Are you Asking for Wisdom where Wisdom is Found?

One of the things that I tell my children is that they are of the age right now where their mom and I give them a lot of wisdom. Or maybe more accurately, we give them a lot of knowledge that we pray will lead them to wisdom as they grow up.  We also try to teach them, however, that there is a day coming as they grow into adults where we won’t give them wisdom. They will have to ask for it.

The reason for this isn’t because we want to withhold anything good from them.  The reason for this is that we know that as they mature into adults, there are things, we can’t force them to understand or appreciate.  They will need to want wisdom for it to matter to them.

The Book of Proverbs is packed full of this same idea. The father is pleading to his son to “treasure up my commandments with you.”  He is pleading with his son to incline his ear and heart towards wisdom and understanding.  The father wants to both give his son wisdom while at the same time encourages his son to be the type of person that hungers for more wisdom.

I know that there are many in the church that still hunger for wisdom. I hear it all the time from people.

The reason for this blog today, though, is to ask the question: Do we seek wisdom out?  More plainly put do we ask for wisdom from mature brothers and sisters in the faith?  I think one of the problems is that we have forgotten or have never been taught is that wisdom is something we need to ask for.  We need to ask for wisdom and then go seek it out. I love how the Proverbs puts this bluntly and plainly in 4:7, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get Wisdom.”

Some of you might say, “I do ask for wisdom. I pray daily for God to give me wisdom all the time.”

Great!  That is a great first step but is by far not the only step.  Ask, yes.  James 1:5 makes this clear, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

Here is the example I see most often.  A group of people will be standing around talking.  One person will begin to talk about a situation in their life, maybe with their extended family, their friends, a situation at work, or maybe with a spouse.  They discuss the situation at length.  They come to the end of their story and they are done. Finished.  Usually the other person in the conversation will talk about a similar situation in their life.  They might tell that person they are sorry that they are going through that and may even offer to pray for that person.  What is unclear is whether that person wanted wisdom or just wanted to tell someone else that story.  What happens often is the other person in the conversation may have some wisdom to give but feels like there was never an open door given to begin to speak into that situation. Often the person sharing the story may want someone to speak into the situation, but they have never asked directly for them to do so. They may end by asking the person to pray for them, which of course is needed.  But we neglect an important means of grace that God has given us – the church… each other!

Any of us that are a bit socially aware will know that it is very hard and vulnerable to try to dive in and give advice where someone doesn’t want it or ask for it. It can close the friendship. If we are truthful with ourselves, we sometimes don’t ask even though we want wisdom because we don’t want to be held accountable whether we follow through or not.

Being heard is very popular sentiment in our day.  Having someone know you and share in your story is important and valuable.  But I am afraid that our social media, entertainment driven society has placed a great emphasis on being heard at the loss of us, as a body of believers, remembering how to ask each other for wisdom.  Our social media society has also made it easier for us to ask for advice from too many of the wrong people, often without context, without responsibility for the words they speak or the advice they give.

Ask any biblical counselor and they will tell you that even when they know what the Bible says to apply to a certain situation, they come at it with great care and caution to make sure that it is heard and understood correctly. Flippant advice on the internet from some “friend” you haven’t seen since high school carries none of that burden.

There is great maturity and humility in going to mature people in the faith and asking them for wisdom about a situation.  The reason isn’t because the word of God isn’t sufficient for us. It is.  But this very Word tells us to ask for counsel and advice from godly believers in the faith.

The Proverbs are filled with pleas and promises to seek out counsel. Here are just a few of the many examples.

“Where there is no guidance, a people fall, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” Proverbs 11:14

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” 12:15

“Without counsel plans fail but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22

“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” Proverbs 19:20

(See also 24:6, 20:18, 13:10)

That is why it is so important that we learn to ask.

Where do we go for wisdom?

