Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Word "Study", Part 3: Worry, an Enemy to a Quiet Spirit


"Why worry, when you can pray? / Trust Jesus, He'll be Your stay / Don't be a "doubting Thomas"; / Rest fully on His promise / Why worry, worry, worry, worry / When you can pray?"
It's a simple song that I sang dozens of times as a child.  In my child-like naiveté, I often wondered how anyone could walk a path besides that of faith.  But sure enough, as I sought to pursue a quiet spirit, I found myself stumbling down a treacherous walkway named Worry.   Following this trail, I learned just how far removed I was from that unbothered spirit so highly praised in I Peter 3.
Advertisements from a reprint of a 1910 Sears and Roebuck catalog are transfixed in my memory as I consider a unique treasure from my childhood.  Sometimes I'd settle onto the carpet in our living room, the reprinted catalog before me, imagining life as it had been and would be no more.  Now imagine with me for a moment a catalog entitled Worry.  Page 21 contains the section entitled "Desire for Others' Good Opinion" (even though God says "favor is deceitful").  Here, advertisements abound, luring the potential buyer to partake in some appealing brand of worry.  Pages 25-35 alphabetically list stresses caused by unforeseen circumstances.  The last quarter of the book pictures all sorts of possibilities that may occur in trying times.  While no such physical catalog exists, we often live as if we know pages of the worry catalog far better than the rock-solid promises of the Word of God! 
Consider the words of Romans 6:6— “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?”  In life, we may feel the muscle of circumstance becoming strained as we  immediately respond to some curve ball or change up—and expect to win the game to follow.  No matter the circumstance, Peter’s message to women--and Paul’s message to the Thessalonians-- encourages us to walk the way of quiet surrender.
In all reality, the One who is acquainted with all our ways has gone before us this day!  His Word tells us in Psalm 139 that He has beset our path both before and behind! In embracing this phenomenal truth, I found that worry is an enemy to biblical meditation.  That circumstance, which I had turned over in the video department of my mind, could rest in His care.  I could replace systematized meditation upon that unfortunate event (worry) with biblical meditation upon God's truth.  I could "meditate day and night" upon the promises of Scripture.  Instead of picturing possible problems, I could consider Christ walking into that situation ahead of me.  Perhaps it was a strained relationship.  I could imagine our Lord there at that moment, calming the heart of that one, supplying grace and love in abundance.  I could view Christ the Victor leading me into that turbulent place—wherever it was, at home, at work, with others, or alone—and putting my fretful heart at rest.  The billows might enter the bark, but He could still calm the storm!  
What a blessed thought!  Our heavenly Father knows our needs even before we even ask Him.  In all reality, the very hairs of our head are all numbered!  The Good Shepherd has put His hand upon us and is acquainted with all our ways (Psalm 139).  As incredible as it seems, there is not a word in our tongues but—lo! He knoweth it altogether!  His loving ear hears those words that no one else discerns coming from the cry of an aching heart; He, mercifully and pitifully, extends His hands—those nail-pierced ones—and longs for us to take consolation in the truth that Christ Jesus was in all points “tempted like as we are, yet without sin”!
Is it possible, in this day of ministry burnout, panic attacks, and the like, that we as Christian women have failed to recognize the sinfulness of worry?  Worry threatens the path of victorious Christian living--and that pursuit of quietness commanded in I Thessalonians 4.  In embracing worry, we essentially commit idolatry, placing the god of our own opinion above the God of the Scripture.  In essence, we become practical atheists in our Christianity, fretting about little things, failing to cast into His lap the whole lot.  Though we know all is from Him and orchestrated by His hand, we continue the daily, miserable cycle of anxiety.  Instead of being anxious for nothing, we can worry about almost everything.  Instead of being stayed upon Jehovah, we can so easily focus upon the problems about us.  Then, instead of finding perfect peace, we find instead emptiness, hopelessness, vanity, and a lot of inner turmoil--a far cry from the place of quiet rest so commended in I Peter 3 and commanded in I Thessalonians 4:11a.
Eight times in the book of Psalms we read the prayer “quicken me.”  Quicken has changed somewhat in meaning from the way it was used in 1611, but noting other uses of the word in Scripture will help us discern its intent.  Elsewhere it is translated “live, life, alive, revive, recover.”  When God says He will judge the quick and the dead (I Peter 4:5; 2 Tim. 4:1), for example, we understand that He will judge the living and the dead. How desperately we need God’s perspective to transform our worried hearts; we need His quickening. When we are made aware of a sin’s enormity, repentance demands that we turn from that sin, thinking differently about it.  In the texts below, note how the psalmist cries out for God’s awakening in his own spirit: 
Behold, I have longed after thy precepts: quicken me in thy righteousness (Ps. 119:40).
Quicken me after thy lovingkindness; so shall I keep the testimony of thy mouth (Ps. 119:88).
“I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O LORD, according unto thy word” (Ps. 119:107).
Hear my voice according unto thy lovingkindness: O LORD, quicken me according to thy judgment “ (Ps. 119:149).
“Plead my cause, and deliver me: quicken me according to thy word” (Ps. 119:154)
“Great are thy tender mercies, O LORD: quicken me according to thy judgments (Ps. 119:156).
“Consider how I love thy precepts: quicken me, O LORD, according to thy lovingkindness” (Ps. 119:159).
Quicken me, O LORD, for thy name’s sake: for thy righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble” (Ps. 143:11).
We would do well, when turning from any sin, to pray such prayers with the psalmist, to beg God for his quickening in our hearts, which have been spiritually deadened by our failure to yield to Him from the time we open our eyes in the morning until we close them again at night.  This cry of desperation often softens the soils of our hearts so hardened by sin and allows the Master Plower to begin his furrows anew, ever deepening our fellowship with Him.  In this soil, the Spirit’s fruit flourishes and grows. 
That continual yieldedness to His way, the bowing of our hearts to His Word—these our Lord does not despise. At every juncture, yield. Certainly deliverance from any sin involves, not only a yielding, but also an embracing of God’s commands. 
My first I-pad was a bargain.  Not incredibly concerned about having the latest technology, a young man in our church, who had recently upgraded his I-pad, was looking for a buyer for his older model.  This device had a bit of wear—the screen had been replaced.  But it cost me a mere $100.  My laptop was slowly dying (the screen would black out on me several times a day) and, being a teacher, I felt the I-pad would assist me when my computer was not cooperating.  I purchased the I-pad and received an essentially new device.  Any Apps I wanted I would need to acquire for myself. 
In a similar way, our hearts need a switch to occur.  For us, that change may mean deleting “old programs” with worry data and reinstalling the lasting Apps which have as their description “God’s thoughts.”  Reformat the hard drive.  Reprogram the device.  That device is our mind, the place of continual spiritual warfare.  I’ve listed a few files that need to be placed on the computer, a few Apps that need to be installed and daily accessed:
 “In everything give thanks” (I Thess. 5:18).
“Rejoice evermore” (I Thess. 5:16).
“Pray without ceasing” (I Thess. 5:17).
“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” (Ecc. 9:10). 
“I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works.  I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High” (Psalm 9:1-2).

Let these words be your meditation as you learn to respond, not as a worried, fretting creature, but as the King’s daughter, all glorious within!

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