The Sin We Are Not Afraid To Commit
There are multitudes of sins from which we would flee as we would flee from Satan himself: those more obvious and crude, with which any true believer will have no part. Unfortunately, there are other kinds of sins that seem not quite as recognizable, which are in some ways more destructive and dishonoring to Jesus Christ than some of the so-called sins that are easily recognized.
The sin that we are talking about just now is that sin of fretful anxiety, of untrusting care: the sin that we are not afraid to commit. And we have the mistaken notion that this is not a sin, that it is perhaps a failing of our natures or our dispositions that we are born in such a way that it is to be taken as a matter of our personal makeup and something over which there can be no victory nor deliverance. Yet books have been written by men showing how worrying, fretful care and anxiety can be destructive of health—to say nothing of a personal spiritual witness for Jesus Christ.
If you and I honestly believe that the Bible is correct when it says that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and that we are therefore to glorify God in our bodies, then from that standpoint alone it would seem we ought to be concerned about the effects before the world of unnecessary anxiety and a worrisome spirit which destroys our effective witness for Christ. As you read accounts of those early believers in the book of Acts, one trait stands out in large measure and that is the composure, the dignity, the poise with which those early Christians accepted all of the changing circumstances of life. And this impressed the world—just as much as the fact that they had no part in the Greek stage or the dress of the time. This acceptance of all the varied changing situations of life with the great measure of victory and poise and peace of heart in Christ left its mark upon that pagan world.
In Acts 12 you read that when the ruler saw that it pleased the people that James was put to the sword, he took Peter also and put him in prison. There in the inner ward, chains about his feet and ankles, sleeping between two soldiers—ah, that’s something. Not pacing the floor knowing that his head was to be taken the next morning, not wringing his hands, nor wondering whether all of the saints were pulling all of the possible political strings to work his release, but sleeping between two soldiers!
Similarly we read of those early believers, they went away rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His Name. And when they came back from prison having been beaten for Jesus’ sake and when they reported to the early church, it reads that having made the report and having comforted them, they departed. Those who were beaten, those who had been in prison—they comforted the church! These men took the afflictions and the trials and the imprisonments with a spirit of victory and composure and poise that puts 1964 saints to shame. These men really believed and practiced what you and I believe on paper: that all things do work together for good to those who love God.
Someone says, “Well, you know, it’s natural to worry.” And I will have to agree. But since when was the Christian life ever to be lived on the plane of the natural? Since when were believers supposed to do what comes naturally? Where are these resources which are available to us in Jesus Christ and what are we doing with them? Why aren’t we using them more than we are? There are normal human reactions to the changing experiences of life. But above and beyond that there ought to be what is distinctively Christian reaction. The sad fact is that so often that which the world sees from us is the normal, human, natural reaction to some trial or tragedy and they fail to observe any distinctive Christian reaction that can only be explained by a personal relationship to God through Jesus Christ. The testimony for Him therefore is dishonoring and brings reproach to the Name of Jesus. Have you ever stopped to think that it is a very strange and remarkable statement to say, “I am a Christian”? By so declaring yourself you are saying, “I claim to have at my disposal resources to meet all the emergencies, the eventualities, the changing circumstances of life that the average man doesn’t have.” And we need to remember that this is the way the world interprets that statement.
How about Christian reaction? When financial loss comes there is a natural reaction; there ought to be a Christian reaction. When bereavement comes there is a natural, human reaction; there ought also to be a Christian reaction. When unemployment comes, when you are misunderstood there is a normal, human reaction; there ought to be a Christian reaction. Which, mark you, will be noted to the world and will leave more of a mark than some abstinence from “worldly things.” Do not misunderstand, but there can be sometimes a wrong emphasis that abstinence in certain areas of pleasures and worldliness somehow makes us an elegant Christian testimony. On the other hand, we blow up under the pressures of life and the world snaps us up and says, “I thought you were a Christian, I thought you had resources.”
The book of Proverbs says that “if thou faint in the day of adversity thy strength is small.” What a verse! Who can’t be a Christian when family health is good, and the paychecks are coming in; when you have a job to go to in the morning and a bed to sleep in at night and a good meal today? It counts when the roof caves in and times get rough. That’s when you’re under the spotlight of the world. That’s when they have their eyes on you to detect if there is anything then that helps you that they don’t have. Remember, this is destructive of Christian testimony.
