Don’t Skip Thanksgiving

The world wants to skip from Halloween to Christmas bouncing from horror themed self-indulgence to tinsel tossed materialism. The church can empathize with the sentiment. The social unrest, contentious elections, and COVID19 pandemic have cast a long, misty shadow of anxiety over most every part of the globe. The idea of stopping at grandma’s for Thanksgiving turkey seems to be an ironic exercise in American cultural futility. Why give thanks for such a world?

Though the world despairs, the people of God have every reason to give thanks in such a world. They understand the sovereign love of God. The church knows that all of today’s troubles are bound together by a golden thread of grace that culminates in the book of life. For the Christian, spiritual reality remains far more real than presidential elections, infection numbers, and GDP growth. What do those who see beyond the empirical world know?

Why Christians Give Thanks

They know that God will rescue his people and that Jesus will come again. To borrow the words of Micah 7:8b and 9b Christians are confident that, “when I fall, I shall rise…[and] in that day the boundary shall be far extended.” Though the believer may watch his political candidate go down in flames, get a pink slip, or receive a terminal diagnosis, he knows God will not let him be crushed. God will vindicate his people. Admittedly, God may not vindicate his people’s political candidates, business plans, or medical strategies. Our causes may flounder, but our faith will remain unmoved. We will prove to be more than conquers because God has pleaded our cause and has executed “justice (Micah 7:10).” Jesus died that we might be freed from the curse. Death, sin, and sorrow have no right to dominate our soul for Jesus has swaddled us in his righteous love. Even if our day is filled with adversity, mistakes, and sinful failures, we know the darkness will not last because “the Lord will be a light to me (Micah 7:9.).” Even on the worst day, the believer can confidently boast, “that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all of creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:38-39).” Those whose names have been written in the book of life have every reason to be thankful. God will rescue from today’s trial.

God also promises to come again. The Christian’s future hope is not tied to suburban homes and white fences, large family gatherings, or exotic vacations. All these things can come and go and utterly disappoint our souls. Homes can flood, gatherings can descend into feuds, and vacations can prove to be a waste of time. The Christian hopes in something yet unseen but something far more secure, the new heavens and the new earth. When Christ returns the boundary of his kingdom shall be extended to cover all of humanity. All sin, disease, sorrow, anxiety, hurt, and injustices will be forced outside the walls of God’s kingdom and crushed. Inside the walls, Jesus will shepherd his people placing them under the shade of his blessed comfort and filling their hearts with the abundance of his riches. Because the believer knows her destination is secure, she has every reason to be thankful today. The new heavens and the new earth are coming.

Give Thanks!

Though the world maybe ready to skip from Halloween to Christmas, the church should embrace the cultural moment and give thanks. God promises to see us through today and to come again. The two things that fuel our anxiety, today’s problems and tomorrow’s possibilities, have been solved by Jesus on the cross. The baby born in Bethlehem on Christmas morn has conquered this world of goblins and vampires. Nothing can separate us from him. Give Thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving!

King Saul, Fear, and Why Anxiousness is a Sin

Fear, anxiety, and paranoia often reveal a lack of faith. Admittedly, physical things such as lack of sleep and recovering from the birth of a child can also contribute to fears and anxiety. But when such things have been account for and medically address and the fears, anxiety and paranoia remain, we turn our attention to our souls.

One of the most paranoid, anxious, and fearful biblical characters is King Saul. In 1 Samuel 22:6-19, he thinks the whole world is against him. He accuses his closets supporters of revolution and murder. Consumed with worry, Saul then orders his troops to murder God’s priests because he believed they had “conspired against me.” Fear led Saul to commit unspeakable atrocities.

Saul’s soul pulses with fear because he had rejected God and had repeatedly tried to find his security, peace, and hope in men and women. Saul offers unlawful sacrifices in 1 Samuel 13:11 because the “people were scattering from me.” He also refuses to destroy the Amalekites because he “feared the people and obeyed their voice.” In response to Saul’s sin, God rejects Saul. The prophet Samuel declares, “You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel (1 Sam. 15:26b).” Saul felt anxious about everything from his friends to his political power because he lacked saving faith. Those who do not know Christ cannot help but be anxious.

Sadly, Christians struggle with anxiousness, fear, and paranoia even though “perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, and many other Christians have found themselves engaged in a lifelong battle with fear and worry.

Because Christians of all eras and ages regularly battle fear, evangelical leaders have begun to label anxiousness and her sister terms as being mental illnesses, deserving of acceptance, love and compassion. One author tells us to “Never judge those with anxiety.” Another Christian counselor has said chromic anxiety cannot “be cured by having more faith or praying more prayers.” The evangelical world has begun to view fear as an experience to be embraced, tolerated, and ultimately accepted. Essentially, the thinking goes, “I’m fearful and I am ok.”

Though many Christians struggle with fear, that struggle originates from a lack of faith. As seen in the Life of Saul, fear could only gain control of the life consumed by unfaithfulness. The priest Ahimelech and the future king David who have much more to fear than Saul find peace amidst the threat of death for they locate their trust in God, the King of Kings. Biblical Counselor Lou Priolo concluded,

Fear is God’s built in alarm system to let me know that I do not love God and others as the Bible says I should.

Christians experience fear, anxiousness, and paranoia because for brief moments they are living apart from faith like Saul. They should not embrace their fears. Rather they should examine their hearts to see where they have begun to stray from their faith.

To battle fear, Christians must do more than generically pray and have faith. They must reflect upon their God, their, salvation, and their purpose. The antidote to worry is the power of God. Even when Ahimelech and his family are murdered God reigns. Back in 1 Samuel 2:31, God had told the corrupt priest Eli, “Behold, the days are coming when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your house.” Though God hated Doeg’s actions, he still reigned even as evil destroyed Ahimelech’s family. In a much greater way, God reigned while evil men killed Jesus on the cross (Acts 2:22-24). Yet that great evil led to our greatest good, our salvation. If God’s will and his plan cannot be thwarted by the greatest tragedy of all time, Christians have no cause to fear the tragedies the sit outside their doors. They have no cause to fear employment, broken relationships, or even death itself. God reigns and their salvation is secure. Martyn Lloyd-Jones noted,

Of course they [those in heave] are happier than we are, they are in a land where there is no sin, no shame, no sorrow, no sighing; more happy – yes – but they are not more secure.

Jesus’s words found in John 10:28 should inflame our souls with hope and confidence: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” Christians have no cause to fear; the perfect love of Christ cast out fear.

The followers of Jesus should also not fear because no trial can keep them from their purpose.  In Mark 12:30-31, Jesus said men and women were designed to do two things,

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.

Christians can love God and their fellow human beings whether they live in palaces like Jonathan or are persecuted like David. They can live for the glory of God even if they are broke, are perpetually single, or receive discouraging news. Circumstances cannot keep us from God and keep us from fulfilling all that God requires of us. Christians have nothing to fear.

To eliminate fear, Christians do not need to flee their problems, they need to rest in their God, their salvation, and their purpose. And to foster a heart of faith, Christians must dive into the Words of God. Isaiah 26:3-4 clear states,

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.  Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.

If you lack faith dive deep into the Scriptures. Read them; pray them; plead with God over them; use them to remind your heart of God’s character, of your salvation, and of your purpose.

Lloyd-Jones said, “A miserable Christian is, in a sense a contradiction in terms.” Do you agree?