Worry and anxiety are on the increase. A high percentage of people who go to see a doctor are not suffering from a physical illness, but from anxiety and stress. It is a sign of the times in which we live. Some people have lost their jobs or are afraid they may be made redundant. Others have large debts, which they fear they will never be able to repay.
People in every generation have experienced worry and anxiety. The apostle Paul wrote about anxiety to Christians living in first century Philippi. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
He didn’t simply say, “Don’t worry!” Instead he reminded the people of their need to trust God. It makes such a difference when we live in constant dependence on God. He is the One who created us and gave us life. In every way we are dependent on him. We need to learn to pray to God about “everything”. We can bring all our needs to him and ask for his help in big things and small things. It is good to pray “with thanksgiving”, as we remember God’s goodness to us in the past. Remembering how God has brought us through other crises in our lives can be so encouraging. When we bring our anxieties to God and ask for his help he gives us his peace and the strength to face the future without fear.
A Christian friend of mine had lost his job. It was a difficult time for him and his wife and young family. He was very worried about how he would be able to pay the bills. One morning, after his wife had gone to work and his children to school, he was reading the Bible and praying. He told God all about his situation and, in desperation, asked him to help. While he was praying he heard something coming through the letter box. After he finished praying he went to see what it was. It was a plain envelope with £500 in it, but no note to say who it was from. Even before he had prayed that morning, God had put it into the heart of someone to help my friend and his family. My friend was full of thankfulness to God.
A number of prominent people have been in the news recently because of allegations against them of immoral or criminal behaviour. This has led to a discussion about whether what a person does in his private life really matters as long as he is competent in fulfilling his public duties. The idea is that in his personal life a man may tell lies, be unfaithful to his wife or be dishonest in personal financial matters, but can still be a suitable person to hold office in business or government. As long as a man has the ability to do the job then his character doesn’t matter.
It is important to avoid hypocrisy by pretending that we ourselves are perfect and without fault. Nothing could be further from the truth. Pointing the finger at someone else can be a cover for facing up to the serious failings in our own lives. The Apostle Paul wrote, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin. But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience.” The Bible and our own personal experience teach us that we are all very fallible people. Some of the great men and women in the Bible committed serious sins.
However, the idea that our lives can be divided into two watertight compartments called “private” and “public” is a great mistake. Our essential character will reveal itself in every part of our life. Good character does matter. Being “economical with the truth” and acting immorally corrupts both the individuals who do it and the governments and businesses to which they belong. Sadly it has become an accepted part of life today. The greatest sin is not doing what is wrong, but being found out!
True integrity, for each of us, begins with being honest with ourselves and being honest before God. Many of us are practical atheists. We need to look into the mirror of God’s Word in the Bible. “For the word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are. Nothing in all creation can hide from him. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes. This is the God to whom we must explain all that we have done.”
On 14 April the oldest man in the world, Walter Breuning, died of natural causes in Great Falls Hospital, Montana, at the age of 114. Walter grew up in the early years of the 20th century in a house with no electricity or running water. People travelled by train, horse and foot. His parents split up in 1912, so he had to find a job. In 1913 he got a job with the Great Northern Railway and worked for 50 years on the railroad, working seven days a week. His father died in 1915 at the age of 50, and his mother died in 1917 at the age of 46.
Walter lived through two World Wars and the Great Depression of the 1930s. He married Agnes, in 1932. She died in 1957. They had no children. Walter said the secret to a long life is to embrace change, to eat two meals a day, work as long as you can, help others and accept death.
We are told that in the future more people will live to be 100 years old than ever before, though not many of us will live to be 114! It is important, therefore, to think carefully about how we spend our lives. The really important thing is not how long we live, but that we live as God intends us to live. King Solomon gave advice on how to live a full and meaningful life, “My child, never forget the things I have taught you. Store my commands in your heart, for they will give you a long and satisfying life. Happy is the person who finds wisdom and gains understanding. Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing can compare with her. She offers you life in her right hand, and riches and honour in her left.”
Life is more than mere survival. It is so important to know God and to consciously walk in his ways. The earlier in life we do this the better. Everyone who has come to know Jesus Christ late in life wishes they had known him sooner.
The apostle Paul was not afraid to die. He said, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” From the moment he became a Christian, Jesus Christ became the centre of his life. He knew that even though he would be put to death for his faith, he would go to be with Jesus forever.
The death of Al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, has been big news around the world. He is believed to be the man who planned the attacks on the New York and Washington in 9/11, in which nearly 3000 people died. He has been top of the US “most wanted” list for 10 years. The operation, which was carried out by the elite Navy Seal Team Six, was highly sophisticated and clinical. Bin Laden was shot and killed in his home in front of his wife and family. The President and Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, with their senior advisers, watched the operation live in Washington. President Obama said, “Justice was done.”
Governments have real power. Sometimes they exercise that power well and sometimes they misuse their power. Many of the early Christians were persecuted by the Roman Empire and some were put to death because they refused to worship the Emperor. Yet the Apostle Paul urged Christians to submit to the authority of the State. He wrote, “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”
When Osama bin Laden died he passed immediately into the presence of the living God, just as all of us will when we die. We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. His judgement is perfectly just and is final, there can be no appeal. So, we all need to find God’s mercy before we die.
Two criminals were crucified alongside Jesus. One of them remained angry and defiant to the end. The other criminal asked him, “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our sins deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The Royal Wedding was watched by millions of people around the world. Hundreds of thousands of people went to London to see William and Catherine on their wedding day. It was a happy occasion as they made their vows in the presence of God.
Marriage is one of God’s gifts to us all. It is not for religious people only, but is for all people. After God had created Adam from the dust of the ground he said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” So God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep and took one of his ribs. From the rib he made a woman and brought her to the man. Adam said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man.”
Marriage is the closest of human relationships. When we marry, our relationship with our parents changes, as we are joined with our husband or wife. The Bible say, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Marriage is based on promise. When William and Catherine had made their vows they were declared to be husband and wife. By the promises they made to each other, in the presence of witnesses, they entered into an exclusive relationship of lifelong fidelity to each other. Marriage is a lifelong relationship “until God separates us by death. “
The New Testament says that the relationship between a husband and wife is to be modelled on the relationship between Jesus Christ and his church. Just as Jesus loved his church and gave himself up for her, so husbands are to love their wives sacrificially. Just as the church responds to the love of Jesus in joyful submission, so wives are to submit to their husband’s loving leadership.
Matthew Henry, the Bible commentator, wrote,” Eve was not taken out of Adam’s head to top him, neither out of his feet to be trampled on by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him.” As they begin their married life we all wish William and Catherine well and pray that God will bless them in their life together.