Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Holy Anxiety

"Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12).

Paul writes to the Philippians that we obey Christ because it is God who works in us the desire and ability to serve Him faithfully (Philippians 2:13). Paul also states, however, that our obedience is to be accomplished in a spirit of fear and trembling.

Fear and trembling? Ordinarily, these are not thought of as Christian virtues. How many times did Jesus say, “Fear not”? What about obeying through joy and enthusiasm? Well, joy and enthusiasm are certainly not excluded, but Paul is saying that we must also have a holy fear and respect for God’s commandments. God means business and if we find ourselves temporarily bereft of joy and enthusiasm, we’d better maintain at least some fear and trembling.

Jesus spelled this out when He said, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Mark 14:38). The Christian knows that though he is born of God and God is continually working in him, much sin remains. So he walks carefully, anxious to avoid sin and constantly asking forgiveness as he consistently fails. As long as there is sin in Christians, there is need for anxiety and trembling.

We are to have no anxiety about God. God has made promises and we are to believe Him. We are to have joyous confidence in His work within us yet we are to have anxiety about our sin as well. The more we love God, the more we tremble and fear at the thought of displeasing Him. We love Him and don’t want to grieve His Spirit. “Blessed are those who mourn,” said Jesus (Matthew 5:4). We mourn over our sins while we are confident that Jesus forgives us anyway. It is an amazing psychological state that we find ourselves in, because “blessed” means “happy.” Happy are those who are sad. Our sorrow at ourselves is joined with happiness in Christ.

So, we are to be anxiously confident: confident in God and anxious about ourselves. We are not anxious and afraid that God will fail us or leave us, but we are anxious and fearful that we will fail God and depart from Him. Thankfully, such anxiety is only earthly. Once our sanctification is complete and we are glorified in heaven, we will fear sin no more.

How familiar are you with this fear and trembling, this holy anxiety and mourning over self? If you don’t know much about it, take a closer look at yourself today and bring your shame to the feet of the Savior.