I assume most people living today would agree that we are facing very unique challenges in the world in which we are living. Looming large, of course, is the challenge of the coronavirus that is facing the entire world. Then, too, there are the challenges of the breakdown of law and order, the disintegration of moral standards, and the fears relating to our economic security. Added to that are the many personal challenges we all face from time to time.
The question is, how are we to respond to such challenges? If one does not know the Lord as Savior, he will respond according to his own wisdom and understanding. His personal emotions will play a large part in how he responds. While there is a place for our thinking things through, the believer has a more sure response because he has the truth of the Bible and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to guide him.
In this article, I would like to discuss some of the challenges we all face while noting the difference between the one who does not know the Lord Jesus as Savior and the believer who enjoys the presence of the Lord in his life and has the Word of God for his guide. Note, then, the following challenges we all fear in one way or another.
The challenge of fear
Fear is a natural challenge to things we anticipate as a threat to us. First, there is a good kind of fear. It is the fear of touching a hot stove, driving too fast in slippery conditions, not being cautious when walking across a busy street, or the fear of dangerous wild animals. The list of fears we should acknowledge is endless.
But then, there is the kind of fear over things we cannot control. Especially now is the fear of what is going on in our country. We see what the virus is doing and what the gangs on the streets of our cities are doing. The natural thing to wonder is if we are going to have to suffer illness, if our homes are going to be safe, will there be enough food for us and our families to eat? What about our children and grandchildren? Such fear can cause people to lose their sense of well-being for the future.
However, if one is a believer, he handles fear much differently. Certainly he has many of the same concerns, but he is not crippled by them. Because he believes God, he can rest in the assurance of God’s Word. Consider the following comfort from the Bible:
When God called Abram to be the leader of His people, God said to him, “...fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Gen. 15:1). Certainly Abram faced many unknown dangers, but he could go forth with confidence knowing in his heart that God would be with him. Because he could know that God had called him, he could be assured that God would be with him in every circumstance, no matter the danger. Similarly, when we know God has called us to a specific place and duty, we can be assured He will be with us and fully accomplish His purpose for His calling in our lives. Thus, our safety does not depend upon circumstances but upon His leading and presence in our lives.
Also, it is a great comfort to know that God Himself is our shield and great reward! We are not left to fend for ourselves. Then, no matter what happens in our circumstances, God is our reward! We could not live long enough to tell how God Himself is the reward of all who believe.
Similarly, God said to Isaac, “...I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not: for I will be with thee, and will bless thee...” (Gen. 26:24). I know that all of our experiences are not parallel, but the principle is that God will be with us and bless us also. We can count on Him even as Isaac did. We can be assured of God’s blessing because of His presence in our lives. Remember, where God is, there is no reason to fear. He is greater than all of our problems and circumstances. Our responsibility is to know Him, love Him, and trust Him in all things. He will not disappoint us!
When Moses relinquished his command to Joshua, he said to him, “And the Lord, He it is that doth go before; He will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed” (Deut. 31:8). It is comforting to know that, where God leads us, we need not fear. He is with us every step of the way. We don’t know where all God is going to lead us, but He will be there with us and He will not forsake us. For the Christian, the greater fear is not to trust Him. Many times the children of Israel failed to trust God and they suffered the consequences.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”
Before one can have the confidence of the Lord’s protection, he needs to have the confidence that he is a child of God. When one places his faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his sins, he has such confidence brought by God Himself. It is a confidence of the heart that quells the fears. This doesn’t mean one will have no trouble, but that God will be with him in the midst of the trouble and that the final outcome will be one to rejoice in!
“For the Lord hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (II Tim. 1:7). This is one of the great blessings of the believer. Fear cannot settle down and exist where God reigns in the heart.
The challenge of anxiety
In our humanity, especially, it is natural to be anxious. When we are anxious, we feel that we have lost control of a given situation. Of course, people who do not know the Lord are given to much anxiety because they have no anchor for the soul. They cannot see the light-house in the storm because there is none. The believer, however, does have an anchor for his soul in the midst of the greatest storms. Note the following verses:
“Be careful [anxious] for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phi. 4:6-7).
The believer has one who knows him and loves him like no other. As believers, we have but to pray and trust Him for every circumstance of life. Only God can give such great and wonderful peace.
As to the situation we are facing in our country today, it can be very distressing. We don’t know where it is all going and how it will “end.” Still, there is One who does know and, in spite of the confusion and turmoil, is still and always will be in total control. This leads me to something I think is very important. Yes, we should know what is going on in our country, even around the world. We need to know intellectually and spiritually so we can respond in a Godly manner. My thinking here, however, is that we do not need to be, and I think should not be, consumed with the turmoil and anarchy. That is, it should not consume our thinking and energy. Rather, I believe our focus needs to be on God and His Word. We need to give place to Him and His word of truth.
As we focus on the Word of God, we will see that He already has a plan for the world! It is a plan that will be carried out to the fullest extent. God knows all about the anarchy and confusion of the world today! Nothing is a surprise to Him. All of the chaos about us should not be surprising to Christians because it is part of what the Lord has said would characterize the last days before the Lord returns.
Remember the words of Jesus regarding the time of the tribulation which I believe we are seeing a foreshadow of today,
“For many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places” (Matt. 24:5-7).
While these things may be disconcerting, the one who is walking with God need not live in distress. The words of Paul are encouraging here, “Let the word of God dwell in you richly; teaching and admonishing in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16). The Word of God and Godly Christian music can be such rich blessings. Recently, some friends of ours gave us two DVD music discs with the most encouraging music. The titles are, “The Best of Al Smith.” I have played them over and over again and each time they bring rejoicing, blessing, and calm assurance to my soul. I thus play them often in my car and office because they speak to my heart of the grace and loving care of God.
