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All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent (Isaiah 28:29).
Throughout the Scripture, God always makes clear the two options we have: Our way or His way.
Man’s way is described like this: “For it is: do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that, a little here, a little there” (v. 10). In other words, man says, “We’ve got this all figured out. We have a plan for everything.”
Until they don’t.
Until the world is not going according to plan, and worldwide panic sets in, and a new plan needs to be formulated. In the meantime, people are fearful, angry, confused, and panicking.
God describes His way like this: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic” (v. 16).
So here’s the decision everyone will have to make: Will I trust the puny plans of a finite human, and experience the panic that sets in when those plans fail? Or will I put my trust in the only One whose plans are never thwarted? One plan leads to panic, and the other leads to peace.
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“Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.” —Anxiety & Depression Association of America
A multitude of factors go into someone’s anxiety: genetics, temperament, brain chemistry, life experiences. In addition to those factors, we have to keep in mind that humans are a three-part being—with a body, mind, and spirit—and a disease in one area does affect the other two areas.
All of this means that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for anxiety. But there is one Healer:
He may supernaturally heal your body, mind, or spirit
He may direct you to a medical doctor, a mental health professional, or a spiritual counselor
But always, He will walk through the challenges with you, strengthening you, and preparing you to minister to others going through a similar struggle (Psalm 23:1-6; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
David wrote, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in You” (Psalm 56:3). Notice that he said “when” not “if.” David knows what you probably know too: we can be easily consumed by our anxiety, doubts, and fears. But David also knows (and I hope you do too) that at those moments, we can go to God as our trustworthy First Source.
One of the dictionary definitions of anxiety is a feeling of disquiet. All of the conflicting thoughts make it hard to concentrate, the abundance of noise makes it difficult to talk to yourself, let alone talk to God.
I’d like you to consider another psalmist’s words. Look at the first half of Psalm 94:19—
When anxiety was great within me… (NIV)
In the multitude of my anxious thoughts… (AMP)
When doubts filled my mind… (NLT)
The setting of this psalm is one of lots of disquieting voices: a desire to see the wrongdoers punished, listening to arrogant words, getting fed up with boasting words, seeing good people being trampled, hearing foolish words uttered about God (vv. 1-8).
Experiencing anxiety is not sinful, but I do think that we grieve God’s heart when we immediately run to other sources for relief instead of going to our loving Heavenly Father first. After dealing with the disquiet in the opening verses of Psalm 94, the psalmist says, “My anxiety level was sky high!” But then notice how that verse concludes—
…Your consolation brought me joy (NIV)
…Your comforts cheer and and delight my soul (AMP)
…Your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer (NLT)
Jesus told us about our Comforter who would always be with us (John 14:1, 16-17). A little further on in these same remarks Jesus also said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NKJV).
A furious squall battered the boat, almost swamping it. The disciples were—to say the least—disquieted! In their anxious state they notice Jesus peacefully sleeping. They wake Him up with, “Don’t You care that we’re drowning?!” Jesus stands up and says to the storm, “Quiet. Be still.”
Recall that one of the descriptions of anxiety was being disquieted. That prefix dis- means to be separated: our anxiety would seek to distance us from God’s presence, to make us feel like His help is too far away. But when we go to Jesus, He alone can say, “Quiet” to our disquieting thoughts. He can remove the “dis-” and bring us close to Him. Only His peace can X-out the noise of the storm and bring you to a place of quiet rest.
After Jesus said, “Quiet. Be still,” notice this: “…THEN the wind died down and it was completely calm” (Mark 4:39). And the great thing is this: Even if another storm begins disquieting us just a few minutes after the calm, we can go to Him again. There is no limit: We can continually go to the Eternal Source of peace, to the only One who can speak, “Quiet” to our anxious thoughts.
Confusing times become more stressful—and more confusing!—when the response of people seems to throw more fuel on the fire. Frustration boils up into anger. Confusion gives way to fear. Uncertainty about what to believe or what to do becomes anxiety over what might be coming next.
You might think I’m describing current events in our country right now. But in times like these we need to remember that there have always been times like these. When I talk about frustration, anger, confusion, fear, uncertainty, and anxiety, I am actually thinking about events that took place over 2000 years ago.
Like when the residents of Ephesus became Christians and stopped buying idols of Artemis, a huge backlash broke out. “Soon the whole city was in an uproar. … The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there” (Acts 19:29-32).
Or when some Jews thought Paul had taken some non-Jews into the part of temple restricted to Jews only. “Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, shouting, ‘Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.’ (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.) The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple. … Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar…” (Acts 21:27-34).
There are three Fs at work here: feelings, facts, and faith.
