“I Will Save You” — How God Fights Our Battles for Us and Delivers Us from Fear

What does your heart feel like? If it’s hurried and anxious, as mine often is, then you’re not alone. Our world pushes us to hurry, to perform, to keep up appearances. It’s exhausting. But scripture has encouragement for us.

“Strengthen the weak hands and make the staggering knees firm. Say to those who are hasty of heart, ‘Be strong; you must not fear! Look! your God will come with vengeance, with divine retribution. He is the one who will come and save you.’” (Is. 35:3-4, LEB)

Many translations begin verse four with the phrase “fearful heart” but “hasty” is closer to the Hebrew. Mahar (H4116) means “to be hurried, be anxious … hasty, precipitate, impetuous” (Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon). And doesn’t that describe the state that so many of our hearts are in? We’re constantly pressured to hit deadlines, be somewhere, meet somebody, manage time, and forget nothing. It’s no wonder anxiety disorders affect 18.1% of the U.S. population every year and our stress levels are significantly higher than the global average.

In the midst of all that, faith offers us an oasis of calm. God gives us a new perspective on reality that brings joy, hope, and peace to our hearts. There are times, though, when we’ll still feel hurried, attacked, and afraid. When that happens, there is a specific promise we can turn to. Read more

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We Rejoice In Hope

Last week, we talked about learning to rejoice always because we know our God holds us (and everything else) in His hands. Shifting our focus to Him gives us the perspective we need to have true, lasting joy. It also gives us something else.

I quoted a definition of joy in last week’s post (titled “The Joy of the Lord”) that stated it is “acquired by the anticipation, acquisition or even the expectation of something great or wonderful.” We could further simplify this definition by saying joy is a result of hope.

Hope in the Bible isn’t just a vague sense of wanting something with no guarantee it will happen, the way we often use it today when we say things like “I hope I win the lottery” or “I hope this new superhero movie is good.” Rather, it’s about an expectation that you can count on being fulfilled. It’s intimately connected to salvation (Rom. 8:24; 1 Thes. 5:8), provides comfort in sorrow (1 Thes. 4:13), and is used as a title for God (Jer. 17:13; Rom. 15:13). And it’s essential to joy.

Hope, Suffering, and Joy

Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; through whom we also have our access by faith into this grace in which we stand. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Rom. 5:1-2, WEB)

“We rejoice in hope,” partly because, as Paul says later in this letter “we were saved in hope” (Rom. 8:24). Our hope and rejoicing are connected with faith and grace, as well as the glory of God. Though we don’t yet see the end result of our salvation, we hope for it and we have joy in that expectation. But that’s not all we rejoice in. Read more

The Joy Of The Lord

I think most of us have learned there are multiple words for love in the Greek language. With seven words devoted to this concept, we assume it must be important. But did you know something similar is going on with the word “joy”?

In the New Testament the primary Greek word for joy is chara or its root chario. The Greek parts of the Bible also use agalliao, euphrosure, and (more rarely) skirtao and apolausis. Hebrew has even more words for joy. The primary one is samach and its close relatives simcha and sameach. Other words for joy include chadah, sus, alats, giyl, and alaz. The words for “shout” like ranan and rua also carry a joyful meaning in certain contexts. That adds up to more than a dozen words in the Bible to describe joy!

Clearly, joy is an important concept for Biblical writers and for the cultures they lived in. This type of joy isn’t just a happy feeling, though. It’s a state of being that we can have as a result of being in relationship with God. As a fruit of the spirit, joy is present in all spirit-led Christians. This joy can be bubbly, enthusiastic, and happy (and often is), but it can also be a quiet, enduring outlook that flourishes inside us even when we don’t feel outwardly merry.

Joy Is More Than Happiness

To those in less than pleasant circumstances, commands to rejoice (like Deut. 26:11: 1 Thes 5:16) often feel insensitive. “If you knew what I was going through,” we might say, “you wouldn’t tell me to feel happy.” Nevertheless, joy is something God expects and commands from His people.

It’s a similar situation as what happens with love. God is love, and He commands us to love others even when it doesn’t make sense from a human perspective. Biblical love is also something more than our modern concept of warm feelings toward someone. It’s much deeper. In much the same way, joy goes deeper than feelings of happiness. Read more

Letting Our Messiness Out So We Can Heal

They say confession is good for the soul. Usually when I think of confession, though, I picture a scene from a crime drama. I’ve never really studied the idea in its Christian context until writing this post.

