Lenten Reflection 4/6

To listen to the audio recordings of these reflections, please go to http://www.stjohnsnewhaven.org/lenten-resources/ 

Seek God, and You Will Be Free from Worry

Hello, Michael Racine here.

You probably know me as the band and choir director at St. John’s, and I work full-time with undergraduates at Yale as a part of Christian Union—a ministry that seeks to develop and connect transformative Christian leaders at the nation’s most influential universities and in key cities, with the ultimate aim, of course, that those we mentor would be filled with the Holy Spirit and bring God’s wisdom, His power, and His self-giving love to bear on their spheres of influence, and that the Kingdom of God would advance in this nation and the world.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to write a devotional for Christian Union’s online ministry, Day and Night, as part of a 40-day initiative of prayer, fasting, and repentance in response to the current crisis, and I think this is a timely word for St. John’s. So I’m going to read what I wrote there. This was published on March 24th at DayandNight.org, and I
share it with permission. It begins with Scripture (Jesus speaking):

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious
about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. —Matthew 6:25–34, ESV

If you have been part of the church for any length of time, you have likely heard that various forms of “Don’t be afraid” constitute the most frequently repeated imperative in Scripture. Yet many, indeed most, confessing Christians seem to live in continual disobedience to this commandment. Can we hear Jesus’ pointed question: Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? (Luke 6:46) and take correction?

Christian, I pray you take to heart this one, simple truth: when you gave your life to Jesus, you surrendered your right to worry. In fact, worrying is the fruit of distrust in the One who said: Your heavenly Father knows what you need, and all these things will be added to you as you seek His kingom. We must not take this lightly. The mother of all sins is the failure to trust God’s goodness and the truth of His word. Genesis 3 makes this plain, from the serpent’s “Did God really say…?” to his outright negation (“You will not surely die”), all the while insinuating that God is witholding the good we should rightfully have and using false threats to keep us from it. The Lord rebuke the devil and his lies! The righteous by his trust lives (Hab. 2:4c, direct translation). Trust in the Father’s goodness and in His word, manifest in Jesus, is both the means by which we enter into life and the ongoing basis of right living; that is, our justification and sanctification are both predicated on trusting our Father and our King. “I believe, Lord; help my unbelief!” you say. There is really only one thing needed: that we fix our attention on Jesus. So long as we see his extravagant love for us—the forgiveness, the cleansing, the healing he never refused any who sought him, and ultimately the restoration he purchased for us with his own blood on the cross—can we doubt his goodness? And will the good Lord, who told us not to worry but to expect provision from the Father, fail to do as he has promised? This is unthinkable, so long as we see Jesus for who he is.

We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). Focus on the One who has loved you from before the foundation of the world (cf. Eph. 1:4ff), and loves you now as ever—He does not change (Mal. 3:6)—and your love and trust will issue as the response, without your having to bite your lip and will yourself into believing and loving Him. As Isaiah
said: You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you (Isa. 26:3). “Staying” your mind on Jesus and trusting him go hand in glove. And as Jesus said: If you love me, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15)—again, we find a principle, not an order. Obedience flows naturally from love and trust. (Jesus had just said that those who trust in him will do as he did [v. 12]). And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth. He will never leave us to fend for ourselves.

Holy Spirit, recall to, and fix in, our minds the sheer goodness of God our Father and of our Lord Jesus, anointed and exalted as King forever. Lord, consume our anxieties with the fire of your love, and graciously convict us of the absurdity of doubting your
commitment to honoring your Word. Though we inherited a doubting, sinful nature from Adam, we claim a new inheritance of freedom and life in Jesus, confessing that our old self was crucified with him, in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin (Rom. 6:6). Thank you, Lord! We will walk in resurrection life and power as your sons and daughters in the new covenant, and we will bear witness that you fulfill our every need according to your riches in glory in Christ Jesus. You are so truly good! Blessed be your Name forever! Amen.

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