Be careful for nothing

Christians can have ongoing problems in their lives, not because of some deep issue that needs a lot of counselling, but because they neglect to put into practice the most basic teachings of the word of God. They actually neglect to live by the word of God. Like James says, people can be hearers of the word without being doers of the word! And he directly warns against this. And as time goes on, it becomes harder for such neglectful Christians to realise that they’re not living by the word of God. That kind of living is natural to them and they think that it is also natural Christian living! So it is very good to learn to live by the word of God as a young Christian.

And the basic teaching of the word of God that I want to look at here is to do with our attitude towards things and our reaction to circumstances, or, in other words, how to deal with the temptation to worry. And I would like to start with some verses that came to me with a fresh challenge not so long ago, in 1 Timothy 6:6-8, which says,

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing let us be with these things content.”

These verses are quite something! They are clear and simple, and the challenge of the message reaches to the very depth and motivation of our hearts. It wants to change our thinking in a most fundamental way. These verses are nothing short of revolutionary! To live by these truths goes against everything that is natural to man and takes us into a different realm altogether. These verses cannot be hurried over. We need to take time before God to absorb these truths and feed on them until they affect our attitude towards things in our daily living, until they become a part of our mindset. As the apostle Paul says, I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13). So, being able to do all things through Christ includes suffering need at times!

Paul is telling us that the great gain in life, or the great aim in life, is to lead a godly life and being content with what you have. In the verses above Paul makes it clear that we should be grateful and content if we have the basic necessities of life. This idea is repeated in Hebrews 13:5, where the writer says, “Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with such things as you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” Jesus said that out of the abundance of our hearts our mouths speak! So if there is covetousness in our hearts, it eventually comes out of our mouths! Covetousness is a desire or longing for certain things that we can’t have at present or that we don’t need, and the lack of these things causes a measure frustration, disappointment, envy and a lack of contentment. I would say, that to want a particular thing is not necessarily wrong, depending on what it is and what the circumstances are. Things we feel we need we can certainly pray about and commit to God who knows all our needs. What is wrong is if not having this particular thing causes a lack of contentment, or envy, or the slightest sign of sadness or disappointment. If we get into this state then we have lost the proper perspective on things – we have become covetous. One of the ten Commandments itself tells us that we shouldn’t covet what our neighbour has, we shouldn’t be envious of what other people have! This is basic godly living.

But the verses above do not represent religious rules which we must follow. It is not so much a matter of developing a mental attitude. All this has to do with relationship; it has to do with our relationship to God, who is our father! That is why the exhortation that we should be content with such things as we have is linked to God’s promise that he will never leave us nor forsake us! He has promised to look after us, and if we get discontented, then basically we are questioning God’s goodness and God’s provision for us. You could say, it is a kind of slur on his character. It is an indication that the priorities of our heart have become wrong, and that our faith in him and our love for

him have been pushed aside by our unchecked desire for something. In other words, our relationship with God is not right. Something has got in the way. It is as simple as that. 

Godliness with contentment is great gain. In other words, what should be filling our hearts at all times is our love for God and out gratefulness to him for all that he has done and is doing in our lives; our sights should be on Him, on His will, on His glory and on pleasing him in all things – and surely this must include a grateful and thankful heart.

And what can rob us of this great gain? It is covetousness! That’s why Jesus says in Luke 12:15, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for a man’s life consists not in the abundance of things which he possesses.” Jesus knows very well the sorts of things that can tempt us, and here he gives a very clear warning about what is the right perspective for us to have. Christ doesn’t want us to lose out in eternity because of us chasing some earthly gain! He underlines this in Matthew 6:19-21, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth… But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven… For where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” So this is the heart of the matter! It all has to do with where our treasure is (not whether we are following certain rules). Are we in love with the things here on earth, are they the things that captivate and fill our hearts, or is our greatest treasure and our greatest love the Lord Jesus Christ, and God our Father? Does our love and devotion to him fill and overflow our hearts making ‘the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace’, and leaving no room for envy and covetousness? That is what it boils down to. As ever, the apostle John puts the contrast very clearly when he says, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15-17). 

It is such a strange thing that we can get so caught up with what is meant to be just a very temporary steppingstone to an eternal heaven, that we can slip and fall and jeopardise reaching our actual destination!

So again Jesus comes to our aid with words of instruction that direct our thinking in a way that will change our lives and bless us immeasurably! “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, How shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for tomorrow: for tomorrow shall take thought of the things for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (Matthew 6:31-34).

So with regard to the basic necessities of life, this is how we are to think and live according to Jesus Christ. But again, notice how such thinking is the result of our relationship to our father – it is our active and deliberate trust in him that paves the way for us to take no thought for tomorrow. ‘Seek first the Kingdom of God’. God our Father knows, he cares, and he will provide. Over and above all this, he is God, and for no other reason than this we should love and obey him! We should commit ourselves and all that we have to him, as the apostle Peter says, “Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7). That’s why I used the expression of having an ‘active and deliberate trust’ in God, because things can so want to get into our hearts and weigh in upon us, that at times it requires us to cast our care upon him and not let it overwhelm us or deprive us of our peace and joy in him. Again, this is more than a mere mental activity or psychology, it is looking unto God, trusting him with all the heart and committing to him the things that want to trouble us.

This brings us conveniently to another verse that I want to quote, and it is Philippians 4:6-7 , “Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

These verses are not telling us that we must develop some kind of thick skin and never be tempted to worry. They are not telling us to develop an impregnable mental attitude! They are telling us that when we are tempted to worry about something, or when the devil would tempt us to fear, worry or panic, then at that point we should come to God and pray! The thing that wants to worry us we should bring immediately to the Lord in prayer, recognising that he is our God and Father who takes care of us and wants us to cast our cares on him. It’s not that we empty our hearts of worry, but that we so put our trust in God that he fills our hearts with peace that passes understanding!

