Don’t forget the purpose of our getting together through this blog is to examine the themes of the Bible and relate them to our relationship with God and other people. That requires us to think in sweeping principles which serve us as strong foundations for building our lives. It takes some thinking! (My mind went into neutral in July. I worked more on getting my body stronger and more flexible for my grandmother role.)
I want to introduce you to a writer and pastor who thinks in Biblical principles. He can help you build strong foundations and maintain a warm heart toward God and others.
The Ministry of Roger Ellsworth as edited by Carol Brandt
God’s Comfort for Our Anxieties
Psalm 94:19 “In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.”
There are certain passages of scripture that are so helpful to me. Certain passages that I just find myself returning to time and time again. I have certain passages that I would just call “bright spots for blue Saints.”
· Psalm 46, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” I love that Psalm, and I love the part where he talks about “Therefore, we will not fear though the mountains be removed and slip off into the heart of the sea. God is our refuge and strength, a present help in trouble; therefore, we will not fear.” That is a bright spot for blue Saints and I get blue from time to time!When I have the blues, I go to Psalm 46.
· Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want.” That Psalm is precious because it talks about life, it talks about Him leading us beside still waters, making us lie down in green pastures, restoring our souls, and then it comes to death where he says “I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil,” and then he moves into the hereafter and talks about He has a table prepared before him, his cup is running over, “surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” No matter how blue you get that little Psalm will help you. That is a bright spot for blue Saints.
· Psalm 90. “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations, before the mountains were brought forth wherever you had formed the earth and world from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
· Psalm 91. He who dwells in the secret place of the most high shall abide under the shadow of the almighty, I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress….my God. In Him I will trust.” These are just some of the bright spots in the Book of Psalms.
· Isaiah 41, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” Thank God for all of these bright spots because it is a fact that the people of God do get rather blue from time to time.
WE ARE PULLED APART
Now, I did say that when you get depressed, you probably don’t find yourself thinking of this 94th Chapter of the Book of Psalms. You don’t find yourself thinking of this 19th verse, but I would certainly classify this verse with all of these other verses. “In the multitude of my anxieties within me, your comforts delight my soul. Now this man is talking about something we are all interested in. Anxieties. Now are you interested in what this Psalm is talking about? You are not interested in this Psalm if you do not have any anxieties, but if you have anxieties you ought to listen to what the Psalm says. “In the multitude of my anxieties”….we know what anxieties are, don’t we? Some translations put it like this. “In the multitude or in the midst of my anxious thoughts.” Do you know what anxious thoughts are? We all live with them.
Anxiety originally came from a word which means to pull apart. Centuries ago some societies punished criminals by tying them to horses, one horse on each side and when the decisive moment came, they would command those horses to go and the criminals would be pulled apart. That is where that word anxiety originally came from. It meant being pulled part and, my friends, a lot of us today know what that is about, don’t we? We don’t have horses pulling us apart but we have other things pulling us apart. We live in a stressed out time. An anxious Christian is a sad spectacle. An anxious Christian is not a useful Christian. In order to be useful, you have to have things together. You have to be at peace with yourself. If you are all torn up, you really can’t serve the Lord. There are many Christians today who are torn up. An anxious Christian is a poor recommendation of his faith.
WE MUST APPLY THE GIFT OF PEACE
The Bible talks about how peace is a characteristic of children of God. I find the Lord Jesus Christ in John 14 saying to his disciples, “My peace I leave with you.” The Lord Jesus Christ was a peaceful man; He had a unruffled calm and tranquility in every situation of life. He said, “The same unruffled calm that has characterized me, I am leaving with you.” That gift of peace has to be utilized. We have to press it into service. We have to apply it to our lives. Today, many Christian people are failing to demonstrate and apply this gift of peace. Psalm 94 can help us do that.
This man in Psalm 94 is talking about passing from anxiety to peace. He says “I have a multitude of anxieties within me,” but then he says, “Your comforts delight my soul.” The thing we are interested in knowing is: How did he get from this stage of anxiety where he felt pulled apart to a stage of being delighted with the comforts of God? How did he make that transition from one to the other?
