“Don’t Worry, Be Happy” Should Be Replaced with Don’t Worry, Be Thankful!

Verse 5 of Paul’s letter to the Philippians ends with the statement, “The Lord is near.” Then, it continues with, “Be anxious for nothing….” The Greek word translated “anxious” means literally to be drawn in opposite directions. It conveys the idea of being divided, pulled apart and distracted.

This is what worry does. It distracts us, dividing our attention, drawing us in opposite directions, pulling us from the tasks at hand. Worry distracts us and draws us from faith and trust in God and His promises.

Paul goes on to say: “Be anxious[1] for nothing[2], but in everything by prayer[3] and supplication[4] with thanksgiving[5] let your requests be made known to God. And the peace[6] of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:6-7

The word translated, “anxious,” is in the present imperative, meaning to stop (right now!) being anxious. Stop being divided in your affections. Stop being distracted and pulled in different directions. Stop it, right now! Stop, being distracted by worry and fear.

The passage is predicated on the statement that the Lord is near! The Creator of the Universe is near us; He is with us. Implied is the question: What shall we fear if God is with us?

Paul’s statements echo the words of Jesus. Does not our heavenly Father clothe the lilies in the field? Does He not care for the birds? How much more does He care for you and me? (Matt. 6:25-30)

Because God is near, Paul says we should be anxious for nothing: no thing, not even one thing. Elsewhere, he said nothing can separate us from the love of God.

“[N]either death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38-39

We have no reason to be anxious when we fix our eyes on the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2) who is near us.

In everything, every single thing that we face, we are instructed to make our requests known to God by prayer and supplication. God expects, and He desires us to bring our concerns to Him. Paul’s words echo Jesus again in this. (Luke 11:13: Matt. 7:11)

But God is not a Candy Man; He is our Father. He wants a relationship with us. He wants to come to Him when we are anxious. He wants us to come to Him when we have needs. He wants us to come to Him when we are thankful. He wants us to come to Him.

When we are going through difficulty, when we are anxious, when we have sinned, when we have been hurt, when we are happy, God wants us to come to him.

Continue reading ““Don’t Worry, Be Happy” Should Be Replaced with Don’t Worry, Be Thankful!”

The Boldness that Comes from Being Filled with the Holy Spirit … and Refilled

I wrote previously about fear and how God’s perfect love casts out all fear. The followers of Jesus feared when he was taken away by the Romans in the garden. They continued to fear while he was being mocked and beaten and hung on the cross. After he was dead and buried, they hunkered down in fear, meeting behind locked doors for fear of the Jews. (John 20:19)

Even after Jesus appeared to them, risen from the dead in the flesh, the apostles continued to live in fear. It was not until they were filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost that they emerged out of their funk from behind locked, closed doors to preach the Gospel boldly in the crowded streets of Jerusalem.

As I continue to read through the Bible, now in the book of Acts, I see something else that I hadn’t seen before. In Acts 3 & 4, we see Peter and John healing a lame man, being hauled in front of the Sanhedrin and being instructed to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. Afterward, Peter and John met with the other followers of Jesus in Jerusalem and prayed for boldness to keep speaking the gospel in the name of Jesus!

I previously observed that this change from fearful believers hiding behind closed doors to bold proclaimers of the Gospel on the crowded city streets happened only after they were filled with the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t Jesus appearing to them, risen from the dead, that overcame their fear; it was the Holy Spirit!

But there is more. They prayed for boldness while remembering the words of David in the Psalms (Psalm 2:1-2):

‘Why did the Gentiles [nations] rage,
And the peoples devise futile things?
‘The kings of the earth took their stand,
And the rulers were gathered together
Against the Lord and against His Christ [Anointed One/Messiah].’

Acts 4:25-26

There will be opposition when we preach in the name of Jesus. That’s why we need the boldness. We need to be able to overcome our fear of rejection and our unhealthy desire for favor from people.

I suffer greatly from this defect, myself, which I recognize as I read through these passages. I need that boldness that comes from God’s Holy Spirit, or I will continue hide “behind closed” doors – or maybe the keyboards of this computer on which I type!

And, there is one more thing before I get to the point. I think this is an area in which we could all use a little bit of dying to self. I certainly speak for myself when I say that I stand in my own way of being able to preach the Gospel boldly as Peter and John did. My self, my flesh, is in the way of me being who God wants me to be in Him. That flesh, that self that is in the way, needs to die. It needs to yield to God. It needs to be sacrificed to the purposes of God.

Not that I have overcome this self. I confess and admit to you as I write this that I have not. But, that brings me to the final point.

Continue reading “The Boldness that Comes from Being Filled with the Holy Spirit … and Refilled”

What Does It Mean to Be Transformed By the Renewal of Your Mind?

Broad is the way and wide is the path that leads to destruction.

I listened to a sermon by Tim Keller this morning. Before I get into what Keller said, though, allow me to share the verse I was meditating on before I listened to Keller. and some thoughts I down to write this article. The verse is:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 ESV

As I meditated on this verse this morning, I was first struck by the the command, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” This is something Paul was telling the Romans to do.

