I have been wrestling with this idea all week, and have decided to go ahead and break it up into two weeks' worth of reading. I hope that these thoughts bring some hope and encouragement to many of you - either for yourself or on behalf of someone you love. This school year, in all of our traveling to different student groups around the nation, it has become increasingly clear that we can no longer ignore the elephant in the room - we must talk about fear and anxiety. Let's see what Jesus has to say about this...
In John 14, Jesus said to his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
The conversation continues, and at the end of chapter 14, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.”
The night that Jesus said this was the night of his betrayal, the night before the cross. The disciples knew that trouble had been brewing, and that some powerful people were really furious at Jesus, but it is safe to say that they had no idea what was about to happen in the next hours and days. The things Jesus says to them that night are so wonderful - it is thrilling to read them every time. He is so full of encouragement and peace and hope, even though you can be sure Jesus knew exactly what kind of group was gathering to come find Him even as He spoke. He knew exaclty what was coming, yet was full of peace.
I wonder if you are the kind of person who likes to know what is coming? I am, for sure. My family gets so annoyed about this, but I like to read all about the movie we are about to watch before we watch it. Since childhood, I have always prefered to dive into a new book by reading the first chapter, then the last chapter, and only then the middle. I especially love mysteries, and my method usually ensures that I know who did it before I read what actually happened. I know this is so scandalous to some people, but I really like to know where we are going when I start on a journey. People tell me that this means I must be a closeted control freak, but I don’t think that is it. I think it is because I am naturally pretty weak and afraid, and somehow, knowing what is coming makes me stronger to face it when it does come.
It has been startling to realize how greatly this current generation is gripped by fear and anxiety. Worry is not new to the modern era, but it has certainly soared to new heights. We were at a student conference this past weekend, and Eli preached a sermon on the Peace of Jesus. At one point, he asked the students to raise their hands if they felt not just mildly afflicted, but bound by anxiety, and at least 75% of the room responded. This is debilitating to so many young Christians, and if left unchecked, will be the bane of the Church in this generation. It is difficult to share our faith in Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, with any sincerity or power when our lives are overcome by anxiety. What is causing this epidemic?
We live in a society that is increasingly secular. The foundation that our country was built upon has been removed little by little. Many would say today that God is not real, Christianity is not real - it is just a myth or a superstition that people developed to try to make sense of the world. The Bible and everything that it teaches has been thrown out as irrelevant and flawed and bigoted. The family has been demolished, and it is just fact that most young people today grew up in a fractured home. On top of all that, we have been told that we are just accidents of nature, and that there is no ultimate purpose or truth in this life. We are told that life has no meaning, so all of us had better seize any little bit of "happiness" we can, no matter what the consequences. There is no firm foundation left, and in its place is nothing but chaos and confusion. It is as if everyone is being asked to walk across the Grand Canyon of Life on a tightrope, with no safety net at all. No wonder so many feel such crippling anxiety.
But, just like Jesus said, “the prince of this world…has no hold over me.” Christians, the time has come for us to remember that this place is not our home. We have been born again into God’s Kingdom, and there is no firmer foundation. The chaos that we feel all around is not the ground that we walk on. We have something much more solid.
Yes, yes. That sounds so nice, but are you sure? How do we know? There is an answer for that...
We must be People of the Word.
It has now been more than 60 years since the Bible was read in schools in this nation, and in that time more and more people do not go to church at all. This means that we cannot be surprised when people do not know Truth since they have never actually heard it. Where would they have heard it? They have not. All most people have heard is what the world tells them.
We cannot assume that we already know enough of Truth, either. God’s promises, God’s plan, God’s character - all is plainly written in the Word of God, and we must read it and read it again and know it. Only then will we be able to consistently counter the false claims and culture of this world and stand upon the solid ground of Truth.
It is a big book, to be sure. But if you have never read the whole Bible cover to cover, I encourage you to do so this year. It is awesome! It helps to make sense of all that is going on around us, and it strengthens our faith. C.S Lewis said it so well, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” The Word of God explains everything that is happening, how we all got here, why there is so much pain and sin in the world, and how God's love is so powerful. Not only that, but it plainly spells out that every one of us was lovingly and purposefully created, and that all of creation is really heading somewhere much more real and lasting than this place!
When you really know the Bible and the Truth it reveals, you can walk steadily, even when things seem to be falling apart around you. Terrible things do happen, it is true. All but one of the original disciples were killed for their faith in Jesus. Stephen was stoned to death for his love for Jesus. Paul went through hell on earth for his faith. Being a Christian does not mean we are immune to or exempt from the horrible and painful things that happen in this life. But the Bible makes it plain that this is not the way things were supposed to be, and that God has made a way for eternal victory and health and healing in the end. The Word of God says over and over that God will never leave us or forsake us, and that He is with us, even now - we can have peace and joy and comfort instead of anxiety through every season of life. The Bible makes it clear that this life is just a moment compared to eternity in the presence of God.
Remember what we read to begin - on that night He was betrayed Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
This is why I like to know the end of the book as I read it. This is why I like to know what is going to happen in the movie even as I watch. If I know what is coming - and I do - I can make it through everything life throws at me, even when it does not make sense to me. If God is with me - and He is - I can lean on Him as hard as I need to when hard things come. Be encouraged today! Next week, we will look at the inheritance Jesus left us in His will.
Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)
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