Who is My Brother? The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

shadow menMay the grace and peace of the Father and of our Lord Jesus-Christ be with you as you read this article. As servants of the Lord Jesus-Christ, it is important that we properly recognize those who are “among” us. I am not speaking of those who are outside, but precisely those who supposedly share our faith of Christ. Just like the lawyer asked the famous question “…and who is my neighbor?” in Luke 10:29, an appropriate question for us today is “…and who is my brother?”. From our context of interest and from our understanding, there really seems to be three types of people among us. We shall call them the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. And for each of them, we shall see that God expects us to have a different type of reaction.

The Good Ones

Those are the ones we should be running toward. They are the ones we should endeavor to imitate and learn from. As recorded in many places, the good ones are simply those who follow the traditions they received…from the Apostles (not from their church leader or someone else), and therefore from Jesus-Christ.

1 Corinthians 11:1
– Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

Philippians 3:17
– Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.

The good ones are the ones who clearly endeavor to live according to the scriptures, and nothing else. They are not entangled by the various doctrines of men. Their only concern is to be followers of the true doctrine taught by the Apostles.
But what I really would like to attract our attention to in this article are the other two groups, which in my opinion, we do not always distinguish: the bad and the ugly.

The Bad Ones

These are actually genuine brothers; however, they do not walk properly. These people are “not” enemies. These are the ones we should actually interact with yet not identify with. Let us see how the Apostle Paul describes them, and the instruction he gives us regarding how we should deal with them.

2 Thessalonians 3:6 – But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.

We see that the principal characteristic of the bad ones is that, in stark opposition to the good ones (2 Thessalonians 3:6), they do not walk after the traditions of the Apostles (the fact that it is the traditions of the Apostles really deserves to be emphasized again). In verse 11-13, the Apostle further identifies them as busybodies who are weary of well-doing. Now he gives us instructions regarding how we should deal with them.

2 Thessalonians 3: 12-15 – Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread. … 14 And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

The good the bad the ugly_1The Apostle tells us that we should not consider such people enemies, but quite opposite (the Greek word used for “but” is alla which is a strong adversative conjunction), we should admonish them as brothers. Matter of fact, this very thing is what the Apostles did in verse 12 in exhorting them. But what brother Paul tells us brings an interesting point. The verb “admonish” is in the present imperative active form, meaning that it is a command (i.e. imperative mood) that we should follow (active voice), and it is something we should do continually (present tense). The question is this: How can we do that (exhort continually) if at the same time we should stay away from them? Yet, that is exactly what the expression “do not keep company” appear to suggest, that we should stay away from them.
It stands therefore to reason (at least in our opinion), that this is not referring to staying away from someone, but instead to not “identifying” with such person. We take note of these people precisely because how they behave is exactly how we should not behave. The  shame of such person as referred in verse 14 does not originate from the fact that we consider him an outcast, but instead from the fact that our own behaviors, which are in accordance to the scriptures, are so different than his that there is no way he will not noticed the differences and therefore, be ashamed. This sentiment will be further reinforced as we admonish (exhort, counsel) him regularly. As opposed to the outcast approach, this my friend, sounds like the agape “love” to me!

The Ugly Ones

The ugly ones truly are in a different class. These are the ones we should be running away from, as we earnestly contend for the faith. For one, they are “not” brothers, yet they appear to be so. And that explains why they are so dangerous. They are the false teachers and other ungodly men whose end, as 2 Peter 2: 1 states, is swift destruction. You will concede that it is quite a scary thought that many a times we do not recognize them, so crafty they are at distorting the truth.

2 Peter 2: 1 –…there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.

Jude 4: …there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

These people just like the good and the bad ones are truly among us. Jude 12 states that they feast with us! We talk with them everyday, we even worship with them! How are they able to go undetected? I think the Old Testament holds the key. If we call to mind the false prophets of the Old Testament, we can see that one of the great common denominators among them was that they tended to say those things that the people and the kings wanted to hear. And because they did so, supposedly…in the name of the Lord, most people were quickly inclined to cleave unto them. These false prophets tended to be very popular as opposed to the true prophets. Well, you will probably agree that today is not much different.
Here is another graphic description of the ugly ones, which clearly alludes to the fact that they entice “unstable” souls. How can our soul be stable unless we personally study the scriptures? As you read the next verse, please refrain from thinking that this description suggests that those ugly ones can be easily spotted. The unfortunate and frightening fact about them is precisely that these malicious individuals have blinded many of our brethren by creeping in.

