I can’t even remember his name and I didn’t think much of his talk. We were both eighteen years of age. He had just joined the army. As he stood up to give the talk he produced his army boots as a visual aid. He called one of the boots ‘*trust’* and the other one ‘*obey’*. He described them as the left and right boot of the Christian life. He only spoke for seven minutes, but his illustration hit home and I have never forgotten it. ‘*Trust’* and ‘*obey’* are, as he said, a very good summary of the Christian life. We see in the passages for today that they are the answer to trials, temptation, worry, anxiety, fear, failure and all the other struggles of life. In particular, Jesus shows us how to stop worrying and start living.
Trials and temptation
It is often in times of difficulty that we put down deep roots. The psalmist uses the evocative expression ‘deep calls to deep’ (v.7). Anything that is not from the depth in us will not reach the depth in others.
The psalmist is ‘downcast’ (v.6b). He feels as if God has forgotten him (v.9). He is ‘mourning, oppressed by the enemy’ (v.9b). He is in ‘agony’ (v.10a). People are taunting him, saying, ‘Where is your God?’ (v.10b) – rather like the way some people taunt Christians today.
The trials and temptations of life have overcome him like a mighty waterfall (v.7). Yet he knows deep down that despite being submerged by the waves of life, he can trust in God: ‘God promises to love me all day’ (v.8, MSG).
Continuing with the image of a torrential river, he refers to God as ‘my Rock’ (v.9). Though he feels that God has forgotten him, he knows the reality that God is the greatest security on which he can stand.
In the middle of all this he speaks to himself: ‘Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God’ (v.11). Through all the struggles, trials and temptation, fix your eyes on God and keep trusting and obeying him.
Lord, thank you that you direct your love towards me. Help me to keep trusting and obeying you, ‘my Saviour and my God’ (v.11).
Worry and anxiety
Do you worry a lot? Are you ever ‘struck with fear’ or ‘seized with alarm’ (vv.7,32, AMP)? Are you ever ‘anxious and troubled’ (v.22, AMP)?
Jesus never said, ‘Don’t worry because there is nothing to worry about.’ He said, ‘Don’t worry in spite of the fact that there is so much to worry about.’ Many times Jesus says to his followers, ‘Do not be afraid’ (vv.4,7,32) and ‘Do not worry’ (vv.11,22,29). The answer to fear and worry is to trust and obey. Jesus gives us seven ways to deal with worry, anxiety and fear.
Fear God and nothing else If you have a right and healthy fear of God, you need fear nothing else(v.5). ‘Don’t be bluffed into silence or insincerity by the threats of religious bullies... There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life – body and soul – in his hands’ (v.5, MSG).
Know your value to God Jesus tells you not to worry or be afraid because you are of infinite value to God. He loves you; ‘You are worth more than many sparrows’ (v.7b). He knows you intimately: ‘The very hairs of your head are all numbered’ (v.7a).
Trust the Holy Spirit He tells you not to worry because you can trust the Holy Spirit to help you. As you face opposition, difficult situations, meetings, and so on, Jesus says, ‘Do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say’ (vv.11–12).
Don’t miss the point of life Jesus says that by worrying you miss the whole point of life: ‘Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot’ (v.15, MSG).
He tells the story of a businessman, who had built up a highly successful enterprise and made a considerable amount of money. The world probably admired him. However, Jesus describes him as a fool and a failure (v.20). He had made the false assumption that he had many years to live (vv.19–20). He had never seen beyond this life (v.20).
His life was focused on himself. The word ‘I’ or ‘my’ appears eleven times (vv.17–19). As has been pointed out, ‘A person wrapped up in themselves makes a very small package.’ He thought he was worth what his possessions were worth. He failed to understand the way to be truly rich. He was not ‘rich towards God’ (v.21). Who you are as a person is far more important than what you do for a living. 5. Realise that fussing is futile
Jesus encourages you to look beyond material possessions and physical needs, ‘don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or if the clothes in your closet are in fashion’ (v.22, MSG). There is nothing wrong with these things, but they should not be your focus – ‘life is more than food, and the body more than clothes’ (v.23). 6. Trust God’s care and provision Jesus points out that worry is the opposite of faith (v.28). If you trust you will not worry. ‘If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!’ (v.28). Faith involves trust in God’s care and provision. 7. Seek God’s kingdom Trust and obedience go hand in hand. Rather than storing up things for yourself you need to be ‘rich towards God’ (v.21). Rather than worrying about material things you should ‘seek his kingdom’ (v.31) – which God in his good pleasure has given to you (v.32). This should be the focus of your life. ‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’ (v.34).
Lord, thank you that you tell me over and over again not to worry and not to be afraid. Help me to seek your kingdom and trust that all ‘these things will be given to \[me\] as well’ (v.31).
Deuteronomy 9:4a–6, 10:12–13
Fear and failure
God’s blessing is pure grace: ‘It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity’ (9:5). Moses reminds the people of God of all the things that went wrong for them in the past. He tells them that the reason was, ‘You did not trusthim or obey him’ (v.23).
Moses urges them that now they are to trust and obey God. ‘What does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?’ (10:12–13).
When we are tempted to disobey God, it is because we do not trust that he has our best interests at heart. We like to think that we know better than God as to what is best for us. However, the reality is that all God’s commands are ‘for your own good’. God loves you, cares for you and knows you, and that is why he wants you to obey him.
The truth is that you can trust God, even when you find his commands difficult or restrictive. The omnipotent God, to whom belong ‘the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it’ has ‘set his affection’ on you ‘and loved’ you, ‘and he chose you’ (vv.14–15).
This faith is inward, not just outward: ‘Circumcise your hearts’ (v.16). Yet, it is a faith that leads to action. You are called to follow God’s example and defend the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and love the alien, giving them food and clothing (v.18). There is to be no racial discrimination. We should have a special love and service for the poor and the marginalised.
God promises that if you trust and obeyhim you will see growth and multiplication. ‘Your ancestors who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky’ (v.22).
Lord, thank you that you have set your affection on me, loved me and chosen me. Help me today to fear you, to walk in all your ways, to love you and to serve you with all my heart and all my soul. I pray that you would make your church as numerous as the stars in the sky.
‘Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.’
It is so easy to obsess about body shape, image, health and nutrition. I must admit that when thinking about an upcoming event, the first thing that comes to mind is – what am I going to wear?!
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790. Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org) Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.