What do people worry about? Just about everything. Family, friends, finances, world conditions, cancer, outer space. We’re getting a continuing lengthening catalog of items about which there can be anxious care in this kind of world we live in. We worry about our children, bringing them up. We worry about getting them through college without losing their faith; worry about whether they will meet the right girl or boy and marry properly; worry about their careers and jobs. And then the grandchildren come and we start the process all over again. Did you ever notice that the Lord Jesus said that this is a matter that would involve expenditure of energy and effort and concentration? He never gave the impression that somehow automatically by being a Christian you drift in to rest of heart and peace of mind. He said, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” And He spoke in a great prophetic sermon about the tremendous and tragic times that would come upon the earth and said that when these things come to pass, see that you are not troubled. The implication is that life is so built and the world is so made that automatically we have troubled hearts. Jesus said, see to it that you are not troubled. This is not something that comes about automatically.
Let us look in Scripture and see some of the antidotes Christ gives to us to help us in this matter of anxious care. First of all, I suggest to you the sovereignty of our Lord. He is the Lord of history. He sets up kingdoms and drags down others. God rules in the affairs of men. Never lose sight of the sovereignty of God in a troubled world like this. Then the Bible speaks of the furtherance of the Gospel in our lives. In Philippians 1:12 Paul says, “The things that happened unto me have turned out unto the furtherance of the Gospel.” They happened, it seems, by what the world calls luck. But Paul said they were all designed for the furtherance of the Gospel. What God has in mind for your life is not primarily that you be happy—but that the Gospel be furthered through you.
There are six statements in Matthew 6 which the Lord Jesus made here about this business of anxiety and care that are worthy of our attention. First, in verse 25, “Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, or what ye shall put on.” Then: “Is not life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” There is an argument from the greater to the lesser. Can you give life? No! God, an omnipotent Creator has given life; this is His prerogative, His function, and this He alone can do. And if God has given you life and keeps you living, do you think He cannot give you food and meat to sustain life? If He has given the greater do you not believe that He can give the lesser? And don’t you think this Creator who made these marvelous organism can provide clothes to hang on that body?
Secondly, some no doubt will say, “It’s all well and good that God has done the greater and can do the lesser—but will He? Is He interested in individual needs?” So Jesus turns the argument around in the next verse and argues from the lesser to the greater: “Behold the fowls of the air for they sow not neither do they reap nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are you not much better than they?” There’s a wonderful warm touch in this verse: your heavenly Father feeds the birds; and He paid the blood of the everlasting covenant to redeem your soul.
The third statement in verse 27 regards the length of days (or stature) and He says, “which of you by being anxious can add?” The answer is nobody. If the question had been reworded, “Which of you…can subtract?” the answer is everybody—subtract even from stature as sometimes even the body bends beneath the weight of care and anxiety. And certainly this subtracts from a man’s age.
Then in verse 32, the fourth statement: “After all these things do the Gentiles seek.” Here the word “Gentile” is the same as we mean by “heathen.” After all these things do the heathen seek. It is heathenish to worry, as if a heathen with no knowledge of this great divine family composed of all who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ.
His fifth reply in verse 33 is to put first things first: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” Maybe the reason some of us lose sleep at night is because down in our hearts we have this guilty realization that we have not been seeking first the kingdom of God. And somehow, because we have not been doing that our business is falling flat. Jesus said, Put God’s business first and watch how He will take care of your business. Do what is right and leave the consequences to God. Seek first the kingdom of God.
Lastly, verse 34: “Be not anxious for the morrow for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Not excessive—sufficient! The evil here is the evil of burdens and cares of life. And He says you’ll have just enough of it each day that it will be sufficient, never excessive. How foolish it is to add tomorrow’s cares and the next day’s and the next week’s. A modern writer put it: “Learn to live in day-tight compartments.”
In Philippians 4:6 you have a lesson of thankful praying. “In nothing be anxious, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God”…and the requests will be granted? No. Rather, “and the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” whether the answer is “yes” or “no” or “wait.” The promise is the peace of God regardless of what the answer to those requests might be.
Read the first two chapters of Job and note what God says there. Bragging on Job and Satan accepting the challenge; God putting a hedge about Job. And God measured out in a controlled way the sufferings of Job so he was not permitted to receive above what he was able to bear. That’s the kind of care that God has over us. I can’t believe that God is less interested in us than He was in Job. In nothing be anxious. Let us have a Christian reaction to life and a testimony to that end.