We pray for it. Yes. (James 1:5)

We go to the Word of God. Always! (2 Timothy 3:15-17)

We go to the people of God-the church. Yes.  And we ask directly from mature believers and give them the opportunity to speak into our lives. Because even as we read the word and are being transformed by the Spirit, we remember that there is a temptation:

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Proverbs 16:25

Another reason we go to mature believers in Christ, is because that is exactly what the body of Christ is for.  We are called into community together.  We are called to bear each other’s burdens together.  We are called to alleviate each other’s burdens where we can.

The beauty of this all is amazing.  Once you begin to ask for wisdom more and more you will find people who become more invested in your life.  As you ask and they speak, you will begin to find the church a more beautiful and safer place.  You will begin to see that you are surrounded by people who will fight the fight of faith with you.  Who will care enough about you to speak to you when they see you drifting towards sin. And you will begin to flourish in a church where you know that you and you alone are not the only one running the same race.

And it can all start as simply as

“Would you please be willing to give me some wisdom with…”

 

Why Seeking God’s Reward is Different from the Prosperity Gospel

This past Sunday was the final sermon in our Living Generously series. This year, we want to commit ourselves to generously pursuing Jesus through the Word and community, generously loving our neighbors, and generously investing our time, energy, and resources (including money) in gospel initiatives. Where is God asking you to take the next step in your spiritual disciplines, your service to others, and in your financial commitment to gospel work here at Community Bible?

During Sunday’s message, we discovered in Luke 19:11-27 that God rewards faithfulness. The aim of the parable Jesus taught is to instruct us in the right and wrong way to use the worldly possessions God gives to us. We don’t invest the resources and talents God has given us to secure an eternal home with God. We invest the resources and talents God has given us because we have an eternal home with God through faith in Jesus.

More than forty times in the Gospel of Luke there are promises of reward for obedience to God. Put simply: it’s wrong for us not to seek the reward Jesus promises us. He commands us to pursue it (Luke 12:33; 16:9). But we do not seek reward for earthly praise or material gain. We seek it because the reward is God Himself. We hear this in the praise of the psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth I desire besides you.” (Psalm 73:25)

If seeking reward isn’t wrong, how is this different from the prosperity gospel? The prosperity gospel, what is sometimes called the “health and wealth” gospel, teaches that we live for God’s material blessing now. But the Bible teaches us that we live for God’s eternal glory, not our own. This is what Job means when he says, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). Job is reminding us that abundant life in Jesus is independent of our circumstances (John 10:10).

But at the heart of the prosperity gospel is the false narrative that the abundant life promised to us in Jesus is dependent upon our circumstances. In other words, if we are not experiencing material prosperity, we’re missing something we’re supposed to have in our relationship with God (wait a minute, if that’s true, what does that mean for the thousands of poverty-stricken Christians all over the world? Is their faith faulty?).

David W. Jones outlines five false promises in prosperity theology[i].

  1. The Abrahamic covenant is a means to material entitlement. In short, prosperity gospel teachers say that the primary purpose of the Abrahamic covenant is material blessing. They often appeal to Galatians 3:14 to support this claim. It’s interesting they often ignore the latter half of the verse, which says “that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” What is Paul’s point? The blessings of Christ are not primarily material, but spiritual.

 

  1. Jesus’ atonement extends to the “sin” of material poverty. The claim is that earthly healing and prosperity are tied to Jesus’ death on the cross. Of course, in the ultimate sense, yes, we will be healed completely in Christ. However, when you study the New Testament, you discover consistent focus on the fact that Jesus has accomplished so much for us in our atonement, that in response we should empty ourselves of riches in service to our Savior. We should leverage our wealth for the good of others (1 Timothy 6:17-19).

 

  1. Christians give in order to gain material compensation from God. I believe this is a point where I could have been clearer in Sunday’s message. We do not give in order to gain earthly reward. We should not expect God to always give us back (in this life) what we invest in the Kingdom. In fact, Jesus even warns about this in Luke 6:35: “Give, expecting nothing in return.” He then goes on to say, when we give in hopes of gaining nothing but God, our “reward will be great”. In other words, give without regard or care or interest in an earthly reward (e.g., financial prosperity). Instead, seek the heavenly reward (God himself).

