Last week we examined the encouraging aspect of the words in our title, seeing in them what might be viewed as a promise of strength, support, and comfort. This week we will consider the implications of the grammatical structure of the statement. In other words, we must realize that the sentence is in the imperative mode—it is a command: “Do not let your heart be troubled.
God reigns over a real universe. He knows that believers in every generation have experienced times that trouble the flesh. And He knows our flesh—that it is unregenerate, weak and sinful, prone to doubt and fear. Furthermore, He knows that the fruit of the Spirit, which includes peace and joy and comfort, does not manifest itself automatically.
We should expect to be shaken up by circumstances from time to time. God Himself has acknowledged that He has a deliberate purpose in allowing this: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (II Cor. 4:7-10). We are shaken so that we do not rely on the flesh, on our own strength, or any innate ability we might think we possess. We are shaken so that we might learn not to trust in ourselves, but in the Lord alone.
That having been said, it is incumbent on believers in the power of the Spirit to exercise our wills, “stirring up . . . [our] sincere mind” (II Pet. 3:1b) to remember and rest in the promises and power of God. Peace for a heart troubled by perilous times does not come automatically. Were that so, we would neither recognize nor appreciate the Lord’s work in our lives. But when we have legitimate cause for anxiety, dread, or fear and begin to experience those emotions, we are to remember the Lord’s command to not let our hearts be troubled and turn to Him in the Word and prayer that we might obey His injunction and receive the peace that He alone provides.
In the Old Testament, we discover David embroiled in a great trial. While David and his men were away, the Amalekites attacked the city of Ziklag, “burned it with fire; and they took captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great, without killing anyone, and carried them off and went their way” (I Sam. 30:1b, 2). Among the captured were David’s two wives, Ahinoam and Abigail. It pleased God to reveal their consternation: “Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept until there was no strength in them to weep” (v. 4). But very quickly, David’s misery increases exponentially: “Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters” (v. 6a).
So how did David respond to this tragedy upon tragedy? “But David strengthened [“encouraged,” KJV] himself in the Lord his God” (v. 6b). He heeded Christ’s command—“Do not let your heart be troubled”—approximately a thousand years before it was given. After all, he had penned the inspired words found in Psalm 131: “Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother” (v. 2a). And on what basis did he find that quiet? “O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever” (v. 3). He put his complete hope, not in his circumstances, not in himself, but wholly in the Lord.
Trying times are intended to wrest our hope and confidence away from anything and everything natural and to anchor our hearts and minds firmly in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. That is a necessary and invaluable exercise sent us from the hand of a God who loves us and does all things well. “Do not let your heart be troubled.”
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