A three minute thought

The post below goes with the video and gives a bit more explanation, and help to pray at the end

Three-minute thought by Ian Greig

Anxiety is real enough

A recent UK Ipsos-Mori survey found that almost two-thirds of those surveyed were fearful about the epidemic, and if restrictions were lifted, would be too anxious to go out and socialise. About a third would dread going t o work on public transport, or shopping.

Young people, who are less at risk, actually reported having the greatest anxiety in the survey.

This anxiety is real enough but I think it is fuelled by the media which report exceptions, like young fit people who develop severe symptoms, because unusual instances are more newsworthy than people who are making a good recovery.

Risk and failure is also exaggerated by the media needing to find stories at a time when the news is quite predictable and slow-paced.

So with lockdown and distancing and infection control set to continue indefinitely, there’s plenty out there to fuel my anxiety.

What is God saying about it?

What He is saying to us now will come out what He has always said (His Word). The ‘now’ word is more specific and we often hear it where a particular word seems to buzz for us at this time.

It is said that there are 365 instances of “fear not” in the Bible! That’s one for every day of the year, but only if you need to ration them out.

But how, in practice, DO I “fear not” when my mental state is very anxious-feeling?

That highlights an essential difference we commonly get confused between the religion and the relationship. Christianity the institutional religion is not the same as the personal relationship with God which comes through a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, accepting Him as Saviour from the penalty of sin and Lord of life’s direction. Of course there is overlap but there’s also a real tension because the values are rather different and even opposed at times..

Formal religion teaches “you shall”, “you ought not” and “you must not.”

The religious way of thinking teaches that favour with God is achieved by merit through observance and good deeds. It emphasises the relative importance of different people and activities – so there is a hierarchy of clergy, often called priests, whose religious activities are seen as especially important, and what we do in the direction of ‘church activity’ is perceived to trump our mission and witness to the wider world. Following the resurrection, there was no need for any further sacrifice, the old order of priesthood was abolished and every believer in Jesus comes to share the priesthood of representing God to man – witness and evangelism – and representing man to God – shepherding and intercession. As we have our own relationship with God, the remedy for our anxiety is found in that relationship, not through another person standing between us and God.

And just as Jesus was criticised for looking beyond those who belonged to the covenant of the Nation of Israel, by loving, healing and delivering all comers, and by His willing exposure to the grimy and poverty-stricken world He was born into, we invite criticism by following Jesus. For Him there was no ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’ but the kingdom of God in all and over all. His way, His presence and above all His peace is not restricted to a church service! The present crisis is bringing that home to us as never before, and it is a good lesson God is bringing out of a bad situation.

The relationship with God as a Father that comes through spiritual rebirth in acknowledging Jesus Christ as God who took human form, has a different tone. It is new life and new understanding, in an encouraging and enabling partnership around the phrase: “You can”. The Holy Spirit is central in this understanding of ‘You can” and it leaves “You ought” looking distinctly unhelpful. The “you ought” way of thinking does not help our anxiety – it increases it.

We view the word of God brought in earlier times through a different lens and with more light than was available then.

You might remember that the Holy Spirit was poured out on a crowd around this time of year (May) and every single one of them was moved to change their lives around and receive Jesus as their Lord. Three thousand of them (just counting the men) went into the water to wash off and bury the old life and come out into the new. But it wasn’t just a nice symbolic thing to do. They received an endowment of the Holy Spirit that empowered them to know that Jesus is resurrected and real, and to live differently by knowing Him.

That is a key understanding. And with that understanding, the verse that follows is a promise we can hold on to.

The Good News

You (God) will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You.
Isaiah 26:3 NLT

Let’s put with that a verse from one of John’s letters where he explains what receiving God’s love does for our assurance:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love DRIVES OUT fear, because fear has to do with punishment…
1 John 4:18 NIV

The deep-down root of all our fear and anxiety, is the fear of judgment – and God’s final judgment would be something to be VERY fearful about.

Except that, when we turn to Jesus and ask Him into our heart, we receive His love and acceptance and forgiveness. The condemnation we were carrying inherited from Adam and built on by us, is lifted off. We are loved by God!

With no legal right to oppress us any more, there’s not a lot the enemy can do about our new status, except shout threats at us. But they are empty threats now, for those whose thoughts are fixed on the Lord.

This is how it works.

That battle goes on in our thoughts. Not all thoughts come from us! We can choose what we think about, and what we believe, when the devil attacks us (as he did Jesus) with not-quite-true thoughts which are actually subtle lies.

So you can listen to the news reports and perhaps it’s about a young, fit person who has become very poorly. It’s remarkable — because it is not usual. “It could be me,” says the anxious thought.

That is not completely untrue — but it is not completely true, either.

And this is where you have a choice-to entertain the nagging fear, and let it grow. Or to tell that fear to go back where it came from, and make an intentional, believing choice to trust God, who is faithful, and receive His peace and love air ash so there isn’t room for the fear.

It’s a battle – but a winnable one. It’s a choice, conscious at first but then it becomes more of a familiar routine.

PEACE is like this:

P = POSITION yourself to know where the thoughts come from

E = EXERCISE faith. That is believing God actively, by putting it into practice.

A = ADMIT to your Father that you can’t do this alone. You need His help! He knows that, but it is good to take that step of dependence.

C = CHOOSE who you believe and who you disbelieve — a quality decision, not a ‘flip-flop’ one. Christ is who you choose. He is the Living Word and will point you to the written word which is your way to silence the devil and his nagging thoughts and fears

E = ENGAGE with the fear thought. Ask the Holy Spirit of Jesus to help you. Then In the authority of Jesus who is Lord, silence that fear thought and put it out. Invite the Holy Spirit to fill you with His security and peace – and with praise!

Prayer

(You don’t say the letters, they are just for reference!)

P for position
There is no fear in love. But perfect love DRIVES OUT FEAR because fear has to do with punishment… but I am troubled by a nagging, critical voice threatening me.


E for exercise faith
I put my trust in You once again. Thank You for Jesus. Thank You for saving me. Thank You that I am not just a struggling sinner, but someone You have chosen, died for and wants very much.


A for admit
I need Your help. I can’t handle this on my own.


C for choose who you believe
You are the One I have trusted with My life and I trust You now.


E for engage
Jesus, You are Lord of my life and in Your name and authority I say to that fear of (name it) “Be silent and obey Jesus.”
Holy Spirit of God, fill me again, let me be full of a sense of Your love and peace – and joy! You are great, You are good and Yours is the glory. Amen.

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