Put off, renew, put on.

There’s a meme on social media right now that I guess is meant to be funny. “Check on your friends with anxiety, we are not ok.” In reality, I’d bet there is more truth than humor to that statement for many of us. I know I am struggling. A steady barrage of bad to worse news each day has kept me on edge. And no matter how many times I read, “do not fear, only believe (Mk. 5:36)” I can’t seem to shake the feeling that this virus is going to impact my immediate family. Significantly. Well-meaning folks have written informative blogs and posts meant to keep the faithful, well, faith-FULL during this current crisis. And, yes—what they have to say is absolutely biblical and true. Worry IS sin. Anxiety IS a distrust in the Heavenly Father. Fear IS unbelief. And a healthy recognition of those ways in which we fail to trust God is helpful. Paul calls this the “put off” of sinful behavior (Eph. 4:22). My problem with this type of “encouragement” is that it just makes me feel more anxious. I’ve tried to see this pandemic through the lens of “what is God doing?” I’ve read “Peace be Still” and worked hard to make that my supplication. But thoughts about the future continue to haunt me. Is my faith really that small? I think this highlights the difficulty of a vigorous focus on the “put off’s” in Scripture. There needs to be more of a balance across the “put off—renew—put on” directives (Eph. 4:22-25). To lean on one side over the other is to fall into either despair of the inability to abandon the old way of thinking, or an unhealthy self – confidence that we can. So, the three instructions must be practiced as one. What does this look like in our current situation? Put off— means I do acknowledge that worry, and fear, and anxiety, and despair about the future are sinful responses to a world filled with uncertainty. This is the way people without hope react to fallen life. But that’s not me. I have hope. I can dismiss these thoughts about the future because… Renew—means I do acknowledge God’s truth about Himself (Isa. 41:10), His promises (Deut. 31:6), and His plans (Isa. 46:10). The times are a changin rapidly, but God IS NOT. He is the same today, yesterday, and tomorrow. On that I can depend. But I must also… Put on—because I can acknowledge that God is good. He INTENDS good, He DOES good, He PLANS good, He SPEAKS good, He PROPOSES good. Completely opposite to the lies of Satan in the garden (who, by the way, has no new material—he continues to tempt us to believe God is cruel), I can –by God’s grace—trust that whatever happens IS God’s good.
“Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you (coronavirus), you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Gen. 50:19–20)
I’m sure I won’t be cured of anxiety any time soon. I bet I will battle with it the moment I post this blog. But I also know I can fight to believe precisely because God (in His goodness) made that a possibility (Eph. 2:10). So onward anxious friends. Let’s spur one another on to fight to put off—renew—put on…”Don’t worry Scoob.” May your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven Father in heaven, as evidence that your kingdom comes, and so that your name may be sanctified, let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Do whatever you please in heaven, in earth, in the sea, and in all deep places. For your purposes shall stand. You will do all your good pleasure. May it ever be so Holy Father. Not our will but yours be done. As you have planned, so let it happen. As you have purposed, let it stand. Do all according to the counsel of your own will. Make even those that have not known you serve your purposes. Even when they do not intend to do your will, and do not think in their heart that they are fulfilling your purposes, let them do so nonetheless. Matthew 6:9 ~ Psalm 135:6 ~ Isaiah 46:10 ~ Luke 22:42 ~ Isaiah 14:24 ~ Ephesians 1:11 ~ Isaiah 10:7 Matthew Henry ~ A Way to Pray

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