Just recently a very dear couple were scheduled to have their baby; a couple of weeks before due date. It was a long, hard road for them to get pregnant, and then they were faced with a potentially serious complication. I was concerned, and praying a lot for them. And then I waited… and waited… and waited to get word. Finally… Good news! A healthy baby and mom. And once again, we see the wonder and miracle of birth and God’s goodness.
But… when does concern - legitimate concern - pass into worry, or anxiousness, or even fear? When does something that concerns us enough to pray mightily morph into something that is sinful? In this case, the key is found in the “praying”. When there is an absence of prayer, or a lack of trust in God’s control and care, we have crossed the line.
Also this week, in the devotional I am sharing with some men in our church, it had us reading this verse: Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Selah (Psalm 68:19 NIV84 - By the way, it is believed that “selah” was an ancient Jewish idiom that meant “pause and consider”… or “think on this”… something we should do on verses such as this one!) Did you catch the “daily bears our burdens” part? Daily. God stands ready to bear our burdens. The question is this: will you let Him?
It seems God gives us a choice; either we can bear our burdens, where we can worry, and be fearful - or - we can let God bear them (c.f. 1 Peter 5:6-7). As I have studied Scripture, I don’t believe there is a “both”. It is either God or us doing the bearing of our burdens. Oh, He loves us as His children, and we are truly forgiven of sin - past, present, and future; but His Word tells us to trust Him, believe in Him, to lay our burdens at HIs feet. If we carry them, we just get in the way of what He will do for us.
Now all that said, God’s “bearing our burdens” doesn’t mean we are to ignore problems and issues in the hopes that they will simply go away. We are to be responsible as adults and followers of Christ to obey what we need to obey. We are to pray and act responsibly and in accordance with God’s Word (c.f. Galatians 6:5; and in Acts 27 God revealed to Paul that though they would be shipwrecked, all would be spared. Paul nevertheless counseled that they throw the grain overboard to lighten the ship.). It is a funny thing, but all too often I witness people fretting over things they should give to God, and ignoring or “surrendering” things that God gives us instructions about. E.g. things like engaging our children as the parents He calls us to be; reconciling with people we have offended and/or have offended us; being responsible employees; being good stewards (biblical managers) of our finances; and more.
I’ve been reading a very good book called, The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist, by Andy Bannister. It is a witty, logical, practical, and biblical look at Atheism. It got me to thinking… always a dangerous thing I hear. Actually I got to thinking about a phrase I have mentioned a time or two, especially as it relates to the guy I see each morning in the mirror. The phrase is “Practical Atheism”. My computer’s dictionary defines atheism as the “disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods”. A practical atheist is essentially someone who claims to be a Christian, but lives in such a manner that their life does not give evidence or testimony to that as being a reality.
Simply put, I am by no means an atheist. I believe in the God and His Christ that are revealed in Scripture. According to God’s Word, I know that I am His child; I am a follower of Christ. And yet… there are times when this follower of Christ isn’t always following Christ. There are times when my actions and attitude would define me more as an atheist than a believer in the Sovereign God of the Universe… and my personal Savior, who daily bears my burdens.
Actions and attitudes matter. So do words - verbal, written, and those we pass along. When I give in to worry and fear, I am for all intents and purposes, a practical atheist. Where is God in the midst of my worry? Who is carrying my burdens? Him… or me? When I make choices and decisions without consulting Him through His Word and prayer, I am also more often than not a practical atheist. If I claim Jesus is my Savior and Lord, then shouldn’t I consult Him in my decision making? I can do that through the study of His Word, prayer, and at times even consulting other mature believers in Christ.
If I claim to be Christian but seldom go to church that loves Him and His Word, seldom serve my Christ, what does that make me look like? People are watching. So is God. I have heard from any number of Christian employers and supervisors who have said that some of their worst employees are those who claim to be Christian. Really? Really???
One of my favorite sayings is this: “If you were to be arrested for being a follower of Christ, would there be enough evidence in your life to convict you?” Don’t take that question lightly. People are watching you, and for the Christ you say is in you. Do they see Him? Really see Him? Or do they see someone who is for all intents and purposes a practical atheist? If you are uncertain, ask a friend, a co-worker, or a neighbor; ask a mature follower of Christ. The answer(s) may make you uncomfortable, may even hurt, but I’d rather hear it where I have opportunity to repent then wait until God starts disciplining the child He loves. I’ve been to God’s woodshed. And while I can look back and thank Him for taking me there (it showed He truly loved me); it hurt… so much so that I never want to repeat that again.
All this should be enough to concern you… But then our God is awesome at listening and guiding. Just listen for that still small voice… you might even come across it in the book in which He is revealed. It’s called “The Bible”. I highly recommend it.