Anxiety and the Gospel

I want to encourage you to speak the gospel to your anxiety. 

Because of the coronavirus, many of us are confined to our house. Some of you have lost your job, or have reduced income. You are concerned about how you will eat and pay bills. You are concerned for your children, for your parents, and grandparents. You are concerned for your health, that maybe you’ve been exposed to the virus, or that you might expose others.

All of these are appropriate concerns. However, these concerns become anxiety when we have FALSE beliefs about God. The difference between concern and anxiety begins with what we believe and manifests in how we feel. Fear will rise when we believe a FALSE gospel. Faith will rise when we believe the TRUE gospel.

How does the gospel speak to anxiety? It addresses your false beliefs. A false gospel produces anxiety because it mutates one or all of the elements of the gospel: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and New Creation. Let’s identify what that looks like.

A false gospel believes God is not in control; but I am! This distorts the Creation element of the gospel. Worry is a result of a false gospel because we believe in our own sovereign power to control the universe. When that belief is met by reality, we realize we can’t control the universe. 

In a false gospel, the FALL is the problem we find ourselves in as a result of another person or people group. In our current circumstance with the coronavirus, some are blaming China, others their local government, and many are casting aspersions on their political opponents. You may be blaming your mayor’s decision for “shelter in place,” or your employer, or the folks who paid no attention to the social-distancing order and spread the virus unknowingly. You might even blame yourself! The Fall element is tricky because no one is “without fault.” However, in a false gospel, we tend to downplay our involvement in why things went wrong and peg responsibility on other people’s shoulders.

In all false gospels, the Redeemer is someone other than Jesus. The Redeemer restores wholeness, delivers justice for the oppressed, and brings judgment to those who caused the problem. People often look to the government, a political party, a new job, or a relationship as the redeemer from their current problem. The government could be seen as the Redeemer because of their actions to mitigate the spread of the virus, send ventilators, engage businesses to support the effort, or send a stimulus package for individuals and businesses. The people of America could be seen as the Redeemer, for they have bonded together to make masks, and care for their neighbors. The medical professionals could be seen as the Redeemer, for they have bravely stepped into hospital rooms to care for individuals suffering from the contagious COVID-19 virus. All of these are good Redeemer actions, and we rightly praise their courage! Yet all of these Redeemer roles point to the TRUE Redeemer. Man alone cannot ultimately and finally save mankind from all evil and sickness and sin. While we may find a cure, create a vaccine, the next virus is sure to come. Furthermore, it is God who raises governments and tears them down, and who gives life and breath to all people. We can do nothing without His gracious hand, working in us “to will and to do.” Even the actions of our modern-day heroes (whether it be government, people, or medical workers) are brought to completion through the gracious outworking of the will of God.

When someone is trusting in a worldly redeemer, they are looking for a worldly New Creation. When the New Creation is brought down to our present life, it is a false gospel because what was promised was a re-created perfect heaven and earth in the presence of Jesus, not heavenly circumstances — without pain and trial and tribulation, in the present sinful world. Man makes an idol out of New Creation without Jesus. In our current circumstance, this new creation would be people receiving their job back with higher pay, no longer confined to the house, the coronavirus expunged from existence, and their political party now in charge in light of it. I’m heavy on politics because I see too many people placing their trust in government, Christian and not. If only the “such-n-such” political party would win, then we could shape America into the kind of country we want. It’s our new creation.

Fear is the root feeling of anxiety, and it destroys our joy. Joy comes from believing the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

Here is the true gospel: 

Creation: God is the Creator and Father of all life. He spoke the galaxies into existence, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. He created mankind in His image and bestowed upon us glory and honor. He defined reality, and your identity is rooted in Him and how he created you. There is nothing beyond God’s control; not one government, not one person, not one atom, and not a virus. There is not an outcome of life that God doesn’t graciously preside over. 

The Fall, our rebellion against God has separated us from his loving presence and has brought forth the corruption of mankind and the earth. We are all sinful and rebellious against God by nature, and while we still carry the image of God, the image is marred. Our rejection of God has caused the onset of all kinds of evil that has corrupted the land. As a result, we experience sickness, disease, relational discord, racial and ethnic prejudice, selfish behavior, malice, envy, greed, strife, murder, and death. We are the cause and perpetrators of all kinds of evil.

Redemption has and is happening in Jesus Christ. The Son of God has come as the Redeemer of all mankind. He came to proclaim the good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, give sight to the blind, and liberty to the oppressed. Because God is perfect and just, Jesus came to accept the punishment for our rebellion. He did so willingly, because he loved us, and revealed to us the Father’s heart towards us. He worked miracles, casting out demons, healing the lame, blind, sick, and raising the dead. These were his works displaying his power to roll back the effects of our sin and recreate the heavens and the earth. In Him we have been given a new heart, resurrection and life, here and now and into eternity. He promised us trials in the world, but gave us His peace, and commanded us to take heart, for He has overcome the world! We wait for The Day of His return when he will completely recreate the heavens and the earth.

The New Creation will be established upon His return. All sin, evil, death, disease, hatred, malice, anger, and separation from God and between man will cease. This is the consumption of joy we wait for! Those who trust in the Redemption of Jesus will live with Him and the host of believers into eternity in the fullness of joy, beholding the glory of the Lord Jesus, our Redeemer. It will be exponentially better, more life-giving, soul-filling, and we will overflow with joy for all eternity. THIS is the New Creation we wait for as Christians. This is what we live for, and this is what we are willing to die for: beholding the glory of God in the land of the living for eternity.

Take heart. Cast all your anxiety upon God the Father. He knows you need food, shelter, clothing, family, friends, and toilet paper, and He will give you all these things. Trust Him, and live in faith, not fear.

Bobby Gaither

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