Have you heard it said, “Feelings are not facts”? Feeling are a fact to the one experiencing those feelings, so feelings can indeed be facts: subjective facts that are factual to me.
Facts are not necessarily better than feelings because our facts might come from faulty sources. For example, Trophimos was with Paul, but Paul did not bring him into the restricted area.
Whether feelings or facts, we need faith in God’s sovereignty. We need to remember: God has a plan, He is in control, nothing takes Him by surprise, nothing derails His purpose, He is intimately aware of everything that is happening.
The Holy Spirit helps us evaluate both feelings and facts through the filter of truth found in God’s Word. Then the Spirit also gives us faith to stand firm despite the feelings and the facts.
“The university has traditionally been a unified place (Latin unum) where faculty and students gather in order to discover truth (Latin veritas). A generation ago, college was expected to be a place of freedom, particularly for expression of and engagement with different—even disagreeable—ideas. Sadly, recent events and numerous statistical surveys reveal that such days may be over. Today, many on university campuses expect to be protected or shielded from speech and ideas that could be deemed offensive, even if the free speech rights of others—as well as the pursuit of truth—are sacrificed in the process.
“The current climate, in which people are forcibly prevented from sharing ideas, has arisen because the Culture of Confusion has mistaken autonomy for freedom. In a post-truth culture, where preferences and opinions are elevated over facts and truth, anything that challenges our preferences, even if a challenge is laced with facts, is deemed offensive and oppressive. The Western contemporary concept of freedom is all about the ability to do, feel, and say whatever one wants, as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else. But this isn’t freedom—it’s autonomy (which literally means being a law unto one’s self). Freedom operates at its best within the confines of truth. The pursuit of autonomy is the root of the post-truth mindset that fuels the current Culture of Confusion. If each of our personal preferences is celebrated without truth as our guide, if we are all ‘laws unto ourselves,’ confusion is inevitable in at least three important ways.
“First, the culture seems to have lost its ability to reason—to think and act clearly and wisely. When feelings are vaunted over facts in the quest for autonomy, reason dies in the process. If the facts get in the way of unrestrained autonomy, then the facts will have to be ignored and any opposition will be silenced.
“Second, the Culture of Confusion has lost its moral accountability. If it’s true that ‘man is the measure of all things,’ as Protagoras proclaimed centuries ago, then we make the rules, not God. If there is no God to help us, then we have to help ourselves. There are atheists who claim that the ‘better angels of our nature’ will result in us reaching a rough agreement about moral values. But history has shown us that it’s only a short leap from secular humanism to self-worship and supreme authority. Moral clarity shows us the objective truth beyond our preferences. And we have to mold our desires and preferences to the truth’s boundaries. Because we don’t want to conform, moral clarity has become the vice of the day, and moral confusion the virtue.
“Third, in striving to go from bearing the Imago Dei (with accountability to God) to Deus Homo (with accountability to no one), we have lost what it means to be human and to value other human beings. When we become the measure of all things, then we determine which humans are valuable and which ones are not, meaning our sense of objective human value is lost in the process.
“There is a fundamental difference between limitless individual autonomy and true freedom. The Bible opposes the former and champions the latter (James 1:25; 2:12). The book of Judges demonstrates this well. Each time the people’s thirst for autonomy landed them in trouble, God sent a judge—a person who took his authority from God—to guide the people. But they rejected God’s authority time and again in favor of their personal sovereignty until the resultant chaos became too much. When we jettison truth as our guide, we will end up with autonomy and then chaos, but not freedom. Each one of us, individually in our hearts, needs to search for the source of freedom—truth.” —Abdu Murray, Saving Truth
This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.
What “Religious” Things Perplex You?
If we are perplexed over the question of sanctification, or about the baptism of the Holy Ghost, we ourselves are the reason why we are bothered. God has written a Book, and the phrases “sanctification” and the “baptism of the Holy Ghost” are His, not man’s; why do we not go to Him about it?
We are the reason why we do not go; we dare not go. If we honestly ask God to baptize us with the Holy Ghost and fire, anything that happens is His answer, and some appalling things happen. If we accept the revelation that our body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, are we prepared to ask God to fulfill the purpose of the Holy Ghost in our body? If we are, watch the consequences—that friendship must go, that book, that association, everyone of them must decay off like a lightning flash.
If anyone has a difficulty in getting through to God, it is never God who is to blame. We can get through to Him as soon we want to, there is nothing simpler.
From The Psychology Of Redemption
I believe Chambers’ line of reasoning goes like this:
God has revealed His full will in the inspired words of Scripture.
The same Holy Spirit Who inspired the Bible can illuminate our hearts.
