Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Don't Panic

Are you in a panic mode? We live in a generation that lives by the seat of their pants. Everything seems to be 'last minute'. The schedule is always full, and we race at break-neck speed to accomplish everything on the list and then try to add another couple of things besides. We end up burning up our adrenalin resources as we race from one emergency to another. In the midst of it all, God never changes. Unfortunately, we do! It's time to change once more back into the kind of people who are truly the children of God. God never designed us to be programmed robots following a programmed routine of activities that drive us to insanity and exhaustion. God designed man for Himself, to give Him pleasure. I am not sure how our harried pace in life can possibly give Him pleasure. Somehow I think many of us have bought into the worldly idea that "the busier we are, the better we are." Meanwhile, God is waiting in the wings for us to slow down a little and notice He is still there waiting for us to give Him some attention. It is in this state of anxiety that we continue to breed the fear of failure that sets us up for panic.
What panic buttons have you been pushing lately? I will never forget the statement a newly widowed pastor's wife made to us. She said "God has no emergency board meetings in heaven." In other words, God knows well in advance what we are going to be facing. He allows it all for a reason. Sometimes it is to help someone else go through the same difficult pathway. Sometimes it is to get our attention. Sometimes it is to build our faith. Sometimes it is just so we recognize that God is still God even in the midst of the trials and pain.
We are so earthly! That's why we are called 'humans.' We are made from 'humus' or dirt. We are frail earthly minded beings that God wants to transform into spiritually minded beings that God wants to transform into spiritually minded beings. Our life here on this ball of dirt is so short and limited. Our spirit man is designed for eternity! We often forget we are not here on earth forever. God sees things from our limited time-oriented side. When we see things from our limited time-oriented side. When we are in the midst of a difficulty, we sometimes think that God has forgotten us, or that He just does not care or that He is punishing us and we deserve it. Usually none of that is true. He sees the bigger picture and we just see our limited emotional viewpoint. If we could just see things from God's eternal perspective for a moment, we would understand.

My mother died when I was just a little innocent 7 year old girl. For many years I wondered why God had chosen to take her home so suddenly with an aneurysm. I felt robbed. I remember standing by her grave as a teenager, now in college, talking to God and to my Mom, and determining what to do with my life, what would be pleasing to both of them. But as God unfolded the plans of my life, I realized He knew what He was ding. Although I was a relatively quiet and shy person, God made me to become very independent and adventurous. I appreciated her strengths and determination. I appreciated her hunger for spiritual things. I tried to learn from some of her mistakes. I learned not to panic but to trust. My life verse became "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not on thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy path." (Proverbs 3:5) He did just that. My life seemed to become a pathway of miracles. Each step I took by faith, God honored, preparing the way ahead of me. He helped me pay my own way through college, find a teaching position in Newfoundland, directed me to complete my degree in Springfield Missouri, led me to a wonderful husband, gave me four wonderful sons. He led me as I developed my ministry, singing and writing. He helped me travel with my husband as an evangelist all over the Midwest. Were there moments of panic? Certainly! But as I put my trust in the Lord, the panic passed and turned to faith.
It takes less effort to trust than to panic. There is no stress in trust. When a child jumps into the arms of its father, she trusts him to catch her. She expects him to catch. She expects him to be there with arms open wide. Father God is no different. He is always waiting for his children with open arms. He loves us! His love is not tainted with false expectations. There is no hidden agenda or hidden abuse waiting in His presence. He never fails to keep a promise. He lights the path ahead of us. Don't panic at the world you see around you today. Just as God has taken care of the previous generations of trusting believers, He will do the same today. He never changes. We are the ones who change. We need to turn back to God! It would be so easy to get our eyes on the failing economy, the dwindling resources, the troubled government, and the spiritually dying world. He wants us to keep our eyes on Him. Nothing else really matters. He will guide our steps. We are not the first believers to live in a world of spiritual chaos. Looking back into history, our chaos grows dim in comparison to those who have suffered persecution and martyrdom. Yet throughout the annals of time, God is still God. He never changes. He can be trusted! "It's better to take refuge in the Sovereign Lord of the Universe than to trust in man" (Psalm 118:8).
