Tuesday, December 22, 2015, 6:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Onward Christian Soldiers.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Matthew 6:25-34 (NASB). Fuss, Fear, and Fret (vv. 25-32) “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? “And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. One of Satan’s greatest weapons forged against us is his lies in which he tries to convince us to doubt God and his promises, his provisions, his word, and his divine character. He tries to instill doubts in our minds concerning who we are in Christ Jesus, and tries to convince us that we need to worry about the things in this life, as though worry ever solved anything. It doesn’t! Fear is the opposite of faith. When we give in to fear, we cease to believe God and his word. We stop believing in his sovereignty and his absolute care, concern and control over every aspect of our lives. When we fret over the circumstances of our lives, we are essentially saying to God that we don’t trust him; we don’t believe he can manage our problems, and so we internalize them, and make ourselves an emotional wreck. Sometimes what we fear is real, i.e. we may be in a situation in which we don’t know where our next meal is coming from, or how we will pay our bills, or how we will afford to buy clothes for ourselves or for our children. We may live in a war-torn country where bombs are bursting all around us, and people are being dragged from their homes, and they are being severely mistreated and even killed, for whatever reason. We may have lost our source of income, or our spouse to death or divorce, or we may have just gone through a major natural disaster in which our house was flattened, and now we have no place to live. These are realities which we cannot ignore, but we must not let them become cause for worry, for if we are God’s children, he will provide what we need. We just have to trust him. Yet, other times what we fret about is not real, i.e. it can be make-believe or it could be one of those “what if” situations that is not a present reality. Satan loves to create things for us to worry about that don’t exist, or that may exist, but we have no direct knowledge that these things are actually taking place. In other words, he loves to play with our minds and to try to get us to be paranoid, i.e. to imagine situations which may or may not exist in reality, but to convince ourselves that they are real. Or, he may have others do the imagining for us, i.e. such as what our government and media do sometimes when they persuade us to fear something that does not exist, but is something they have concocted for the sole purpose to get us worrying and even attacking one another over it. Then, there are the medical and psychological professionals who try to convince us that we have to take pills for just about everything which ails us so we don’t feel any pain at all, but sometimes pain is good for us, because it motivates us to move forward, to trust God more, to solve problems, etc. Many of these pills are not good for us, and many more of them actually cause more problems for us, and so they give us even more pills to counteract the side effects of the first set of pills, and so people are convinced they have to take containers full of pills each day just to live. Many people never question these people with doctorate degrees, but just take whatever is prescribed for them, and that is dangerous. Not only can we be doing serious damage to our minds and bodies by taking what is prescribed, or what is recommended, but we are learning to put our trust in pills instead of in God, who made us, who knows all about us, and who is the best one to diagnose us and to care for us. Psychologists, as well, have created a myriad of what they call “diseases” or “illnesses” of the mind, oftentimes for what God calls “sin,” and they have convinced people, even Christians, that they will always have these illnesses, that it will only get worse, that there is no cure for them, and that the patients have absolutely no control over what happens to them. Thus, they convince them that they must be medicated the rest of their lives and/or that they must permanently be dependent on psychological professionals for their peace of mind. And, so people worry what will happen to them should the things these professionals have convinced them is going to happen to them actually take place, and they worry that they have no control over these things, and so the fear of the “what ifs” takes its toll on their minds and bodies, and so they actually do become sick, with worry. Yet, the Bible teaches that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace… self-control, and that the grace of God which brings salvation teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return. Jesus Christ is not only our Savior and Lord, but he is our great physician. He is the one who created us, and he is the one to bring healing to our minds and to the wounds of our hearts. By his stripes we are healed! I am not discounting that God may use medical professionals or counselors to help us, but we need to seek him first, and we need to seek his guidance and counsel and see what he wants us to do. If we must seek counsel for our problems, make sure it is godly counsel from someone who is walking with the Lord. Not all who call themselves “Christian,” are actually teaching what is of God and is from his word. Him, His Kingdom, His Righteousness (vv. 33-34) “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” So, instead of worrying about where our next meal is going to come from, or how we will pay our bills, or when the next job is going to materialize; or instead of fretting over something which may or may not happen to us, over which we have no control, or over which we are convinced we have no management over the situation, we