written from the perspective of a single woman desiring to be married – I found helpful. I hope you will, too.

pr 3 5 6

 

Do I trust the Lord to know and be concerned about the desires of my heart? Yes. Do I know that he wants what is the very best for my sanctification and growth?  Of course. Do I believe that He will give me a fulfilling life, whether single or married?  Definitely.

But…

Do I believe that the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, holy Lord of all creation will remember that I desire to be married, if I don’t worry about it constantly and remind Him about it every 30 minutes or so? Well, no. I haven’t been believing that. So, I’ve been reminding him fairly regularly.

Head on over to Highly Sensitive Christian and check out this awesome article, I Haven’t Been Trusting the Lord.

How can your prayers demonstrate more trust in God’s sovereignty?

Blog Swap Disclaimer: Christian bloggers who participate in Blog Swaps have submitted an acceptable statement of faith to me. Although I do my best to thoroughly vet the theology of the bloggers I swap with, it is always possible for things to slip through the cracks. Please make sure any blogger you follow, including me, rightly and faithfully handles God’s word and holds to sound biblical doctrine.
Faith, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ Back to the Basics, Part 3: “Himmed” In

Originally published: February 16, 2011

himmed in

Establish my footsteps in Your word,
And do not let any iniquity have dominion over me. 
Psalm 119:133

A few years ago, we had a little dog named Mathilda. She was cute, but to be honest, she was not one of my favorite dogs because she was completely disobedient. Maybe it was because she was rebellious. Maybe it was because she was dumb as a rock. I never did figure that one out.

We’d tell her to come; she’d run away. We’d tell her to stay; she’d run away. Frankly, pretty much anything we told her to do, she’d ignore and run away. Which was all well and good as long as she stayed inside the confines of our fenced back yard. As long as she stayed in familiar territory, she knew where and how far she could run and still be safe.

The problem was that in order to get from our back door to our carport, we had to go through the gate that kept Mathilda in the back yard.

Did I mention she liked to run away?

pei_091One day, someone opened the gate, and Mathilda was off like a shot. My daughter was on search and rescue duty that day, so she took off after Mathilda. Unfortunately, Mathilda, with no boundaries to contain her and in unfamiliar territory, got confused and crossed the street at exactly the wrong time– just as a car was coming. And, sadly, this is where her story ends.

Have you ever heard someone say, “Children need boundaries”? Well, children aren’t the only ones. Just as Mathilda discovered, the world can be a big confusing place, fraught with unseen dangers. Even before the Fall, when there were only two people in the world and things were perfect, God didn’t just turn Adam and Eve loose to roam the planet indiscriminately. He placed them in the confines of Eden and gave them a one rule boundary. It was for their protection and their joy.

As Christians today, our confines are less visible than the borders of a garden. Our boundary is the Bible. For our protection and our joy, we must stay inside the walls of God’s Word. In order to do that, we must:

Know what the Word says:

I will meditate on Your statutes.
Psalm 119:48

Study God’s Word. Memorize it. Dig down deep into it. Listen to Biblical preaching and teaching.

Obey the Word:

So I will keep Your law continually,
Forever and ever. 
Psalm 119:44

Often, the problems we experience and the confusing situations in which we find ourselves are a direct result of sin. God’s commands are for our good, our joy, and His glory. When we stray from them, things get messed up. And after all He has done for us, is obedience too much to ask?

Go Back to what You Know:

For I trust in Your word.
Psalm 119:42

Sometimes, despite our obedience and our love for the Lord, he allows confusing, painful, awful situations into our lives. We don’t understand what’s happening or why God would allow this terrible thing to take place. It’s especially important at these times to stay inside the fence of God’s word, draw upon His truths we have memorized and studied, and trust Him. When we’re not sure what’s going on around us, we can go back and stand on what we can be certain of: God’s promises.

