Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation (Psalm 42:5). Notice that this call to worship comes from David, to David. It is David confronting his own doubting, discouraged heart with the truth of who God is.
We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). What a sweeping, staggering claim this is! And yet Paul says we can know for certain that all the details of our lives are working together for our good, as believers in Jesus Christ. How do we know this?
The apostle Peter writes to hurting and persecuted Christian believers, who have been “scattered” from their homes and familiar surroundings, and tells them to cast all their anxieties on God knowing that God cares for them (1 Peter 5:7). This is not some puff piece, or academic lecture, or thoughtless encouragement. Peter is communicating to real people, in real pain, and giving them real comfort. God cares about you!
It is important to recognize that the Christian life can be a series of ups and downs, confidence and doubts. However, the faith that God gives us in Jesus Christ is (praise God!) not based on our feelings or even on our faithfulness. Neither is God’s love toward us. This is important to remember, because discouragement is one of the most effective tools in Satan’s bag of tricks. In times, however, when I find myself (or at least feel to be) spiritually cold, it helps when I get back to the basics Lombardi-style (“Gentleman, this is a football”).
There is a well-worn and pessimistic saying that the only things that are sure in life are death and taxes. And it certainly is true that life is full of uncertainties. Health can deteriorate in an instant. Even the most promising of careers can meet with disappointment. The best of plans can fall apart. And even after a lifetime of faithfulness, one temptation can catch us by surprise. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1). With these words, the Apostle Paul challenges his young protégé, Timothy, not to grow weary or weak as he endures for the sake of the gospel and the church in Ephesus. The church at this time was experiencing heavy persecution from the Ephesian culture around it, which had little interest in the gospel. But the church was also facing pressure from inside in the form of false teachers. The church, and Timothy, was pressed on all sides.
Lead us not into temptation (Luke 11:4). (Today’s is the last in a brief series of meditations on the Lord’s Prayer.) James says no one can say God has tempted him; this request, then, is for God to keep us from situations where we might fall. It is a recognition of the dangerous, bait-riddled, sin-inducing nature of this world. If love of money doesn’t get us, perhaps the temptation to fit in with the crowd will.
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16). Paul is speaking here to Christian believers, to those who have trusted their past, present, and future to Jesus as their Savior and Lord. And Paul reminds Christians that the Holy Spirit within us now gives us the true witness that we are his. The Spirit, it is important for us to recognize, is not lying to us. This is not merely some pep talk that the Spirit gives us, in order to make us feel better:
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. (Psalm 23:2) While it is true that we all have experienced what we might call “a good day” — when the children are behaving, the sun is shining, our body is healthy, our spouse is agreeable — these blessings from our benevolent God are not unique to believers who have Christ as their shepherd. Even unbelievers can enjoy these things.
The psalmist famously writes: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). Francis Schaeffer, in his book The God Who Is There, references a tragic poem found with the body of a 23-year old young woman and drug addict who had committed suicide. The note read:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds (James 1:2). This may be the hardest thing in the Christian life. It’s simple to understand, but seems impossible to do. How do you find joy during a battle with cancer? How do you rejoice when you can’t find a job or can’t kick an addiction; when you’re mocked for your faith; when all you want are your circumstances to change?
Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied” (1 Samuel 17:45). David was victorious over Goliath because he trusted the invisible God with very real and visible and impending problems. But remember this! It is easy to look at someone else’s successful battle, after the fact, and take for granted the outcome.
The phrase “Just Do It” is a trademark of the Nike shoe company, coined in 1988. Hugely successful, the “Just Do It” ad campaign allowed Nike to increase its market share from 18 to 43% in just 10 years. Nike’s objective was to target every person regardless of age, gender or physical fitness level – customers associating their purchases with the prospect of achieving greatness. Students of the “Just Do It” campaign have observed that the campaign was so successful because it was both “universal (it) and intensely personal (just do).” Like most truth-claims, Nike’s campaign has some truth to
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). Christian, this promise applies to you. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then one day you will be eternally and beautifully transformed.
Did you know that the command “Fear not” is by far the most repeated command in the Bible, across both Testaments? We can so easily paint an inaccurate, unrealistic picture of biblical heroes in our minds. The fact is they, like we, struggled with fear and anxiety about God’s working in their lives. This is of course the only explanation as to why we see this constant refrain throughout Scripture: “Fear not.”