God does, at times, reward faithful giving by returning to us the financial gifts we’ve given for the sake of the gospel (we heard a testimony stating such). As some have said, “We can’t out give God.” However, we should not expect that our “reward” will always yield the return of financial blessing. We are not giving to gain earthly wealth. We give because Jesus, “though he was rich, yet for [our] sake he became poor, so that… by his poverty [we] might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). The wealth we gain is not a fatter bank account. We grow rich in God by our giving (“Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities, you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:10-11). We grow rich in God because Jesus died that we might experience every spiritual blessing through faith in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-14).

 

  1. Faith is a self-generated spiritual force that leads to prosperity. According to prosperity theology, faith is self-generated rather than God-generated. Faith is a “humanly wrought spiritual force”. And what we lack in this life, we lack because we lack faith. In other words, God’s faithfulness is predicated on our faithfulness. Oh, how wretched this false doctrine is! Think of Job. Did he suffer because he lacked faith? Of course not! His faith was tested and what he experienced revealed a depth of faith that brought him into closer communion with the eternal God. What we eventually see in Job’s life is a portrait of faith revealing that Job loves God for who He is, not what He gives.

The Bible clearly teaches us that Christians will have tribulation (John 16:33). We shouldn’t be surprised when we suffer (1 Peter 4:12). We should expect trials and count them as joy, as God’s way of accomplishing our sanctification (James 1:2-4). Our afflictions lead to abundance and glory (Romans 5:3-5; 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17). And none of these hardships necessarily come because we lack faith. Yet, in many cases, prosperity theology wrongly asserts that these states hardships are the result of faulty faith.

 

  1. Prayer is a tool to force God to grant prosperity. The idea is that we have not because we ask not (hey, didn’t Jesus say that?). The problem is that prosperity theology focuses far too heavily on personal interests. It’s selfish in orientation. Maybe we should consider that sometimes God doesn’t give us what we ask for because we ask for it with wrong motivations (see James 4:3). Within prosperity theology, the focus in prayer is more on man than God. The result is a view of God that turns him into a vending machine. Pray the right prayer with the right amount of faith, and you’ll get exactly what you asked for.

The prosperity gospel is no gospel at all. The prosperity gospel says God is most glorified when all our earthly needs are met. But is this true? No. in fact, it’s a pernicious lie. The testimony of Scripture tells us that sometimes God delivers people and they experience the best this world has to offer, and He’s glorified when He does this (see Hebrews 11:1-35a).

But sometimes, people aren’t healed, yet God is still glorified. Sometimes the dead aren’t raised in this life, yet God is still glorified. Sometimes faithful Christians suffer loss, tragedy, mistreatment, and human isolation, yet God is glorified. How is He glorified? He’s glorified when His saints declare God as sufficient, despite great loss. He’s glorified when everything is stripped away and all they have left is God Himself. Like Job. Like the Apostles. Like the modern persecuted Church.

This brings us full circle to Sunday’s sermon. God does reward faithfulness, but His faithfulness is not predicated on our faithfulness. Paul writes, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). The Father will always be faithful to His character and to the finished work of Christ on the cross. He will not abandon His true children. We are safe and secure, clothed in the righteousness of Christ Himself.

But when we are faithful, God sees our faithfulness, and He prepares us in our faithful invest in the Kingdom for future work in His Kingdom (Luke 19:17, 19). The greatness of our rewards in the age to come correspond with faithful obedience to God in this life (that was clear from Sunday’s parable).

We will never “deserve” the reward. Whatever reward God bestows upon us Is evidence that He looks with favor upon the work of grace that He has accomplished in our lives. The rewards of God are really nothing more than, as John Piper says, “occasions for happiness in heaven, not disappointments”. Another way to say this is that our faithful obedience to God on the earth is preparing us for greater capacities of joy in heaven.

