Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Grace Through Faith that Heals the Anxious Soul

          The last few days I have spent considerable time renewing my mind with the wonderful realities of God’s gift of salvation “by grace through faith."[1] This grace operating through faith does not only apply to the justification side of salvation, but also to the dimensions of sanctification and glorification. Everything to do with our “beloved children” standing with God[1] is by grace through faith.
          Just this morning someone posted a quote by George Muller which read, “The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety." This resulted in some concerns and questions regarding how faith relates to the level of anxiety that is often labeled as a disorder. This would include what is commonly called a “panic attack," or other mood disorders.
          The question is a good, helpful, and practical one. To what extent does faith, the outworking of the grace of God in his children, bring us into a life where we experience freedom, deliverance, and victory, over anxiety?
          An important component of this question revolves around our beliefs about the physical element of anxiety. To what extent can the unhealthy functioning of our brains nullify the promises of God regarding faith? And, from the positive side, to what extent can the poor in spirit hunger and thirst after the righteousness of faith[2] so that God will graciously enable these people to overcome anxiety?
          Because God created us as body, soul, and spirit, and because the world's fall into sin has ruined us in all three, we must be sensitive to those things in our lives the world labels as disorders, or mental illness. At the same time, we must look to the grace of God that ministers to our souls and spirits in ways that can radically change how our bodies (brains) operate. If someone falls under a label, and has some evidence of physical complications hindering their experience of faith, they still need the body of Christ surrounding them with the faith that cures anxiety.
          For a long time, I have tried to process passages like Philippians 4:4-8 through the mindset of the body of Christ, rather than only thinking of the individual Christian. When I think of the body of Christ coming together, I see the leadership and mature members of the congregation leading the church in giving no room for promoting anxiety in its gatherings. Instead, they lead the way in taking everything to God in prayer and petition, saturated with thanksgiving. Those believers among us with weak faith, or such intense problems with anxiety that it has been labeled as a disorder, will be carried along with the rest of the body, being immersed in a church-life that experiences the peace of God guarding their hearts and minds. Not every member will necessarily feel the same peace, but the body’s experience of peace will benefit every member of the body.
          When this church adds to the mix the way God has gifted the members of the body of Christ to minister to one another for the building up of the body, the faith of those who use their gifts to serve the anxiety-disordered in love is sure to see God’s grace do something to build one another up in our Lord. When we live as the body of Christ that is devoted to faith instead of anxiety, the life of the body of Christ will help everyone who is involved, strongest and weakest alike.
          On a personal note, I have walked with people in this way. I have seen members of the body of Christ minister to others with unwavering faith, resulting in those who would be labeled with disorders experiencing the transformation that comes through the renewal of the mind,[3] able to mature in the faith that overcomes anxiety.
          Again, I believe that when the church body[1] bands together to translate every anxiety into prayers and petitions presented to God with thanksgiving, and a corresponding obedience to use our spiritual gifts to minister to the deepest and most prolonged soul-conditions of our fellow believers, we will see faith grow up among us.
          Ephesians 4:1-16 describes the church working together in such ways that “makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love."[1] If we are convinced this will work for the people who gather in Jesus’ name, we will minister to one another’s needs, no matter how confusing or troubling, with faith that God can do this for us. Faith can take hold of this as a promise of God, leaving it in his hands how it works for each member of the body, and how long it will take to realize this for any one person. It is the church that grows up, and when a church does so, all the members will benefit in some way that will glorify faith above anxiety, and God’s power above physical symptoms of disorder.
          I think that this Scripture, read with the mindset that it is talking about the body of Christ together, not only what individual believers must do, summarizes what I have been trying to say.
”But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.”[4]
          I agree with our beloved brother George Muller that anxiety must be seen as a deterrent to faith, and faith must be seen as the cure to anxiety. Scripture says, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (I John 5:4). If faith can overcome the world, the church of faith can overcome anxiety in whatever form it harasses the body of Christ.         
          No matter how strongly any of us is influenced by issues of body, soul, and/or spirit that fits the world’s description of a disorder, let’s spend the rest of our lifetimes putting our anxieties, fears, worthlessness, hopelessness, and whatever other heartbreaking feelings or qualities get us down, into the hands of the living God. Let us do this in fellowship with the body of Christ, and see how much glory God will give himself through the riches of his grace working through our grace-filled experience of faith.
          After all, if he made us alive together with Christ without any help from us,[5] and seated us with Christ in the heavenly places, even while we were sinners,[6] and even while we carry struggles with mental and emotional disorders, can we not expect that his work of transforming us “into the same image from one degree of glory to another”[7] will change anxious hearts into faith-filled homes to the glory of God? After all, our transformation “comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” That is enough to have faith that faith will overcome anxiety wherever two or three people gather  in Jesus’ name. This is because it is really Jesus who does the overcoming.[8] Our faith simply joins him in his work.[9]

© 2014 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Ephesians 5:1-2
[2] Matthew 5:1-12 is the context for how the poor in spirit hunger and thirst for righteousness, a righteousness that can only be experienced by faith.
[3] Romans 12:2
[4] Jude 1:20-23
[5] Ephesians 2:5
[6] Ephesians 2:6; Romans 5:6-8
[7] I Corinthians 3:18
[8] John 16:33
[9] John 15:1-11

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