Ebenezer

I’m a little stressed right now. My postgrad theology dissertation looms, work is busy, and my diary is full … But I’ve been studying the Bible book of 1 Samuel with a friend and it has provided a helpful reminder:

In chapter 7 after a dangerous battle between God’s people and the Philistines we read:  Then Samuel [God’s prophet] took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” (1 Sam 7:12)

Ebenezer means ‘stone of help’, and whenever the Israelites saw the stone they would remember God’s rescue during this battle. It was a monument to God’s power, steadfast love, and willingness to help his people, and a call for them to trust in him in the future.  What a great antidote to fear, worry, and trusting in the wrong things!journalling

Till now the Lord has helped us.

Remembrance of God’s past help and faithfulness helps us to trust him in the present when life is stressful and we don’t necessarily know how things will work out. Satan loves to attack God’s character and goodness, and to fill us with doubt and unbelief. Yet remembering God’s past faithfulness to us is a great shield against this.

Whether it’s spiritual or physical blessings that we recall, it’s so helpful to our hearts and minds to be reminded of what our God is like, and his willingness to help and provide for us despite our sin and failure.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-3

The Bible is filled with concrete promises like this for us to trust in, but I think there is a place for active remembrance like Samuel’s too. When was the last time you sat down and reminded yourself of God’s particular help towards you in the past? Perhaps you keep a journal and can look back at answered prayers and unexpected blessings, or maybe it’s a case of making time to think through months and years gone by to identify the ways that God has helped you so far? You may even have a literal symbol of God’s provision that you can look at.

Let’s not be forgetful and anxious Christians. Till now the Lord has helped us.

Nim

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The Subtle Danger of Worry

Have you ever thought of worry and fear in your life as a danger? I know I hadn’t . I’m currently reading Edward Welch’s book Running Scared – Fear, worry, and the God of rest. It’s a deep and biblical treatment of the problem of fear and worry that we all suffer with to differing degrees.

Although I’m reading it with the intention of dealing with my own worry in a more godly way than I currently do, (My current strategy being to spend considerable amounts of time worrying!) It was a wake-up call for me to see that worry can actually be a danger to us spiritually.

According to Edward Welch here’s why…

Remember the parable of the Sower? (Matthew 13) Where the seed of the gospel falls on different types of ‘ground’, with different results?

Look closely as Jesus explains the reasons for the unfruitfulness of much of the good news that is heard:

 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Do you notice the powerful role that the worries and troubles of life play in making the gospel unfruitful?

Now it can’t simply be that enduring trouble and worry make you spiritually unfruitful, because no one is exempt from these! So what is it about worry that threatens our spiritual life?

One of the reasons is that worry is only a step away from unbelief. If we are worrying, it’s because we can’t provide for our situation and we’re unsure that God can or will provide for it….or that he will do so in the way we want! We begin to doubt his character, and his promises, and we ignore his word.

(“Do not be afraid” and “Do not worry” are some of the most frequent commands of God in scripture! For one of the key Bible passages on worry, look at Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:25-34)

It also exposes our desire to be sat on the throne of our lives in place of Christ.

We feel our inability to control our circumstances, and we are not fully happy that we must leave it in the hands of our heavenly Father, we much prefer to feel like masters of our own destiny!

Worry can morph quickly from a right recognition of a problem, to a refusal to leave a situation in God’s hands. Welch says that worry prefers self protection over trust.

I know this is a right assessment as I look at my own heart!

So what is the solution? Try harder not to worry?

Nope.

“Here is where fear is a door to spiritual reality. It suggests that authentic humanness was never intended to be autonomous and self-reliant…will we abandon the myth of independence and seek God?”

Worry can transform into a blessing if we let it remind us of our own weakness, and call us back to reliance on God, and remembrance of his commands and promises. Jesus says to his disciples in John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

That’s not a negative thing! Our independence bristles at this, but it’s both a wake-up call and a great peace-filled promise. If we remain in Christ, and him in us, we will be fruitful! But first it takes the realisation that we are dependent on Christ.

And second it requires us to see and trust who he is. Who could be more loving, powerful, trustworthy, and dependable than Jesus Christ?! The more we get to know him, and see him at work in scripture, and our own lives, the more easily this trust will come, without us trying to conjure it up from nowhere.

So when worry and fear rears its ugly head, let it send you running back to Christ, and his promises to protect , provide, and sustain his people, making us spiritually fruitful. Surrender the throne of your life once more. Ask him to help you to relinquish control, and to trust in his deliverance. Rejoice in the peace that comes with knowing he is taking care of everything!

You will not be running from your problems and fears, but facing them fearlessly from the arms of God.

Nim

I realise that worry and fear are big and complex issues, I was trying to keep this short(ish!), so do comment if you think i’ve missed important things out! This is just one of many areas that Welch covers in his book, I highly recommend it if you want to think further about this.