Worry and Prayer
April 26th, 1989 @ 7:30 PM
WORRY AND PRAYER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-26-89 7:30 p.m.
And now may I have the opportunity of welcoming the uncounted throngs of you who are sharing this hour on KCBI, our wonderful, extensive radio station. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Worry and Prayer.
In our exegesis and in our exposition of the first book in the Bible, the Book of Genesis, we are in the midst of the life of Israel – God’s prince. But it was not always like that. There was a time when Jacob was full of treachery, and he flees from the face of those that he has wronged to Haran at the head of the Mesopotamian Valley, a long, long way from the home in Palestine. And the day is now come for him to return from Laban back to home and to face Esau.
His name describes his character. Jacob means "treachery;" it means "supplanter;" it means "cheater." And under the direction of God, and because of the providences of life with Laban up there in Haran, he is now returning home. But so great is his fear of meeting Esau, and coming back to the land of his fathers and of his own birth, that he is filled with almost indescribable worry and fear. In order to find some way to meet Esau, who is coming to meet him with four hundred armed men, he divides his family and his flocks into four sections.
And one by one by one by one, each part, each parcel is to meet Esau; and that’s his human arrangement in order that the terrible wrath of Esau might somehow be assuaged before Jacob himself meets his brother. Now, after he has it all arranged, and all of these four different flocks and groups and families are crossing the River Jabbok, and as they are on their way to meet Esau and his little army of four hundred men, why, Jacob is left alone.
And there in Peniel he has this marvelous experience with the Lord wrestling with him in his obstinate and treacherous nature all night long. The angel finally overcomes him, touches his thigh, leaves him a cripple. And in keeping with the almost devastating circumstance in which he has found himself, and in great terror before what the day might bring, and because of that tragedy of the angel’s touch that crippled him forever, he kneels and falls in the presence of this emissary from God and pleads for a blessing.
And that is the great conversion of Jacob. He’s a new man. He’s a new somebody else. He’s not the same. And he has a new name, "a prince of God," Israel. That is something that all of us are to remember. There is always the possibility of great change in anyone’s life no matter who he is. He can be the vilest offender and the chief of sinners, but he also can be a saint of God. The power of conversion, of turning, is the greatest power in human life. So, Jacob becomes Israel, a prince of God.
Now, we’re going to look at his life and see how it is that things that we do hurt and destroy and fill us with all kinds of foreboding and worry. Where does worry come from? Where does fear come from? Where does dread and foreboding come from?
One, it comes from wrong in our lives. It comes from our own failures and shortcomings and sins. All of the days and the years of the beginning of Jacob’s life was filled with the fear of the face of Esau. And there’s no exception to that in human life. When we do wrong before God, you can count on it, there is a nemesis that will always follow.
Adam, how splendid, how splendidly did God create him! And with what marvelous surroundings in Eden did God place him. Everything was beautiful. Then when he fell into transgression and wrong, he became afraid. That’s the word the Bible uses. He was afraid. And he said to the Lord God: “The reason I didn’t meet you is because I was afraid. I’m naked. I am afraid.” Wrong does that.
Saul, the first king of Israel, finally came to Samuel and raised him out of the world into which he had gone in death and pled with him: “I don’t know where to turn. I don’t know what to do. God doesn’t answer my prayers, and I am lost and fearful.” Sin and wrong always does that. There is no exception to that in human life, in our lives, in their lives, in all humanity.
Now, there is another reason why we’re filled with fear and trepidation. It is because in our lives, instead of depending upon God, we are depending upon ourselves. You have a brilliant instance of that in the case of Jacob. He was scheming, thinking how can he himself deliver himself from the fear of Esau, so he makes those arrangements, as I’ve spoken of, those four groups to meet Esau, one after another.
That is a tragedy when, instead of looking to God, we look to ourselves. Do you remember the story of Elisha and of his servant? When Elisha was surrounded by the bitter host of Syria, the servant, Gehazi said: “Oh, my master, what shall we do? What shall we do?” All around the armies of the Syrian king: “What shall we do?” Elisha was unperturbed, undisturbed, quiet in his heart. And he bowed his head and prayed and said: “O Lord God, open the eyes of my servant Gehazi. Open his eyes and let him see." [from 2 Kings 6:17] And the Lord heard that prayer and opened his eyes, and behold, the heavens, the whole heavens were filled with horses and chariots round about Elisha. God did it. Instead of depending upon our strength and our wisdom, God can lead us and God can show us.
We’re so that way in all of our lives. We’re constantly filled with trepidation and fear and foreboding for the morrow. The disciples say to Jesus, “Lord, carest thou not that we perish? [Mark 4:38] Look at this wind and this storm." God is the controller and the leader and the presider over of wind and storm. Yet they think, because of their own weakness, that they are unable to cope with the providence.
Think of the women at the tomb. Do you ever think things like this when you read the story of the life of our Lord and of His death? When the women came to the tomb, what was their care and what was their concern? Who’s going to roll this stone away? Who’s going to roll the stone away? How can we anoint His body? When the stone was there, a stone in God’s hands would be so inconsequential and so insignificant as not to be named, yet they were worried about that stone that covered the grave.
We have no reason to worry. Worry is taking things out of God’s hands and putting them in our hands. Worry is the interest we pay on the troubles that we’re afraid of tomorrow. The answer to fear and to worry is in that beautiful verse that you read. The English says: “Be anxious for nothing.." If I could translate it another way: “Be fearful for nothing, Be worried about nothing, But in everything, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." [Philippians 4:6]
May I take a word out of the medical world and read it to you? Dr. Hyslop, one of the greatest physicians that England ever produced, said to the British Medical Association, and I’m going to read. “The best medicine which my practice has discovered is prayer, not all of those things you buy at the pharmaceutical place and not all the other things that go with the practice of medicine."