His promise to us is this, “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3).

These verses represent the ABC of Christian living, but it is sad to see the number of Christians who have never incorporated these verses into their lives in a real, enduring and effective way. Worry, fear and panic are the states that the devil is always trying to lead believers into. Why? Because all of these states represent unbelief. They represent a disconnect in our relationship with God. We are believing something else more than we are believing Him, or we are not believing him at all in some particular matter – and some of us, by nature, are more prone to worry than others! However, if we don’t discipline ourselves in this matter according to the word of God, worry will follow us all the way to the grave, as well as marring our testimony before man and God.

Before I was married and working as a builder, I had the job of building someone’s garage from scratch. Towards the end of the job it seemed to me that I wouldn’t be able to finish the work  because I had under-priced the job in my quotation! I lay in bed at night thinking about this and my thoughts got worse and worse! I imagined I would go bankrupt, that the whole church would find out about it, and that I would be excommunicated from the church and would have to leave Exeter! Panic wanted to grip my heart!

Why am I relating this? It’s because the devil can make these things seem so real to us! I can laugh about it now, but at the time, especially when one is tired, these things come to you with such power and apparent reality that you feel totally justified in letting yourself be lead down this dark path of unbelief until you end up feeling depressed, hopeless, and crushed by the weight of the thoughts! This is the kind of thing that will undermine, if not destroy a person’s spiritual walk before God.

However, by this time I was cottoning on to what the Lord had been speaking to me over some time concerning my proneness to being negative and to worry! And as I lay in bed I said to myself, “Nervous system, you can worry if you want to, but I’m going to go to sleep.” Then I turned over and didn’t care what my mind would say to me, but it was only a matter of moments before I fell into a peaceful sleep! This is a true story! From that day to this, which is over 30 years, worry about things, about anything, has never kept me awake once I put my head on the pillow. Have I felt tempted to worry? Of course! But I have learnt to bring such things to God straightaway, as soon as I notice them; to commit myself, as well as the matter, to God. I don’t go to bed carrying such worries.

When we sold our first house, we moved in with another family while looking for another house to purchase. We found one, but then discovered no building society would give us a mortgage! I came home from the town with quite a weight on my mind and panic wanting to set in! I went straight up to our bedroom and knelt by the bed and cast myself and my care on God, as the thought of it all was too much for my mind even to bear! It was only a minute or two before a deep peace suddenly overwhelmed me, and I knew everything was all right! I didn’t need to know anything more. I knew God was in control. I went downstairs for tea and our host made a suggestion that led to us getting a mortgage without any problem at all! But how wonderful to have a peace that passes understanding while you are still in the situation and before you can see any way out!

Once when I was at home, I realised my mind was unsettled and lacking peace. The issue was not a big one but it was obviously going around in my mind. So I just sat down in the armchair of our sitting

room and just meditated on God and his love for me. I just pondered the truths that the eternal God chose me before the foundation of the world and that he loved me so much that he gave his Son for me on Calvary. Meditating on these things for just a couple of minutes, completely refreshed me and renewed my mind, and peace was restored to my heart – and most importantly of all I was back in fellowship with God. I got up and carried on with my day. I believe it is these so-called ‘small’ acts of obedience and love that change our lives completely, as well as being well pleasing to God!

I have shared these things because I wanted to show how important those verses in Philippians 4 are; how applicable they are to everyday life and to matters great and small. Most Christians are totally familiar with those verses, but the number who live by them are substantially less, and that’s why I strongly recommend that you learn to incorporate them into your lives early on. The verses we just looked at said that in each and every situation we should let our requests be made known unto God. No situation should rob us of our peace and relationship with God. And the other important aspect of this is that our trust in him should express itself with thanksgiving in our prayers.

The Lord spoke to me some time ago through a verse in Romans where it says, “because, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:21). The Lord showed me that I have a choice to make when confronted with issues or difficulties. I can either recognise and confess in my heart that he is God over all, and that he is my God, and glorify him as such, and thank him for all his goodness, care, wisdom and love; or follow my own negative line of thinking which will be exploited by the devil and will only result in my heart being darkened concerning the knowledge of God, and my mind being filled with vain and useless imaginations. Now although this verse applies to the first people that God had created, it also applies to us. Experience proves this beyond a doubt!

Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit comes he will glorify Him. The Holy Spirit doesn’t glorify our difficulties and problems; he doesn’t turn our molehills into mountains and then bury us under this mountain, which then totally obscures the knowledge and vision of God in our hearts! He glorifies Jesus Christ to our hearts and minds. He presents Christ as our Saviour and Shepherd, as our all in all, for every aspect of our lives, whether spiritual or natural.

Being thankful is not a strategy to employ for ‘happy Christian living’. Continued thankfulness in our hearts is a sign of our deep trust in God in all situations. Try being genuinely thankful when you are worrying or when you allow the devil to make the outlook of something look bleak! I suggest it is impossible. Your heart needs to change, to have a right relationship and attitude towards God in order to be genuinely thankful. God told the Israelites that they would become victims of the enemies “because you served not the Lord your God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart for the abundance of all things. Therefore you shall serve your enemies…”.

And so it is if we fail to come to God and commit ourselves to him and to put our trust in him, then we become victims of our own needless worry or even worse.

And at the heart of all this is the question, “what or who is your treasure?” Is our treasure in heaven? Is our treasure Jesus Christ himself? Is our love for him greater than for anything or anyone else? He said we couldn’t be his disciples if it were otherwise. This is the foundation upon which the verses quoted above rest.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing let us be with these things content.”

David Stamen

Copyright  Ⓒ  D. Stamen 2021

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