need to seek God, his kingdom and his righteousness, and we need to trust him with our lives, both now and in the future. So, how do we do this? First of all, what is his kingdom? God’s/Jesus’ kingdom is often referred to as the “kingdom of heaven.” Jesus Christ, God the Son, is the embodiment of that kingdom, i.e. it is his life, death, resurrection, ascension into heaven, his sending of his Holy Spirit to indwell his followers, the life of the church, salvation from sin, his coming again, his millennial kingdom reign with his followers, and eternity with God in glory. It is his divine character and will for his people, his holiness and righteousness, his purity, and his sovereignty over all things. It is the gospel of our salvation which teaches death to sin and living to righteousness. It is love for God and love for others, and being willing to lay down our lives and our reputations in order to see others go free from slavery to sin and the bondage of fear (worry). What is his righteousness? Righteousness “refers to what is deemed right by the Lord (after His examination), i.e. what is approved in His eyes” (biblehub.com). The Bible teaches us what God approves, i.e. what is right in his eyes. We can glean much of this from the Old Testament, but the New Testament is the believer’s primary teaching about Jesus Christ, his salvation, his gospel and the holy lives he desires and requires for his followers. We learn, first of all, that faith in Jesus Christ means death to sin and living to righteousness, and walking in the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh. We learn that God commands us to be holy, i.e. set apart (unlike, different) from the world, because we are being transformed into the image of Christ. And, we learn how to walk in his truth and in his love, and to do what he desires and requires of us, as his followers. In other words, it is God/Jesus whom we must seek, to know who he is, what his will is for our lives, and then to follow him in obedience and in surrender to his will and purposes for us, trusting him with all of our life’s circumstances. He doesn’t promise that everything will go smoothly for us, though, and that we will have everything we want if we follow him. In fact, he promises us that we will suffer for the sake of his name, and that we will be hated and persecuted for our testimonies and witness for Jesus Christ and for his gospel. He said we will go through hardships and difficult times, yet he promises to never leave us or forsake us, to spiritually protect us from the evil one, and to provide for us all we need to live godly and holy lives in this life and on this earth. Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit, as well, to live within us, to counsel, correct, rebuke, encourage, train, teach, comfort, strengthen and empower us to live holy lives, pleasing to God, so we are never without resources. When we are tempted to start to listen to Satan’s lies, and he gets us to think about or to begin to worry over our circumstances, or about our future, we need the counsel of the Holy Spirit speaking gently to us the words we so often hear in scripture: “Do not be afraid!” “Do not worry!” “Do not fret.” “Do not be anxious about anything!” “Trust God! Put your hope in him. Believe in his promises. Rely on his strength and provisions.” And, then we have to turn our hearts and minds toward God, and toward his word, and see what he has to say to us about the things we are concerned over, and we must rest in the Lord, and believe that he has our best interest at heart, that none of this takes him by surprise, and that he has a plan and a purpose for it all. Then, we must do what his word teaches, and put on the armor of God with which to fight off Satan’s evil schemes against us. When Satan speaks his lies into our hearts, we must put on truth, so we must first know the truth via the study of God’s word. Putting on the truth involves believing it and then applying it in all practicality to our lives. When Satan tries to convince us we are without resources, we must put on the truth that our God is all sufficient for our every need. When he tries to convince us that pills are the answer for all that ails (pains) us, we must seek the wisdom of God, do the research on the pills, and trust God to be our healer and sustainer of life. When the devil tries to convince us to worry, we must put on faith. When our enemy tries to convince us that God is not absolutely sovereign over our lives and that we must take matters into our own hands, we must trust that God has all things under his control, and we must lean on his everlasting arms. In all things, in all ways, in all circumstances, we must never worry, but we must put our trust in God, and we must put on our spiritual armor with which to fight off Satan’s lies. Onward Christian Soldiers Sabine Baring-Gould / Arthur S. Sullivan Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before. Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe; forward into battle see his banners go! At the sign of triumph Satan's host doth flee; on then, Christian soldiers, on to victory! Hell's foundations quiver at the shout of praise; brothers, lift your voices, loud your anthems raise. Like a mighty army moves the church of God; brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod. We are not divided, all one body we, one in hope and doctrine, one in charity. Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane, but the church of Jesus constant will remain. Gates of hell can never ‘gainst that church prevail; we have Christ's own promise, and that cannot fail. Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng, blend with ours your voices in the triumph song. Glory, laud, and honor unto Christ the King, this through countless ages men and angels sing. Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before.