Another year–Don’t go it alone–

A new year presents a fresh start and a physical reminder to readjust our mind’s eye toward an upward and forward way of thinking. Mankind by nature is so—well… human— and prone to doubt, fear, anxiety (replaying worse-case scenarios), pain, viruses, aging, depression, and etc. I’m so very thankful that among God’s wonderful attributes are mercy, long-suffering, patience, and faithfulness. I often think, as David did in Psalm 8, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,  What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?

Isaiah 43:2-3, 5 says,

“When you pass through the waters,

I WILL BE WITH YOU;

And when you pass through

the rivers, they will not

sweep over you.

When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;

the flames will not set you ablaze.

For I am the Lord your God,

the Holy One of Israel,

Your Savior…

Do not be afraid,

for I AM WITH YOU.”

                Note that the above portion of Scripture says, “When you pass through” andWhen you walk through”.  In Psalm 23:4 it says, “When you walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” Jesus told his disciples (in John 16:33), that in this world they would have troubles, but to be of good cheer because He has overcome the world. Everything a believer needs to live a victorious life is found in Christ Jesus (2 Pet. 1:3, Gal. 5:22-23). God, sacrificially, through Christ’s shed blood on the cross, provided access for all those who believe to come to His throne of grace and obtain mercy and find grace in their time of need (Heb. 4:16, Eph. 2:13-14, 2 Cor. 12:9-11, Phil. 4:19). 

God does not prevent the believer from going through trials and tribulations, but He promises to be with them and give them His strength. The apostle Paul knew something about this as he was abandoned by all men near the end of his life, but the Lord stood with him and strengthened him (2 Tim. 4:16-18, Phil. 4:11-13). The Lord Himself was tempted like us so He is more than able to sympathize with what we are going through and provide the strength we need to sustain us (Heb. 2:18, 4:15).

                Why would we choose to live in fear by placing our trust in man rather than the Lord who has complete knowledge of our inner workings and our comings and goings? (Ps. 118:8, 139) God has provided us with His presence, protection, and purpose in the midst of the evil age we live in (Gal. 1:4). Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that mankind does not wrestle against flesh and blood, but rather against dark, wicked spiritual entities. The only recourse men and women have to withstand in this evil age is to shed their own garments of self and put on the armor of God. It’s only in Christ alone that man can be righteous and protected. Just as blood sustains the physical life, Christ (the armor of God) sustains us spiritually (Lev. 17:11, 14, Eph. 4:22-24, 6:11, Rom. 13:12). The moment we try to go it alone we become exposed to the wiles of the devil and his flaming darts (Eph. 6:11). The moment we rely on our earthly riches and material possessions we fall prey to the snares of the devil (Prov. 29:25, Ps. 52:7, 1 Tim. 6:9.17). The moment Peter took his eyes off Jesus and placed them on his own troubles he started to sink (Matt. 14:29-31).

                Satan’s end game is to distract the believer from the knowledge that God is truly with them. The enemy wants to draw the believer away from the Lord and delude them into believing that they can be sufficient and victorious on their own (just as He deceived Adam and Eve in Genesis 3). Before long a deceived heart begins to idolize and worship the dead piece of wood that they cut down to cook with (Isa. 44:15-20, James 1:14). 

                When just one area of God’s armor is lacking, a Christian’s stance becomes weakened and is susceptible for the enemy to attack (Eph. 6:10-17). A stance that’s firmly planted on the Rock of Salvation becomes unmovable. God, through Christ, is the only foundation that will sustain us through the storms of life (Ps. 118:22, Matt. 21:42, Eph. 2:19).  A believer is only safe and strong when they allow the Lord to be their strength (Eph. 6:10, Prov. 29:25). God is with us and so we need to seek His wisdom (in His Word and prayer) in all things. It will provide the discernment that’s necessary to give us a peace beyond our feeble understanding as well as protect our heart and mind through Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6-7, Eph. 6:17).

                Although we may not literally go through a fiery furnace like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did, there are real spiritual flaming darts of the enemy (via satanic temptations), that are out to destroy us. When our faith and trust is in the Lord, we will be protected from the fiery spiritual flames just as the three Israelites were protected from the physical flames (Dan. 1:7, 2:49, 3:12-30, 1 Cor. 10:13, 2 Peter 2:7).  We may not all (literally) be thrown into a lion’s den, as Daniel was, but we may find ourselves in impossible situations where we see no way out (Dan. 6:16-22). In all circumstances, the Lord is available to sustain us and help us through — eventually leading us into life everlasting.  You don’t have to go it alone on this journey through our fallen world. This year and beyond allow God not only to be with you, but help you navigate through the storms and fires of life. 

Choose faith over fear and have a great new year!

                Laura

Fear & Panic are not Options

God’s Word is the best thing to turn to in times of trouble.  I remember when my youngest memorized Psalm 27:1 for a speech meet when he was in grade school. Since I helped him as he practiced, I memorized it too,

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

This psalm was a prayer that David prayed in relation to Psalm 18, where he sang to the Lord words of praise in the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul (a good psalm to read as well).

Take a look at Hebrews 11, where the examples of faith were met with all sorts of cruel and harsh temptations, trials, testing and suffering that included: being mocked, homeless, destitute, afflicted, tormented, tortured, stoned, scourged, imprisoned, sawn in two, slain by the sword, and more. In verse 35 it says, “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.”  How did they endure?  They looked to Him Who is invisible (vs. 27).  This was the precursor to chapter 12, which goes on to say, Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ endured the ultimate suffering so that all who believe in Him could ultimately live ‘pain free’.

Suffering, hardship and pain are by-products of our fallen world. The apostle Paul suffered through many trials of his own (2 Cor. 11:24-28, Phil. 3:12-14).

Many of us today have not, nor may not suffer and be tempted to the extent of the examples in the Bible (though some have &/or do on a daily basis).  It’s not so difficult to understand why then there has been so much fear and panic due to this current viral pandemic. The reason is found in Romans 5:3-4 where it says that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. If one has not gone through much suffering, then the things that lead to hope are lacking.

As Christians, fear and panic are not options. 2 Timothy 1:7, For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” We know that “greater is He that is in us, then he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). We know that in the world we will have anguish: but we can be of good cheer because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). We know that we can have peace amidst any storm that comes in this life. Jesus said to the disciples prior to his crucifixion, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27). We know that as the apostle Paul encouraged the Philippians, we too can be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let our requests be made known to God. Then the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6-7). We, as those of faith in chapter 11 of Hebrews, must keep our focus upward where Christ sits on the right hand of God. That’s where our blessed hope is and where our strength to endure suffering patiently comes from (Col. 3:1-4, Titus 2:13, 2 Tim. 2:3, 10, 12, 4:5).

Psalm 27 ends with, “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord.”                                Laura