FFF 10:1 (Jan 1964)
Negatives for the New Year
Many years ago there was a popular song which had as its main theme, “Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.” In true Christianity the accent is very definitely on the positive, and this is where it belongs in the believer’s daily life, but the negative cannot be eliminated. It is a part and parcel of God’s Holy Word. For example, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is gloriously positive in the avalanche of exalted truth it unfolds to the enlightened heart, yet the negative is by no means eliminated with regard to the practical side of the Christians life (see Eph. 4:17-32).
As we enter another New Year, not knowing what the future holds but fully committing our way to Him who holds the future, there are five negatives we need to keep before us, and not through the New Year alone but throughout the entire course of our pilgrim pathway in this earthly scene.
To a sorrow-crushed Jairus the Lord Jesus Christ said, “Fear not…” (Luke 8:50), and this is what He says to us in all of life’s circumstances, be they sunshine or shadow, and no less so as we enter a New Year.
The San Francisco Chronicle Question Man asked eight persons, “What do you fear the most?” The first person said: “The day I have to die.” The second said: “Being in an accident.” The third stated that prayer and services took care of his fears. The fourth said: “Getting old, with insufficient income.” The fifth answered: “Losing my job.” The sixth replied: “Earthquakes.” The seventh feared that Russia may conquer us; while the eighth and last, feared for the rearing of her two fatherless sons.
That the world today, as never before in its history, is in the grip of all sorts and kinds of fears cannot be denied, but the Lord says to His people, “Fear not.” Though I have never personally counted them, it has been said that there are no less than 366 “Fear not’s” in the Bible, one for every day in the year, including Leap Year. The first “Fear not” in the Bible is found in Genesis 15:1. The Lord said to Abram: “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” The last occurrence of these words is in Revelation 1:17 where the Lord said to the Apostle John (and we include verse 18): “Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am He that liveth and was dead: and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen, and have the keys of hell and of death.”
The Lord is the only one who can perfectly remove fear from the human heart and mind, and the secret of realizing His perfect peace in all circumstances and truly believing His Word and acting upon it (see Phil. 4:6-7). If at any time we are tempted to fear during the coming New Year, let us remember His often spoken and commanded, “Fear not,” words which give comfort, strength and peace if we will but take them to heart.
Our second needed negative is
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, David wrote: “Fret not thyself because of evil doers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity” (Ps. 37:1), and a little further on in the same Psalm he continues by saying: “… fret not thy self because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass… fret not thyself in any wise to do evil” (vv. 7-8).
The words of Psalm 37 stand in striking contrast to those of Psalm 35. The latter Psalm is full of fretfulness; while the former hymn has as its keynote, “Fret not.” In his 37th Psalm David deals with the problem of the prosperity of the wicked, and from verse 9 through the end of the Psalm he works out in detailed contrast the ultimate destruction of the wicked and the sure deliverance of the righteous. It is wrong, harmful and useless to fret. True, the Lord readily hears the complaints of His people and ministers consolation, but to be given over to fretfullness is to be robbed of His joy, strength and peace, and at the same time manifests a lack of faith.
The positive secret of not fretting is manifold, and it is given to us in the injunction of verses 3-7: “Trust in the Lord”; “Delight thyself also in the Lord”; “Commit thy way unto the Lord”; and “Rest in the Lord.”
Though of small physical stature, John Wesley was a man of amazing energy and endurance. His continued strength was undoubtedly owing in large measure to his freedom from care and worry. Said he: “Ten thousand cares trouble me no more than ten thousand hairs upon my head. I feel and grieve, but fret at nothing.”
“If I really trust Him shall I ever fret?
If I do expect Him, can I e’er forget?
If by faith I see Him shall I doubt His aid?
If I really love Him, can I be afraid?”
Our third needed negative from God’s Word is
In Galatians 6:9 the Apostle Paul writes: “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” It is in view of the law of “sowing and reaping” (vv. 7-8) that the Apostle gives us this text which is composed of a precept and a promise, the promise being conditioned by the important words, “if we faint not.” The simple yet significant teaching of the text is that perseverance will win the prize, IF we “faint not.” Like the Galatians we are prone, having begun in the Spirit, to finish in the flesh. The warning precept is against discouragement, the tendency to lose hope and give up in despair, not against giving in to fatigue. Here to faint means to become lax in the discharge of our Christian responsibilities as set forth in God’s Word, and this, because of one of Satan’s most effective tools—discouragement. Midst the difficulties and complexities of our modern age it becomes very easy for the Christian to relax his efforts in carrying out the will of God, especially when little or no fruit is in evidence, but it is this slackening of effort which Paul strikes against in this verse, at the same time holding out a precious promise to the persevering saint.
A chaplain, seeking to minister to the needs of a dying soldier, was requested by the dying man to write to his Sunday School teacher. —Tell her,” he said, “I die a Christian because of what she taught me in Sunday School.” Having forwarded the message to the teacher, the chaplain received the following reply: “Last month I resigned my Sunday School class for I felt my teaching had been fruitless. And then came the message from my former pupil. May God forgive me for my impatience and lack of faith.” She went on in the letter to express her desire to return to teaching, vowing by God’s grace that she would not fail again in this way.
The fourth needed negative to continually keep before us is
The author to the Hebrews wrote: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (10:25). The one particular way whereby we can “exasperate” (for that is the meaning of “provoke” in verse 24, and it is the only “exasperation” permissible to the believer) our fellow-Christians “unto love and to good works” is by “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another…”
It has been pointed out that the word saint in the Bible never occurs in the singular. Commenting on this passage, H. W. Griffith Thomas has written: “Already there were Christians who were withdrawing themselves from their fellow-believers, and isolation is a certain danger and involves inevitable weakness. while we are justified in Christ solitarily and alone, we are sanctified in connection with other Christians, and we shall never know what it is to be a ‘saint’ unless we make much of ‘the communion of saints:… Then, as at all other times, “Union is strength,” (Let Us Go On, p. 134).
Togetherness was a prominent feature of the early Church (see Acts 2:42, 44, 46; 4:12-14; 11:26; 12:12; 20:7), and so it ought to be among God’s people today, for as then, so now, we live in dark and difficult days.
One of the greatest hinderances to the over-all spiritual health and progress of our assemblies today is the numerous professing Christians who frequent the assembly only on Sunday morning, but who could be at the other assembly meetings if they wanted to. Such fall far short of truly carrying out Hebrews 10:25, and it would appear that their Christianity is but a duty instead of a delight. Oh, that in these “perilous times” we all might manifest that singular and steadfast devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ which shall in reality honour an glorify Him!
Let us remember “United we stand, divided we fall.”
We come now to our fifth, and last needed negative, and that is
Filled with a sense of the Lord’s lovingkindness, David begins Psalm 103 with a burst of praise: “Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (vv. 1-2). The sure antidote to depression and discouragement is to quietly and thoughtfully count our blessings. The Lord is gracious, in that He has not asked us to “Remember all His benefit” but to “Forget not all His benefits.” It would be absolutely impossible to remember them all, and David has ‘beautifully expressed this in Psalm 139:17-18: “How precious also are Thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with Thee.”
The next time we are tempted to pout, let us try praising.
It was out of just such an experience, no doubt, that Johnson Oatman, Jr. wrote his well-known hymn, “Count Your Blessings.”
“When upon life’s billows you are tempest-toss’d,
When you are discouraged, thinking is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the way the Lord hath done.
“Are you ever burden’d with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, ev’ry doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.”
When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promis’d you His wealth untold,
Count your many blessings, money cannot buy
Your reward in Heaven, nor your home on high.
“So amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all,
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.”