Many Christians seem anxious and angry these days.
Our national discourse has grown more heated during the past year or so, thanks to the pandemic, the economic downturn, the social lockdowns, the racial unrest, the riots, the election, the additional riots, the censoring, etc. There is more to it than even these things, but these come to mind pretty easily.
And some Christians are anxious and angry. Some worry about getting COVID-19. Some worry about spreading COVID-19. Some worry about their safety. Some worry about the future of the country. Some worry about economy, the stock market, and the national debt. Some are angry about the elections. Some are angry about the culture.
And the fact of the matter is Christians are people of promise. We have nothing to fear. We have an unshakeable kingdom of which we are members. Our King will come, and he will set things right.
But in times like these, it is easy to feel so fallible and weak. Despite all our Bible reading and devotions and sermon-listening and prayer – despite everything we know about God and his ways – we still can get caught up in the emotion of this temporary world and these temporary kingdoms.
We can spout off on social media, and we can delete “friends” when they disagree with us. We can lay awake at night wondering what will happen next, whether we should buy guns, whether we should invest in gold, whether there will be much of a country left for our children and grandchildren.
Despite all the things we know about God and his promises, we still can struggle with all of these things – all of this anger and all of this anxiety.
And it’s easy to get down on ourselves. It is easy to feel badly that we aren’t further along as people of peace and hope and joy. We “know” better, and we still fall short.
I suppose simply knowing the promise of God is not enough to drive us to perfect living.
Abram knew the promise of God. God was explicit: “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3).
Abram “knew” what God had in store for him. And yet, in a moment of stress – of famine and of travel and of entering into the unknown in Egypt – Abram fell back into the old ways, into sin. He returned to the way of deception and the way that marks Satan and every sinner on earth.
Sarai was his wife, but Abram said she was not. He was afraid. Even though he knew the promise of God, he lived for a season as if he did not. Actually, he lived multiple seasons – see Genesis 20 – as if he did not.
The persistence of sin seems almost limitless at times. It is frustrating to us. Despite our best efforts and all of our knowledge, we too easily can fall back into sinful patterns.
This episode in Abram’s life was important because it threatened to derail the plan God had laid out for humanity and its salvation. Abram and his family were to be a blessing to the world. And Abram, in fear, turned his wife over to another man.
But God stepped in. “The Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai” (Genesis 12:17).
God knew Abram couldn’t do it on his own, despite Abram’s willingness to follow God in faith. God knew Abram would slip up, that he would suffer moments of unbelief. God knew Abram would encounter times of fear.
As it turns out, simply knowing the promise wasn’t enough. Abram’s knowledge that God had promised to bless him was not enough to drive Abram into perfect obedience and faith. Sin still crouched at the door.
And so God took the initiative in Abram’s life. God had a plan, and God was working out the plan despite the foibles of humanity. The plan, with all its twists and turns and God’s repeated intervention, led to the cross.
And we are Christians, believers in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We know the promise. We know we have eternal life. We know we are like strangers on this earth, awaiting our homeland. A new heaven and earth is coming, and we can look forward to that with hope.
And yet we still sometimes fall into those old patterns of anxiety and anger as we try to get along in this world.
It’s probably good for us to feel frustrated when this happens. We don’t want to become complacent, after all! God does desire our obedience to Him.
But at the same time, we should remember God has a plan. He had a plan for Abram and all of humanity, and he has good intentions for us. This is why the Holy Spirit lives in us, teaching us the way we should live. God continues to intervene in human life through the work of the Spirit.
God’s plan won’t be thwarted. When we go astray, we ought to continue to live in faith. And we can look for the Holy Spirit’s help in our dark moments (Matthew 28:20).
“And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:39).
That sounds like a plan.