Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God


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28 Antidotes to Anxiety – Part 1

Isaiah 41:10-14

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. 11 “See, all your angry enemies lie there,     confused and humiliated. Anyone who opposes you will die and come to nothing. 12 You will look in vain     for those who tried to conquer you. Those who attack you will come to nothing. 13 For I hold you by your right hand— I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you. 14 Though you are a lowly worm, O Jacob, don’t be afraid, people of Israel, for I will help you. I am the Lord, your Redeemer. I am the Holy One of Israel.’

In 1933, as America faced the depths of great depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt the newly elected president addressed the nation in his first inaugural speech with these words “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!” Fear often rears its ugly head and reveals it’s self in our lives when we are at risk of losing something we care deeply about, our health, wealth, reputation, jobs, freedom, family, or friends. It reveals both our desire to protect the things in life that are important to us, as well as out tendency to turn to self-trust rather than super-naturally entrusting them to God’s care and control. Fear doesn’t just flood over us, it takes over us, crippling us emotionally, paralyzing us physically, and sapping us spiritually. We become afraid to take risks, instead of living radical lives we live reserved ones. We become afraid to share our faith and tell others about Christ’s forgiveness. Instead of extend our lives and resources to bless and benefit others, or to venture into new territory we hole up and hold back. Instead of living to help we end up living to hide. Fear makes us more vulnerable to the enemy, who tempts us to compromise biblical convictions and instead of trusting Christ take control of our own lives. The only real antidote to anxiety is to trust the Almighty, to put our trust in His power presence, protection, and provision. As Christians we are commanded not to fear regardless of our circumstances, and just as God guaranteed that His people would accomplish His purpose in the past so He does for us in the present. We will face troubles in this life, we are not promised a trouble free life rather we are promised His presence and power in the midst of the problems. As a result we should not be a people plagued by anxious hearts or worried thoughts. The mark of God’s people is not one of cowering but one of courageous confidence and trust in Christ. It’s here in Isaiah 41 that we see God’s antidote to anxiety, His first prescription for panic is:

  • His Promised Presence

Verse 10 is one of the great promises of Scripture. “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Here God promises us the power of His presence, His presence that allows us to have peace in the midst of the panic. Because of their relationship with Him they could be reassured and find rest in Him. Are you resting in your relationship with Him or are you running around trying to control the chaos? We should take courage because our God is not only powerful but He is present here with us. This is a promise we should stand on, a firm foundation on which to fix our focus. We have a God who is not absent or unable to assist. Jesus promised His presence in Matthew 28:20: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” When you are tempted to worry and be filled with fear, remember His promise and proclaim it out loud, I will have no fear because my God is here! Even when disaster comes we do not have to be dismayed because He is our God the great “I Am.” To be dismayed means to look around in a state of alarm, anxiously filled with fear. If we would truly fix our eyes on Him and really see how great our God is most of our fears would melt away. Most of us have just never taken the time to ponder His power. I want to challenge you this week to grow your view of God, read Isaiah 40 and 41. Here is a small sampling from Isaiah 40:10, 23: “See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and His arm rules for Him…He reduces rulers to nothing, who makes the judges of the earth meaningless.” It’s time to stop focusing on the fear and start focusing on the Father. The One knows our weaknesses and promises to strengthen and support us. Not only will He strengthen, but He will help, and not only will He strengthen and help, but He will also uphold us. Hebrews 13:6 says: “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” Unlike others who might “unfriend” us when we do something stupid God promises to be faithful. This idea of upholding means to undergird, to make secure underneath. We have a Father whose presence provides a firm foundation. This upholding is symbolized by God’s righteous right hand, denoting “right” action in all circumstances. This means that God’s great power will do the right thing at the right time. Even in our failure we can hold on to the truth that He upholds us even when we are barely holding on. Psalm 145:13-14: “The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made. The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.” When was the last time you paused to recall all the times that God has helped and upheld you? Why not take time right now to give Him praise for His faithful presence in your life. Because you will either spend your energy giving priority to the problems or giving praise to the Father.

 


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27 Words for Worried Times – Part 2

Isaiah 43:1-3

“But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. 2 When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. 3 For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom; I gave Ethiopia and Seba in your place.”

