I’ve been praying for you this week, specifically that God would satisfy the longings of your soul and deliver you from your distress (Psalm 107).
Several years ago, I was counseling a young couple that was struggling in their marriage. The wife in this relationship wrestled regularly with anxiety. Sometimes the weight of her worries would prevent her from even exiting the house. The husband, frustrated by his wife’s inability to “conquer” this sin, said to me, “I keep telling her not to be anxious. But she won’t move past it. Even though the Bible says explicitly, ‘Do not be anxious about anything.’” I gently said to him, “You’re not helping her.”
What happens when you tell an anxious person to stop being anxious? She becomes more anxious! Her worries are compounded as she thinks: What’s wrong with me? Why aren’t I like everyone else? Why can’t I stop these thoughts? What will this lead to? Will I ever be freed from this torment?
What, then, does help?
Well, let’s consider Paul’s example in the letter that I just referenced. Indeed, the apostle does tell the Philippians not to be anxious (4:6) but he does not pretend that this command alone has the power to purge their worries and fears. Immediately before this imperative is the beautiful, though often neglected, indicative: “The Lord is near” (verse 5).
In the Scriptures, the word “near” is used both spatially and temporally. That is to say, sometimes it means “present, beside, or close at hand,” while other times it refers to the chronological proximity of an event, e.g., “autumn is near.” I believe that this is one of the few times in the Scriptures that the word “near” has both connotations. New Testament scholar, Gordon Fee, agrees. He says this might be the closest thing to a double entendre that we have in the Pauline papers.
In other words, before Paul tells these folks at Philippi not to be anxious, he assures them that the risen Jesus is with them, his presence will be their comfort, and he will soon physically return to make all things right. And not only that, Paul reminds them in the same letter (which was intended to be read in one sitting): “Of this I am sure: he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion” (1:6); and, it won’t be your goodness or activity that ensures your acceptance by the Father, you are “found in him, not having a righteousness of your own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Jesus” (3:9).
Paul says to those who are anxious, in essence: you are the Lord’s, you have been united with Jesus, God has chosen you and lavished his love on you, through no merit of your own, and nothing will come upon you—nothing!—except what God has already planned for the strengthening of your faith, and the completion of the salvation he started in you.
What happens when you tell an anxious person that? What is the result when the Holy Spirit impresses that reality upon a person’s heart through the gospel and prayer? In a word: peace. An inexplicable calm. The confidence to go outside again, and the ability to face the unevenness of an ever-changing world. Herein lies the secret to the “peace that passes all understanding” (4:7): a heart rooted and resting in the promises of God, who he is, what he has done in Christ, and what he will continue to do.
With that assurance of God’s faithfulness, let me inform you of a few changes at Northpoint’s staff level (not that I expect these to make you anxious:)
:: Tamene Mena has begun his one-year stint as our Pastoral Assistant. He will be focusing his efforts on our prayer ministry, missions, visitation, our partnership with ReBuild Fellowship in Riverside, and helping to develop a “discipleship path.”
:: Taylor Mendoza has officially dropped the “Interim” tag. He now serves as our Director of Student Ministries, and students (and parents) have responded wonderfully to his leadership.
:: Carolee Jefferson has been promoted to Ministry Associate (from Ministry Assistant). This change simply reflects the outstanding work that she has long been doing, and the responsibility she has borne in making our students feel loved and supported.
:: James Aeschliman will wrap up his duties as the Summer Junior High Intern at the end of August. Taylor and I are working on finding a suitable successor to shepherd our 7th and 8th graders, and we prayerfully expect to enjoy a seamless transition.
:: Finally, on a much sadder note, Sarah Pate has stepped down as our Choir Director. She informed me of her decision earlier this week. The reason was really a philosophical one. When I relayed to Sarah the elders’ updated and clarified vision for choir, she humbly concluded that she was not the one to effectively lead in that direction. Sarah has faithfully led this ministry for the last seven years and, without a doubt, our church has benefited because of her passion, devotion, and faithfulness. Sarah will still be a part of our church, just serving in different capacities. That said, the choir ministry will continue, under the leadership of Geoff Grant, our Director of Worship Ministries. Kick-off for the choir’s new ministry year is on Wednesday, August 23, at 6:30 p.m., in the Music Room. All are welcome. There are no auditions for inclusion in the choir.
We are blessed with a terrific team and one for which I am very grateful. I have no doubt that you feel the same way.
By his grace,