If you are intrigued and want to read a bit more in Scripture about the concept of rewards in the Kingdom, you could read the following (also note that I pointed out the concept of reward is significant in Luke’s Gospel): Matthew 10:41; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Ephesians 6:5-8; Revelation 2:23.

To summarize this now rather lengthy blog post, the concept of reward that we see in Scripture is nothing like what is taught in prosperity theology. I believe the prosperity gospel fails to rightly understand and interpret Scripture, especially the Old Testament and its application to follower of Christ.

But Scripture does encourage us to live generously because God rewards faithfulness. We are not to see earthly praise or material gain in our giving (of our time, money, talents, resources, etc.), but to rest in the sufficiency of Christ and trust that all we need for eternal joy has been purchased for us in the gospel, and we experience the fullness of life in Christ by grace through faith alone.

Seeking to Live a Generous Life Together,

Pastor Aaron

 

[i] https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/5-errors-of-the-prosperity-gospel/

Peacemaking is not Peacekeeping

I regularly meet with couples that struggle with unresolved conflict in their relationship. We all experience conflict. We all have unmet desires and that leads to conflict (see James 4:1-2). Periodically we need to revisit some fundamental truths, establish ourselves firmly there, and then move forward and build on those fundamentals. We need to consider the fundamentals of conflict resolution. We need to ponder biblical peacemaking.

In Matthew 18 Jesus provides instruction for how we should navigate conflict in the church. The first step of resolving conflict is for an offended person to make the offender aware of their “sins against” them (v.15). Of course, any offense that can be overlooked can avoid such a conversation as this.

Proverbs 19:11 reads, “good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” There are some offenses that are insignificant enough that they can be overlooked. For instance, sometimes we get offended by someone who isn’t aware of our personal context and they say something that is particularly sensitive for us but not otherwise sensitive at all. In cases such as this we may decide that being offended has more to do with us than anything the other person did wrong. But there are a few things that we should keep in mind if we resolve to overlook the offense.

If we’ve been offended and we decide not to address the offender, and we make the decision to overlook the offense, then we must make sure that we don’t hold a grudge against the offender. If we claim that we are overlooking the offense but continue to hold on to the pain, anger, hatred, or other associated emotions, are we truly overlooking the offense? The answer is “no!” Instead of overlooking the offense, we find ourselves often looking at the offense. This is what I call peacekeeping. We want to believe that we’re keeping the peace by not addressing the source of these emotions (the original offense), but we aren’t at peace with it at all. We think about it often, sometimes keeping us from being joyful around that person, perhaps preventing us from praying for that person, and usually causing stress (internal stress at best; relational stress at worst).

Ken Sande writes, “overlooking an offense is a form of forgiveness, and involves a deliberate decision not to talk about it, dwell on it, or let it grow into pent-up bitterness or anger.”[1]

If we find ourselves often thinking about or talking about this offense or if we recognize bitterness rooted in the offense then we have not successfully overlooked the offense and we should resolve to address the offender.

Peacekeeping is not the same as peacemaking.

If the sin proves to be significant enough that it can’t be overlooked, then we consider Matthew 18 for instruction concerning how to navigate the conflict. First the offended party addresses the offender to make them aware of the offense. In most cases between two disciples of Christ the Spirit will bear fruit including a helpful conversation in humility and a speedy resolution.

In addition to the work of the Spirit, we can practice a few peacemaking principles that will honor the other party and enhance the peacemaking process. Ken Sande has this to say about personal peacemaking:

Reconciliation- if an offense is too serious to overlook or has damaged our relationship, we need to resolve personal or relational issues through confession, loving correction, and forgiveness. “If your brother has something against you… go and be reconciled” (Matt.5:23-24). “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently” (Gal. 6:1). “Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13).

Negotiation- Even if we successfully resolve relational issues, we may still need to work through material issues related to money, property, or other rights. This should be done through a cooperative bargaining process in which you and the other person seek to reach a settlement that satisfies the legitimate needs of each side. “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4).