2 Peter 2: 13,14 – …They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you, 14 having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls.

These are the people the Apostle John calls antichrists, declaring that they are not of us (1 John 2:19).

It is time for an introspection

Now let us look honestly around us and consider how we often perceive and treat people who, either are from other Christian denominations or even within our own denomination, but do not “walk” according to our established doctrine. How do we treat these people? Don’t we often treat them as if they are the bad ones, and even in many cases, the ugly ones? We do not talk with them, we do not entertain their point of view. Aren’t we treating them as if they are antichrists? And what about those who truly do stray from the truth (i.e. the bad ones), do we handle them as the Apostle Paul commanded in 2 Thessalonians 3? This my people tells me at least two things. First, we are lacking the maturity to properly identify those among us. We see the good ones as the bad ones who need to be corrected. We see the ugly ones as the good ones who need to be imitated, so attractive is what they are saying. We consider those who are not from our church to be the bad ones.

Second, even when we do identify properly those around us, we do not know how to deal with them. We see an ugly one but we are afraid to denounce him, yet the scripture tells us to be watchmen: What kind of watchman stays silent after he has identified a threat? Doesn’t the watchman sounds the alarm and makes sure the alarm has been heard? We see a bad one and we cast him out of the church (or whatever inner circle) instead of exhorting him as a brother, while we ourselves supposedly continue in the traditions of the Apostles. We see a good one and do not make him known so that others may also imitate him.

When are we going to wake up my people? This division within the church, even if they are sometimes based on legitimate concerns, how does it help us as God’s children and servants of the Lord Jesus-Christ? Let us strive to be mature my people, and learn to properly recognize those among us: we have some good, some bad and perhaps even some ugly ones. Oh my dearest people, let us open the scriptures for ourselves, and let us follow the traditions of the Apostles, since they themselves followed Christ. To our God be the Glory, and may our King Jesus-Christ live forever and forever! Amen.

Intercession: God Is Stunned! (Part 2 of 2)

file0001113742119We Should All be Like Epaphras

To develop an appreciation for just how God values those who intercede, consider Epaphras, mentioned three times in the scriptures.

Colossians 1:7 – As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ

God calls Epaphras a “faithful minister” of Christ. What an honor! And shortly after, we understand why.

Colossians 4:12 – Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly [Greek: agōnizomenos] for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.

“Laboring earnestly” is one Greek verb which means “struggling”. Epaphras was held in such high esteem by God because he had a “very intense” prayer life, not for himself but much more importantly, for his brethren. He is only mentioned 3 times in the scriptures, and this – his prayer life for others – is what he will always be remembered for. This is what God values. What do we want God to remember us for?Intercession_3

Interestingly, his request in his prayers seemed to be essentially the same request Jesus made for Peter: that his people will stay fully assured of their faith toward God. Clearly, there is no greater part of us that is at stake than our faith; the faith of our brothers and sisters, and the faith of those we do not even know. Our brethren often fall prey to the temptations of the devil, but our fervent prayers can do so much to prevent the devil from moving further with his plans.

Spiritual Fight…Spiritual Weapon

In Ephesians 6, Paul reminds us that our fight is a spiritual fight, requiring spiritual weaponry. The last weapon he introduces is prayers, telling us that we should “always” pray for all saints.

Ephesians 6:18 – With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, 19 and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel

What a responsibility we have! While it is good to pray for ourselves, it is far better to pray for others; for it is impossible for God to deny our own needs when we are consumed with the well-being and the needs of our brethren. We know from 1 Peter 5:8 that Satan is roaming around, and we are told that “daily” he accuses us, seeking permission to sift us as wheat, to shred our lives. And indeed, looking around us, we can see that some of his requests are granted. Many of our brethren live a life of spiritual defeat, they are being robbed of everything, and their faith is shaken, and perhaps even, falling in the process. O that we would intercede! My brethren, let us intercede! Let us bring our prayer life to the next level, focusing less on ourselves and more on others. This is not just about being the “moral” thing to do. This is spiritual warfare, and we are in it! To the God of our Lord be all the praise, Glory without end!

Intercession: God Is Stunned! (Part 1 of 2)

praying_on_bible_redMy brothers and sisters in Christ, as I look at the scriptures, I believe I am beginning to realize just how much God wants us to intercede. It is one of our greatest responsibilities, and yet, we are failing so many times at carrying it. As described in Isaiah 59, when we do not intercede God is stunned!