The Price of Panic
There is a price for panic. My parents once had dear friends who served a wealthy family in Chicago as butler and maid. They told us of the panic during the depression. Although the rich family still had millions in the wife's name, the husband lost it all in the crash, and in a moment of fear-filled panic, he committed suicide. Panic will cause people to rush to extremes without thinking through the consequences. Panic causes us to think of ourselves rather than others. Panic overwhelms the emotions and clouds judgment. Panic is the one thing that removes faith from the picture. We gravitate to panic when we reach the end of our rope, when it seems there is no where else to turn. When it turns to despair, it becomes deadly.
Jesus had every reason to panic. But He also had every reason not to panic. When we know who, and whose we are, panic becomes obsolete. He could have panicked in the garden as He prayed to the Father knowing what awaited Him. He could have panicked as Peter, the boldest of the disciples, denied knowing Him. He could have panicked anytime during His 3 years of ministry as He struggled to get them to understand the plan of God. But Jesus knew His Father and He knew His future. We can know our Father and He will help us with our future. We can walk by faith into the future and no matter what comes, we do not need to panic, for Father holds us in the palm of His hands. Our future is not determined b earthly standards and man's wisdom. It is determined by the mind and will of God as we yield ourselves to Him. Perhaps you have walked into panic because life seems out of control. Children have walked away from God and nothing you do seems to help. The doctor may have told you the dreaded 'cancer' word and there seems to be no hope. Habits from the past may be haunting you and trying to overwhelm you. You may even fear dying.
The Problem of Fear
It is fear that feeds panic. The only way to eradicate fear is to build your faith. Faith comes when we put our absolute trust in God. Faith comes as we feast on the Word of God, as we meditate on it and get it into our hearts. Listen to it. Read it. Memorize it. Speak it out loud. Find other people of faith and spend time with them. Remember you are building a new house of faith. It begins with a sure foundation in the Word of God, and as you allow god to build it in your life, fears will begin to slip away. They cannot stand being in the presence of faith.
Fear has a tendency to freeze you, immobilize you and keep you from doing anything. It keeps you from your purpose. It stops you from trying anything new. Fear causes you to worry about everything and anything. It anticipates what may never come to pass. It exaggerates reality and builds fantasies that seem like facts. It causes insomnia which causes high blood pressure, which causes all kinds of physical complaints. Satan uses our fears to keep us from doing things for God. If someone asks us to pray, we freeze and shake our head..."No!" If someone invites us to try something new...we anticipate what negative thing might happen. If we are asked to witness to an unbeliever by the Holy Spirit..we say... "No way...Not me!" If we are asked to teach a class, we imagine them pelting us with spit balls. No...let the other guy do it. If God calls you to ministry, you stay in your hum-drum job. Yes, fear keeps us from fulfilling our purpose in the Kingdom of God.
Rise above it! Get your spiritual eyes on the Lord! He will never call you to do anything that He does not enable you to do. He will give you the skills, the finances, the resources, the helpers and the Holy Spirit to enable you to do over and above what your mind will tell you is possible.
You have a choice. You can live a life filled with fear and panic, looking to man and self, and continually finding chaos and despair. Or, you can life a life of faith. Faith sees through the eyes of God and trust in His ability alone to provide an answer to your need. He gives you peace while man offers you panic. How do we trust in God's ability? We must walk in complete obedience. God has a plan and we must walk in His plan. It may seem the man has abandoned you. You may feel like no one understands. You may even seem like god is silent. But in His silence, He is watching for your obedience. As you obey, He will be faithful! Panic or peace! Choose you this day whom you will serve!
J. Johnson