Recently during a small group meeting, a friend made the statement that holding in our mess can prevent healing. I quickly scribbled it down in my notes since that’s an idea I’ve been championing since I started talking more openly about my anxiety. To give you some context for this comment, we’d just read this verse:

Confess your offenses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective. (James 5:16, WEB)

Given James’ word choices here, we can say for certain that he’s telling us there’s a connection between healing and openly acknowledging the ways we slip into error. The Greek words are specifically about confessing faults, offences, and trespasses. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch, though, to extend this principle to other struggles as well including those that are not, strictly speaking, sinful.

To share a personal example, trying to hide my mental health struggles only made them worse. I felt shame and guilt around my anxiety and depression. I worried that others would find out about them, which just increased my levels of anxiety. I didn’t start to find healing until I opened up about my struggles to friends, family, a counselor, and even publicly here on this blog.

Bringing Dark Things To Light

God has a habit of shining light into dark places. Jesus even went so far as to say “nothing is hidden that will not be revealed; nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light” (Luke 8:17, WEB). While God works in ways that are mysterious and sometimes hidden from us, there is no darkness in Him. He is all light and those who love Him want to walk in that light. Read more

Watch

Several times when speaking of future events, Jesus told His disciples to “watch.” Most people I hear talk about this focus on us watching for His return. Typically, they try to match-up prophecy with events going on today and figure out how close we are to the end times. But that’s only one aspect of watching. There are three:

  1. Watching for Christ’s return
  2. Watching yourself
  3. Watching for wolves in the flock

Each aspect of watching is vital for us as followers of Jesus Christ. We need all three and we need to balance them. If we only focus on watching for Christ’s return, we can get so caught up in the future that we neglect what God wants us to do in the present. If we only watch ourselves, we can miss important things going in on the world and the church. And if we only watch for people who may cause problems, we can become suspicious, judgmental, and self-righteous.

Watch, Keep Alert, Pray

When Jesus’ disciples asked about the end times, the first thing He said was, “Be careful that no one leads you astray” (Mark 13:5, WEB). This is one of the main reasons we need to watch ourselves and the situation around us. The closer we get to Christ’s second coming, the harder it gets to stay on-track for His kingdom.

“Watch yourselves,” Christ says, and don’t be afraid of the challenges coming to try and shake your faith. Watch for the things He has warned us of before hand so you’re not deceived by “false Christs and false prophets.” Watch, because you are like servants waiting up for their master’s arrival (Mark 13:9-13, 21-23, 34-37).

But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Watch, keep alert, and pray; for you don’t know when the time is. (Mark. 13:32-33, WEB)

When we look at all the instructions to watch recorded in Mark 13, it reveals how all three watchings we talked about are tied together. You can’t do one without the others, at least not effectively. This passage also reinforces how vital watching is for followers of Christ as we draw ever closer to His return. Read more

How To Find Peace With What God Expects: Learning From Moses’ Five Questions

Have you ever heard someone say that if you’re doing what God wants you to do you’ll know because you’ll have peace with it? This is one of those Christian-ish sayings that sounds good at first, but doesn’t always hold up to more rigorous scrutiny.

Take Moses for example. When God called him to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt Moses did not feel peace with this mission. In fact, he tried to talk God out of picking him five times in this conversation. I find it interesting that God wasn’t angry with the fact that Moses didn’t have a peace with his calling at first. The Lord only got angry when Moses begged Him to send someone else.

God doesn’t need us to feel like we can handle what He asks us to do (He’ll help us out with that). He just needs us to be willing to trust where He’s leading and walk forward with Him. That’s part of what His responses to Moses’ five questions can teach us.

First Question

Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Ex. 3:11, WEB)

It’s a reasonable question, one we would expect from the man later described as “very humble, more than all the men who were on the surface of the earth” (Num. 12:3, WEB). In fact, if Moses was the sort of person who thought he was perfectly qualified and able to do this God probably wouldn’t have chosen Him. Our Lord has a practice of choosing “the lowly things of the world … that no flesh should glory before God” (1 Cor. 1:28, 29, WEB).

He said, “Certainly I will be with you. This will be the token to you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” (Ex. 3:12, WEB)

God’s answer to the human question, “Who am I?” is “I will be with you.” It’s not about who we are when we’re called to do something for God. It’s about who He is and His power to work in and through humble, teachable people. Read more