“No matter what I do; no matter how hard I try; nothing seems to be working for me! I seem to be continually stressed and worried about whether my efforts will be enough so I can be saved! Being a Christian is so hard!” I want to be an overcomer, but I see no progress. Christianity sounds real good, but I have no power at all.
There is an adage that fits right here: “The definition of true insanity is that you keep doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results!” If this is going on, the best that can be hoped for is to be only a professed Christian. Worried and under constant stress as to your acceptance with God and your salvation, you plod forward wondering if it is all worth it. This kind of believing is the root of stress and worry and makes being a Christian impossible. Here is why:
Satan’s doctrine of justification by faith is “simply the natural mind depending upon itself, working through itself, exalting itself; and then covering it all up with a profession of belief in this, that, and the other, but having no power of God” (A. T. Jones, 1893General Conference Bulletin, “The Third Angel’s Message,” No. 12, p. 265).
Is there an antidote to stress and worry? Yes! There most surely is. The antidote is peace as a result of faith doing its work of righteousness within us. This peace comes directly from the cross; for on this cross the Word of God fulfilled itself and we are to take it as it is and it will fulfill itself within us—bringing peace.
Peace does not come separate from His righteousness: “The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever” (Isa. 32:17).
“Perhaps we are in darkness, feeling weak and discouraged and that God does not love us. If so, we are not to give way to feelings; feeling has nothing whatever to do with the matter. We are to take the Word of God as it reads, the words of Christ as He has spoken them” (E. G. White, Lift Him Up, p. 265, emphasis added).
God will not just give you a little bit of peace—like a break before going back to it—but gives us perfect peace! “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You” (Isa. 26:3). Take this as it reads and say “Thank you!”
“Christ exhorts us not to be anxious in regard to what we shall eat, drink, and wear, significantly adding, ‘For your heavenly Father knows that he had need of these things.’ So long as he remembers it, what need have we to fear? Then the Lord says: ‘But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you’ (Matt. 6:30-33). In the face of this promise, whoever spends time worrying or fretting shows his disbelief in God” (E. J. Waggoner, “The Honor Due to God No. 6,”Signs of the Times, Sept. 6, 1883; emphasis added).
Disbelief in God is sin, and does not spring from faith. “For whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). Does this mean we need to repent when worrying and entertaining stress? Yes, absolutely. Faith has nothing in common with either of them.
“‘Well,’ says one, ‘I am sure that anybody would be impatient if he had as much to trouble him as I have.’ Question: Would Christ become impatient if He had the things to endure that you have? Did He not have as much to endure, and more? You must admit that He did. Was He impatient? ‘He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth’ (Isa. 53:7). Then if He were in your place, He would be patient. Why, then, do you not let Him be in your place? ... ‘Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee; He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved’ (Psalm 55:22).” (Waggoner on Romans, p. 5.94).
The Apostle Paul himself reassures us that “God is not the author of confusion but of peace” (1 Cor. 14:33). So, who is the author of confusion?
Jesus Himself said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). So, with the peace of Jesus given to us, under what principle do we stress and worry?
A faith which works produces victory in the life and brings peace. “[This] is a faith that works, thank the Lord, —not a faith that believes something away off, that keeps the truth of God in the outer court, and then seeks by his own efforts to make up the lack. Not that. No, but faith that works. It itself is working;it has a divine power in it to manifest God’s will in man before the world” (Jones, op. cit.).
Christ is the Savior of the whole world. He died for all; all are to live by faith; all are to receive His peace: “For the love of Christ constrains us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died” (2 Cor. 5:14).
Our death with Christ changes everything: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the lifewhich I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20, emphasis added).
“To worry is to doubt; but we would impress upon all the necessity of going to God for help, whatever may be your afflictions and troubles” (E. G. White, Signs of the Times, Aug. 28, 1893). And we are warned to “refuse to worry about what you cannot help” (the Upward Look, p. 142). Doubt and worry do not come from faith and whatever is not of faith is sin.
Question: “Is there ever a time when it is OK for us to be stressed or worried?
Answer: Only if a command of God telling us to do so can be found.
Can it be this simple? “Therefore do not worry … do not worry … do not worry … do not worry” (Matt. 6:25-34). Never would God give us a command and then withhold the power to do it! It is this simple. Is it OK if Christianity is simple? Of course it is!
Do not resist Jesus who wants to give you His peace wrapped within “a character which He Himself wove from infancy to the grave” (Jones, 1893 General Conference BulletinNo. 6, p. 127). The Bible never even hints at the idea that the just shall live by worrying, doubting, disbelieving, or even by stressing—all it does say is: “The just shall live by His faith” (Hab. 2:4). Worry and stress are not gifts from above and they are not of faith.
Jesus says, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God’” (Luke 4:4, emphasis added). Not under stress, or by worry, but by the word of God—this is living by faith.
We are “to take the Word of God as it reads, and then to appreciate it as it is, and to bring it into the lifeand to weave it into the character. There is everything plainly revealed in God’s Word, which concerns the salvation of men” (E. G. White, Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 919).
“How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word;
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you who to Jesus for refuge have fled?
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”
(John Rippon, 1787)
—Daniel H. Peters