As I began my prayer time this morning, I was feeling a heaviness. Despite a personal and family history of depression, in the last few years the Lord has brought me out of the desolate pit, out of the miry clay (Psalm 40:2) and into a broad place of joy and peace. Now the constant assaults of the media and the myriad, radical changes of this corona virus crisis were testing my ability to maintain my joy and to persevere in my rejoicing. I wonder if anyone else might be feeling this way. Yes? Maybe? It seems to me that even the most stalwart among us must be feeling the strain that is applied by this deluge of discouraging reports. So, what is the disciple of Jesus to do in the midst of this mess? How do we stop all the noise in this fear-filled world from devastating our peace and joy?
The following is what occurred to me as I talked to the Lord and meditated on His word this morning.
The stresses are only immense when I take my eyes off Jesus Christ and look at the winds and the waves. Peter was walking on the water with his eyes fixed on Jesus until he saw the wind. Then he became afraid and began to sink (Matthew 14:28-31). It is the same for us. Eyes on Jesus, we can walk on water, figuratively speaking. But if we watch the wind, we fill with heavy fear and sink beneath the waves. So, fix your eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2).
I become stressed to the exact degree that I am “disobedient” and allow my heart and mind to consider things too difficult for me (Psalm 131). By “disobedient,” I mean not only doing the things that are forbidden by the Lord, but I also mean not doing the things that are commanded by the Lord. I am commanded “not to involve myself in great matters or in things too difficult for me (Psalm 131),” and when I allow my thoughts to go in that direction and to dwell on ‘too difficult’ things, I will feel overwhelmed and defeated. Leave those things to the Lord! He has promised to take care of those vast things.
There is a LOT of noise right now, a cacophony of sounds which seek to create fear and aim to distract me from Jesus. I, however, resolve to be a sheep who listens for only the Good Shepherd’s voice (John 10:3-5). I am an instrument who will only be played by the Chief Musician. I want to be like a well-trained dog who will only respond to the voice of his Master.
Fear and stress are almost always the products of our minds. That is, they are planted and grow because of our thoughts. So, circumstances are not primary. Our God has promised in His word that He will vanquish all our enemies. He who cannot lie has vowed to be our Shield and our Defender and our Refuge and our Champion, and we know that there is nothing and no one who can resist His perfect and sovereign will.
THEREFORE, no circumstance nor any combination of circumstances is ever primary for the believer. So why do I feel stress and fear? I feel fear (and fear’s consequences of anger and anxiety and stress) when my faith shrinks back (Hebrews 10:39) and I allow my undisciplined thoughts to dwell on the visible circumstances and to imagine that what is seen is greater than Him who is unseen. But for the disciple of Jesus, the Lord is always primary and everything else is secondary. Christ is primary and my faith (Ephesians 6:16) brings all circumstances before the Lord’s supremacy ad then responds through the filter of God’s word to produce peace.
When the world amps up the volume on all the visible threats around me, I more loudly respond with the greatness of my God and the promises of His word. In 1 Samuel 17, Israel had a big problem and a valid reason for fear. The big problem consisted of a giant named Goliath and of a cowardly king named Saul. O, yes, Israel had a “champion,” but he was hiding in his tent because he knew he was no match for the Philistines’ champion. Saul may have been taller than anyone else in Israel (1 Samuel 9:2), but he was a lot shorter than Goliath. Israel had every reason to fear, because they had placed their trust in an earthly champion who could not deliver them. But our hero David placed his trust in the living God, a true Champion who could never be defeated, and thus David had no reason to fear. In the same way, when the world bellows its threats at us through the media or through dangerous circumstances, we respond by proclaiming loudly the power of our Champion, the Lord God Almighty, and we remind ourselves that we will not fear, for we have a King who is mighty to save.
- You must know the Word if you are to wield the sword of the Spirit. Just as a swordsman must master swordsmanship to be prepared to every situation in battle, so the disciple of Jesus must be steeped in the whole word of God to be prepared for every circumstance in life. There is very little practical benefit to a promise from God’s word that you have never read. Therefore, know the Word!
- “The LORD is God, and there is no other.” Fix this truth in your mind and meditate on it often. When the world’s fearful and foolish noise begins to blare in your ears, force your thoughts to rest in the truth that the God who created the universe and everything in it ex nihilo is the same God who took on flesh and blood to die on a cross to atone for your sins. Respond to the world’s feeble threats with an unshakeable confidence in the unchanging love of God. By the Spirit’s power, discipline your thoughts to not dwell on circumstances and “what ifs,” but instead to fix your thoughts on the Lord and His power (Ephesians 6:10). Recognize and immediately arrest thoughts that magnify circumstances and obscure the Lord.
SDG rmb 3/22/2020