For those not on social media and connected either with Kathy or any of our three sons, Carl, our youngest (and Thursday’s blog writer), was in a serious motorcycle accident a little over a week ago. A large pickup truck tried to turn left onto the highway and Carl hit it going highway speed. Our concern was for both his immediate safety and longterm health. Add this to two sons unofficially assisting police in breaking up a local theft ring, a son tackling a shoplifter attempting to flee a store and interrupting a gang initiation beating, broken bones, ER trips, ICU stints for health issues, and that’s not to mention innumerable “close calls,” “near misses,” “close shaves,” and “narrow escapes.” Of course, it’s not just health. What about their relationships? What about their jobs, careers, and financial futures? What about the country they are inheriting or the children God may bless them with? Most of all, what about their spiritual condition, their faith, and their relationship with Christ? With each new phase of life, we are left to numerous consider “what ifs.” For future empty-nesters, that does not decline or disappear when they leave home. If anything, it mounts. So, how does a Christian not worry about their children?
Philippians 4:6. Paul urges us to “be anxious for nothing.” That word for anxious depicts apprehension, being unduly concerned about possible danger or misfortune. We can drive ourselves crazy thinking of all the scary scenarios. Paul says instead to pray (speak to God and petition His help), supplicate (urgently request God to meet the need, suggesting begging and pleading), and express gratitude. Specifically articulate the help you seek from God. Won’t this just make things worse? Not at all. Instead, “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (7).
Luke 12:25-26. Luke records Jesus’ voluminous teaching on various material concerns. In the middle of it, Jesus shares a principle that applies to any number of matters. He teaches, “And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?” What a practical, sensible truth. What do we change by endless fretting and worrying? Does it change outcomes? Does the exercise of worry keep the bad and scary things from occurring? Does it override the freewill choices of our children or others? We are at one place at a time. God knows everything (30). “He who keeps you will not slumber…nor sleep” (Psa. 121:3-4). Trust that!
Matthew 6:33. What Matthew records is close to parallel to the material in Luke 12, though the wording and setting are different. The counsel here is about prioritization. It’s hard to “let go and let God,” but that’s Jesus’ bottom-line guidance. Again, in context, He’s dealing with material things rather than our kids. But substituting the one concern for the other does not change the principle. We are well-served to practice “God-firstness” from as early as possible, before our children are born. We should strive to live by that principle throughout the years they are in our homes, trying to show it to them. Then, we must continue to live it out personally and exemplify it before them after they leave the home. God’s kingdom, His will, His righteousness, His goals, His Word comes first and foremost. Keeping focus on that, trust Him to take care of not only us but those whose lives we care about. Jesus sweetly consoles us, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (34).
1 Peter 5:7. I love how Peter acknowledges that we all have anxiety. We’re all tempted (and all of us at least occasionally succumb to the temptation) to worry. Peter’s words are practical. Humbling yourself under God’s all-powerful hand, throw all your anxieties on Him. He is strong enough to carry it. Do you know what’s the best part? Not only can He do it, He wants to. Why? He cares for you! He’s your Father. “Care” here means concern and anxiousness. Our lives matter to Him. His heart is involved. We may not stop to think that all of us are His children. The difference is that this Father can see the future, is fully in control, will never be startled or surprised, and never lacks for what to say, how to react, and what to do. How foolish not to give Him the things we would obsess over, be consumed with, and eaten up by.
I wish I could tell you I will never worry about Gary, Dale, and Carl again. Those who know them know what a tall task that is. I wish I could tell you that you will never worry about your precious children again. But, none of us should. We can make progress and get better if we’ll feed on the rich truths of passages like the ones we’ve visited briefly together today. Go back and read them again. Drink deeply of their comforting, helpful truths. They will help you trust Him more with whatever frightening prospects you face regarding your children’s lives. I don’t promise. He does!
We will be looking at the word “majesty” by request in today’s article. This series will look at words used in our English translations that aren’t used in modern communication or are otherwise unusual. Today, majesty usually shows up as an adjective for natural phenomena (a majestic sunrise/sunset, majestic scene, etc.).
