For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears. Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus. 2 Corinthians 7:5-6
I was reading 2 Corinthians 7 this morning, and when I got to these two verses, I thought, “These two, seemingly obscure and easy to skim right past, verses can preach an entire sermon.”
I love Paul. He never minces words, and he’s honest and straightfoward. These scriptures are no exception. He doesn’t deny reality or pretend that he was feeling so full of faith. He says it like it is. “Our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears. . . “. Do you know what that word “fears” means in the greek? It’s from the word “phobos” (which is where we get our word phobia), and it means “panic flight, fear, the causing of fear, terror” (Strong’s 5401). They weren’t a “little” bit anxious. They were struggling internally with terror, and Paul doesn’t deny it. But then he goes on to say “Nevertheless God . . .”. Let me say it louder for the people in the back . . . He doesn’t say, “My faith rose up, and I denied my fear, and I’m such a strong follower of Christ” . . . I . . . I . . . I . . . I . . . I . . . Nope . . . He says, “Nevertheless God . . .” Paul was keenly aware of how incapable and not good he was in his own right. He saw himself as a servant of Christ, and that, right there, is the answer. None of us have the market on being a “good” enough Christian. That is the biggest oxymoron ever, and it totally negates the need for Christ. Paul had fears, God still came through. Because Paul knew that it wasn’t about him. He knew that acknowledging his struggles, fears, and challenges didn’t somehow render God powerless.
Within much of the church we have this superstitious, new age, line of thinking that if we say and acknowledge what’s going on in our hearts and our lives . . . if we admit we’re afraid, unwell, struggling . . . we’ll somehow manifest it (and vice versa) . . . newsflash . . . that’s straight out of new age teachings . . . the principal of manifestation and law of attraction are not biblical. On the contrary Paul repeatedly acknowledges his weaknesses. He doesn’t pretend like they don’t exist, but instead, makes the point of humbling himself and exalting Christ in him. Acknowledging the reality of what we’re facing isn’t a sin . . . feeling fear isn’t a sin . . . letting fear (or any emotion) control us, is . . . and denial isn’t anything more than a dressed up lie. But we have to look at reality in light of Christ. We must be constantly and continually turning toward God. Also acknowledging that He is the one who holds the power to heal, deliver, and set free. And no matter what the circumstances look like here on this earth . . . no matter the outcome of our struggles . . . it’s in no way a dismissal to say, in Christ we win, because we do. We don’t have to fear because this life is “but a vapor”, and if we know Jesus, we’ll live forever in Heaven with Him. There’s no losing as a Christian. No. Losing.
I’m one of those people that runs hot a lot of the time. I have approximately 25 windows open in my brain at any given moment, and the spiral into anxiety isn’t ever super far away for me. I don’t deny that. I’ll probably tell you up front, “Feeling a bit anxious today,” and I’d say, 95% of the time, there’s no good reason. I just have a pretty intense personality which I believe God blessed me with . . . it gets things done . . . but if I’m not careful, that intensity sometimes goes awry. But even more likely than telling someone else, which typically doesn’t help (because advice . . . ), I’ve learned to go to God. To be honest and truthful with my struggles because y’all He already knows. I fight with the truth of Who I know God is and how His word tells us to deal. And here’s where I find such great comfort. In the grand scheme, this earthly life is very temporary. The problems we face today, even if they feel tragic and insurmountable, are a drop in the bucket of time, and the promise of eternity with my Savior is absolutely real.
Having said all that, it always helps to know exactly where to turn in God’s word when fighting the battles we face:
Win or lose . . . in Christ we always we always win: For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Philippians 1:19-21
Pray . . . pray . . . pray . . . praise and prayer get it done: Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit. James 5:13-18
These lives are temporary and none of us really know what tomorrow hold, but God does. I’m cool with that: Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. James 4:13-16
Lord, make me to know my end,
And what is the measure of my days,
That I may know how frail I am.
Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths,
And my age is as nothing before You;
Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. Selah Psalm 39:4-5
The answer to anxiety? Prayer and petition . . . take it to God: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
God’s thoughts for us are good (and I know, He’s specifically speaking to the children of Israel in captivity here, but I also believe it’s applicable for us, today): For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13
And ultimately, fear happens. It’s an emotion we’ll all face, but it doesn’t have to take over our lives. We don’t function out of a place of fear: For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7
This is the short list. I didn’t include all of Psalm 91 or numerous passages in Isaiah. Lastly, I apologize, if I seemed a bit punchy in the beginning . . . I wasn’t a full cup of coffee in before I started writing, but I firmly believe, we have to stop the hocus pocus, magical thinking in the body of Christ. Soundness of doctrine is important. Soundness of what we’re teaching is non-debatable (see James 3:1), and we need to be going to back to the bible before anything else. And by “anything”, I mean any other person’s words, lessons, teachings, etc., because they can sound great, but if they’re not biblical, they’re not right.