November/December 2017, Volume 99, Number 6
“Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done … If I would declare and speak of them, they would be too numerous to count” (Psalms 40:5 NASB).
Ryan, Lisa, and Rosalie Hangs
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Note: It has been seven years since Lisa Hangs suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage, caused by a ruptured cerebral aneurysm. Thankfully, the Lord overruled the matter and despite being at a work conference several hours away, it was home to Canada’s top neurosurgeon! She literally had to relearn many basic functions (e.g., swallow, talk, walk, etc.). She currently has limited energy and mobility; however, she is rejoicing in retirement while keeping busy at home. The Hangs family writes, “God is good and we cannot thank the brethren (near and far) enough for their support on many levels during this experience; we are truly among the Lord’s people!”
The Lord permits difficult experiences in our lives to not only develop our characters and faith in Him but also to prove and qualify us for a share in the reconciliation work ahead for the Bride of Christ.1 Considering the grand prize of immortality offered, we are repeatedly told to expect myriad trials to test our fidelity.2 Additionally, we know these trials are common to man and our merciful Creator will not allow any trial to exceed our faith’s breaking point (1 Corinthians 10:13). We are exhorted, therefore, to gain the victory over any trial through our faith in God’s overruling providence for our highest spiritual welfare.3
Our Peace Comes from God
A steadfast mind, based on faith in God, will keep us in perfect peace, because we trust in the Lord.4 The Apostle Paul tells us: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6,7 NASB). We are to be the most peaceful people on the earth, because we know that despite the turmoil in the world, God has a plan for not only us, but for all mankind. Our peace is neither a pretentious demeanor founded on pride, nor a peace of indifferent complacency, but a peace of confidence in God and His power working in our lives.5
Such transcendent peace in the face of trials may seem peculiar to others, but such sanctified faith in God is essential for making our calling and election sure.6 The Apostle Peter lists seven Christian characteristics that we aspire to develop, which are built upon the foundation of our faith in God (2 Peter 1:5-7). Consequently, unwavering faith is crucial to maintaining a relationship with God, along with supporting spiritual growth during our Christian walk. Peter does not include fear in this list, because fear is deleterious to our faith in God. Fear may accompany our trials, associated with the pro- clivities of the three enemies hindering our new creature’s development: the old creature, the world, and the adversary.
Fear Undermines Our Faith
Psychologists note that fear invariably follows a predictable chain reaction of unsettling emotions: first, doubt, then worry, and finally fear. There is an inverse relationship between peace and fear; as one increases, the other decreases. We are all subject to fear, given our fallen condition. However, the key is to eradicate fear as soon as possible before it worsens, because fear affects our relationship with God and impedes His sanctifying work in us.7 Fear develops quickly when our old creature becomes unsettled and then self-centered fear displaces our selfless faith in God. Such emotional reactions betray an underlying immature faith in God (i.e., self is relied upon to manage the situation). Our disposition therefore is directly related to where we place our trust: secure (peace in God’s ability) or insecure (fear in our inability). We need to be disciplined to maintain our composure and stay intellectually focused amidst a trial by keeping our emotions in check.8
Overcoming a Trial
Most of us learned at an early age the three steps (stop, drop, and roll) necessary to minimize the harmful effects of being literally on fire. Metaphorically, the strategy for overcoming a figurative fiery trial is identical! Regardless of the trial’s magnitude, these same three self-administered steps are a powerful antidote to reduce the injurious effects of fear on our health, both physically (e.g., anxiety and stress) and spiritually (e.g., faith):
Stop: Cease using earthly wisdom to discern how you are going to conquer the trial, which ceasing will prevent your imagination from generating various cataclysmic self-defeating scenarios or perceived hopelessness in the situation; perhaps weakening your confidence in God.9
Drop: Get on your knees as soon as possible and pray about the situation; seeking the Lord’s guidance and emboldened faith to endure the experience.10
Roll: The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:13, the “way of escape” (ekbasis, Strong’s G1545, an “exit”) provided by the Lord to overcome a trial is to essentially “roll with it,” come what may. By faithfully accepting the fact that the Lord has allowed the trial for our highest spiritual welfare, we can overcome our fear and move on with our life knowing that the Lord will provide the grace sufficient for our needs (2 Corinthians 12:8-10). On paper, this is the ideal Christian Living 101 textbook response to adversity. However, despite a willing spirit, our flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41). Unfortunately, the faith required to move forward is often impaired by the very fearful condition we are trying to extinguish, which may impede our ability to be rightly exercised by the experience.
Think on These Things
Although our brain consists of two complementary hemispheres that were perfectly de- signed, our fallen, fearful emotions emanating from the right hemisphere (qualitative, subective, and interpretive thinking according to anatomy) are the weaker part of our decision support system.11 Thankfully, however, the Lord equipped us with a fact-based “quality control” mechanism located in the left hemisphere (quantitative, objective, and rational thinking according to anatomy) that can be used to bolster our faith and, therefore, prevent and/ or undermine our fear before it overpowers us. It involves an elegant self-soothing therapeutic meditation technique, which is available anywhere at any time.12 Unlike man’s wisdom that recommends emptying our minds when medi- tating, we are exhorted in scripture to fill up our minds with faith-strengthening truths that positively affirm God’s love for us. Being diligent to quickly flood our minds with inspiring truths will displace any existing negative speculative thoughts about our current situation.