As a disclaimer, Hebrew studies are not my forte. For those of you with a knowledge of Hebrew, I welcome corrections. All material concerning Hebrew usage comes from the Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament or Hebrew & Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament: Volume 5.
In the Old Testament, it is used to describe the beauty or awesomeness of nature. Leviticus 23.40 uses “splendid.” In Isaiah 53.2, and it means “physically attractive.” Being impressive or inspiring awe/wonder is how the word is used in reference to God, although descriptions of kings are also appropriate (Isaiah 35.2). Speaking of royalty, majesty is used to describe their power and accomplishments (see Daniel 4.30, 5.18 for examples). In the Old Testament, majesty can be understood as impressive, having honor, or as the effect left on an observer of a display of power or awesomeness.
In the New Testament, it means to have high respect or incredible qualities (see II Peter 1.16). In that passage, Peter says that he was a firsthand witness of the majesty of Jesus. This is incredible, considering Isaiah 53 says that His appearance wasn’t special or spectacular. The majesty Jesus had on earth was due to His nature, not His appearance. Majesty is also used in reference to having high respect because of an impressive performance or display of power (Luke 9.43). In that passage, Jesus healed a boy who had a particularly violent demon. After returning him to a normal state, witnesses were blown away at God’s majesty. It was obvious that the power necessary to correct the boy’s issues was preternatural. They observed an incredible event and understood its source to be God’s power. That power is an aspect of God’s majesty.
We are impressed with God’s majesty when we look at nature. The universe is vast and incredible! There are stars so massive they make the sun look puny. Even single-cell organisms on earth are incredibly complex. As advanced as medical science is today, we still do not understand many of the processes of the body. Count how many times some variant of the phrase, “We’re not sure how this works,” is used in clinical studies on multiple classes of medications or treatments. The complexity of our makeup is awe-inspiring! When we are impressed by nature’s power or beauty, we get a glimpse of God’s majesty.
Since March Madness begins later this week, I was reading about all the teams to help me fill out my brackets. I came across the incredible story of Damian Chong Qui, a guard for the Mount St. Mary’s basketball team that won the Northeast Conference tournament and will play Texas Southern for the right to play against Michigan. The odds of Mount St. Mary’s winning the NCAA tournament are so astronomical that the team is more likely to be hit by an asteroid in their team bus going to the arena to play, but Chong Qui symbolizes the team’s grit, determination, and uncanny ability to defy the odds. His story is both heartbreaking and inspiring. Born and raised in crime-riddled East Baltimore, his father and mother were shot in separate incidents less than two months apart in 2002, when he was only four. His father recovered, but his mother was murdered. Eight years later, his father was shot again and paralyzed from the waist down. Damian has been his father’s most consistent caregiver since then, dressing him and helping him into his wheelchair. Damian found an outlet in basketball, starting on his High School basketball team as a freshman. He was only 4 feet, 9 inches tall. A growth spurt helped him reach his current height of 5 feet, 8 inches tall. No Division One teams showed interest, so he walked on with the Mountaineers. Not only did he go on to earn a scholarship, but he is a star and the heart and soul of this scrappy squad. From his father to coaches and teammates, Damian is called dependable, hardworking, and focused (much biographical data from a 1/17/20 Baltimore Sun article by Edward Lee: “…Damian Chong Qui has overcome tragedy to shine at Mount St. Mary’s”).
There is no one who would want to go through what this young man has endured. Many might use such tragedy as an excuse or a crutch to let life defeat them, but Chong Qui shows the resiliency and resolve which is in mankind. While the Chong Quis do not sound especially devout, Damian’s father, Edward, said of him, “I feel like God has been working things out for him” (ibid.).
God does not cause evil (Jas. 1:13), but God is able to bring about good in the worst of circumstances. It is evidence of His omnipotence and omniscience. Do you remember Job’s wise and righteous assessment, even as he was in the dark about the cause of his pain and suffering? He tells God, “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (42:2). As James assesses Job’s situation, he writes, “We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful” (5:11). Paul experienced this, too. He speaks of his “thorn in the flesh,” which God saw fit to allow him to retain. Why? Paul explains, “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9-10).
