I was blessed this morning by reading Randy Alcorn's thoughts on why it's a much better idea to rejoice than worry:
Just after instructing us to rejoice in the Lord (Philippians 4:4), Paul wrote in verse 6, “Do not be anxious about anything.” Worry is a kill-joy. It specializes in worst case scenarios when God promises us best case scenarios:
1. He has already rescued us from the worst, which is eternal Hell;
2. Even if something horrible happens, He will use it for our eternal good (Romans 8:28);
3. Often bad things do not happen and our worry proves groundless;
4. Whether or not bad things happen, our worry generates no positive change, and in fact, can cause me great harm;
5. The cause for all our worries—sin and the Curse—is temporary, and will soon be behind us. Forever.
Hence the command to rejoice is not mere positive thinking—we have every reason to rejoice.
Paul continued in verse 7, “But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Instead of worrying, we’re to take our concerns to God, choosing to thank Him as we do—for His goodness, His sovereignty and His promises to work everything for good.
In verse 8 Paul said: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Thought is a choice. We often imagine, “I have no control over what I think about.” Martin Luther is credited with responding, “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from making a nest in your hair.” What we choose to think about becomes our master.
Some believers become obsessed with everything that’s wrong with the world. We are continually bombarded by “news” (sometimes more sensational than informative) that dwells on the sufferings, tragedies and crises of life. It is easy for this unceasing avalanche of “bad news” to bury the Good News.
I do not favor living in a cave, denying suffering and trying to be “blissfully ignorant” of the world’s woes. Rather, Paul said, we are to focus our thoughts on the true eternal realities God affirms, that better empower us to rejoice.
Remembering God’s presence, praying and feeding our thoughts with good things that honor our King—these will increase our joy while starving our anxiety.
Christianity is not a religion; it is the proclamation of the end of religion. Religion is a human activity dedicated to the job of reconciling God to humanity and humanity to itself. The gospel, however -- the good news of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ -- is the astonishing announcement that God has done the whole work of reconciliation without a scrap of human assistance. (Robert Farrar Capon)
The empty wisdom of human religion proclaims, "What goes around comes around. God helps those who help themselves. You get what you pay for" -- but these are lies that lead only to bondage and despair. The gospel of grace speaks an entirely different word, a word that's filled with paradox and mystery. By God's grace, we get what someone else paid for. By grace, God helps those who not only can't help themselves, they don't even want to. By grace, what goes around stops at the foot of the cross, never to come around again.
PROOF: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace (Zondervan, 2014, p. 16-17).
A Prayer about Eggshell Walkin’Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Col. 3: 12– 14 NIV)
Merciful Jesus, I don’t think there’s any passage in any translation of the Bible that uses the image of “walking on eggshells” to describe one of the ways we broken sinners often relate to one another. But I’m glad there’s repentance and grace for this and every other soul-sucking, crazy-making relational dance. We are people made for deep intimacy and selfless caring, but sin sure has done a number on our relationships. Here’s my prayer, Jesus: as someone chosen in you before the world began, holy in you, and dearly loved by you, help me realize when others experience me as a minefield of irritability, or a self-righteous porcupine, or a rigid control-meister. I don’t want to be the kind of person who makes others feel the need to tiptoe around or avoid me. Through the resources of the gospel, help me to see, own, and deal with the things that make it easy for people not to feel at ease in my company. My need doesn’t stop there, Jesus. I’m also guilty of being on the other end of this broken style of relating— of treating others as too fragile or too dangerous to handle feedback or conflict. When I fall into this pattern, it simply reveals how little of your love I’m currently enjoying and how little of the power of the gospel is presently at work in my life. Jesus, you’ve forgiven me everything. You forbear with me through all things. Never let me forget this for a nanosecond. Daily, sometimes hourly, remind me to put on the garments of your grace: kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Along with a lot of my friends, I long for the day of complete wholeness and health, when every one of my relationships will reflect the joy, peace, and intimacy of the Trinity. Until that day, give more grace to these yet-to-be-glorified hearts of ours, Jesus. I pray in your kind and persistent name. Amen.
Smith, Scotty (2011-09-01). Everyday Prayers: 365 Days to a Gospel-Centered Faith (p. 181). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
This morning I was reading Drew Dyck's Yawning at Tigers: You Can't Tame God so Stop Trying. I was moved by the following excerpt and just had to share:
The Bible is filled with kings and beggars, prophets and prostitutes, warriors and weaklings, merchants and thieves. But when they encountered God, or even one of his angelic envoys, they reacted in remarkably similar ways. They trembled. They cowered. Some went mute. The ones who could manage speech expressed despair (or"woe," to use a biblical word) and were convinced they were about to die.
Fainters abound in Scripture. Take the prophet Daniel, for instance. He could stare down lions, but when the heavens opened before him, he swooned like a Victorian lady. Ezekiel, too, was overwhelmed by his vision of God. After witnessing Yahweh's throne chariot lift into the air with the sound of a jet engine, he fell face-first to the ground. When Solomon dedicated the temple, the glory of the Lord was so overpowering "the priests could not perform their service" (1 Kings 8:11).
New Testament types fared no better. John's revelations on the island of Patmos left him lying on the ground "as though dead" (Rev. 1:17). The disciples dropped when they saw Jesus transfigured. Even the intrepid Saul marching to Damascus collapsed before the blazing brilliance of the resurrected Christ.
How different from our popular depictions. In movies, angels are warm, approachable. Teddy bears with wings. God is Morgan Freeman or some other avuncular presence. Scripture, however, knows nothing of such portrayals. Divine encounters were terrifying, leaving even the most stout and spiritual vibrating with fear -- or lying facedown, unconscious.
It may not be pleasant to think about these kinds of encounters. It isn't comforting. You won't find the passages of Scripture previously referenced on plaques that hang in living rooms and church foyers. They're absent from most devotionals and even most sermons. I understand why it's tempting to skip them altogether. Fast-forward to more assuring passages. But that's a mistake. We can't fully appreciate God's grace and love until we consider his holiness, his otherness. Pastor Matt Chandler wrote, "The work of God in the cross of Christ strikes us as awe-inspiring only after we have first been awed by the glory of God."
That's why we need to be jarred by God's glory. Astonished afresh by his majesty. Staggered by his power. If we ever hope to trade the shallows for the deep, we must rediscover the holiness of God (28-29).
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.(Romans 8:19–21, ESV)
What joyful expectation can there be in any of a total ruin? How should the creature be capable of partaking in this glorious liberty of the sons of God? As the world for the sin of man lost its first dignity, and was cursed after the fall, and the beauty bestowed upon it by creation defaced; so it shall recover that ancient glory, when he shall be fully restored by the resurrection to that dignity he lost by his first sin.
As man shall be freed from his corruptibility to receive that glory which is prepared for him, so shall the creatures be freed from that imperfection or corruptibility, those stains and spots upon the face of them, to receive a new glory suited to their nature, and answerable to the design of God, when the glorious liberty of the saints shall be accomplished. As when a prince’s nuptials are solemnized, the whole country echoes with joy; so the inanimate creatures, when the time of the marriage of the Lamb is come, shall have a delight and pleasure from that renovation.
Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, vol. 1 (Robert Carter & Brothers, 1853), 313–314.