There are times when resolution isn’t accomplished between the offended and the offender and then we need to involve another two or three godly voices “that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses” (Matt. 18:16). In other words, there may need to be assisted peacemaking in the form of mediation, arbitration, and/or accountability.

Peacemaking is possible because of the gospel. In all forms of peacemaking, we are seeking to glorify God and be reconciled. Reconciled to God and reconciled to one another (Acts 10:43; Eph. 2:14:16).

When we have a commitment to peacemaking and we go about it in a biblical manner, peace really can be achieved (not to mention growth!). Peacekeeping leaves us with frustration, weariness, anger, and distance between us and the Lord. Remember that Paul instructs us not to participate in the Lord’s table until we’ve been able to clear up such conflict (1 Cor. 11:17-34). On the other hand, peacemaking leads to abiding peace, joy, intimacy with God, and maturity in our walk with Christ (2 Cor. 3:17-18; Col. 3:12-15).

Because of the gospel, let’s commit ourselves to the enduring work of peacemaking.

Here are a few other helpful excerpts from Sande’s brochure:

The 4 G’s of Peacemaking

Glorify God: Instead of focusing on our own desires or dwelling on what others may do, we will rejoice in the Lord and bring him praise by depending on his forgiveness, wisdom, power, and love, as we seek to faithfully obey his commands and maintain a loving, merciful, and forgiving attitude (Ps. 37:1-6; Mark 11:25; John 14:15; Rom. 12:17-21; I Cor. 10:31; Phil. 4:2-9; Col. 3:1-4; James 3:17-18; 4:1-3; I Peter 2:12).

Get the Log Out of Your Eye: Instead of blaming others for a conflict or resisting correction, we will trust in God’s mercy and take responsibility for our own contribution to conflicts – confessing our sins to those we have wronged, asking God to help us change any attitudes and habits that lead to conflict, and seeking to repair any harm we have caused (Prov. 28:13; Matt. 7:3-5; Luke 19:8; Col. 3:5-14; I John 1:8-9).

Gently Restore: Instead of pretending that conflict doesn’t exist or talking about others behind their backs, we will overlook minor offenses or we will talk personally and graciously with those whose offenses seem too serious to overlook, seeking to restore them rather than condemn them. When a conflict with a Christian brother or sister cannot be resolved in private, we will ask others in the body of Christ to help us settle the matter in a biblical manner (Prov. 19:11; Matt. 18:15-20; I Cor. 6:1-8; Gal. 6:1-2; Eph. 4:29; II Tim. 2:24-26; James 5:9).

Go and Be Reconciled: Instead of accepting premature compromise or allowing relationships to wither, we will actively pursue genuine peace and reconciliation – forgiving others as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven us, and seeking just and mutually beneficial solutions to our differences (Matt. 5:23-24; 6:12; 7:12; Eph. 4:1-3, 32; Phil. 2:3-4).

 

 

[1] This and other thoughts included here come from the helpful brochure titled Peacemaking Principles: Responding to Conflict Biblically by Ken Sande. You can find more information at www.peacemaker.net. See also Ken’s book Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict.

Who Are Your People?

A few weeks ago, I was reading Matthew 16:21- 28, where Jesus predicts his own death. In verse twenty-one, “Jesus begins to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

Jesus knew what was before Him. He knew that pain and suffering, the sin of the WHOLE WORLD, and the cross were before Him.

But He was focused and fixated on the task before Him. Jesus was always fixated on the task. He was always stepping out to walk in obedience to what His Father asked of Him.

However, in verse twenty-two, Peter comes alongside Him and begins to question Jesus. He even goes so far as to rebuke the very plan of God. He says, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!”

And Jesus tells Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” Peter was a stumbling block to the very will and plan of God. His eyes were focused and fixated on the world and earthly matters.

We laugh at Peter and the audacity he had to rebuke the very Son of God, to rebuke the will of God Himself. But I can’t say that I wouldn’t have been questioning the plan myself were I in Peter’s shoes. Peter had walked with Jesus. He was one of his twelve disciples.  He was close.

