Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Responsibly Dependent

One hallmark of a true believer is that she trusts in God. When we say we believe in God, that belief should play out in our lives, right? So, when we are suffering with pain, or any trial really, our faith should enable us to persevere in serving and glorifying God, even when we don't feel like it. But, as you probably know, this is sometimes not the case. We give in to fear, worry and anxiety. Even though we know we have a God who is trustworthy (2 Timothy 1:12 is just one of many proof texts for this truth), we worry and fret anyway. When we do that, we lose out on the joy and the hope that God promises, and we are unhappy, defeated Christians.

So, what’s going on here? We believe the truths of Scripture regarding God’s sovereignty (Psalm 115:3, Proverbs 16:9; Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28, just to name a few), yet we pass over these as though they were meaningless, and follow our feelings instead. To further complicate things, the Bible commands us to trust God and not to worry. Verses like Philippians 4:6; Matthew 11:28-30; and Luke 12: 22-31 all contain commands (not suggestions) not to worry, but to trust God instead. A third factor we must consider is that God’s Word tells us that the Spirit will enable us to trust Him. John 14:26 quotes Jesus as saying that the Helper He will send will bring His words to our minds at just the right time, to help us to trust Him and obey His commands.

So, if we are true believers, and we understand and believe that our good and loving God is in control of our circumstances; and we desire to obey His commands; and we have the Holy Spirit helping us, then why do we still give in to fear, anxiety, or depression? What are we missing?

I believe that what’s missing here is a simple act of the will. We have all the help we need to be at peace and free from these sinful emotions. But in the end, we must act. While we cannot fight our flesh in our own strength, we must indeed fight! There is human will involved here, acting together with the knowledge of God and the power of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. It is not enough to know God and believe He is able. We must do something with what we know.  Isaiah 26:3 (NLT) says,

You will keep in perfect peace
all who trust in you,
all whose thoughts are fixed on you!

This is the perfect verse to memorize if you are stuck in a repeated pattern of fear, worry, anxiety, depression, or any other burdensome emotion. It combines all of these factors: Trust in God’s sovereignty, desire to obey, and belief that the Spirit is able to help. He will keep you in perfect peace, my friend, but you must keep your mind fixed on Him! The Spirit causes us to trust, but we must be responsibly dependent, acting according to that trust. I’m not telling you to suck it up and be brave, far from it! What I am saying is that overcoming sinful thought patterns does require an effort on the part of the believer. You must discipline your thoughts, bringing them captive to obey Christ, who has told you that He desires to give you rest (Matt. 11:28)

So, the next time you begin to feel worried or sad about your circumstances, actively move your mind to thinking about God. Even physically getting up and moving to another place can help. Go for a drive or a walk, if you’re able. As you’re moving, start reciting the attributes of God to yourself. One method is to think of an attribute for each letter of the alphabet, and go from A to Z. You’ll be surprised how your mind, and in turn your emotions, will change. God is faithful, and as you commit to disciplining you thoughts in this way, you will begin to enjoy the peace you desire.