Larry Sheehy-030611Listen to Larry Sheehy read his Thinking of God column.
Surely no one ever served as a better role model for Christians, other than the Lord Jesus himself, than the apostle Paul.
Even before he became a follower of the Christ, he was a great example of loyalty to what he mistakenly considered God's will for his life. Confined in a Roman prison, unsure of his immediate future (from a human perspective), he was still able to say, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." This is why he could encourage his readers to pray in faith to God, whose gift of peace, he said, "transcends all understanding." (Philippians 4:6, 7)
In a television broadcast from his church pulpit in Atlanta several years ago, one preacher asked his listeners, "Why do we fear, worry and fret?" His answer to the question was brief, simple and right on target. We fear, worry and fret, he said, because our focus is on our circumstances, rather than on Jesus of Nazareth.
When we find it difficult to solve the problems of life, why is it that we so easily lose heart, become discouraged and seem blinded to any ray of hope? Why is it that we allow our circumstances to control us - our thinking as well as our actions - and drag us into a hole of despair which, it seems, no light can penetrate? Why do we do it over and over?
We can possibly understand why many unbelievers are spiritually blind and spend so much time in anxiety about their lives. However, even Christians sometimes find themselves unable - or unwilling - to trust in God's providential care. So many are described by the words of the Hebrew prophet Isaiah: "We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes." (Isaiah 59:9, 10)
As to why our spiritual memories are so short, the easy response is "Well, we're human." But if that is our only answer, then we're not much better off than those who don't believe in God. In reality, it may be said that in those times when we are wallowing in (and perhaps unconsciously enjoying) our despondency, we are unbelievers ourselves, at least in a practical sense. "Practical atheism" is a real danger!
As one who is not immune to anxiety, I don't mean to make light of life's problems. But the "secret," declares Paul, is "being content in any and every situation" (Philippians 4:12). This means reversing our focus, so that we center it on God. The apostle urges us to do as he did and "learn" this secret of the peace of God. How do we do this? The same way we learn anything - by experience. Paul's language means that he had learned to depend on God. He had no other to whom he could turn! Nor did he need anyone else. It isn't simply a matter of gaining strength through the exercise of our own power, but of growing in our dependence on the One who gives us power.
The more we take God at his word, the more we will find him faithful, and the more we will find joy in trusting him in every circumstance and detail of life.
May God help us increase our faith in him.