Not only does the Father speak the words “But now” and “fear not” but He also says:

  • I Will Be With You

Another great stress in many people’s lives is fear of failure and the fear of going under. Problems have a way of pulling us down and causing us to feel overwhelmed. The good news is that God will carry and bring us through, that’s the promise of verse 2: “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” We have the promise of God’s presence. God never tells us that there won’t be high waters, raging rivers or blazing fires in our lives. He just says when you are in the middle of the mess, when things are at the worst fear not for I am with you. Stress free living isn’t the absence of pressure it’s the presence of God. If God’s Will brings you to it then His grace will bring you through it. Because of the Father you will make it through the floods and the fires. Often because of our fear of the fires and the floods we try to flee in our own strength, we turn to manmade ways of coping which end up creating more mess. This passage makes it clear that there is no alternative to the Almighty. You can try to avoid the waters of worry but self-effort will always fail. Man’s escape mechanisms, whether it be alcohol, drugs, or denial will not work. You will either face the floods and the fire in the Saviors strength or self-strength. While we will all face the waters they just won’t all be the same waters. Some will go through the waters of poverty, while others will face poor health, some will wade through the waters of abuse and discrimination while others face loneliness and loss. While the waters that we face may differ our deliver doesn’t, we may have different storms but we have the same Savior. There is a poem by Henry Crowell, “When Thou Passest Through the Waters” that perfectly captures the truth of Isaiah 43:2

“Do you feel your heart discouraged as you pass along the way?

Does there seem to be more darkness than there is of sunny day?

It is hard to learn the lesson, as we pass beneath the rod,

That the sunshine and the shadow serve alike the will of God.

But to me there comes a promise, like the promise of the bow,

That however deep the waters, they shall never overflow.

 

“When the flesh is worn and weary and the spirit is depressed,

When temptation comes upon you like a storm on ocean’s breast,

There’s a haven ever ready for the tempest-driven bird,

There is shelter for the tempted in the promise of His Word;

For the standard of the Spirit shall be raised against the foe,

And however deep the waters, they shall never overflow.

 

“When sorrow comes upon you that no other soul can share,

And the burden seems too heavy for the human heart to bear,

There is One whose grace can comfort if you’ll give Him an abode,

There’s a Burden-bearer ready if you’ll trust Him with your load;

For the precious promise reaches to the depth of human woe,

That however deep the waters, they shall never overflow.

 

“When the sands of life are ebbing and I near dark Jordan’s shore,

When I see the billows rising and I hear the waters roar,

I’ll reach out my hand to Jesus, in His bosom I will hide;

It will only be a moment ‘till I reach the other side.

It is then the fullest meaning of the promise I shall know:

“When thou passest through the waters they shall never overflow.”

…..Henry Crowell

The reason that God can say, “Fear not” is that we belong to Him and no matter what happens, He will walk with us through the worst times. We have a Father who is faithful not only in the fair weather but also in the foul, through the floods and the fire.  Not only does He say “I Will Be With You” be He also says:

  • I AM

Faith listens for two more words that can cause our fear to flee, “I am.” In verse 3 God reminds us of His power over the problems and the pain of slavery that His people faced in Egypt. “For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” When Moses stood before the burning bush when God called him to lead the Israelites out of slavery he asked, “Who shall I say sent me?” God told Moses, “You tell Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, that I Am sent you.” Throughout the scriptures God calls himself I Am. For centuries scholars have debated the question, When God calls himself, “I am,” is he simply saying, “I exist, I am the self-existent one,” or is he using the verb in its more dynamic sense, “I am present, I am the cause behind all that is, I am what’s happening?” When you study the way the phrase “I am” is used throughout the Bible, you find that it is almost always connected not only to God’s existence, but to God’s action. In other words, when God says, “I am,” he means, “I am here, I am active I am what’s happening.” So how can hearing God say, “I am,” help us when chaos catches up to and crashes into us? First we need to understand that when calamity comes crashing in we don’t just lose our health, our home, a loved one, our job or our joy we lose our identity. The tragedy is so overwhelming and the grief so all consuming, that often it redefines us. Tragedy can tag us with not only a new and unwelcome label but a new name. You no longer go by your old name, now, you are a widow, a divorcee, an orphan. You’re broke, unemployed, disabled, an adulterer, an addict, a drunk, or a thief. Regardless of whether the catastrophe comes through no fault of your own, or through foolish and sinful choices, you lose more than a few possessions or some precious relationships, you lose yourself. Regardless of how or why you fell into failure you need to listen to the words of your Father, “I am” You may have lost everything, even who you are, but I am, is not only here He is able. As the great I Am reminds them of Egypt He reminds them of His power over the past. We need to remember His power in the past. We need to remember what He has done before and be reminded that He will do it again. The same God that brought you through before, is the same God that will bring you through again. Often when calamity comes we get so consumed and overwhelmed that we forget the past victories. God wants you to know that He still knows how to get people out of Egypt. Remembering the great I Am helps us to stop focusing on the suffering and start focusing on the Savior. As you look back on your life when have you experienced His presence and His power? Are you going to focus on His promises or on your problems?