I want you to see first of all what caused his anxiety. He says, “Lord how long will the wicked triumph?” They speak insolent things, all the workers of iniquity boast in themselves. They break in pieces your people of God and afflict your heritage. Now, my friends, you may say “Well, what a strange anxiety; He is upset because the wicked are flourishing. This man says “I have been torn apart by the flourishing wickedness” and you may say, “Well, is that all this man found to be anxious about?” Perhaps we would do well to be anxious more about this. Some of our anxieties are very trivial compared to what this man is talking about. He is talking about something substantial. He is talking about something important. He is talking about the wicked people flourishing. Oh, my friends, we are living in a day of flourishing wickedness and it is so strong, this wickedness today is so robust!
WICKEDNESS ABOUNDS TODAY
Who would have ever thought that we would be in such a day as this? Do you realize we not only have abortion on demand to the extent now that there are 1.5 million babies aborted each year, but we now have children who are aborted when they are coming into this world. All of the body of the baby is in the womb except for the head and then at the last instance the doctor inserts a sharp instrument in the base of the skull and kills that baby. We ought to be shocked and perhaps the most shocking thing about our day and age is that we are not shocked by abounding wickedness! We live in a day where people are apt to get more upset about a preacher standing at a pulpit talking about something like this than we are about the procedure itself. May God help us. That is just one example of flourishing wickedness.
Homosexuality abounds today. It is becoming increasingly militant against Christianity and it looks as if it is going to shatter the people of God. Yet, they say the Lord does not see nor does the God of Jacob understand. Do you feel yourself being pulled apart in this country as wickedness abounds on every hand– of perversity of the most shocking sort?
ANXIOUS THOUGHTS DRY UP PRAISE, HINDER OUR DUTIES, AND GET WORSE AND WORSE
The next thing I want you to see is what this anxiety did to this man. He felt quite helpless. He says, “Who will rise up before me against the evildoers? Who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?” He felt absolutely helpless; he was in despair. Then in verse 17, “Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul would settle in silence.” This is something else his anxiety did. First of all, it made him feel utter despair, and then secondly, he didn’t feel like talking to anybody. He didn’t feel like talking…Silence. His anxiousness dried up his praise to God. Have you ever been so distressed and anxious that you didn’t feel like talking to anybody and you didn’t feel like even talking to God and didn’t feel like praising God when the people of God’s community came together? I have seen this as a pastor. I have seen people who were so distressed and burdened it was just like they weren’t even here. While everyone else was singing, they were just sitting there staring straight ahead but they weren’t seeing anything. Now the reason he is saying this is because that is almost what happened to him. He says, “My anxiety made the pathway of my life so slippery that I almost slipped.” Walking is associated with performing our tasks, performing our responsibilities. This man says, “Anxiety so troubled me and so burdened me that I got to the place where I couldn’t even function….I couldn’t even walk anymore. My foot slipped and then it multiplied in my thoughts.” You know anxiety has a way of multiplying, doesn’t it? You get anxious about one thing and that leads you to be anxious about something else and that leads you to be anxious about something else and on and on you go and you are now in this multiplication process, you are just obsessed with it. Everything is troubled! You can’t find any relief anywhere you turn. You know how our thoughts do this to us! We get troubled and then we begin to manufacture things and so this man is in a terrible state.
But, I want you to follow me into the next state and I want you to see that this man says in the 19th verse that he has been comforted. Now, he has gone from the bottom of the pit and is now relieved from his distress but he is absolutely delighted…delighted! Why is he is so delighted? That is the question. The answer is because God had comforted him. Now what are the comforts of God? The comforts of God are so many in number! If you learn how to plug into the comforts of God, they will have the same effect on you they had on him and they will delight and fill you beyond your ability to describe them!
