When you hear someone described
as gentle or characterized by gentleness, what thoughts come to mind? The
dictionary defines gentleness as kindness, meekness, mildness, even delicate.
We tend to think of gentleness as a sign of weakness. Gentle people get walked
over, taken advantage of, ignored. Most of us aren’t interested in that. Charles
Swindoll once said in this age of rugged individualism, “we think of gentleness
as weakness – being soft and virtually spineless.”
As such, gentleness doesn’t
seem like an effective strategy to deploy when we experience relational
conflict, disappointment or failure. And yet, Scripture points to gentleness as
one of God’s most effective remedies to the relational mess we often make of
if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore
him in a spirit of gentleness.”
the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach,
patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a
knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the
snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy
in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all
humility and gentleness with
patience, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)
It is striking to me that God’s Word tells us to pursue gentleness in the most intense and complicated relational entanglements. In Galatians 6, Paul tells us to be gentle with those who sin against us and others. I usually retreat or retaliate. In 2 Timothy 2, he tells us to be gentle with argumentative, contrary, hostile, devil-influenced antagonists. I’m tempted to take them down with an articulate counter argument. In Ephesians 4, he tells us to demonstrate patient kindness with people we’re called to put up with for the sake of Jesus (meaning we might not have chosen this relationship of our own volition). I’m more likely to find a new friend group than put up with people who frustrate or annoy me.
Gentleness means to approach
others (including our enemies) in a humble and caring spirit, not using force
to get our way. Strong’s Greek Concordance defines gentleness as “exercising
God’s strength under his control…demonstrating power without undo harshness.” When
you consider that gentleness is the opposite of using force, coercion,
manipulation, or power to get people to conform, we surprisingly discover that
deploying gentleness as a strategy in conflict requires far more strength and
self-control than we typically associate with gentleness.
Scripture is showing us that gentleness
is one of the most beautiful other-centered expressions of love we can offer
someone in a relationship. When we treat sinners with kindness, quarrelers with
compassion, and annoying folk with patience, we are honoring the dignity of
those made in the image of God. When we counter a heated exchange with calmness
and peace, we seek to disarm the person who, in their anger or shame or
disappointment or self-righteousness, might otherwise lose their mind if we
matched their level of emotional turmoil and unrest.
Gentleness is not the releasing of strength in our relationships. It’s yielding to the strength of God through the power of his Spirit. I tend to make a mess when I try to navigate relational disappointments, conflicts and failures on my own. Things tend to escalate quickly. But that’s not what I should desire when I’m mired in a relational mess. I want things to de-escalate, not escalate. And the way towards nuclear disarmament in my relationships is through gentleness. Reserve and strength. Power and control. These are not words we typically associate with gentleness. Yet, the lives of the Spirit-empowered gentle ones are marked in this way.
Here’s my confession: I’m not a
naturally gentle person. That probably doesn’t surprise some of you. But just
in case there’s any question about it, gentleness is not one of my strong
suits. I tend to use my words to gain power over people and situations (this is
probably a weakness of most communicators). And my words are not always guided
by the Spirit. I want them to be. They can be.
But I, like most, need to grow
in this area. The Spirit’s purpose is to guide the way we access and leverage
the power of God at work within us. One way he leverages it is through
gentleness. So, even if the world thinks I’m weak for desiring to increase in
gentleness, I’ll take being thought less of for seeking gentleness if it means
being an advocate for peace and dignity in this relational mess we call life.
Looking to Jesus Together,
Paul (not his real name) is a no-nonsense, somewhat cynical
loner with piercing eyes and a stoic demeanor. He’s the kind of guy whose dream
vacation would be hiking the Appalachian Trail all alone. His hobbies included
collecting an absurd arsenal of firearms (for the coming zombie apocalypse) and
building a home brewery for his favorite IPA craft beer.
One day I asked him if he’d like to grab lunch. He
reluctantly said “yes”. I think I had to ask him half a dozen times before he
set a date. I like to think my persistence wore him down.
I let him choose where we would meet because he was a picky
eater, someone who would be satisfied with the predictable choices on the kid’s
menu in every American restaurant. We grabbed our sandwiches at a local deli
and wrestled our way through a conversation about IPA’s (he was mostly
educating me because I don’t drink beer and couldn’t understand why he finds it
so fascinating or tasty), raising children and Jesus. I say we “wrestled” our
way through the conversation because extracting words from Paul was an
exhausting exercise, kind of like Jacob must have felt when he wrestled God and
said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Genesis 32:26). My internal
resolve was saying, “I’m not going to let you go back to work until you bless
me with a few substantial, meaningful words.”
