We pick up our series on fear with the second half of Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones’ counsel. We must not listen to ourselves, but we must also fill that space by speaking to ourselves.
Dr. Lloyd Jones explains:
“Our fears are due to our failure to stir up—failure to think, failure to take ourselves in hand. You find yourself looking to the future and then you begin to imagine things and you say: ‘I wonder what is going to happen?’ And then, your imagination runs away with you. You are gripped by the thing…this thing overwhelms you and down you go. Now the first thing you have to do is to take a firm grip of yourself, to pull yourself up, to stir up yourself, to take yourself in hand and to speak to yourself.”
“Talk to yourself out loud, if you have to” a pastor once advised me in the midst of one of my particularly intense battles with fear. So if you ever catch me muttering to myself, you’ll know why.
And what exactly should we say to ourselves?
“Faith reminds itself of what the Scripture calls ‘the exceeding great and precious promises’ says Lloyd Jones. “Faith says: ‘I cannot believe that He who has brought me so far is going to let me down at this point. It is impossible, it would be inconsistent with the character of God.’ So faith, having refused to be controlled by circumstances [or feelings!], reminds itself of what it believes and what it knows.”
Tell your soul—out loud if you have to—what it believes and what it knows.
“Do not Fear.”
“What? Not even a little?”
“No, do not fear.”
“Surely I may show some measure of fear?”
“No, do not fear.”
Tie this knot tight around the throat of unbelief: “Do not fear.” “Do not
fear” today. “Do not fear” tomorrow. “Do not fear” any day of your life.
When fear comes, drive it away and give it no space.
When the weather is rough, passengers on a ship can be comforted by the
captain’s calm behavior. One simple-minded soul said, “I am sure there is
no cause to fear, for I heard the captain whistling.” Surely if the captain
is at ease, the passengers can be at peace. If the Lord Jesus is at the
helm singing, do not fear. “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him”
(Ps.37:7). “Be strong, do not fear! Behold, our God will come with
vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you”
“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?” Martyn Lloyd-Jones
This is revolutionary, biblical, fear-fighting counsel for mothers. And it comes in two parts:
1. Stop listening to yourself
2. Start speaking to yourself
First, we must stop listening to our fears. We must not give them any “air time.”
The critical moment is when a fearful thought first strikes our soul: “What if _________happens to my child?” or “What if my child never___________?”
If we listen—even for a moment, if we give this fear any attention, consider its potential, wonder at its source, soon we begin to believe it might be true. The more we ponder this possibility, the more believable the fear becomes. Soon it is joined by other, more fearsome, thoughts; and before we know it, we’re overwhelmed by hopelessness and dread.
A wise pastor once gave me this advice: “If any thought robs you of peace, it is an enemy of your soul; give it no recognition.”
Give it no recognition. Ignore it. Disregard it. Close your ears to it. Pay it no mind.
We must not yield the floor to fear. We must filibuster our fears by speaking truth to our souls.
Continuing the theme of fighting mothering fears with the promises of God, I want to encourage you to listen to this sermon by Jerry Bridges. He was at our church on Sunday—what a blessing!—and he spoke on “Trusting God.” Here’s one quote that stood out to me:
“Here’s a principle to keep in mind: The promises of god are as real as the circumstances you are in. Your circumstances say “God has forgotten you.” Your circumstances say, “I look for God, and just when I need God to come through for me, God doesn’t seem to be any place.” That’s what your circumstances say. The promise of God says, “I will not leave you. I will never forsake you.” And that promise is just as real as the circumstances you are in. And so by faith, we look beyond our circumstances and we look to the promises of God.” Whether you are tempted to fear over an errant teenager or a disobedient toddler, may God give you faith to look beyond your circumstances and remember the VERY REAL promise that God is with you and will never leave you.
Recently Justin Taylor posted the following from John Piper. It is worth re-posting here in its entirety:
* When I am anxious about some risky new venture or meeting, I battle unbelief with the promise: “Fear not for I am with you, be not dismayed for I am your God; I will help you, I will strengthen you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
* When I am anxious about my ministry being useless and empty, I fight unbelief with the promise, “So shall my word that goes forth from my mouth; it will not come back to me empty but accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).
* When I am anxious about being too weak to do my work, I battle unbelief with the promise of Christ, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9), and “As your days so shall your strength be” (Deuteronomy 33:25).
* When I am anxious about decisions I have to make about the future, I battle unbelief with the promise, “I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8).
* When I am anxious about facing opponents, I battle unbelief with the promise, “If God is for us who can be against us!” (Romans 8:31).
* When I am anxious about being sick, I battle unbelief with the promise that “tribulation works patience, and patience approvedness, and approvedness hope, and hope does not make us ashamed” (Romans 5:3–5).