THE COMFORTS OF GOD
Let me just walk you through some of the things about God that comforted this man. He doesn’t exclusively say this but we certainly are right to deduce this. The Psalm begins with this phrase….”O Lord God.” This tells you something about what comforted this man. He begins by praying “O Lord God,” and my friends that kind of terminology tells you what this man’s view of God is. This is just not a little bitty God. This is the sovereign God who rules and reigns overall. A God who is Almighy–a God who is majestic in wisdom. This is the God to whom this man is speaking…he says “O Lord God!” There is comfort in realizing that no matter what happens to us in this world, the sovereign God is ruling and reigning overall.
But, I follow this man further and I find in verses 1-3 that he also delights himself in the justice of God. Now, it is troubling him that the wicked are flourishing, but he says in verse 2, “Rise up, Oh judge of the earth, render punishment to the proud. Back in verse 1 he says, “Lord God to whom vengeance belongs.” Look down at verse 15–he says, “But, judgment will return to righteousness and all the upright in heart will follow it.” He says, “What I see today is not necessarily always going to be the case. My God is a righteous God and he is a righteous judge, He is going to judge the wicked, and the righteous are going to be vindicated in due time.” Look down at verse 23. He says “He has brought on them their own iniquity and shall cut them off in their own wickedness, the Lord God shall cut them off.” My friends, it doesn’t matter how much wickedness flourishes, remember this, wickedness is temporary and God is going to deal with it in due time. This man delighted himself in the justice of God.
In verse 14, he delighted himself in the faithfulness of God. He says, “The Lord will not cast off His people nor will He forsake His inheritance.” Isn’t that good? Delight yourself today in the sovereignty of God. He is the Lord God. Delight yourself in the justice of God. He will not always allow wickedness to flourish. He will ultimately judge. Delight yourself in the faithfulness of God. God has made certain promises to these people, he has made them his people, and he will never forget his people, and he will keep his promises to his people.
In verses 17 and 18, he talked about the mercy of God. He says, “Unless the Lord had been my help…” Oh! the mercy of God. He does come to the help of His people. Then, in verse 18, he says, “If I say my foot slips, then your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up.” Isn’t this marvelous?
We stand in awe before the sovereignty of God and the justice of God. We tremble at the justice of God and he talks about the faithfulness of God, but he is at the mercy of God. God has a personal concern and interest in the lives of His children. This powerful majestic, sovereign, holy, just God has stooped. He has stooped down to our level even to the point that He helps us. He helps us! This man says “I’m delighted, God holds me up so that my foot doesn’t slip.”
PRAY AND REALLY HEAR THE WORD
He is delighted now by the things of God, but how did he get from anxiety to delight? First of all, he prayed. This is a prayer. He began, “O Lord God.” He is still praying down to verse 20 when he says, “Shall the thorn of iniquity which devises evil by law have fellowship with You?” He is talking to God here.
My friends, I want to tell you if you are in a state of anxiety and you want to get to peace, you must pray. But there is something else this man did here. Look back at verse 12 where he says, “Blessed is the man whom you instruct, O Lord, and teach out of your law that you may give him rest from the days of adversity until the pit is dug for the wicked.” Happy are those who are taught by the law of God. There is happiness in being taught from the word of God. There is a happiness…happiness! Get your nose into this book and you will find happiness as you delight yourself in the law of God. But look at what he says in verse 13. Don’t fail to tie these two things together. In verse 12, he is instructed out of the word of God but in verse 13 what happens? He gets rest. That is what we are talking about, isn’t it? He finds rest right in the middle of those days of adversity because he is instructed by the law of God. Now if you want rest and you find these to be days of adversity, go the word of God. The comforts of God flow through the word of God down into the hearts of the people of God and delight their souls.
“WHAT IF? AND “IF ONLY!”