Isaiah 59: 15,16 – Yes, truth is lacking; And he who turns aside from evil makes himself a prey. Now the Lord saw, And it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice. 16 And He saw that there was no man, And was astonished that there was no one to intercede;…

How graphic are God’s emotions in this passage. There was no justice and it was displeasing in God’s sight. And God was astonished, stunned, appalled that there was no man to intercede! Is our world today different than the one described in Isaiah 59?

Two Types of Intercessions:

From my limited understanding of the scriptures, there seems to be at least two types of intercessions. The first type can only be made by Jesus-Christ, who is currently seated at the right hand of God. Through this type of intercession, Jesus-Christ is able to save us, and make us children of God, as described in Hebrews 7.

Hebrews 7:24, 25 – But Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. 25 Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession.

The second type of intercession, which is the focus of this article, is altogether different. It can be performed not only by Jesus-Christ, but also by us, God’s children and servants. Contrary to the first type, this type of intercession has been around from well before the day of Pentecost. Here is an instance of Job interceding (i.e. praying) for his friend.

Job 42:10 – And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.

The calamity of Job ended when he prayed – when he interceded – for his friends. We learn from verse 8 of the same chapter that God was so angry with Job’s friends that He could only accept the prayer of Job for them (an intercession). Job’s prayer effectively appeased God, causing Him “not” to deal with His friends according to their folly (Job 42:8). However and sadly, the book of Job records earlier that in his prior conversations with his friends, Job was himself crying because there was no one to intercede for him to God (which is probably why his deliverance came as described in Job 42:10).

Job 16:21 – O that a man might plead with God, As a man with his neighbor!

Satan versus Your IntercessionIntercession_part1 of 2

Fast forwarding to Jesus’ time on earth, Luke 22 records a stunning confession of Jesus-Christ to His disciple Peter.

Luke 22:30 – “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission [Greek: exētēsato] to sift you like wheat;

Looking at the Greek can help us appreciate the intensity of Jesus’ statement. The Greek verb “exētēsato” means to request a “full handing over”. And the word “hymas” is the plural form of “you”. Simply put, Jesus was informing Peter that Satan had requested to God that he (Peter) and the rest of the apostles be “completely” handed over to him! And the purpose of his request was clear: Satan wanted to sift them as wheat. Picture it as you may, but this is a very scary account! Think of Job and you will immediately get an idea of just how much pain Satan is willing to inflict.

Now consider this: How could Satan make such a bold request to God? The only reason Satan could make such request must have been because he knew that there was a chance his request could be granted! Think about it…Satan was making such a request because he knew he “could” get it. Otherwise, what would have been the point?

But thank God, Jesus was there to intercede.

Luke 22:31 – But I have prayed [Greek: edeēthēn] for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Jesus interceded for his disciple and friend Peter! And the verb edeēthēn translated “prayed” is the same verb used in Luke 8:28 to describe how the demon “begged” Jesus-Christ not to torment him. This was an “urgent appeal” that Jesus made for Peter. And apparently, Satan is still “very” active in making such requests for you and me!

Revelation 12:10 – Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.

Day and night my brothers and sisters! Day and night Satan accuses us before God. He is always roaming around, tempting us so we can fail, so that he can in turn accuse us, and make his requests to God to wreck our lives, our marriages, our faith, etc. even further. And he does so because he knows that unless someone intercedes (be it Jesus-Christ or some of us), he might just get what he asks for.

We have to pray for each other, for those we know as well as those we do not. The implications are far too serious for us to ignore that they are real. Can you imagine what would have happened if Jesus had not interceded and Satan had his request granted? Given the grave implications, no wonder our God is stunned, appalled when we do not intercede. Yes people, God is  stunned! In Part 2 we look at an example of an intercessor, with whom all of us should be able to identify. 

The Soul and the Spirit: One looks foolish!

Tiger_1

The soul and the spirit: One often looks foolish, and it might not be the one you think! More on that later. First, what is the difference between them?

1 Thessalonians 5:23 – And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God tells us that there is a difference between the spirit and the soul. Have you ever heard someone say “you will feel it in your spirit” when what they really mean is “you will feel it in your soul”? It is probably fair to say that for most people, the difference between the soul and the spirit is not that clear-cut. Even Christians are not always sure as to whether there really is a difference to begin with. And even if there was one, most of us do not really grasp it.
I will not pretend that I understand fully what the spirit is, but I hope some illustrations will help us wrap our minds around it. The mind (our intellect, where our reasoning takes place) is a major part of the soul, so I will take it that understanding the difference between the mind and the spirit will set us on a good path to understanding just how different the spirit is from the soul. We will inspire ourselves from nature on one end, and we will look at a few examples of actions directed by the spirit.