The Greek word rendered “think” (lo- gizomai, Strong’s G3049) in Philippians 4:8 means to “take an inventory.” Only true facts should be counted and considered, so the more blessings we meditate upon, the sooner we will acknowledge the truth that God loves us and possesses a sovereign ability to take care of us. Our faith is not based on credulity, but the knowledge that with God’s help we can conquer any trial.13 Our theme text and the hymn Count Your Blessings remind us to quantify God’s blessings in our lives for this very reason. By contrasting the reality of God’s cumulative providential care for us with the trial itself, our objective thinking will supersede the subjective, thereby reassuring any doubt, worry, and/or manifested fear. Several best-selling self-help books have been published predicated on this Biblical principle of the power of positive thinking not based on self-assurance or self-reliance. Through this method, we are mollifying our sense of fear by proving all things and hold-ng fast to the goodness of knowing that God is ready, willing, and able to overrule the matter for our spiritual welfare.14
Our Proof of God’s Faithfulness
According to God’s law, the truth on any subject is clearly apparent by the word of at least two witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15, 2 Corinthians 13:1). We are blessed to have the recorded testimony of many witnesses that explicitly state we have nothing to fear with God on our side: God Himself (Isaiah 41:10-13), Jesus (Luke 12:22-31), Moses (Deuterono- my 3:22, 31:6,8), Joshua (Joshua 1:9), Da- vid (1 Samuel 17:37), Solomon (Proverbs 29:25), Isaiah (Isaiah 35:4 and 52:12), Jer emiah (17:7-8), Paul (Romans 8:15), and Peter (1 Peter 3:14). Furthermore, we frequently hear brethren testify to God’s overruling care in their lives, which is further priceless corroborative proof.15 Notwithstanding these copious witnesses testifying to God’s impeccable faithfulness,perhaps there is no better witness than reading our own handwriting to strengthen our faith, thereby placating our fallen emotional fears during a trial. Archiving our experiences in a book of Ebenezers (hitherto hath the Lord helped me), by detailing the many times in our own lives when the Lord has delivered us from difficulty, is irrefutable evidence and an efficacious remedy for our fear. Considering our “leaky-vessel” nature, a book of Ebenezers will become the most important reference book in our library and a powerful tool in our Christian tool box. No entry is too small; rather the surprise of seeing an overwhelming number of seemingly insignificant daily blessings will convince us that God will most certainly overrule the big things as well.16 Counting our blessings will greatly help to cultivate a feeling of thankfulness and contentment, resulting in a peaceful mindset, especially when we recognize that these are only the blessings we are aware of! This faithbased peace is essential for our sanctification, because temporal issues will no longer have the same fear-based effect on us.17
Our Lord Jesus repeatedly encourages us not to fear.18 No one enjoys being a prisoner to emotional fear. Ironically, we possess the key to free ourselves at any time, but we must de- cide to use it. Simply focusing on the truth of God’s faithfulness, testified by abundant cred- ible witnesses and demonstrated by the mani- fold blessings in our lives, will confirm our faith and emancipate our minds from a fearful con- dition during trials. Relative to eternity, along with the glorious prospect if we are faithful until death, our trials are truly temporary and are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will follow.19
We will never be fearless while in the flesh, but let us strive to fear less for the remainder of our days, and in the meantime, cherish the Apostle Paul’s words: “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17, 18 NASB).
(1) John 15:8, Romans 5:3-4, 1 Peter 1:7, James 1:2-4. Luke 12:32, Colossians 1:12, Revelation 20:6.
(2) Matthew 10:25, John 15:20 and 16:33, Acts 14:22, 2 Timothy 3:12, 1 Peter 1:6-7, 4:12, 5:10.
(3) John 16:33, Romans 8:28, 1 Peter 4:19, 1 John 5:4.
(4) Psalms 40:4, Isaiah 26:3, Romans 15:13, 2 Thessalonians 3:16.
(5) Psalms 91, Romans 8:15, 31, Galatians 4:6.
(6) Ephesians 6:15, Philippians 2:15, 1 Peter 2:9, 2 Peter 3:11. Romans 12:2, Hebrews 11:6,
1 Thessalonians 4:3, James 1:6-8.
(7) Philippians 2:13, Colossians 1:12, James 1:4.
(8) Proverbs 16:32, Proverbs 29:11, James 1:19-20, 2 Timothy 1:7.
(9) Isaiah 55:8, Proverbs 3:5-6, 2 Corinthians 10:5, Colossians 3:2. Exodus 14:12-13, Numbers 13:33, 2 Corinthians 3:5 and 4:7, Hebrews 10:35.
(10) Psalms 34:4 and 139:23-24, Hebrews 4:16, James 5:13, 1 Peter 5: 7-8.
By accepting the fact that God allowed a trial, we can overcome our fear.
(11) Psalms 139:14, Proverbs 4:23, Jeremiah 17:9.
(12) Ephesians 6:17, Philippians 4:6, Colossians 3:2.
(13) Psalms 108:13, Romans 8:37, 1 Corinthians 15:57, Philippians 4:13.
(14) Joshua 21:45, Psalms 136, 2 Corinthians 1:20, 1 Thessalonians 5:21.
(15) Romans 14:19, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Jude 1:20.
(16) Psalms 103:2, Matthew 6:8, Luke 12:7, 1 Corinthians 4:7, James 1:17.
(17) Psalms 36:5, Matthew 6:30-34, Philippians 4:19, Hebrews 4:16, 1 John 3:1.
(18) Matthew 10:28, Luke 12:32, John 14:27 and 16:33, Revelation 2:10.
(19) Romans 8:18, Philippians 3:8, James 1:12, 1 John 3:2.