Now, you are using the Psalmist’s procedure. By praying and by feeding on the word of God, he was comforted by God even to the point that his soul was delighted. The comfort for our anxieties comes through this same procedure. What are those things that pull us apart today? As far as I know there are really only two categories of anxiety for the people of God. “What if?” anxieties and then there are the anxieties. What if this happens? What if I get sick? What if I lose my job? What if I lose a loved one and my loved one dies? What if I die? What if the wicked just get so strong here that we lose our country? What if my children rebel against me? What if my friends turn against me? What if my marriage falls apart? Some of you have a whole truckload of “what if?” anxieties. Fretting, stewing over what may happen.
And then there are the “If only!” anxieties. If only I had gone to school when I had the chance. If only I had more money. If only I hadn’t married this man. What if anxieties are anxieties about what may happen in the future. If only anxieties are anxieties about what has happened in the past and both of them converge right here in present. Isn’t that amazing? While you are stewing over what you didn’t do or what you did in the past and what may happen in the future, the present is polluted and poisoned and contaminated and the peace that Jesus bequeathed to His people is not being experienced. What are we to do with our “what if” anxieties and our “if only” anxieties. Call Him about your anxieties and tell Him what troubles you have. Bring your “what if” anxieties to the Lord. Tell him about your “if only” anxieties.
Oh, my friends, the Bible is just full of precious words about bringing our burdens and distresses to the Lord.
· Psalm 55…”Cast your burden upon the Lord and he shall sustain you.”
· I Peter 5, “Cast your cares upon Him because He cares for you,” and on and on it goes.
· Matthew 6 talks about how God clothed the grass in the field, how He cares for the sparrows of the air…and the Bible tells us that He also cares for His people. Talk to the Lord. Bring your anxieties to the Lord.
Let me just say that we also have a hymn book that is full of hymns about bringing our cares unto the Lord. “What a friend we have in Jesus. All of our sins and grieves to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to him in prayer. What a friend we have in Jesus.” That is a song about bringing our “what if’s” and our “if only” anxieties to the Lord in prayer and the consolation that flows through the channel of prayer into the midst of our troubled lives. The comforts of God can flow through the channel of prayer.
I want to just suggest also that you use the word of God. That you do what this Psalmist did. He went to the word of God. Blessed is the man who is instructed by the Lord. This is how he got the comforts of God into his anxious life. They flowed through the channel of the word of God.
Here you are today with your “what if” anxieties and with your “if only” anxieties. What does the word of God say that will help you with your anxieties today? One thing He says is He will never leave us nor forsake us. He tells us that His grace is sufficient for us. He says that He has a purpose for us in the midst of all of our trials and anxieties. When the black clouds pile up all around us, we can remember this: that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord. He tells us in II Corinthians 10 that He will not allow more to come upon us than we can bear. Best of all, my friends, God tells us that he will eventually free us from all of our anxieties and He will take us into realms of glory where no anxiety, no sorrow, no pain, and no grief will be able to touch us again!
THINK DEEPLY UPON THE PROMISES
My friends, if you want to really draw the nectar out of these promises, if you want to be comforted by these promises, if you want to get delighted by these promises, you have to reflect deeply upon them. As you reflect deeply upon them, you will feel the anxiety begin to evaporate from your heart and you will feel the comfort of God flooding in and the more you dwell on these things, the more you will find yourself utterly delighted that these things are true. But, you have to dwell here–you have to dwell on them. I look back at Psalm 91, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High,” he is the one who abides under the shadow of the Almighty. Here is the problem with most of us; we want to just rush across the spiritual trip, don’t we? We come to church and we are in a hurry to get home; we have no place to go but we are in a hurry to get there and do it. We have nothing to do and no place to go but we are in a hurry.We are not dwelling. My friends, if we would approach the word of God the way we approach our entertainments, then we would draw out the full comfort the word of God has to offer us. Dwell…dwell on these truths! Everyday of your life fortify your mind with these things: God is with you. God is not going to allow anymore to come upon you than you can bear. God has a purpose for you in everything that He does allow to come upon you. God is someday going to lift all of His people out of these things. My friend, the more you dwell on these things, the more the anxieties will just evaporate and melt away and the comforts of God will delight your soul!