* When I am anxious about getting old, I battle unbelief with the promise, “Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save” (Isaiah 46:4).
* When I am anxious about dying, I battle unbelief with the promise that “none of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself; if we live we live to the Lord and if we die we die to the Lord. So whether we live or die we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and rose again: that he might be Lord both of the dead and the living” (Romans 14:9–11).
* When I am anxious that I may make shipwreck of faith and fall away from God, I battle unbelief with the promise, “He who began a good work in you will complete it unto the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:6). “He who calls you is faithful. He will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). “He is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
“[T]ake the…sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” Ephesians 6:17-18
To fight fear we are to “pray at all times.” But we have another weapon in our arsenal: the promises of God. We are to wield the Word against the onslaught of mothering fears.
We are to ”take” the Word of God and use it. To do this, we need to have it nearby. This means we need to be daily reading the Word and consistently meditating on it.
And we need to pull out the promises and put them into action. We have to pick up the sword and fight. A sword must be swung in order to deliver a blow.
We have a legacy of faithful, fear-fighting women to follow: “And you are [Sarah’s] children if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.” 1 Peter 3:6
John Piper writes: “[T]he daughters of Sarah fight the anxiety that rises in their hearts. They wage war on fear, and they defeat it with the promises of God.”
Let’s be daughters of Sarah and fight our mothering fears with the promises of God.
Christen sent us this question in response to the series on a mother’s fears: How are we to think as far as trusting God to save our children? We have no promise that he’s going to, but at the same time, we’re raising them in that hope. Can we say that we can trust God to save them? It might be better to say that we can entrust our children to God. We have no explicit promise that He is going to save them, that is true. But we have more than enough promises in Scripture to help us put off fear and pray with expectant faith. We must trust in God’s character—His sovereignty, wisdom, mercy, love and faithfulness. And we must remember His purposes, as Charles Spurgeon explained in his comments on Psalm 102:28:
“The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you.”
“This verse is full of good cheer to us; we may plead for the Lord’s favor to our offspring…. God does not neglect the children of his servants…Grace is not hereditary, yet God loves to be served by the same family time out of mind…. We may, therefore, not only for our own sakes but also out of love to the church of God, daily pray that our sons and daughters may be saved, and kept by divine grace even unto the end—established before the Lord.” Throughout Scripture we see examples of God working through families; there are many verses that speak of God’s heart for future generations and command us to pray and preach the gospel to the next generation. So let’s entrust our children’s souls to a good God. And instead of giving way to fear, let’s fervently pray and preach the good news to them each day.
Over the summer our family visited the Sovereign Grace Church in Knoxville, TN—Cornerstone Church of Knoxville. That morning, a young woman named Shannon shared her story of leaving a Christian home to attend college, and the crisis of faith that followed. Her testimony was so powerful that we wanted to share it with you, and Shannon graciously gave us permission. So whether you are in college, just sent a child off to college, or are home with small children today (and feeling far away from your college days or theirs!) may you encouraged by how God used the members of one church to display the beauty and truth of His Word to one wayward college student. I was blessed to be raised in a Christian family with strong involvement in an evangelical church. Because I was a “good kid,” I was confident in my ability to do the Christian walk right. It was with this ill-placed confidence that I left home and enrolled at a Christian college. All freshmen at my college were required to take Bible classes, and the religion professors there taught that parts of Scripture were not true. Though my friends had no trouble believing the Bible anyway, my mind was filled with doubt. I had been taught all my life that Scripture was as accurate as any textbook, but my professors suggested that my parents and Sunday School teachers were deceiving me, trying to keep me sheltered from the real truth. In the end, I believed my professors instead of God’s Word. I began by just questioning certain parts of Scripture, but the doubt quickly spread to other areas. Eventually, I wasn’t sure if God existed at all—and if He did exist, I wasn’t sure I liked Him. By the end of my second year in college, the doubt had progressed so far that I refused to read my Bible, and if I prayed, I only did so to challenge God to prove that He was real. More than once, I sat on my bed with my arms crossed and glared at my Bible with hatred. Though I didn’t believe in the Bible, I also realized that if the Bible wasn’t true, then life was meaningless. This realization made me continually angry, cynical, and depressed. Still, I demanded answers to my questions—and I had many questions—before I would accept God as Lord of my life again. I was in the worst phase of this hostile doubt when my brother and sister-in-law first began attending Cornerstone Church of Knoxville. My brother tried to persuade me to visit, and even though I initially refused, he just wouldn’t ever stop talking about the church. Finally, I agreed to go, knowing that visiting once was the only way he would leave me alone. The Sunday I first came to Cornerstone, I avoided the greeters at the door, and I didn’t raise my hand to identify myself as a guest. But I was struck