What does nature teach us?

Romans 1:20…For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made…

I was at a zoo not too long ago where I took the picture of the tiger you see here. Thankfully, there was a “very” thick glass separating us. This tiger, like the crocodiles and the many other animals I saw that day has a strength that far exceeds mine. Without the glass separating us, I simply would not stand a chance in a physical combat (if there is even one to begin with). Yet I thought “I, a man, was able to lock this tiger in a cage. And I also caged all the lions, the crocodiles, and even some elephants in that zoo. I did all this so that others can come and look at them”. Then I thought, “what is it that I have that allows me to dominate all these animals?” A mind of course! I can think, I can reason, they cannot. Then I thought “if only he could, I am sure this tiger would give all its strength in a heartbeat just to get a piece of my mind”. Why? Because no matter how strong he is, his power cannot even begin to be compared with mine, the power of my mind.
How much more powerful is the mind compared to the body? I cannot even begin to measure how much powerful it is! The mind is simply on a whole different level, a level that is far superior to the body. It is also in a completely different class. No amount of bodily exercise can develop a mind. Either one has a mind (and is therefore able to benefit from its power) or one does not.

Well, think of the Spirit! It is at least that much more superior to the mind.

Isaiah 55:9 – For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Soul and Spirit_2

God is Spirit so His ways and thoughts are spiritual. The mind of a man is really what defines him (Proverbs 23:7), so his ways and thoughts are of his mind, his intellect. That is how he reasons. Here in Isaiah, God tells us that the spirit and the mind operate on two vastly different levels, the spirit operating at a “much” higher (understand by that “much more powerful”) level than the mind. No amount of mind exercise will ever develop a spirit. And no matter how intelligent we are, the power of our mind will never be comparable to the power of the spirit. They are in two different classes!
Now, as we will see with the two examples below, the ways of the spirit can be so different than the ways of the mind that actions that originate from the spirit may appear downright foolish to the mind. That is how incapable the mind is in trying to understand the spirit.

Two actions of the Spirit:
1 Corinthians 2:14 – But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.
Understanding the context of this verse, a natural man is one who does not operate with the Spirit of God. To the best of my understanding, by “natural man”, 1 Corinthians 2:14 refers either to anyone who does not have the spirit, or anyone who has the spirit but does not operate from it. The natural man is one who operates solely from his mind (or worse, his body). God says that such a man “cannot” accept the things of Spirit because they are foolishness to him. He “cannot” even understand them! Wow, what is so special about the spirit that even the smartest among us cannot understand his things??

1st illustration: How about spitting on dirt?
John 9:6 – When He (Jesus) had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing.

Now, you tell me, how is 1) spitting on the ground, 2) making clay out of it, 3) applying that clay on someone’s eyes who is completely blind, and then 4) sending that person to go wash in some pool a recipe for healing blindness from birth? In what medical journal do you think you will get published for promoting such a formula? Will your formula ever receive FDA approval? How can the medical industry accept or even understand this recipe??? Yet, the result is there…this man came back “seeing”! This is an act of the Spirit. And for the mind, this is pure foolishness!

2nd illustration: Would you call this a military strategy?
Now the whole record of the battle of Jericho under the leadership of Joshua is a bit long (Joshua 6:1-27) for this blog. But essentially, God instructs Joshua and his military officers to march around the city of Jericho for six days. And on the seventh day, they were supposed to march around the city seven times, blow the trumpet, and shout. The expected outcome? The wall of Jericho – a fortified city – was supposed to fall down flat! Well, Joshua and his men did it, and the wall did fall flat!

Joshua 6:20 – …the people shouted with a great shout and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight ahead, and they took the city.

Sould and Spirit_3How do you like this for a military strategy!? What is sure is that you will not be getting any stars for devising such a strategy for battle…it is pure foolishness! Check the secular literature on this account, and you will see how scientists and military strategists of all sorts are puzzled by it. And most of them simply cannot accept that it actually took place! Looks like 1 Corinthians 2:14 is verified once again, these acts are foolish for war!
But these are acts of the Spirit, because these men acted on the directives of God. There are many more examples. How about the partying of the sea with Moses, Jesus walking on water, people being healed from Paul’s handkerchief, or Jesus feeding thousands of people starting with five fish and a piece of bread? And these are just a few!