As I went on in my meditation, I became aware that the patterns of this world and the renewal of our minds happens from agents outside of us. We either allow ourselves to be conformed to the patterns of this world, or we allow ourselves to be transformed by the renewal of our minds.

We have a choice to make, but the choice is in the allowing, in the submitting either to the patterns of this world or to the renewing of our minds. It is something that happens to us that we participate in.

The HELPS Word study (on biblehub.com) of the Greek word, sysxēmatízō, explains that “be conformed to the patterns of the world” means to be identified with those patterns and to assume a similar outward expression by following the same patterns. This may happen consciously or unconsciously.

Paul is urging us to be conscious, to be willful and intentional, in resisting conformance to the patterns of the world and to submitting ourselves to the transformation (metamorphóō ) caused by the renewal of our minds.

The transformation Paul means is a metamorphosis. The Greek word means literally metá “change after being with” and morphóō “changing form in keeping with inner reality”. Like the caterpillar that changes into a butterfly, this is something that happens to us (within us), but only if we submit to it.

We will be influenced one way or the other. We will conform to the patterns of this world unless we take a stand against them. We will not be transformed by the renewal of our minds unless we choose to submit ourselves to God’s renewal process.

Although my first thoughts focused on the fact that this is something that we do and do not do, that fact is that we are acted on by outside agents either way. Yes, we take participate in our own condition, but our participation is merely a matter of what we choose to submit ourselves to.

Continue reading “What Does It Mean to Be Transformed By the Renewal of Your Mind?”

A Story Demonstrating How God Works to Reveal Himself to People

The evidence for God is more often a string of improbable circumstances happening in the context of a message that is delivered with intimate, personal meaning.

As I have been reading through the New Testament, on my way through the Bible chronologically from start to finish, I have come to the Book of Acts. I wrote most recently about the prominence and importance of testimonial evidence for Christ. I continue to be struck by the key importance of this eyewitness testimony and the highly relational way in which God reveals Himself to people in Acts – and continues to reveal Himself to people today .

Jesus, of course, attracted people who gathered to him, joined him and followed him. Literally, they lived with him, ate with him, traveled with him, and followed him where he went. Thus, they became witnesses to everything he said and did.

As I continue reading in Acts, I have come today to the story of Peter, the apostle, and Cornelius, the Roman Centurion who lived in Caesarea. I wrote about this story not long ago, in Reflection on the Unity for which Jesus Prayed: Peter & Cornelius, but today I see a different twist that runs with the theme of eyewitnesses and God revealing Himself to people.

Continue reading “A Story Demonstrating How God Works to Reveal Himself to People”

Give Me Neither Poverty nor Riches

Lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord ?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God

“Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me….”



.
Proverbs 30:7-9

I read this short passage in Proverbs in my early years as a follower of Christ. It might have been in college after I gave my life and my heart to the Lordship and salvation of Jesus Christ, or it might have been in the few years that followed. I remember praying these things to God earnestly, and I have remembered these words and my prayer ever since.

During my late 20’s and through my 30’s, I struggled through many difficult years with a young and growing family. I didn’t realize how much this prayer would mean for me. At the age of 28, married for 3 years and with 2 children, I was restless. We had no debt, but we lived hand to mouth. I felt God leading me (I believed) to law school, but I was also focused on what I needed to do to increase my income so that we were not one bad circumstance away from the poorhouse.

I believe God did lead me to go to law school, but I also let worry, and sometimes even fear,  creep in and sit at the threshold to my heart. Those three years of law school were very difficult. We had a third child at the end of my first year. The pressure of the work, of the necessity not to fail, of going into a hole financially, of an uncertain future and more was a very great burden. The pressures and the worry and fear overtook me.

I let those weeds grow up and choke the spiritual life in me. I didn’t maintain the discipline of regularly reading Scripture or daily prayer. My prayers were Hail Mary’s thrown up in the midst of the weariness and pressures of my life at that time. Even going to church was filled with tensions of herding three rambunctious boys into a car on Sunday mornings amid the whining, squabbling and desire simply to take a break. it became more of a duty that something I looked forward to.

Three more children, and new pressures and tensions as a new lawyer, struggling under the load of debt, and many, many activities threatened to snuff out the spiritual life in me. The worry, fear, busyness and lack of discipline on my part to take time out on a regular basis to sit before my God, listening for His voice, waiting on Him, being renewed by Him was a recipe for spiritual death.

In addition to praying the prayer of Proverbs 30:7-9, I prayed desperately to God before those days of tension, worry and fear not to let me slip ever from His hands. I didn’t pray that because I saw anything in my own heart that caused concern, but I had seen enough other people who seemed to have had it all spiritually together at one point walk (or slip) away into spiritual darkness.

It puzzled me then (in the joy of being a new Christian), and the inability to understand it at the time added to my concern that I might be no different than they. After all, everyone of us sins and falls short. There is nothing new under the sun. Though I had fully embraced Christ, and even left family and home and all that was familiar to me, to follow Him, Scripture gave me pause not to be so confident.

 As I look back, I see that I was right to pray those prayers. Not that I count any advantage to being right. Rather, I have learned that Scripture is full of wisdom to which we would well to pay attention. Above all, though, God is faithful! Continue reading “Give Me Neither Poverty nor Riches”