|Volume 21 Number 11 November 2019||
T. Pierce Brown
Stop worrying. Be happy. Rejoice. Love your enemies. Those are just some of the many admonitions found in the Bible about which preachers often preach. However, it is far easier to tell a person what he should do than it is to tell him exactly how he is to do it.
When I tell a person to stop worrying because it is a sin, he may respond, “I know it. That is what worries me the most.” If I tell a person, “Love your enemies,” he may reply, “It is hard enough to love my friends. I do not know how I can love my enemies.”
There are at least two values in quoting these commandments directly from the Bible. First, we need to impress upon those who hear that they are not merely good suggestions or advice, but they are commands of God. Second, with the command, we often find hints or directions about how to accomplish the command.
For example, in Matthew 6:25-34 when Jesus instructed not to worry, He told in verse 26 that the Heavenly Father feeds the birds and values us more than He does them. Meditating on that fact will help us to obey the command. Then in verse 27, He said, “And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life?” He indicated that worry is useless because it accomplishes nothing. Keen awareness of that may help us to stop it as we set our minds on ways to solve whatever problem that confronts us instead of worrying about it. Then, the specific promise of verse 33, if believed, will automatically decrease our worry, for he stated, “But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Those things may help me to overcome worrying, but how can I actually be happy and rejoice when my health is bad, my bones ache, my children are on drugs or in jail, or my insurance company has gone broke and I do not know how I am going to pay my bills? Much of the problem will be solved when we learn not to worry, but we still may need to have some other information or specific rules to learn so we can rejoice.
In the first place, we need to understand what rejoicing is and what it involves. In Colossians 1:24, Paul penned, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake.” When Jesus taught in Matthew 5:12 to rejoice and to be exceedingly glad, He was speaking to those who would be reviled, persecuted and falsely accused. So, it does not mean the kind of pleasure one gets from eating ice cream or looking at a beautiful sunset. Rejoicing is an attitude that one can develop as he realizes that God will work all things together for his good if he loves God.
In Philippians 4:4-8, when Paul was writing about overcoming anxiety, gaining peace and always rejoicing, he suggested some rules for doing that. First, pray about everything with thanksgiving. This is a deliberate intellectual and spiritual choice that you can make. When you make it, the promise of verse 7 is sure, “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.” Then in verse 8, there is an additional statement that tells us how we can deliberately achieve the ability to rejoice always. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
It is not as easy for us to find specific quotations that deal with how to learn to love one’s enemies or any other person, but I have gleaned from my study of God’s Word for 65 years and my own experience in trying to do it, these four simple rules that will help. We can find Scripture that helps illustrate and strengthen each of them but will not include all of them here. The rules are: 1. Think something good about them (Philippians 4:8). It may be that they are so vile that the only good thing you can think of is that Christ valued them enough to die for them. Meditate on that. 2. Say good about and to them when possible (Titus 3:2). 3. Do good for them when the opportunity presents itself (Romans 12:20). 4. Receive good from them if and when they offer it. When you receive good from God or another human, there may arise a feeling of gratitude that can grow into love. Remember that this love (agape) is not an emotion but a deliberate choice of will to give of what you are and have for another’s welfare. By the help of God and His Word, you can make that choice.
Preachers and Teachers, try to teach your students how to do whatever it is you admonish them to do. Two primary ways to do it is to show the scriptural principles upon which they are to act, and then demonstrate them in your own life.
When we want to accomplish something, we must set our mind’s eye on the desired end we want to see; we must fix our eyes on our goal. This begins at an early age in our lives. Babies in arms see people walking around them upright, and they want to accomplish that goal. It may take some falls, bruises, aches and pains, but the goal is normally accomplished. This repetition occurs throughout our lives as we set our eyes on the goals we want to accomplish.
There are even literal “goals” that people have mastered. For instance, the Harlem Globetrotters are probably the most well-known ever for mastering the art of putting a basketball through the goal. They can make the goal from long distances, from strange positions and with seemingly little effort. They practice a lot, but the main thing they had to do to succeed at the game was to keep their mind’s eye on the goal. Some of them could make the goal from a backward stance. How? Because they knew exactly where the goal was in relation to where they were on the court, and they concentrated on that fact.
At this writing, I am scheduled to see a neurosurgeon about my back problems and a possible aneurysm on the aorta that have caused me to cease a lot of my activities. When I see that doctor, I don’t expect him to pick up a scalpel and start carving on my body to try to find the problem. I expect him to take x-rays, and then, along with the knowledge he has of the innerworkings of the human body, I expect him to come up with a diagnosis. He will have his eye on the goal as he knows how the human body is built, and he will be able to see any problems on the pictures.
Everyone has goals to accomplish. Sometimes it may take a lot of study, concentration and effort to accomplish those goals, but if a person keeps his eyes on the goal and does what is necessary, almost anything can be achieved. That in itself is amazing! Amidst the hustle and bustle of life, we often forget that the same principles that apply to our physical lives also apply to our spiritual lives. When a person learns and accepts the fact that there is an eternal Heaven, he must set his eyes on the goal to reach that heavenly home. He must study God’s Word to know it and then to do what God says to do. The commandment is to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV). However, knowing alone is not enough. One must know and do what God says!
Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean that a person will never do anything wrong again. Quite the contrary. We can rest assured that Satan will try harder than ever to get us to take our minds off the goal of an eternal Heaven. He will strive and will do everything within his power to turn us from God’s commandments! Staying fixed on the goal to of Heaven is the only way to get there. Certainly, one will not quit sinning because he becomes a Christian, but with his eyes set on the heavenly goal, he will continue to strive to make things right between God and himself when he errs. John wrote, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9) and “…if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). Jesus is the Christian’s defense attorney!
Sometimes Christians just give up when they sin and cease any effort to be Christ-like. They turn back to the world and lose sight of the fact that they can be forgiven. To accomplish a task, a person’s mind’s eye must be set on the goal to complete it. How much more must Christians set their eyes on a heavenly goal to accomplish it by praying for forgiveness and then practicing faithfulness and strength! God bless us in doing that.