I can imagine in Peter’s mind that he’s wondering- there MUST be an easier way!? There must be a plan that does not involve suffering or pain or hardship or death. From the world’s point of view, Peter’s rebuke made total sense. Their King had come! Why die now? The throne was before Him.

Is suffering and hard and painful and difficult the REAL way of God? Surely, there must be an easier way?

But.

God’s ways are not our ways.

God has laid before each of us a plan and purpose to accomplish His will and make much of Him in the nations. His plan leads to our good and His glory. And just as Jesus “had his people,” we also have our people. We have our people that speak into our lives. We have people that impact and influence us. Peter was trying to influence Jesus. He was trying to talk Him out of the very purpose for which He had come to Earth- to die for the sins of the world, to bring reconciliation to God and man, to rescue us!

And as Peter is speaking, Jesus says, “Get behind me, Satan!”

So.  Who are your people?

Who are the people in your life that are speaking to you and influencing you?

Are they pointing you to Jesus?

Are they encouraging and championing you towards the will of God? EVEN if it’s hard or challenging or difficult.

Do they have in mind the things of God OR do they have in mind the things of men?

What lies before you may not be easy. It may be hard. It may be very unnatural for you. It may involve pain and sacrifice. It may require A LOT of dying to self.

But. We must keep our eyes fixated on Jesus. That’s what He did. He kept His eyes fixated on His Father. We must do the same. Far be it from us to miss what He has for us or to walk away from the very thing for which we were created.

In 2018, I felt the Lord leading me to create more margin in my life. I felt a strong sense that I needed to get super intentional with my time and relationships. This does not come easy or natural for me. I am a “Yes Girl.” But the Lord, in His kindness and grace, has given me a husband that has no problem saying no. Doesn’t bother him one bit. {Help me, Jesus!} So, 2018 brought a lot more “Nos” for me. It was not easy for me. Sometimes, it was hard and painful. But through my person, my husband, I was able to do it. I was able to get more intentional with my time so that I could be more effective and focused on what God desired for me.

I also have three really, great girlfriends. They are mommas in the same season of life as me. And they love Jesus with all their hearts. They get the wild and crazy called Motherhood. But even in the midst of raising our babies, we still desire to use what’s in our hands for the glory of God- we want to raise our babies to know Jesus and love Him and serve Him. We also want to serve our church and the nations. These girls are so good for me. They challenge me. They spur me on. They push and encourage me.  They don’t just tell me what I want to hear, they tell me what I need to hear. When it’s hard, they don’t tell me to quit. They pray for me and fight for me. They understand what’s at stake. They won’t let me walk away from the will of God for my life.

I encourage you to take inventory of your relationships. Do you have people around you that are championing the cause of Christ in your life? Do you have people that tell you what you want to hear or what you NEED to hear? Are they spurring you on even in the midst of hard situations?

If not, ask Jesus to give you people that will not let you off the hook. Ask Him to bring people into your life that will encourage you in the things of God and challenge you to step out in faith. I promise, He’ll do it!

 

Battling Anxiety

The world gives countless causes for anxiety. Things happen that we have no control over. Blindsiding pain, circumstantial confusion, and disorienting uncertainty are as inevitable as the rising sun and shifting tides. The fact that we know things are going to happen in our lives that are beyond our control gives rise to anxiety even when there are no specific or presenting reasons to be anxious.

Jon Bloom once wrote that “anxiety is a species of fear… the fear of something we dread might possibly come true”. Anxiety originates in one of two places. Worry can come from real dangers. The devil is our adversary who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). There are real threats all around us. The Enemy wants to destroy your marriage, deceive your children, and sabotage and defile your successes.

But for most of us, I suspect our most debilitating anxieties come not from real danger, but from the world of imagined possibilities. Anxious fear incarcerates us in a prison of “what if” scenarios, a self-conceived house of horrors. What if we don’t get that promotion? What if the news from the doctor isn’t good? What if the financial bonus doesn’t come through? It is no wonder we are so anxious… and weak in faith. How is it possible for faith to thrive in a world where the imagined dangers are as paralyzing as the real dangers?