by a pre-teen boy sitting in front of me who was singing passionately during the music. I had never seen any pre-teen that excited about praising God before. As I looked around the church, I saw that this boy was no special case: other people exhibited the same delight in worship. Watching them sing, I knew these people had joy, which was something I missed—so I started to attend Cornerstone to see if I could have it, too. Coming to Cornerstone helped me desire faith again. The pastors exhibited a firm belief in the truth and the power of Scripture, and instead of being offended at how countercultural the teaching was, I found it refreshing and challenging. I began to grow spiritually again, but I was still often crippled with fears that the Bible was a lie made by men and that I was wasting my time and life by believing what it said. On top of that, my classes at college still bombarded me with falsehoods, making it difficult for me to hold to my faltering faith. This pattern continued for about a year, until I attended a class offered at Cornerstone on the doctrine of Scripture. I believe that God ordained this specific class, at this specific time, for my good. One day, as we were talking through one of the homework readings, I realized that if the Bible was true, then my doubt and accusations against a Holy God, along with the skepticism that had been so encouraged at my college, were atrocities in His sight. But if the Bible was true, then that also meant that God, though He had just reason to crush me for despising His Word, had mercifully provided His Son to absorb the full wrath for all the animosity I had shown toward Him. And even as I raged against Him, He had patiently and gently brought me to a church where I could see the height of my folly and the depths of his grace, where He had been planning all along to restore me to Himself. Hallelujah! That morning, as I sat in the Scripture class quietly, nobody there knew that a drastic change was taking place in my soul. God was restoring my trust in Scripture and in Him. I was amazed as I tried to recall the questions I had long demanded answers to—and found that my doubts were unconvincing, powerless against the rush of joyful assurance that God had given me. The changes in my soul were sweeping; faith and joy replaced my cynicism and misery. I began a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan, and every morning I eagerly picked up the same Bible I had often glared at angrily just a year before. I read the warnings in Scripture about false teachers and being wise in my own sight, and I was amazed that God’s Word predicted the exact lies I had fallen for at college. And I treasured the mercy of God that would give me the gift of faith even though I had shaken my fist at Him and at His Word in hostility. I still have the sinful tendency to struggle with doubt, but through Cornerstone Church, God has consistently, graciously provided me with support for the fight of faith. Through my four years here, other college students have challenged me, pastors have prayed for me, and people in my small group have lovingly walked with me through my hard questions. My husband, whom I met at Cornerstone, daily leads me to apply Scripture to every situation, and I can see its powerful effects in my life. I now know experientially that Scripture’s promises are true, and I praise God for the power of His living Word and for bringing me to a church where His truth is prized.
Anyone out there afraid for your kids? I thought I saw a few hands go up. Mine sure did.
These fears come in all shapes, sizes and packages. I don’t need to suggest any for you. You know what your fears for your children are. You were probably thinking of them just this morning.
In his book Running Scared (which I highly recommend), Ed Welch gives us the biblical solution to our fears: we need to fear more. We need to fear God more. For “when you fear the Lord, there is not much else to fear.” The fear of the Lord banishes our fears for our children. Dr. Welch illustrates:
“If you are trained in medicine and have parented five children, you aren’t going to worry when your neighbor asks you to watch her ten-year-old for twenty minutes. If you really want to fight fear, learn to fear Someone who captures your attention in such a way that your other fears suddenly seem pedestrian and unimportant.”
But there’s more. When we learn to fear God, we will actually be protecting our children. Proverbs 14:26 says, “He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge.”
So if you want to be rid of those nagging fears and be a means of God’s protection for your children, fear the Lord today. Allow His wisdom, goodness, love, power and holiness to capture your attention. Then tell your kids about the awesome God we serve.
To conclude our topic on “trusting God” for this week, we want to leave you with a few of our favorite quotes (besides the ones we’ve included in our posts):
“It is a very easy thing for us to get into a desponding state of heart, and to mistrust the promises and faithfulness of God, and yet, all the while, to look upon ourselves as the subjects of a disease which we cannot help, and even to claim pity at the hands of our fellow-men, and to think that they should condole us, and try to cheer us. Perhaps they should; but, at any rate, we must not think that they should. It will be far wiser for each one of us to feel, ‘This unbelief of mine is a great wrong in the sight of God. He has never given me any occasion for it, and I am doing him a cruel injustice by thus doubting him.’” Charles Spurgeon “It is just as important to trust God as it is to obey Him. When we disobey God we defy His authority and despise His holiness. But when we fail to trust God we doubt His sovereignty and question His goodness.” Jerry Bridges “Difficulties heaped upon difficulties can never rise the level of the promise of God…Unbelief looks at the difficulty. Faith regards the promise.” Charles Bridges “Where faith is deficient the gospel is sufficient.” CJ Mahaney He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how shall he not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things. Romans 8:32