Me Worry?

9e96fe1b1357b419f4b43967c62b7705The secret of living an anxiety-free life isn’t a secret at all; it’s found in the Bible.  The cat was let out of the bag some 2,000 years ago, so if you’re still one of the millions of American Christians lugging around cares, anxieties, and worries, you have no one to blame but yourself!   Here’s the alternative to anxiety:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  (1 Peter 5:7 | NIV84)

You may be thinking, “I’ve tried that and it didn’t work.”  If it didn’t work, then you’re doing it wrong.  The Bible is a book full of guarantees, not hit-and-miss advice.  Let’s take a look at 1 Peter 5:7 in context and you’ll discover what you may be doing wrong.

Broadly speaking 

First things first.  This letter, as all New Testament letters, was written to Christians.  So at the very outset we realize that the admonition to “cast all your anxiety on him” applies only to Christians.  The non-believer cannot possibly do that, therefore he cannot possibly enjoy a life free from anxiety.  Put another way, if you are a Christian and experiencing anxiety then you are living like an non-believer!  How pathetic is that?

Narrowing things down a bit more, this letter wasn’t just written to Christians but Christians who regularly attend church.  Ouch.  So if you are a Christian but don’t regularly attend church, then you can cast your anxieties all you want, but nobody is there to catch them.  The dirty little secret is that you must be in regular fellowship with the Body of Christ in order to receive so many of the promises made to you.

There aren’t very many verses in the New Testament about the necessity of attending church.  Ever wonder why?  It’s because Paul, Peter, John, and the other New Testament writers all assumed that Christians would be in church.  The thought that you could call yourself a Christian yet not fellowship with other believers within the context of a local church was completely foreign to them.  The one verse about church attendance most of us ignore is found in Hebrews:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  (Hebrews 10:24-25 | NIV84) 

It seems some believers were getting into the habit of laying out of church, and that’s the reason for this piece of advice.  But notice something else:  Regular church attendance is important so that its members may “encourage one another.”  This encouragement can take many forms, but as verse 24 says, we should be in church so that we may “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  In other words, we learn how to live righteous lives by being in church.

Back to 1 Peter, in the previous chapter we read this:

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.   (1 Peter 4:12 | NIV84) 

Peter was writing to Christians who were suffering at the hands of non-believers; they were facing some persecution on account of their faith.  In his opinion, that was the norm, not the exception.  Everybody suffers sometimes, but Christians can count on encountering some “extra” suffering because of their relationship with Jesus Christ.  Not just the norm, it is God’s will. That doesn’t mean God delights in His people suffering or that He necessarily causes suffering.  But remember Job?  He got it:

But he knows the way that I take;when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.  (Job 23:10 | NIV84) 

Like gold that is being purified, so Christians are being purified – not in a fiery furnace but in the furnace of affliction.  Ultimately God is far more concerned with our eternal state than with our present state, although He is certainly concerned about that, and He will use whatever means He has at His disposal to help us along in our growth toward Christian maturity, even if that means allowing some persecution to touch us.

For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?   (1 Peter 4:17 | NIV84) 

It’s not easy being a believer, and it’s even harder for the disobedient believer.  If we faithful Christians have a hard time, imagine how difficult it is those who ignore the Word of God?  In chapter 5, Peter takes aim at some select people within the church, starting with its elders.

Conduct of the pastor 

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed:  Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.  (1 Peter 5:1-4 | NIV84) 

In the church, the job of the pastor is a simple one:  shepherd God’s flock.  The shepherd had a threefold duty: to provide pasture, paths to the pasture, and protection along the paths to the pasture. The pastor, and by extension the elders of a church, is to preach and teach God’s Word, provide opportunities for his people to learn God’s Word, and to show by both his preaching and his example how to live God’s Word.  He is to do this willingly, not as one forced to or so that he may get a big fat paycheck.  And he is to somehow protect the sheep under his care.  He does that by praying and interceding for them, sometimes confronting them and admonishing them to shape up.  The pastorate comes with many joys and disappointments, laughter and frustration, but in the end, we who find ourselves behind a pulpit week after week will one day stand before the Chief Shepherd and explain why we did what we did, and though our earthly compensation may be slim from time to time, a crown of glory will be ours.

Some people think the pastor has it made.  He doesn’t.  His is a career of submission; submission first and foremost to God and God’s will, then to himself – to the sense of his own calling – and finally to the church under his care.  And to be sure, the pastor would be adrift without the support and direction of his elders.

Conduct of the people 

Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.  (1 Peter 5:5-11 | NIV84) 

The church of Jesus Christ ought to be marked a “humble, mutual submission.”  That makes sense since the pastor is to submit himself to God first and foremost.  The people should learn from his example and submit themselves to God but also to their fellows within the congregation.  This submission doesn’t involve letting other members trample all over you, but rather it suggests caring for each other and taking the position of humble service – a willingness to meet their needs, whatever those needs may be.  It means putting their needs ahead of your own.  If that sounds hard – or impossible – that’s because it is.  In the natural, we can’t live like that.  But Christians are supernatural people, not natural people.

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.  Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  (Ephesians 5:18-21 | NIV84) 

When you’re filled with the Spirit, you can do precisely what is impossible for those without the Spirit to do. And here’s the rub.  Casting your anxieties on God is all part of submitting to Him.  Or, to look at it a different way, you and I often cringe when we hear the word “submission” because it carries with it very negative connotations.  For example, we submit to the IRS when we pay our taxes.  Only a moron enjoys paying taxes, and ignorant morons think they need to pay more.  In the middle of the night, when we drive through town and we’re the only car on the road and we hit every single stop light, we submit and stop even though there are no other cars!  Sounds silly when you put it like that, doesn’t it?  Yet casting your cares on God sounds equally silly, especially for, say, young parents who live anxiety filled lives as they raise their kids.  They’re anxious about germs, fevers, shifty neighbors, an inadequate school system, and so on.  In fact, it’s not an exaggeration to say that anxiety is seen as a virtue; as part of being a responsible parent. It’s not.  it’s a sin and it’s an insult to God when you are anxious about anything.  It’s telling God that you don’t trust Him.  And those grey hairs and tension headaches might just be the light hand of His subtle judgment, as He tries in vain to show you the benefit of submitting to Him on this.  God is not some cold, calculating federal bureaucracy or law enforcement agency that you need to fear or loathe.  He cares for you, and that’s why He wants you to be obedient and once and for all cast your anxieties on Him.

He is the “God of everything,” after all.  He is sovereign.  It doesn’t matter what you are anxious about – your kids, your health, your future, your whatever – God is absolutely sovereign and in the know.  Don’t let the circumstances of your life pile on top of your faith.  Keep your cool.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  (1 Peter 5:8 | NIV84) 

Get that?  Be “self controlled and alert.”  Don’t be a fool.  Don’t give in to your anxieties, and recognize who your enemy is:  the Devil.  When you stubbornly  refuse to cast your anxieties on God, you are playing right into the Devil’s hands; you’re giving him a foothold in your heart.  Don’t do it!  Get a grip!  Keep your head!  Think before you get all anxious.  Then think again, and give your anxieties to God.  It’s the smart way to live.  You’ll be happier, you’ll live longer, you’ll be easier to live with, and most importantly, you’ll be living in obedience to God’s will.

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