FOUR "NOTS" FOR THE CHRISTIAN
1, 1986 Issue
by Johnny Elmore
There are some "nots" or prohibitions for the Christian. These are not intended to unduly restrict us or to take the sunshine out of our lives, but to make us happier and more content. The apostle Paul stated that "the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Romans 14:17). The prohibitions I want to mention will help us realize the blessings of the kingdom of God.
God said to Abram, "Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward" (Genesis 15:1). From verse 2, we learn that apparently Abram was afraid that he had left home and family in vain, and that God would not be able to keep his promises having to do with Abram's progeny. But God prohibited him to be afraid, and led him out under the star-studded canopy of heaven, challenged him to number the stars, and assured him, "So shall thy seed be." Abram's fears were groundless. Ours are, too. Over and over, these words have reassured the people of God. Jesus often calmed his troubled disciples with the words, "fear not."
We are not to fear: (1) danger, for the Lord is with us (Matthew 28:20); (2) starvation, for the Lord will supply (Matthew 6:26); (3) burdens being too heavy, for God will strengthen (Isaiah 41:10); (4) man, for the Lord is our helper (Hebrews 13:6); or (5) death, for man is not wholly mortal (Psalm 23:4; II Corinthians 4:16).
The psalmist said: "Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity" (Psalm 37:1). Barnes says: "The Hebrew word here means properly to burn, to be kindled, to be inflamed, and is often applied to anger as if under its influence we become heated.... Hence it means to fret oneself, or be angry, or indignant." The writer is speaking of a state of mind in which we are anxious or envious because others are prosperous and successful and we are not. We are not to fret at the fact that there are wicked men, that God suffers them to live, at their numbers, or at their success and prosperity.
Sometimes we may fret when we see people of wicked character prospering while we, endeavoring to do right, are left to poverty or disappointment. But we are not to fret or be envious. Why? the psalmist explains: "For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb." This advice is repeated in verses 7 and 8, and the voice of wisdom assures us in verses 9-11 that the true way is for a man to do his duty, to do right always, and then commit the whole to God. I once talked with an aged brother who suffered an impoverishing foreclosure at the hands of evil men at a time when he could least afford. He was facing the sunset of life, but he was serene and untroubled. The men who had vexed him were dead, facing the judgment with misdeeds on their consciences, while he rested in the consolation that he had done right. Fret not at the prosperity of the wicked. You will miss beauty, joy, and peace. Vance Havner put it in proper perspective when he said: "What will all my petty worries amount to fifty years from now? I will rejoice in the old simplicities which no man can take away--like spring and green woods and mockingbirds. And, better still, I will rest my soul in the goodness of God and his amazing grace, that saves a poor sinner like me."
The psalmist also said: "Bless the Lord, 0 my soul, and forget not all his benefits" (Psalm 103:2). One of the most dangerous things for a child of God is to forget God and his benefits. This is a besetting sin in America today. We forget that it is God who has made us rich. The old verse had it right when it said:
Just on the verge of danger, not before,
God and the doctor we adore
When danger is past,
And all things are righted,
God is forgotten,
And the doctor is slighted.
Dale Evans Rogers tells of attending a communion service in an old cathedral in London in which only seven were present! She asked an English friend why so few were present and was told:
"Well, it's like this--we English people are a nation of crisis. We are at our best in a crisis. Then we get on our knees and ask God to help us. After the crisis is over, and everything is all right again, we thank Him for His help and go our own way again!" Many are like that. They seem to think of God as a kind of "spare tire." A spare tire is only viewed as excess baggage until we have a flat. And many forget God when things go well, and remember Him only in trouble. Forget not!
The apostle Paul said: "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not" (Galatians 6:9). There is no place for fainting and quitting in the quest for eternal life. On the human level, Paul had good reason to faint and be discouraged. The prince of gospel preachers found himself in prison. He had no retirement or Social Security. His request to Timothy was for his old cloak (II Timothy 4:21). Some friends had failed him and Demas had forsaken, but Paul did not say, "Hitherto I have had an awful time," but "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown." Jesus said, "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (Revelation 2:10).
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