The challenge of hopelessness
The feeling of hopelessness can be a very great challenge indeed. It is the feeling we have in the face of a great loss, usually a loss that can never be recovered. People who come to the end of ther lives without Christ often have a sense of hopelessness because, in reality, they have no real hope for eternal life. Many have a religion they hope will get them to heaven or maybe an accumulation of good works, but there is no sense of hope because such things provide no real hope. There is no hope because there is no hope given by God for such practices!
In contrast, the Apostle Paul presents a clear picture of the believer’s hope,
“For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him” (I Thess. 5:9-10).
Paul was concerned for believers that they get the fullness of the truth,
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep [have died], that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope” (I Thess. 4:13).
Granted, believers may feel hopeless about some things sometimes. We are still human and have human feelings. The good news is that God knows all that goes on in our lives and He will provide for us even in the midst of our struggles. The believer is never without His comforting presence and grace even in the midst of our feelings of hopelessness. The real challenge is to know God in such a way that we can identify with His presence even if His will is not fully revealed to us in a given situation. The three Hebrew youth faced hopelessness when they were brought to the fiery furnace, but they knew the presence and deliverance of God! Their conviction about God was solid and secure.
The believer today should also have a solid and secure relationship with God so he can face the challenges of life without doubting. We must know something of the truth of God’s Word and the ministry of the Holy Spirt to our own hearts.
The challenge of discouragement.
To be discouraged is to lose heart in a certain endeavor or even in life itself. It is the feeling that a given pursuit is no longer worth the effort. It is a giving in to the prevalent pressures of life. Some give in to the pressure of continuing education, looking for a good job, or such things as following a certain diet for better health.
Sometimes believers give in to the pressures of living the Christian life. They feel it is too demanding or too costly because of family or peer pressure. The result may be failing to attend church, to pray, or to live a consistent Christian life.
The Lord knows that, in our humanity, we are sometimes easily given to discouragement. A helpful thing is to know the origin and value of our pursuits. If they are truly from God and consistent with His Word, they are worth pursuing, even in very difficult times. Such things as personal devotions, church attendance, knowing our gifting for ministry, and assuming our proper place of responsibility are all worth giving our very best to.
God exhorts believers to encourage one another. Paul said,
“Brethren if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:1-2).
Allowing temptation to get the upper hand in one’s life can be very discouraging, but it need not be a permanent disqualification! Believers who are walking with God need to be able to give the proper Biblical counsel and offer much needed encouragement to those so discouraged.
Sometimes we may become weary of our station in life or of doing what is right. Paul exhorted the Thessalonians, “...do not grow weary in doing good” (II Thess. 3:13). Even in times of moral and governmental trouble, the believer needs to continue what God has given him to do.
The challenge of doubt
Sometimes Christians are given to doubting the things they have been taught, whether in the church or the home. A life of doubt is not a pleasant life to live. Often, the problem is that we have been taught by people who really did not know the Lord personally or did not know what it is to really live for Him. Some people pass on their own doubt to others.
One of the problems of life is that we assume too much. We assume that if we have grown up in a “Christian” home or church we kind of automatically accumulate the truth. Of course, that is not really true. Often the knowledge we gather is not the truth of God at all, but rather a collection of human opinions . I think a couple of suggestions may be useful here.
If we are really going to get the truth of the Christian life, we have to get it for ourselves. That doesn’t mean that pastors, family, and friends cannot help and guide us along the way. As Christians, before we can really comprehend spiritual truth we have to have a spiritual heart. A spiritual heart can only be gotten at the cross of Jesus Christ. We personally, one at a time, have to come to Him for the confession of our sins. It is then that the Holy Spirit can begin to teach us the truth of God and His Word. Jesus said of the Holy Spirit, “And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (Jn. 16:8). No human being can really do that, though God uses humans to connect us with the truth. The point is, it takes God to convict us of our sins so that we will repent and turn to Him. The Apostle Paul’s word is helpful here, “But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed...” (II Tim. 1:12). Each believer can and should have such confidence.
The challenge of indifference
Indifference means to be without a proper concern, or to be uncaring about what is really important. That may be fine regarding some things of life, but not one’s relationship to God or to life in general. If one is indifferent regarding spiritual truth, he most likely has not established a personal relationship with God. God changes everything in one’s life including what is really important in life. Paul urged believers, “Not [to be] slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord” (Rom. 12:11).
The purpose of this article has been to help all of us find some Biblical hope and encouragement in this very challenging time. May all of us turn to God and find our real help and hope in Him!
We had the privilege to spend some time with Dr. and Mrs. Richard Carns of Platteville, WI on the 10th and 11th of August. They have been special friends for many years.
For our 55th wedding anniversary, which was on August 14th, we had lunch at the Olive Garden in Eau Claire. It was very good. They even gave us a very tasty free dessert which we enjoyed very much!!
On Sunday, August 16th, the seniors group of our church planned and hosted a very nice lunch following the service. To our surprise, they had invited many relatives and friends! It was a wonderful time and we thank the seniors for planning the event and providing the delicious meal. We also thank the many guests who came for this special event.
On August 7th, we took a ride to Chetek. We traveled on some different roads that we normally don’t travel on and it was a blessing to see the many beautiful scenes along the way. We visited the very “delicious” bakery in Chetek. BJ especially likes the chocolate creations they sell! Later in the day, we drove to Barron to visit Dorothy and Harley Hover. My sister, Sharon, from Brainerd, MN was also there. For supper we all drove to Rice Lake for supper at a pizza place. We met Harley and Dorothy’s daughter Joy, and her girls there as well. It was a very good time. It is such a blessing to do these things when we still can.
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“In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths” (Prov. 3:5).