He says, “The best medicine which my practice has discovered is prayer. As one whose life has been concerned with the sufferings of the mind, I would state that of all hygienic measures to counteract disturbed peace, depression of spirit and all the miserable sequels, I would undoubtedly give first place to the simple habit of prayer. It is in the highest importance, merely from a physical point of view, to teach children to hold daily communion with God. Such a habit does more to quiet the spirit and strengthen the soul to overcome mere incidental emotionalism than any other therapeutic agency known to man."
That’s not a preacher – that’s a physician. Instead of burying and carrying our worries and our troubles and our fears and our forebodings and our dreads, just let God do it. Lord, how weak I am, but how strong You are. How limited I am, but how infinitely unlimited You are. I may not have the answers. I don’t need to know the answers. If He knows them, that’s enough.
Now, may I close? Faith in God and a committal to God will bring an answer to every problem and every situation that will ever develop in your life. When Jacob bowed before God in Peniel, he became a new man, and he went to meet Esau in the strength of that committal. So it is with us. All of our sins and our weaknesses, God removes them. They don’t stand between us and God. I don’t care what you have done, nor do I care where you came from or any of the dark chapters in your life. They are nothing. They don’t stand between you and the Lord God.
As far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our sins from us. He places them in the bottom of the sea. He remembers them no more. God is your companion and your fellow pilgrim. He’s your friend, He’s your strength, He’s your right arm. Just love Him and trust Him and walk in His blessed name.
And about our tomorrows, you and God can work it out. You and God can work it out, no matter what. I read one of the craziest things today. In reading in the life of Ralph Waldo Emerson, that great essayist of New England, somebody rushed into his, into his office one day, into his place one day and said, “Oh, Mr. Emerson, the world is coming to an end." And Emerson replied, “No matter. We can do well without it. We don’t have to have it." Just be that way. All of these things that we think are so vital and so necessary, you don’t have to have them.
Up there in Scotland, there was a godly widow of a sainted preacher. And she was an old, old woman, and a visiting preacher came to preach in the pulpit, and they had made arrangements for him to stay in that widow’s home that night. He woke up early in the morning, and when he woke up early in the morning, he went to the window of his bedroom and raised the shades, and there, and there, written in glass, carved in glass, cut in glass in the window, was this Psalm 118:24, “This is the day which the Lord hath made; this is the day which the Lord hath made." And you remember the rest of it. “I will rejoice and be glad in it." And it so impressed him as he stood before that window and saw this rising sun shine through it, and looked at that cut in the glass, “This is the day which the Lord hath made."
And when he went to breakfast to eat with that aged, saintly woman, he said, “I just never saw anything like that. I never, I just never thought of anything like that. Where did it come from?”
And she said when her husband died, it filled her with dread and trepidation of what the morrow might bring. Then she said she opened her Bible and just happened to turn to that verse: "This is the day which the Lord hath made,” and I don’t need to worry. I don’t need to bear any burden about it. I don’t need to be crushed at the possibility of what might happen on any day. "This is the day which the Lord has made,"
And if we can be that way, oh, how sweet and how precious! God bless us as we learn to live that day at a time. This is the day you worried about yesterday. Why should I worry about tomorrow?
Worry? Why worry?
What can worry do?
It never keeps a trouble from overtaking you.
It puts a frown upon your face
And shortness in the tone.
We’re unfit to live with others and unfit to live alone.
Worry? Why worry?
What can worry do?
It never keeps a trouble
From overtaking you.
Pray? Why pray?
What can praying do?
Praying really changes things,
Arranges life anew.
It puts a smile upon your face,
The love-note in your tone.
It makes you fit to live with others
And fit to live alone.
Pray? Why pray?
What can praying do?
It brings God down from heaven
To live and work with you.
Lord, how I need that, not to be troubled, not to be fearful and not to be anxious, but just turn it over to God. Lord, You give me wisdom for the way, strength for the pilgrimage, help in every problem, an answer to every difficulty, and I’ll just depend upon You for the gift from heaven. Then life is filled with the blessing and the presence and the sweetness of Jesus, Our Lord.
I realize that on Wednesday, it is God’s family that is here, but always there may be someone whose heart the Lord has touched, and to whose life the Lord makes appeal. That’s why Jesus came into this world, as Dr. Wempus has taught us again and again, to open heaven’s gate for us, to wash our sins away, dying on the cross to cleanse us from every transgression. And even in an assembly like this, there may be someone here tonight who would love to accept the Lord as his Savior, and to come and to be a part of the family of God, or someone to put his life with us in our dear church, or to answer an appeal of the Spirit that you give your life in a special way to Him.
We’re going to stand in a moment, and Brother McNab is going to lead us in a hymn of appeal, and I’ll be standing here at the front. And if God has spoken to you, while we sing two stanzas in this hymn, you come and stand by me. And God bless you in the way, while we sing our hymn of appeal.
WORRY AND PRAYER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1. Treachery of Jacob
2. Fear in meeting Esau
3. Whence comes worry and fear?
1. Jacob’s early dealings with his brother Esau, he feared an Esau reprisal
2. Adam’s fear of the Lord after he sinned
3. Elisha’s servant’s fear when Israel was surrounded by Syria
4. Disciples in the storm at sea
III. Dependence on self
1. Arrangements made by Jacob
2. Israel in the wilderness; no bread, food, water
IV. Faith in God
1. Jacob after Peniel
2. 1 John 1:9 confession, God is able to cleanse us
3. Our tomorrow Psalm 118:24