God is good, not evil. Psalm 100:5

God loves us. Romans 5:5,8

If we depend on Him and trust Him, God will strengthen us to walk through any situation He sends our way. Philippians 4:13

God can bring good out of any situation. Romans 8:28

Suffering can bring about invaluable spiritual growth. Psalm 119:67, 71, Philippians 3:10, Romans 5:3-4

God’s overall greater purpose is more important than an individual’s personal comfort. Genesis 50:20, John 3:16

God is faithful and will not abandon us. II Thessalonians 3:3, Deuteronomy 31:6,8

God’s comfort is available to us. II Corinthians 1:3-5, II Thessalonians 2:16-17

One day, all things will be set right. Romans 12:19, Revelation 21:3-4

Know the Word. Live it. Breathe it. Stay inside its good and protective boundaries. It’s for God’s glory and our joy.

New Testament, Sanctification, Sunday School

Persecution 101 ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 10-19-14

persecution101

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 42 ~ Oct. 12-18
Matthew 8:14-11:30, 12:22-14:36, Luke 8:1-9:17, 11, Mark 4-6, John 6
Persecution 101

Last week we took a look at this pattern:

God—>God calls and trains His people—>God’s people minister the gospel to others

We saw it across various contexts of the Bible: the “macro,” or overall theme from Old Testament to New, the “micro,” or the way God works in our personal lives, and the “messianic,” or the way this pattern applied to Jesus’ own life. This week’s reading was another example of this pattern, the “ministerial,” or the way it applied to Jesus’ and the disciples’ ministry.

In this week’s reading we saw that Jesus’ ministry started with Jesus, Himself. Next He called out and trained His disciples through many parables and healings. Today, we will be looking at the passage where He sends them out to minister the gospel to others. In His final training session before Jesus sends out the twelve, He wants to make sure they’re ready for what they’re about to face.

Matthew 10:16-39

Go Ye Therefore- 5-13 (10:7-8, 5-6, Mark 1:14-15, Isaiah 35:5-6)
Jesus is sending out the disciples. What is He sending them out to do? Verses 7-8 tell us that their ministry was two-fold: first, they were to preach, just as Jesus did (Mark 1):

the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.

Second, they were to perform various signs and wonders. Notice that the signs and wonders are secondary to the message of the gospel. Wasn’t the gospel enough? What was the purpose of the miracles? When Jesus perfomed miracles, the miracles were both a fulfillment of prophecy (Is.) to help the Jews to understand that He was the promised Messiah, and they also authenticated His message of the gospel to the gentiles and others who weren’t familiar with the prophecies. Street cred, in other words– if He can do that, what He says must be true, and we’d better listen. The miracles the disciples were to perform were to serve the same purpose– to point to Jesus as the Messiah and to give credibility to the gospel message.

Who were the disciples sent to? Jesus told them not to go to the Samaritans (half Jew, half gentile, as we studied last week) or the gentiles, but “rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Why? Because He didn’t love gentiles and want them to hear the gospel? Not at all. We saw last week that He had already been to a Samaritan village to preach the gospel. And, of a Roman centurion (a gentile) whose servant He healed, Jesus said, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith,” and went on to say- to an audience of Jews- that there were many gentiles who would make it to Heaven while many Jews would not.

Jesus sent the disciples to the Jews because that was the order God had ordained- first the Jews, then the gentiles. Why?

1. His promise was to the Jews, not the gentiles. God had promised that the Messiah would come through the Jews and to the Jews. All of Jewish history and ceremony had been pointing to this moment in time. God had been laying the ground work through types and shadows and prophecy for millenia. It was only right that Messiah should be revealed to them first.

Imagine if you’ve been promising your child since the day he was born that when he turned 16 you’d buy him a car. Over the years you talked about it together, looked at pictures, visited car lots, and finally picked out the perfect one. Then, on the day of your son’s 16th birthday, you run into a random 16 year old on the street and buy him a car first. Even if you immediately thereafter drove your son to the car lot to buy him his car, would that be the right way to do things?

2. At this point in history -Jesus’ earthly ministry through the birth and spread of the church- we’re looking at very rapid Kingdom growth. Teachers and preachers are going to be needed, like, fast, to shepherd these thousands of new Christians, most of whom are clueless gentiles.

If you work at a computer company and you’re launching a completely new type of software that you want to make accessible to as many people as possible as fast as possible, are you going to hire field representatives who have a professional background in computers or someone who’s never used a computer before?

Same idea here. The Jewish people already had a background in “messiah-ology.” Once saved, they could be up and running as teachers and pastors much faster than your average gentile.