As we walked to our cars I said, “I had a nice time, Paul. I
enjoyed getting to know you better.” He said, “Yeah, it was better than I
thought it would be.” I thought to myself, “Thanks… I think.” I then said,
“Would you like to get together again sometime soon?” His reply made me
thankful that my sense of worth didn’t depend on Paul. He replied, “Not really.
I mean, this was okay, and I appreciate you taking the time to grab lunch. But
I don’t really need community. I’ve got my wife and two friends (he was
serious). I’m not really interested in having relationships with anyone else.”
I was simultaneously shocked by and in complete admiration
of Paul’s candor. Most people would have simply lied to me. They would have
told me they were willing to meet again, and then they would have manipulated
their calendar in such a way that I would eventually stop trying to connect
with them because they would be perpetually too busy to connect.
I’ve thought a lot about my friend’s words of over the
years. Is it really true that he doesn’t “need community”? I know why he feels
this way. He’s an introvert. People exhaust Paul. People are like energy
sucking vampires who suck him dry. Turning inward is as much about survival as
it is comfort.
Theologically-speaking, we all need community. It was God
who said, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). But
Paul would say, “I’m not alone. I have my wife, my two friends, and Jesus.” Is
I find it interesting that when Jesus came into the world,
he came to accomplish his mission and purpose in the context of community. He
was God, and he had experienced the intimacy of community with the Godhead
(Father, Son, Spirit) for all eternity. He knew true community in a way most of
us have never experienced. Yet, even Jesus welcomed other people into his life.
He journeyed to the cross in Jerusalem with twelve friends. That’s four times,
the community my friend felt he needed.
There are at least two reasons I believe community is
important. The first is that becoming a Christian means that
you and I are a part of a new people – where I am theirs and they are mind.
Ephesians 2 reminds us that God’s goal in the Gospel is that “he might create
in himself [Jesus] one new man in place of the two, so making peace” (2:16).
When we are born again in Christ, we aren’t just experiencing an individual
transformation (i.e., becoming a new creation). We are also embracing a new
corporate identity. We are welcomed into a new family. We are bound together by
love, sharing life together under the authority and wise leadership of Jesus
Christ, our “head” (Colossians 1:18).
The second reason community is important is because “community has a fundamental role in living according to the way of
Jesus” (Kyle Strobel). The
truth of the Gospel is this: we cannot create true identity apart from Jesus.
We don’t have sufficient power to create our truest self. In truth, we aren’t
even fully human apart from faith in Jesus Christ. We have been made in the
image of God to display God. But we cannot rightly display God apart from
having our lives “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).
We need community (other Christians) to reveal to us how
desperately we need Jesus. We always underestimate our need. We can only find
ourselves in Jesus through weakness and vulnerability, and we need others to
help us see how weak and vulnerable we really are, and how much we need Jesus.
I think that’s why we fear community. We fear being exposed as weaklings. We
fear vulnerability. And this is why we always seek out idolatrous ways to
create self. We try to create identity in our work, our families, our
accomplishments and accolades, our sexuality, our religious expressions, etc. We
are blind to our own strategies for creating our own identity. We need others
to help us see what we can’t see for ourselves.
Gospel community exposes our weaknesses, vulnerabilities and
idols. When we let other Christians into our lives, and when others let us into
their lives, we are often confronted with the truth about ourselves. This can
be painful and embarrassing, but it is also necessary if we are to grow more
into the image of Jesus. As James Houston once wrote, “Genuine humanity is
never in isolation, but is always with others.”
Because God has existed in community for eternity within the
Godhead (i.e., Trinity), “then to be with God, who is always with us, is to be
in community” (Jamim Goggin). If I am to walk with Christ, I must walk with
Christ with his people. That means
something more than reading the Bible, listening to sermon podcasts, and
showing up to Sunday worship gatherings on occasion. Walking with Christ with
his people means opening up your life to others. It means being comfortable
with how uncomfortable it is for people to lovingly pursue you when something
doesn’t seem quite right. It means humbly receiving correction. It means having
hard conversations to help each of us guard our hearts against sin and
Who are the Jesus-followers walking with you through life?
The more Christians there are that “know” us, the more weak and vulnerable we
will feel. But that weakness is where we experience the grace of God: “My grace
is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect In weakness” (2 Corinthians
12:9). We experience the power of God as we live in authentic community, a
world where we are our truest selves because we are known and loved, not
despite our weakness and vulnerability, but because
of our weakness and vulnerability.