We don’t have insight because we either don’t ask for it [James 1:5], or we don’t really want to hear the truth [James 4:3].
Asking for help while posturing ourselves to obey will quickly bring clarity—“Jesus Christ’s life must work through our flesh, and that is where we have to obey. So many go into raptures over God’s supernatural salvation, over the wonderful fact that God saves us by His sovereign grace (and we cannot do that too much), but they forget that now He expects us to get ourselves into trim to obey Him” (Oswald Chambers).
Here are some more quotes from Oswald Chambers’ book Notes On Ezekiel. My book review is here, and my first set of quotes from this book is here.
“We are too shallow to be afraid of God. … It requires a miracle of grace before we believe this, consequently we are foolishly fearless, but when the grace of God lifts us into the life of God we fear nothing and no one saving God alone. … Confusion arises when we do not see God as Almighty.”
“God will put us in circumstances where we have to take steps of which we do not see the meaning, only on looking back do we discern that it was God’s will for us.”
“We are always on the wrong line when we come to God with a pre-occupied mind because a pre-occupied mind springs from a disloyal heart: ‘I don’t want to do God’s will, what I want is for God to give me permission to do what I want to do.’”
“What God burns is not weakness, not imperfection, but perverted goodness.”
“Every part of our human nature which is not brought into subjection to the Holy Spirit after experiencing deliverance from sin will prove a corrupting influence.”
“We all have the sneaking idea that we are the favorites of God—‘It’s alright for me to do this, God will understand.’ If I as a child of God commit sin, I will be as sternly dealt with as if I were not His child.”
“Don’t tie God up in your own conceptions, or say too surely you know what God will do. … The sovereign purposes of God work out slowly and inexorably, but ever be careful to note where God’s sovereignty is at work among men in matters of history and Time, and where it is at work in matters of eternal destiny. Beware of allowing your memory of how God has worked to take the place of present vital moral relationship to Him.”
“When I have been using ‘the sword of the Spirit’ in a spirit of indignation against another, it is a terrible experience to find the sword suddenly wrested out of my hand and laid about me personally by God. Let your personal experience of the work of God’s Spirit instruct you at the foot of Calvary; let the light of God riddle you through, then you will never use the Word of God to another, never turn the light of God on him, without fear and trembling.”
“Liberty is the ability to obey the law of God, with the power to live according to its demands; license is the unrestrained impulse to traffic against the law of God. … The seal of immorality is that I do what I like; the seal of freedom is that I do what God likes.”
“If the Holy Spirit is obeyed the stubbornness is blown out, the dynamite of the Holy Ghost blows it out.”
“Pride in its most estimable as well as its most debased form is self-deification; it is not a yielding to temptation from without, but a distinct alteration of relationships within.”
“I may suffer because of the sins of my progenitors—I am never punished for them.”
“In dealing with Bible experiences we must ever make allowance for the miraculous, which never contradicts reason, but very often does contradict common sense. The miraculous transcends reason and lifts it into another world than the logical one, consequently spiritual experience is something I have lived through, not thought through.”
Jesus was talking to His disciples about what was ahead for Him, and they responded in an all-too-typical way: “They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what ‘rising from the dead’ meant” (Mark 9:10).
There are times that Jesus interrupts His disciples’ musings with a question like, “What are you talking about among yourselves?” But in this instance, He kept quiet.
I think Jesus likes for us to ask Him for help.
There is a certain level of pride that says, “I can figure this out all by myself.” This pride leads to ignorance, and ignorance leads to fear (we tend to fear what we don’t know), and fear leads—more times than not—to poor choices.
“They didn’t understand what He meant and were afraid to ask Him about it” (v. 32). This fear probably led to their confusion in between the time of Christ’s crucifixion and His resurrection.
Think about it, we have two choices:
Confusion → Pride → Ignorance → Fear → Poor choices
If you are going through a difficult place in your life … or if you are trying to process an event that doesn’t make much sense … or if there is a painful memory that makes you wonder, “Where was God in that?” … check out this short video clip:
Now, go eat a cookie and know that God IS working out something good.
The Methodist church by my house has a marquee that faces a busy expressway. Today, as I drove by I, read their latest message: “Pay attention to your destination, not your speed.”
“Hmmm,” thought, “I wonder how the police department feels about that?”
No sooner had the thought passed through my head and I saw the flashing lights of a police officer with a car pulled over on the shoulder! I can almost imagine the driver’s frantic plea to the officer, “But, officer, the church back there told me…!”
This humorous scene reminded me of two quotes:
“It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.” —Francis of Assisi
“Where one man reads the Bible, a hundred read you and me.” —Dwight L. Moody
May the “signs” of our lives never send mixed signals to the people “reading” us.