Good News, Bad News- 14-25 (John 3:19)
God is sending out His people (the disciples) to tell His people (the Jews) that He has kept His promise and sent Jesus, the long awaited Messiah. Plus, they’re going to heal a bunch of people and do other miracles. What Jew in his right mind wouln’t be overjoyed at this awesome news, right?

So, what’s all this stuff about the disciples being hated and persecuted and charged with criminal activity? That’s not the way people usually respond to someone who’s bringing them good news. But God’s news isn’t good news when you don’t love God, and these Jews didn’t. That’s why Jesus referred to the people He was sending the disciples to as “lost sheep.” They were just as lost as any gentile.

1. They loved darkness rather than light (Jn.). The good news of the gospel is bad news when you love your sin and don’t want to give it up, because the gospel requires us to forsake our sin -all of it- actually admit that we’re scum, and fling ourselves on the mercy of Christ for forgiveness. It’s only by the gift of God’s grace that we’re able to do that.

2. They wanted the idol-messiah they had fashioned in their minds, not the Messiah of Scripture. Many in Israel were expecting and/or hoping for a messiah who would come in, conquer Rome, sit on David’s throne, re-establish the theocracy of Israel, and bring them back to prominence and prosperity. In other words, just like the woman at the well from last week, they wanted the temporal stuff, not the eternal. A Christ who would set them free from Rome and poverty, not a Christ who would set them free from sin.

That’s why, to many people the disciples preached to, the good news was bad news.

Fear Not- 26-39
Jesus is delivering a pretty sobering message here. When the disciples preach the gospel (now, and in the early church era), they’re going to be: shunned (14), turned over to the courts (17), flogged (17- and they’re not too far from seeing this happen to Jesus), dragged in front of kings and governors (17), betrayed to the enemy by family members (21), hated by all (22), fleeing for their lives (23), slandered (25), executed (28), and alienated from their closest family members (35-36). That’s a tough row to hoe, but Jesus wants them to understand that what many of the Jews are expecting -Messiah will re-establish the kingdom of Israel and bring peace (34)- isn’t reality, and when they tell people that, things are going to get ugly. He hasn’t come to bring earthly peace, instead, standing with Christ will be the hardest thing they’ve ever done.

But what is their response to this persecution supposed to be? Are they to give up, retaliate, cower? No, Jesus tells them to do two things:

1. Don’t be afraid of them (26). The worst thing they can do is kill you. If you’re going to be afraid of something, fear God and fear denying Him (28).

2. As long as you’ve got breath in your body, you preach the gospel. You preach it loud and you preach it long (27). Do. not. stop. no matter what.

Why? Because God loves you. He values you. He’s going to take care of you. And He’s in control.

The Demands of Discipleship Today
There are Christians today in countries like North Korea, Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, and other areas, who understand all too well what Jesus was warning the disciples about. They experience the same things on a daily basis. Those of us born in America have very little grasp of just how blessed we are to be able to worship God openly, freely, and without much real persecution.

But the times, they are a-changin’. Fast.

If you’ve been paying attention to the news over the last couple of years, you’ve seen stories about the Bible, prayer, and Christianity being systematically removed from and prohibited in public places. We’ve seen Christian bakers, photographers, and t-shirt company owners sued for declining to provide their services for homosexual “weddings,” rallies, and other events. Just last week, we saw Houston officials subpoena sermons and other materials from pastors in an effort to bully them into silence about their homosexual agenda.

Real persecution is coming to America at breakneck speed. And in the same way that the disciples were persecuted by both gentiles and the “lost sheep of Israel”, we will face persecution by both the world and those who claim the name of Christ, but actually follow a messiah-idol of their own making. Those of us who stand with the true Christ of Scripture and His word will be shunned and rejected by our closest family members- even those who claim to be Christians. We will be hated and slandered. We will be arrested, prosecuted, and even executed by both lost people and church people.

But Christ’s message to us is the same as it was to the twelve. Keep preaching the gospel. Preach it loud, preach it long, and preach it with your dying breath. Love Me more than your family, more than your reputation, more than your very life, because I care for you. How could we fail to stay true to Him after all He has done for us?