A Stand Against Anxiety And Apathy

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Series: The Book of Judges

Sun 27th September 2015 – Justus Swart

Judges 1:1-6, 8-10, 17-36; Josh. 23:3-12; (Josh. 1:9);
Judges 2:10-23; Eph. 6:12; Matt. 6:33-34; 
Luke 21:34;
Prov. 12:25; Phil. 4:6; Rev. 3:15; (Luke 12:31)

The book of Judges is a book that’s not heavy with doctrine or theory but has a wealth of interesting characters. You get the romance and betrayal with Sampson and Delilah, the weak overcoming the strong with Gideon. It is a book about people who do not always know what to do, and don’t always have the answers. These people simply live their lives and somehow find redemption by continuously coming back to God.

The book of Joshua starts with ‘after the death of Moses’ (Josh. 1:1). This is a huge transition from being under the leadership of Moses to being under the leadership of Joshua, and being able to cross over into the promise land. Even though the land was promised to them they still had to take out the different tribes occupying the land. There were plenty of enemies forcing them to fight their way into the promises of God. If the Israelites wanted the land they first had to expel the enemies taking residence there. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go (Judges 1:9).

Joshua encouraged the leaders to be fierce and to be strong. The clear instructions were not to live amongst the remaining nations (Joshua 23:3-12).

They had one objective and that was to totally destroy their enemies (Judges 1:8-10, 17-26). As long as that was their motive the Lord was with them. The book of Judges starts by saying after the death of Joshua (Judges 1:1) indicating yet another shift in leadership for the house of Israel. Because Joshua did not raise a successor, Israel no longer had a leader and they had no central administration. The different tribes had leaders that emerged also known as judges and they were sent in to take possession of the land which was their inheritance. The first tribe to go in was Judah, (meaning ‘to praise’ or to ‘give praise to God’).
Those called to the front line of battle are those going in with praise. Wherever they went they were given victory as God was with them. They were successful in all their battles as they fiercely took possession of the land.

A little later the Israelites struggled to take possession of the hill country because they had inferior technology. They were incapable of fighting the men who had iron chariots. They looked at these iron chariots and they became afraid yet the Bible tells us very clearly that the Lord was with them (Judges 1:19). They came to certain places where they could not take the hill country and instead of defeating or driving the enemy out of the land they decided to live with them (Judges 1:27-35). A string of failures followed the Israelites. They were no longer successful in driving out the Canaanites. They were suddenly plagued by an inability to take the land. They had stepped away from the commitment to the destruction of their enemies and instead settled with the inhabitants. Essentially they were co-habiting with the enemy; living side by side with those God told them to remove. In other places they forced labour on their enemies which was a direct violation of that which Joshua had instructed them in the book of Joshua. Do not associate with these nations that remain among you, do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them (Joshua 23:7). That which Israel thought they had control over, eventually took control over them. Even today the things we think we have control over end up controlling us. The hand of the Lord was against them. By the time the younger generation had grown up they were influenced and were serving other gods (Judges 2:10-20). They forgot what the Lord had done for them and they started worshipping the Baals. Israel started to blend in with the inhabitants; there was no difference between Israel and the Canaanites as they were all worshipping the same gods.

When we look at this in our own context today, we see the Church. Our fight is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph. 6:12). Although the Church does not have physical enemies we are reminded from the story that an enemy is someone who makes you forget who your God is and what your God has done for you. The agenda of your enemy is to break down your faith. And the Church has a number of enemies like these.

Let us focus on two of them:

  1. Anxiety and stress: It has become so a part of our daily life that we accept it and no longer confront it with our faith. Part of anxiety is to disconnect from community and not want to be part of a crowd.
    The proclamation of faith is the declaration of God’s goodness and His sovereignty. We have become like these Israelites and have stopped attacking our anxiety with Scripture and prayer. We have let it move in with us, we have started co-habiting with our stress. For some the anxiety has become so big that it has made them forget their God and what He has done for them. Anxiety and stress usually come from a feeling of not having control over the situation. Christianity or faith does not promise you control. Faith is not control, but it is trusting in God.  Anxiety can grip you and paralyze you, but faith can set you free. Faith lets you move and breathe. Faith lets you see things for what they are without fear.

The Sabbath day is the day of rest that God promised us. We do not take it into account. Coming to church is a day of restoration, of filling yourself up again. Seek ye first the Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things shall be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matt. 6:33-34; Luke 12:31).

Be careful or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness (whatever is your escape) and anxieties of life and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap (Luke 21:34). An anxious heart weighs a man down but a kind word cheers him up (Prov. 12:25). A heavy heart is visible. Encourage your brother. Speak words of life. Anxiety and depression makes us feel alone and it cuts us off from reaching out. Sometimes you need somebody to come with a kind word and break through to cheer you up and to lift you up. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your request to God and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6).

The first tribe to possess was the tribe of Judah. They were the ones who knew how to praise, thanking God for who He was and what He has done, not just singing worship songs but recalling and bringing to mind what God had done. Anxiety will stop you from remembering who God is and what He can do. We need to trust God that He can do better than what we can do ourselves. House of God, we need to fight these things. God has given us the land but we need to take possession of it. Are we going to be ruthless or are we going to allow it to move in with us?

  1. Apathy (laziness): Those who are apathetic coast along never really committing to anything. They do not take responsibility. These are the ones who ride in the chariots with superior technology; the ones who live up in the hill country. Their iron chariots are made up of the best excuses not to be pro-active. They show up when all the work is done and nobody wants to confront them because they are riding in these chariots.

Remember the church of Laodicea: I know your deeds that are either cold or hot. I wish you were either one or the other so because you are lukewarm neither hot nor cold I am about to spit you out of my mouth (Rev. 3:15). These are words of war from a God who is ruthless in eradicating apathy. God wants the total destruction of apathy. God does not hold back His contempt for people who are apathetic. God is loving and gracious yet do not think you can hide behind that if you are being apathetic. The Church cannot afford to be kind and gracious towards apathy. We make so much room for it but we must confess we are guilty of not dealing with it. I confess myself guilty of not confronting my brothers and sisters of apathy. I let it slide and end up making excuses for them!

Apathy is vile and it creeps in very softly and you forget what God has done. You stay away from church because you are apathetic. You get bored in the sermon because you are apathetic. You close your eyes in prayer yet you think of something else. You stand in the worship and you think of something else because you are apathetic.

There are two totally different methods of dealing with apathy and anxiety. Anxiety requires strategy, skill and tact and the person needs to be drawn out. Walk gently and carefully with them and you will save them. Apathy has to be taken down and you have to wrestle with it. Apathy will fight you back with excuses. The guys in the iron chariots riding either away from you or towards you will do anything to escape.

Are we going to be ruthless in dealing with these enemies? Are we going to take possession of the land God has given us? Are we going to let these feelings of apathy and anxiety move in with us or will we allow other people to speak into our life? Are we going to be like the tribe of Judah leaving apathy and anxiety in ruins behind us and give God praise? Are we going to trust in God and let Him guide our lives?