What can we get from this?
It is futile for the tiger to think that he can accomplish with its physical strength what can only be accomplished with the mind. Likewise, it truly is futile for us to think that we can accomplish with the mind those things that can only be accomplished through the Spirit. These illustrations show also just how much we are missing when we do not operate by the spirit: We cannot understand the things of God, and we certainly cannot perform the things of the spirit. We need the spirit of God to accomplish the tasks God has given us. We need the spirit of God and we should dictate our own mind to subject itself to the immensely superior power of it! It is only then that we will see the acts of the spirit. A mind that is subject to the spirit is a mind that acts upon the directives of the spirit instead of its own directives. We will look very foolish at times to outsiders (Jesus certainly did when he spat on the ground), but at the end, we know who will get the last laugh! Praise the Father and His Son Jesus-Christ. I will rather be foolish in the eyes of the world than in the eyes of my Lord!

Two reasons you should come to Him just “as you are”, not matter “how good or bad you think you are” (Part 2 of 2)

img-thingReason 2: We cannot change what we are by nature…it’s what we are! Click here for the first reason.

Romans 3: 21-24 – But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all those who believe. For there is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. [21st century King James Version]

Romans 5: 11-19 – And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. 12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned…18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. [KJV]

We saw previously that the first reason why we should come to Jesus-Christ just like we are is because, where it matters, we are actually all the same, sinners! Now, here are some questions. Can a snail change itself into a tiger? Can a man change himself into a butterfly? Of course not! Why? Because this is what they are. They cannot change their nature. No matter how the snail may wish to be a tiger or the man a butterfly, it just won’t happen, because they do not have the power to do so. It is the same for all of us. As long as we have not accepted Jesus-Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are sinners, whether we like it or not, and no matter how hard we may try to change it. It is our nature and we have all come short! To be acceptable to God, we need to change “our very nature”, which is something no one, but Christ, can do for us.

It is important to recognize that it’s our inherent sinful nature that Jesus-Christ completely changes (making us acceptable to God). It is not our character (although accepting Him will now make that kind of change worthwhile)! All is required of us first is to accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, that is the starting point. We recognize our sinful nature and recognize that Him and only Him can do something about it. It isfrom that point that any effort we make to live an honorable life starts to count.

Come as you are! It is His business to change you!

Two reasons you should come to Him just “as you are”, not matter “how good or bad you think you are” (Part 1 of 2)

img-thingReason 1: Despite what we may think, we are actually all the same in God’s eyes! There really is NO difference between us.

Romans 3: 21-24 – But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all those who believe. For there is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. [21st century King James Version]

Romans 5: 11-19 – And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. 12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned…18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. [KJV]

These passages give us God’s perspective on who we are, before we have accepted Christ: There is NO difference between us. That is because we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. Now, one may ask, “how can this be, since clearly some people are more evil than others?” “How can there be no difference between us?” Looking at Romans 5 give us the answer. Verse 18 states that condemnation came upon all men because of the offence of one. The one in question is Adam, the first man. One man’s sin made us all sinners! It is not the sin you and I committed yesterday that made us sinners…we were born sinners because of Adam.

No matter how good we think we are, and no matter how evil we may believe we are, we are “by nature” sinner, all of us! And therefore, since it is by one man that we became this way, it is also by one man that we are changed, freed from sin, or in the other words “made righteous”. That man is Jesus-Christ who obeyed God, even to the point of accepting to lay down His life. We discuss the second reason in the next article.

Come as you are! You are not any worse or any better than anyone else!

God’s recipe for handling anxiety (Part 3 of 3)

anxietyPhilippians 4: 6, 7 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. [New International Version]

It is time to say “No” to anxiety. God provided a step by step recipe to eliminate  – not just manage – anxiety. Today, let’s resolve to adopt this recipe for the rest of our life.

When to do it? All the time

We saw earlier how we should pray. Now we want to know when, and why? Verse 6 says, “do not anxious about anything, but in every situation…” God is saying that there is no special case of anxiety where His recipe will not work. He is saying that whenever, and wherever anxiety kicks in, we should immediately enact these steps. We should deliberately decide “not to be anxious”. Then using that time we are no longer wasting being anxious, we should present our requests, lifting prayers and petitions with thanksgiving. We should do it all the time!

So why does it work?

