Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the LORD swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:7-8)
Dear Friends, let me begin by turning myself in and pleading for mercy. After all, the Word of God admonishes us to confess our sins to one another so that we can be healed (James 5:16). So, here goes, I am a recovering worrywart.
There, I said it. I know that the confession doesn’t come as a great shock to my family and close friends, although I can usually hide behind a big smile and words of encouragement to other people. Why do I sometimes fret, knowing full well that one pound of it won’t buy an ounce of change?
I’m sure that the uncertainties of my childhood had a lot to do with my natural inclination to worry. Early on, my father was deployed overseas in the United States Navy involved in two different wars. I can remember wondering if he would come back home safe and sound. When he did return home, he instilled in me a strong sense of duty.
While I was proud that he was serving our nation, wearing an awesome uniform, and keeping America safe for democracy, I often resented his strict enforcement of authority. I tended to be a free-ranging, fun-loving, and irresponsible Huck Finn sort of boy who didn’t fully appreciate Dad’s expectations concerning the dispatch of my chores, homework, and other such trivial matters. In short, I was a problem child. It was only later in my young adulthood did I fully appreciate his relative patience with me and the values he managed to instill in me, despite my stubborn resistance.
My mother was a wonderful career military wife. There were periods of several months when Dad was at sea and Mom had to fill in as head of the house. While she was somewhat more tolerant of my youthful foolishness, she was also a tough lady who expected my sister and me to pitch in and do our part in making the household run like a “tight ship.”
Duty was a big deal in my home, and I often suffered the consequences of my dereliction. All of this was further reinforced when I got involved in high school wrestling and football. While athletic endeavors should be enjoyable, there is an element of discipline and hard work involved. Pushups and running laps were constant reminders to follow instructions. Again, duty was foremost and a lesson I reluctantly learned.
Eventually, I followed in my father’s military footsteps and, after graduating from university, I was commissioned in the United States Navy, fully expecting that I would do at least 20 years of service before retiring. I was promptly assigned to duty that included handling highly classified documents and information, the compromise of which could lead to demotion and even serious prison time, not to mention putting people’s lives at risk.
Needless to say, that was of great concern to me. I quickly became a strong believer in Murphy’s Law that theorizes whatever can go wrong, certainly will go wrong. The theory became the foundation of all my reasoning. The worst-case scenario was always my strategic expectation.
That created a stronger sense of duty and constant concern about my management of sensitive materials. My concern grew into fear which often bordered on dread. Messing up would have created a personal disaster, as well as an intelligence crisis. I had become a card-carrying pessimist, agreeing totally with Mark Twain, who quipped that a pessimist is merely a fully informed optimist.
Then, it happened. I made a personal connection with Jesus Christ, the Lord of Lords and the lover of my soul. Everything was turned upside down, or more accurately, right side up for me and Judy, my wife of about a year and a half at the time. In the wee hours of Christmas 1966, we turned our lives over to Jesus and his Kingdom … my new commander, and another sort of duty.
A weight was lifted off my shoulders and all fear fled in the face of my newfound optimism. I realized that God loves me and is working to make everything work for my ultimate good. Romans 8:28 was a whole new lease on my life and for the first time in my life, I was truly free. God’s Word was alive in me. Fear not, don’t be afraid, take courage, and other similar admonishments seemed to jump off the pages of the Bible and into my heart.
I began to understand that fear is the opposite of trust and worrying amounted to doubting God’s love and care for me. I understood that the Lord would go before me, be with me and that he would never abandon me, regardless of my circumstances. Of what should I fear?
Shortly after my salvation experience, I answered the call to full-time ministry and left the Navy, taking my young family off to seminary and a whole new career path. I was ready to storm the gates of Hell, armed with only a water pistol. However, along the way of my new vocation, worry found sneaky new ways to hinder my faith and regularly presented a source of spiritual struggle for me to overcome.
Fortunately, over the years I have slowly learned that faith is a process, as well as a product. God sees things in the past perfect … the already finished. We earthlings must live in the present progressive … the not yet finished. We live our lives day by day, hopefully in constant progress, always being transformed to the image of Christ. We are working out our salvation by faith, while God never stops working on us. After all, we are his workmanship. (Ephesians 2:10).
Furthermore, our struggle in this world is never really what it seems to be. It’s not against mere flesh and blood stuff, but rather, against spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12) that are trying to discourage us from standing firm in our faith. Thankfully, the Lord has given us his own Spirit who abides with us, guides us into all truth, and who gives us the power to stand against these forces of evil.
God has also given us each other … the fellowship of believers. Interdependence was purposely built into the Church of Jesus Christ. Each of us has a vital part to play in other believers’ lives. Living life together is an expectation from the Lord … a duty of sorts.
Therefore, we need to keep encouraging one another to strongly finish the race put before us and to claim the prize that awaits us. We need to continually build each other up in faith so that we can endure the attacks of doubt that the enemy is surely going to use against us. We need to pray for each other that we may overcome all fear and doubt that holds us back from a perfect relationship with the Lord and each other.
May I be first in line? Pray for me, as I continue to lay aside my worries, fears, and anxieties so I might be a better witness and servant of Christ. I will do the same for you.
God bless you.
[LeRoy Curtis is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Asbury Theological Seminary. He served four years as a U.S. Naval Officer after which he became a pastor, Bible professor, educator, author, and missionary living in East Africa for eight years where he and his wife developed a curriculum of biblical studies for untrained pastors in rural Kenya. His passion for training young church leaders takes him to various parts of the U.S., Latin America, and Africa. He and Judy are currently residing in Carrollton, Georgia. His email is email@example.com.]