Maybe you are struggling with some thorn in the flesh, some pain and suffering, some adverse circumstance that looms over you and seems poised to undo you. How will you respond? Will you see it as an advantage? A chance for God’s power to be perfected in weakness? For the power of Christ to dwell in you? As the means of strength in weakness? Do not forget that there is no force, earthly or spiritual, that can withstand the advantages that God can bring into your life even in times of greatest adversity! His purpose cannot be thwarted. And if our lives are being lived according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28), that is confidence that can propel us through the worst of situations!
No pandemic or problem can suppress or destroy the church’s opportunities. If it could withstand the withering attacks of persecution in its first few centuries, the body of our Lord can come through this current storm stronger than it was before. The church’s opportunities are limitless because…
The gospel is still powerful (Rom. 1:16).
Christ is still the Savior of the world (1 John 4:14).
The church is still the manifold wisdom of God (Eph. 3:9-11).
The mission is still in force (Mat. 28:19).
We still have the only answer to the world’s biggest problem (Rom. 5:6-10).
We can demonstrate the most powerful attraction of discipleship (John 13:34).
His kingdom will never be utterly shaken or destroyed (Dan. 2:44; Heb. 12:28).
The recent crisis has awakened a sense of purpose in so many Christians.
Heaven is as desirable as ever and hell as unwelcome (cf. Mat. 25:31-46).
We know we are bigger than pettiness, division, and senseless strife (1 Cor. 1:10-13).
Man still senses that life is bigger than a few years on this earth (Ecc. 12:13-14).
Hope still serves as an anchor for the soul (Heb. 6:19).
The world has no viable competition to what only Jesus can give (1 John 4:4; 5:4).
We are not ignorant of the devil’s devices (2 Cor. 2:11).
There is no substitute for fellowship, the assembly, and corporate worship and study (Heb. 10:24).
We may appreciate the importance of relationships like never before (Rom. 12:3-21).
Truly, this list is much longer, but suffice it to serve as a reminder that these need not be “the worst of times.” God can make them the best of times as we move forward, eyes fixed on eternity and the wonderful work between here and there. Let’s seize those opportunities (Gal. 6:10)!
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:6-7). Peter has just told younger men to be subject to elders (1-5), and for each group to conduct themselves with humility toward each other. The motivation for this is to avoid God’s rejection. Peter quotes Proverbs 3:34 to reinforce the point.
Peter then urges everyone to humble themselves in their relationship with God. That’s the same word that describes what Jesus did by being obedient to the point of death on the cross (Phil. 2:8). It means to go lower, to surrender prestige or status (BDAG 990). This humbling concerns a specific aspect of all of our lives. Each of us has “anxiety” to cope with. By definition, an anxiety is “a feeling of apprehension or distress in view of possible danger or misfortune” (Louw-Nida 312).
Right now, there are no doubt things which make you apprehensive and distressed. You may be facing danger or misfortune. On some level and to some degree, that describes the pressure and reality for nearly all of us these days. As beings created with the freedom of choice, we can try to cope with that ourselves with our own coping tools. Maybe, in our pride, we boast in our own ability to handle it all. Not only is that a delusion and a self-deception, it is flirting with disaster. Why not choose a better way? Peter lays that out for us.
Let’s survey the facts here.
GOD IS ABLE–You are entrusting yourself in His mighty hand. He is in control and has the power to rule in every situation. This is the same hand He holds you in the hollow of (Isa. 40:12).
GOD IS AWARE–He has the exclusive benefit of perfect foreknowledge. He knows what is going on now and He can see what will happen. As He works through time and events, He is choosing the proper time to lift you as you have surrendered yourself to His power and His wisdom. He knows everything that is going on in your situation. In fact, He knows about it at a much more intimate level than even you do.