I’m so thankful the Bible addresses real issues. The psalmist knew anxiety. He knew of the difficulty of life, that faith is lived out in real-time, and that faith is often tested by car trouble, the varying degrees of difficulty in our daily routines, and struggling to pay the bills. The psalmist knew of injustice, betrayal, and real danger.

Psalm 37 reminds us the cure for anxiety is trust in God. It’s the confidence that everything is going to be okay. The opposite of trust in God is anxiety and frustration.

Psalm 37 opens with these words:

Fret not yourself because of evil doers;

Be not envious of evil doers. 

To fret is to worry or be anxious. The psalmist is saying, “Don’t be anxious because of the trouble around you or even done to you” and “don’t envy those who aren’t walking with God but seem to have no troubles” (they do, you know. You just don’t see them.).

What the psalmist is saying is so much easier said than done, right? The command to not be anxious seems like an impossible one to obey. Let’s face it: this command is humanly impossible to obey. You can’t squash anxiety in your own strength. This is why we need to believe the gospel.

The gospel promises us that if we are in Christ, everything is going to be okay. When you place your faith in Jesus alone for salvation, your safety and security are guaranteed. We’re promised that we will never die (spiritually) if we are in Christ (John 11:25-26). We’re promised that no one or nothing can snatch us out of Jesus and the Father’s hands (John 10:28-30). We’re promised that we are free from condemnation (Romans 8:1) and free from sin (Romans 8:3-9). We are sons and daughters of God (Romans 8:12-17), and all things are being worked together for our good and God’s glory (Romans 8:28). And to top it all off, nothing can separate us from the never-ending, never-failing, always-pursuing, irrevocable love of God in Christ (Romans 8:35-39).

From that position of security, the psalmist then tells us how to battle anxiety.

Trust in the LORD, and do good;

dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. (Ps 37:3)

We attack anxiety in four ways.

Trust God. Faith cures anxiety. Faith enables us to see things through a gospel lens as they really are, not as they appear to be. Our circumstances or situation may appear hopeless, but the gospel says you are loved, accepted, and secure in Christ. What is it that provokes anxiety in your heart? It may be something big or something small. But whatever it is, remember that your God is trustworthy and good. Whatever situation you find yourself in, God can be trusted with it.

Do good. Faith is always active. Charles Spurgeon writes, “There is a joy in holy activity which drives away the rust of discontent.” For many of us, the most helpful thing we can do to eradicate anxiety is to actively serve others for the sake of their good and joy in the gospel.

Root yourself in your community. The “land” God has called you to “dwell in” is the local church to which you belong. For most readers of this blog, that’s Community Bible. Plant yourself deeply within this community. Don’t isolate yourself in your anxieties, but rather, share your worries with God and others through prayer and gospel partnership. We don’t escape the misery of our anxieties by solitude. We bring them to God for redemption through prayer and gospel friendship and encouragement.

Feast on truth. The translation “befriend faithfulness” is better translated “be fed on faithfulness”. At its root, anxiety is about fear. Fear of loss. Fear of pain. Fear of separation. Fear of rejection. Yet, God in His Word promises us that followers of Christ have nothing to fear. Every promise of God is “yes” and “amen” in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20). We will overcome the worst that the world can throw at us because Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33). God will meet every need of ours as we seek first the kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33-34).

Don’t be anxious about that which you cannot control. Don’t worry about what “might” happen. Keep your eyes fixed fiercely on Jesus who sustains the entire universe by His word of power (Hebrews 1:3). Expend your energy by doing good to others rather than fretting about what you cannot control. Plant your life deeply into relationships at Community Bible. And finally, when you feel anxious, feast on truth as revealed in God’s Word. Believe all the promises of God given to us in Christ Jesus. You are safe. You are loved. And God is for you, not against you.