Believe and Tremble

If we be like Saint Peter and we say with him: “Thou art the Christ” then we see in Him who is our Lord and Master: justice, beauty, grace, purity, knowledge, forbearance, kindness, genuine love, truthful speech, the power of God and the peace that passes all understanding.

Our world is filled with causes for anxiety: business problems, financial problems, problems with friends, worries for our safety, worries for our Church, worries for our families and society, worries about death, worries about hell.  All of these are legitimate anxieties and some of us experience them very distressingly.  I’m not going to tell you that they’re not real, to “don’t worry, be happy.”  But what I want to be clear is that our anxieties and concerns are not a cause of anxiety and concern to our God.  God does not grow nervous when one of us experiences crisis.  God remains Immovable and Omnipotent while we are easily paralyzed, broken and befuddled by our anxieties.

Where we are paralyzed with fear, God remains flexible.  Only once in human history did God remained fixed to one spot, as if paralyzed, and He was held there – to the Cross – by nails that we had fixed in his hands and feet.  But those nails couldn’t hold Him still for long.

Where we are broken by conflict, God remains invincible.  Only once in human history was God nearly broken by the ordeal His human nature had to endure.  He, was praying in agony such that He sweat drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Yet His near brokenness merely passed over and around Him but it did not consume Him – He stood victorious against it.

Where we are befuddled, God reigns over heaven and earth sustaining the pillars that hold the universe in perfect equilibrium.  God was only close to befuddled once, when, confronted by His betrayer, He asked: “Judas, would you betray the Son of man with a kiss?”  Nevertheless, after being betrayed in such a way by a dear friend, He remained clear-headed and moments afterward healed Malchus’ wounded ear, ordered Peter to put up his sword and submitted to the request of His captors.

God proves Himself in these and other instances to be intimately close to our human experience.  He was afflicted by all the concerns and terrors of this life.  He is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses…having been tempted as we are, yet without sinning” (Heb 4:15).  He was led up to the brink of sin but He never capitulated to it.  He has experienced all that we experience first-hand, and because of it we can “Cast all our anxieties on Him, for He cares about us” (1 Pt 5:7) for He is “near to all them that call upon him” (Ps. 145:18).

We must not be persons consumed by our anxieties, paralysis, brokenness and befuddlement.

Simply “believing” in God will not help us.  Saint James warns us that even the demons “believe and tremble” (Js 2:19) before the living God, but the demons are despite their belief damned – there were numerous times in the Scriptures when demons acknowledged Our Lord to be God even as He was casting them out; and the demons cast out of people in today’s exorcisms are not cast out due to their unbelief, but because those demon do believe and fear the absolute power of God.

Belief in God is not enough.  We must believe in the Gospel, the Good News, and be obedient to it.  If we are obedient to the Gospel He will manifest in us the Fruits of the Spirit which are the sign that our lives are in Christ Jesus.  The Fruits of the Spirit are: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal 5:22-3).  Those of us caught in vice, anxiety, poor judgment, meanness, selfishness and pride are not manifesting any of these Fruits.  We can’t manifest them because by giving ourselves over to the “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” (1 Jn 2:16) we are uniting ourselves to the damned spirits, with whom we share at those times an unshakable belief in God – but that belief is grounded in fear and not in love.  The Fruits of the Spirit are gifts from God, we cannot have them except He gives them to us and He only gives them to a willing recipient.

Saint Paul says this about obedience to the Gospel: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.  Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another” (Gal 5:24-6).  In other words, if we believe in God’s Good News, let us, for love of Him, obey His commandments and abandon selfish envy and serve God in meekness and humility.  When we have “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” in our lives, we know that we are close to God.  Meekness and humility towards God will take us from being persons consumed by our anxieties and sins to being persons guarded from all evil by God and in Him we will have victory over anxiety and sin.

The evidence of meekness and humility in our lives is that we praise Him.  As the Psalms tell us over and over: “My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord and…give thanks unto his holy Name for ever and ever” (Ps. 145:21).  It’s our tongues that get us into and out of trouble.  Our Lord tells us that “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Lk 6:45).  If we have bad things in our heart, we speak evil; good things, we speak blessings.  Saint James warns us: “The tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell… no human being can tame the tongue [it is] a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men” (Js 3:6ff).

We must, by God’s grace, learn to master our mouths.  The only way I know to effectively do this is to make sure it’s occupied in something good namely, praising God.  Don’t let a day pass, an hour pass or even a moment pass without offering praise, thanksgiving and blessing to Almighty God.  Only when we are praising and worshiping God are we safe from becoming people overcome by paralysis, brokenness and befuddlement, anxiety and sin.  Only when we are thanking God for all things are we open to receive the Fruits of the Spirit and experience His peace which passes all understanding.

Saint Francis de Sales says: “Do not look forward in fear to the changes in life; rather look to them with full hope that, as they arise, God, whose very own you are, will lead you safely through all things, and when you cannot stand it, God will carry you in His arms.  Do not fear what may happen tomorrow.  The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you then and every day.  He will either shield you from suffering or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.  Be at peace and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.”

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