GOD IS AFFECTIONATE–What motivates Him to act? He cares for you! Peter is telling us to throw all our anxiousness on God, like the disciples threw their coats on the colt so that Jesus could sit on it (Luke 19:35). Take each burden, fear, and worry you are carrying right now, that is weighing you down, and toss it into His mighty hand (a hand you will examine and find very capable–read Isaiah 40:12 again). Peter says He feels anxious concern for us. Sure, He can handle it. But it’s more than that. He wants to handle it. Why? Because you mean that much to Him!
I read this promise and I admonish myself. Why am I trying to carry this all by myself when God is offering to do this for me? He tells me to get myself out of the way and let Him handle this. Faced with my limitations and His limitless resources, it is futile and foolish to face these distressing matters in any other way!
While in college, I accompanied a friend to Chattanooga to pick up her car from her parents. Both of us were from rural Appalachia and shared a love for nature. Thus, learning that the Tennessee Aquarium was our rendezvous point did not surprise me. It was my first visit to this establishment, and I was impressed. Among the permanent exhibits, there was a temporary one featuring jellyfish. I thought that was lackluster from the sound of it. As I discovered, jellyfish can be quite beautiful.
There were varieties of jellyfish (i.e., comb jellyfish) looking like UFOs, filled with running lights. I felt like I was watching a science fiction movie as the jellyfish slowly moved through the water. If you have seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind, you may recall the scene where the aliens converge on Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. The “men-in-black-types” atop Devil’s Tower used musical tones associated with colored lights to “communicate” with the extraterrestrial visitors who replied with the same notes and colors. That is what I recalled watching those jellyfish.
I suppose there may be a sense in which I was watching ambassadors from another world. These are creatures that humanity does not usually get to see, outside of a documentary such as the BBC’s Blue Planet. I suppose prey are attracted to the light. However, a blind mechanism, like evolution, would not have given them the beauty I witnessed. Intelligence must have designed them this way since a single glowing color would be sufficient to attract their meals. Jellyfish would not need a rainbow of colorful lights. Indeed, these comb jellyfish spoke to me of an unseen God (cf. Romans 1.20).
Isaiah 43.7 informs us God created Israel for His glory. I wish to treat this passage with great care since Christians sometimes use it to give rationale to God’s creation of all humanity. Yet, God made it clear that He picked an insignificant group on purpose (Deuteronomy 7.7). To what end? He could show the world His power and bring salvation through their seed (cf. Genesis 3.15; 22.18). That said, we may safely conclude that God created everything with a purpose. When one can view amazing spectacles, usually observed only by an omnipresent God (cf. Psalm 139), it is hard not to suppose God made things also for His enjoyment.
In addition to these alienesque gelatinous animals, God has other interesting “sights” to which only He has a regular vantage. Beneath the arctic ice, for example, one can find coral with, admittedly, more subdued colors than their kin in warm, tropical waters. Yet, here is something beautiful and unexpected no human typically sees. But God does. What about other aspects of creation that suggest they exist for God’s enjoyment? Some people say platypuses show God’s “sense of humor.” Consider the amalgamation of creatures one sees within the platypus. The platypus is a mammal but lays eggs. Like an avian, platypuses have duckbills and webbed feet. A platypus has a tail like a beaver and otter-like fur. Male platypuses are even venomous! Platypuses are so odd, in fact, that the first scientists examining them felt someone was pranking them. (“platypus”1)
Yes, God created the universe and all that is in it per His Will. Maybe God makes nations that can show His glory like ancient Israel. Perhaps, God creates organisms for no other reason than His enjoyment, like comb jellyfish and platypuses. But we know God created humanity so He could have a relationship with us. That is why the Father intervened by sending His Son (Isaiah 53.10-11; John 3.16), and why we find our purpose in doing God’s Will (Ecclesiastes 12.13-14).
The employees complained that they couldn’t control the temperature in office buildings. A simple and effective solution was set in place by corporate when they secretly placed dummy thermostats in the work area. They were then able to give all the unsuspecting workers the illusion that they were in control at last.