At first, the reason God gives us for following His recipe may be surprising (verse 7). Why does He not start in verse 7 by saying “And you will receive what you are asking for”? This seems like it should have been the logical ending. However, upon closer inspection, we shall see how God is truly in the business of fixing problems permanently!

God says that doing what He instructs us to do causes us to be filled with His peace! In addition, He tells us that His peace, which not even the best of the brightest of human minds can comprehend, comes with the specific objective of keeping our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Reading carefully these two verses, it becomes clear that the first problem here is actually not  the stressful situation in which we are, but the anxiety that the situation has just caused. It is anxiety which is the biggest barrier to our solution, not the problem itself. That is why it is so destructive! So anxiety must be dealt with first.

Anxiety is in essence the absence of peace, just like darkness is the absence of light! And that is precisely what God gives us first! What we need is true peace, which only God can provide.

Going back to the mom-child example. Mom’s love and know-how will bring peace to the child even before the problem has been solved! And in many instances, the child will come to realize that the problem was not that big at all to begin with!
With the peace of God now in place, our hearts and minds are fiercely protected, and focused on Christ Jesus. With our hearts and mind secure from the attacks of the devil, the very situation – which caused us to be anxious in the first place – may still be present, but now will appear much smaller, its true size! And with that peace, we are now ready to wait patiently for the solution to fully materialize, knowing with absolute certainty that God will indeed bring the solution to pass.

God’s recipe is guaranteed to work, because of His Love and Power, all the time, and in every situation! Let’s learn to apply this recipe in our lives.

God’s recipe for handling anxiety (Part 2 of 3)

anxietyPhilippians 4: 6, 7 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. [New International Version]

This recipe is guaranteed to work, all the time! There is no special case!

How to do it? Pray with Thanksgiving

In the previous article we saw what we should do first. Here, we see how. We present our requests by prayer and petition, and verse 6 adds with thanksgiving. Our prayers to God, in which we present our requests, should be prayers of thankfulness! For example, we should say “God I thank you because I know that you have already resolved my situation”. Here are two examples of how NOT to pray “Oh God please help me just this once, please I am desperate…” or “God, if you do this for me this time, I will…”

One reason we thank God is because He has already received and accepted our requests even before we knew we would have it. The reality is, the focus of our prayer should not just be about informing God about our challenges, because He knows them already ! Even more important, our focus should be about thanking Him, believing that He already has the desire and ability to resolve our challenges. Our prayer of thanks demonstrates our knowledge and conviction of this magnificent reality – that He already knows and wants to solve our problems!

Thanking God in our prayers in the midst of a challenge helps us set our sight on the end of result, the deliverance, rather than on the challenge itself. How wonderful!

However, there is more to God’s recipe. God also tells us WHEN we should do all this, and probably more important, He tells us WHY this recipe actually work, all the time! We discuss this in the next article.

God’s recipe for handling anxiety (Part 1 of 3)

anxietyPhilippians 4: 6, 7 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. [New International Version]

This recipe is guaranteed to work, all the time! There is no special case!

If you have ever experienced anxiety, then you know how wickedly destructive it is, pure and simple! But in two short verses, God has given us a detailed step-by-step guide to eliminate – not just manage – anxiety. In Philippians 4: 6, 7, He tells us at least four things: what we should do? How we should do it? When we should do it? And why we should do it? This and the next two short articles dig into God’s magnificent recipe to completely eliminate anxiety in our lives!

What to do? Stop being anxious, and then present your requests

There are two things we ought to do: We should stop being anxious and then, during that free time we now have, present our request to Him. It seems counter-intuitive that the first step toward eliminating anxiety is to stop being anxious! However, this reveals to us God’s perspective on anxiety: Anxiety is actually something “wecan stop! Then God tells us what to replace anxiety with: we should get busy presenting our request to Him. Think about it; parents actually apply this very principle every day. A child may come to his mother crying uncontrollably. Unfortunately, unless the child calms down first, he will not be able to tell clearly to his mother what is wrong. The child should calm down first, at least for the time necessary to tell what the matter is. Then, after telling his story, he will rely on his mom’s love and expert know-how to calm him down permanently regarding the matter at hand.

It is the same with God. He want us to calm down first! Then He wants us to present our requests to Him. His love and expert know-how will thereafter soon become evident and completely eliminate our anxiety.

But HOW do we present our requests to Him? As we discuss in the next article, knowing how  to present our requests is just as, if not more important than just presenting them. Knowing HOW is a key ingredient in God’s recipe for handling anxiety.