I never gave up on Paul,
even when he thought he didn’t need me. Let’s resolve not to give up on one
another, even when what we see in one another is confusing and disheartening.
We are not wired to embrace weakness and vulnerability, but if we want to
experience Christ in unprecedented ways, that’s precisely what we must do. Dietrich
Bonhoeffer once wrote that we “find the Creator by means of [one another].”
What he meant was that we experience more of God as we share life together –
even when it’s hard to do so. You will never experience God as intimately as he
wants you to alone – or even with your three friends. We’re a family, and
families are messy, frustrating, and exhausting. But that’s where God’s grace
is found, and I want as much of his grace as he is willing to give. How about
The cautiousness was present in his eyes the first time that I met him, though I did not quite yet know the depth of pensive hesitation that lie behind his glancing eyes and shifting posture. In some ways, aside from the blissful naivety of his youngest child, it seemed to me that the whole family was in retreat, determined to keep people at a safe distance, even as they were moving towards our church leadership expressing a desire to become a part of our faith family. Though I saw the defensive posture of a wounded and wounding family, I didn’t know quite what I was seeing. It would be years before the pixelated representation of their lives would come into focus. Yet, it almost never did. It was almost a decade before my friend courageously took a step of faith and slowly brought his real struggles and fears into focus, before he invited others to be a part of his messy journey of faith.
This past weekend during the depression and anxiety conference led by Dr. Edward Welch from the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF), he said, “One of the hallmarks of the kingdom of heaven is that we speak about what is on our hearts.” This statement grabbed my attention, not because I disagree with it, but because if this statement is true, why is it so rarely put into practice among God’s people? One reason is obvious: we’re afraid. What will people think of us if they know the truth about our struggles? Will they reject us? Will they indict us as a fraud? Will they break the bruised reed?
Another reason people do not speak what is on their hearts is because we are not contributing to a culture where people are invited to speak more of what is on their heart. Do I share my own struggles with anxiety, pride, fear of man, depression, etc.? Do people really know me? Of course, this creates a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle. If I’m afraid of people rejecting me for not really possessing the strength of faith I project I have (and I project strong faith not because my faith is not real or genuine or to mask hypocrisy, but rather, because I’m not sure it’s safe to speak that honestly about following Jesus), then I’m not likely to talk about my struggles.
In many ways, this past weekend’s weekender on anxiety and depression gave us a foretaste of what Jesus desires the kingdom of heaven here on the earth to be like. For a few hours, our busy, well-manicured lives were interrupted with real words of comfort and honest confessions of specific fears, soul-eclipsing despair, and relationally isolating anxieties.
The culture of the kingdom of heaven is a world where, not only are we helping others, but we are willing to ask others for help. The kingdom of heaven is not for the strong; the kingdom of heaven is for the weak. Rather, the kingdom of heaven is for the meek. Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).
Meekness isn’t a word we use very much. I’m not even sure it’s a spiritual quality many of us understand. We often think of meekness as weakness. We think of meek people as those who are simply submissive because they lack the resources to do anything else. We can certainly feel this way when we are overwhelmed with anxious thoughts, feelings of despair, and a sense of helplessness about the fear that is in front of us.
But true meekness isn’t measured by strength or weakness. It is measured by humility and trust. A strong person can possess meekness because they could assert themselves but choose not to. The spiritually meek trust God, commit their ways to God, and wait for God to act.
Meekness is required to become a people who speak what is on our hearts in the kingdom of heaven. Meekness is required because we have to trust God to use vulnerability and weakness as the means for us to experience God’s power. We speak what is on our hearts because this is how God uses the body of Christ – where each of us serve the purpose of building one another up (1 Corinthian 12:7) – to be helped and help others as we follow Jesus.
In closing, Dr. Welch said that a godly goal for the church should be that we really know one person well enough to know how to really pray for them. And by “really pray”, we do not mean the shallow prayers of general provision (though these prayers are not bad. In fact, they are real and necessary prayers. However, you don’t have to “know” someone to ask God to provide them a job. The point is, “Do I have a depth of relationship where my prayers can reach deeper than just below the surface?”). We “really pray” when our prayers are for God to do more in the hearts of his people, that we would know the love of God, we would grow in the knowledge of Christ, we would stand firm in the crucible of faith, and we would persevere in our faith until the end.
I wonder, “Does anyone (outside of your family) at Community Bible know you well enough to really pray for you?” It will take courage and humility for you to let a person know the truest version of who you are in Jesus. But as my friend has found out, as I am finding out, it is a risk worth taking.
Learning to Speak What’s on Our Hearts Together,
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].
- 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.
- 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).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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,
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.