Today there are many that believe they can control more than they really can in their lives. Some have even managed to give others the illusion that they have some kind of supernatural ability to change the nation and world. This entirely false reality takes place on the very planet held in the hands of the One who really has all the control.
In the Old Testament we find that people thought a lot of David— once he proved his worth as a warrior. As he rose in fame he continued to bring positive change for God’s people but all along the way David understood that he was making a difference only because God allowed him to.
So many are worried about controlling every aspect of their lives and the lives of others, but I’m thankful that I’m not in control. As a human, I’m prone to make mistakes— God knows that. He provides for His faithful exactly what we need.
What is God’s will for your life?
He wants you to recognize His power, His control, His compassion, and His desire for all to be saved. I hope that today this served as a simple reminder to let Jehovah take the lead and that we don’t actually want the control that we may think we do.
Owners of small dogs are familiar with how easily they can be made to bark. Small noises to us are great potential threats to them. A small ladder may be Mt. Everest to an ant, but is a way to reach the top of the pantry for us.
Our perspective drives our perception. A very large, very strong person likely does not feel threatened by anyone. A small, weak person may feel threatened by many.
Our problems in life seem massive. If we weigh them against the past, with its billions of lives and many cultures, our problems seem smaller. Compare them further to the infinite nature of God, and our problems are inconsequential.
James tells us that when we face difficulties in this life we must appeal to the One who has infinite wisdom and power, the God of the stars, the source of every good and perfect gift (1.5-8, 17). We ask Him for the ability to understand our trials. They refine us and make us mature and well-rounded. With that wisdom we can have perspective, seeing our massive trials as the small ladders they are.
Have you ever been afraid of your imagination? At times that fear can be so convincing that you truly believe that the worst case scenario is somehow inevitable. Try and make that opening question relevant to your life. Think about a specific event or experience where you were afraid of something that never came to fruition. The grip of anxiety can be debilitating as you wait for your medical test results to come in. You agonize over the poor quality of life you might have if there is ever an unexpected economic collapse. Your hairline might rapidly recede as you stress over the outcome of the war our nation is still involved in, and do I even need to mention the new global pandemic? You’re robbed of sleep as you imagine the potential horrible outcomes that may never happen. These things may never happen because the Lord could come. They may never happen because whatever you’re afraid of— it’s simply worse in your own mind. It may never happen because God has proven Himself to be one who calms the storm instead of letting you perish.
I believe we would all benefit from recalling those occasions in our past where fear proved unnecessary and we worked ourselves up for nothing! If the fear in your life has a big appetite and it’s devouring all your time and peace, maybe it’s time to feed something else. Sitting Bull once said, “Inside of me there are two dogs. One is mean and evil and the other is good. They fight each other all the time. When asked which one wins I answer, ‘the one I feed the most.’” How vividly this illustrates a daily struggle for so many. Fear and faith will scrap with one another until we decide which one will win. Do you think our faith would emerge victorious every day if we could physically witness God’s power, but in a miraculous way? If my own eyes could witness Jesus bring the dead back from the grave, cast out a demon, or walk on stormy waters, then I would never worry again. Or would I? Seeing Jesus perform miracles never made anyone perfect. His disciples were far from perfect and they stood feet from the Savior while He did things only God could do.
On one occasion, which was hinted at earlier, Jesus calms the storm after being abruptly awakened by His terrified followers (Mark 4). There are some details about this account that will help us feed our faith when fear threatens to win the day.
First, our cries to God, even in the desperate times, are heard. The disciples exclaim, “Don’t you care that we’re about to die?” Following this fearful plea, Jesus will demonstrate a fraction of His awesome power. After all, what is calming a stormy sea to the One who spoke every drop of water into existence?
Second, excessive fear of anything in this world is a foolish mistake. God is bigger and greater than our worries.
Third, God is not asleep. It may seem like He is when we don’t feel optimistic about the future, but it’s when we recognize that He’s the only answer to our peace that He will calm our storm.