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I Will Fear No Evil

by David Johnson

IMG_0666(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

 

As we look into the Word of God, the title for the lesson is, “I Will Fear no Evil,” and the text is Psalm 23 in the Old Testament verses one through six.  Listen to the Word of God.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows.  Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. A wonderful passage of Scripture, a passage of Scripture that is will known, perhaps the most well known passage in all of the Bible.

We are going to be looking at this, as is always the case with Scripture, indicating and examining the practicality of how we can apply Scripture to our lives. We live in a very stressful world. And part of the problem today is we are bombarded with too much negative information. It is coming at us from all sides with the modern technological ability of the media and so many other sources to just bombard us, undulate us with so much that is negative.  For example, according to studies and surveys, about 43 percent of all adults in America suffer adverse health due to stress. It is estimated that 75 to 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress related complaints or disorders. Stress has been linked to all the leading causes of death including heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis and, of course, suicide.

Ok, enough already.  Sometimes ignorance is bliss. Too much negativism.  And yet we live in reality.  But regarding being constantly stressed out is really about a mindset. Usually the ones that seem to stay stressed out complain that I can’t help it. I can’t change. I can’t change how I think, how I feel. I can’t control my emotions.
It is true that we all have different temperaments and personalities and tendencies and life experiences, which includes how we handle stress, how we handle fears and worry. However, just as with physical and spiritual maladies, ailments that have helps and remedies, so mental and emotional ailments do have helps and remedies also.

So how are our minds? How is your mind today? What do we primarily think about all day? Positive or negative thoughts?  Do we have a healthy mindset?  Is our mind just a constant roller coaster? Scripture affirms that we are as we think.

The New American Standard Version for Proverbs chapter 23 and verse seven reads like this. For as he thinks within himself, so he is. And this is also the sense in the New International Version translation, in the secondary translation of this verse in the footnote. We can improve our mindset, our attitudes, the way we primarily think about ourselves and the world around us.  We won’t change over night by any means, but we can begin to develop a healthier mindset, of course, with God’s help. Do you really think that God wants his sons and daughters to be stressed out?  And so I am primarily talking about born again, baptized believers. But, of course, these principles can apply to anyone. But certainly receiving Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord and having the indwelling Holy Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit working in and throughout lives is eminently better. But God certainly wants his own family, his own sons and daughters to be leveled out, to have the mindset to be developing the mindset of Christ in us, not to be worry warts.

So how can we begin to change the way we think?   We need to think more as God would have us to think, to develop, as it reveals in 1 Corinthians chapter two and verse 16 where it is written in part: To have the mind of Christ.  So how do we develop this? How do we begin? We need to have spiritual vitamins, as it were, through the word of God by the Holy Spirit, to continuously saturate our minds with Scripture on a daily basis guided by the Holy Spirit and surrendering to the Sprit of God within us to develop the fruit of the Spirit which includes peace, not just peace with God, but the peace of God.  And self control. When we have pain we go to a doctor to get a prescription to ease the pain, to erase the pain. When we have a troubled mind, consider the advice of a Christian psychiatrist prescription which reads that we are to read and study and think on the 23rd Psalm, for example, five times a day for seven days, the first reading after we awake, the second reading after breakfast, the third reading after lunch, the fourth after supper and the fifth before bedtime.  Each time reading carefully and prayerfully, soaking in the Scripture and to repeat as necessary. And, of course, also without Scripture.
Well, does this sound too simplistic, even silly? Well, don’t knock it till you have tried it. it is certainly not magic, but it is a method. It is about replacing stress with Scripture, getting our mind, our focus off of ourselves and our troubles and focusing on God and the things of God and the ways of God.  It is about changing our mental outlook with a mindset focused on insights applicable to us personally from our creator.  Do we trust the doctor’s prescriptions?  Are we willing to trust God’s Scriptures?
Now this is not a hard assignment, but it does certainly take effort.  The 23rd Psalm is only about 118 words depending on your translation and only six verses.  It can, by the Holy Spirit of God, bring help, healing by thinking and trusting in the truths of this psalm personally, individually, intimately, to incarnate it, that is, to make it part of our flesh, our being, our inner being, owning it, applying the meaning for me, for you.

The 23rd Psalm is not just for funerals.  The 23rd Psalm is for every day. The 23rd Psalm begins in verse one: The Lord is my shepherd.  I shall not be in want.  Notice, it is not his or her, but my personal shepherd.  In this case, originally, King David was indicating that the Lord was his shepherd even, perhaps, as he wrote this before he was king.  But he was and is my personal shepherd, that is, close, intimate, a relationship like a loving mate or mom or a best friend, a confidant. And not be in want includes not to be stressed because of ultimate assurance and confidence in my Lord as my provider, as my protector regarding real needs.  It doesn’t mean that we don’t suffer. It does mean that God can and does help us if we let him, if we cooperate, if we surrender and yield to him. The shepherd should trump stress in our lives, the Holy Spirit as our shepherd today in the Church age.

Are we going to focus on stress or are we going to focus on my shepherd?

In verse two of Psalm 23 it says, in part: He makes me lie down in green pastures. You understand here the imagery of sheep as being clumsy and skittish as they, of course, really are. We can be likewise clumsy and skittish. Notice, he makes me lie down.  Are we stressed to the max? Sometimes the Lord makes us lie down on a sick bed to get us to slow down, to put us flat on our backs before we can look up, literally, and seek him, seek our shepherd.

Verse two also says: He leads me beside quiet waters. We certainly all need quiet time. We need rest, relaxation. We need to reflect that we would not fall into the raging storms that sometimes seem to be all around us.

In verse three it says, in part: He restores my soul. We all need, at times, the Lord’s reviving and renewing and recharging and refortifying. And that also includes our minds, the way we think, the way our emotions, our sentiments, our feelings.  Notice, it does not read: Restored, but restores, meaning ongoing restoration. Well, how is that? In his Word, through his Word, by the Holy Spirit, through prayer, through worship, through service, through living for the Lord, being a sheep in his pasture, allowing him to shepherd us.  All of this can help get our minds off of ourselves and off of our problems, to refocus, to shift our thoughts onto the Lord and onto others. And you can be sure that the Lord God specializes in restoration, in revival, in refortification, in renewal.

In verse three it also says, in part: He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. The Lord’s guidance is always right, always the best way, because he is God, almighty God and he knows best.

In verse four it says, in part, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death… The key word here is through.  We don’t stay. We don’t stop in the valley of the shadow of death, but we go through with God’s help. And when we can’t make it, sometimes God carries us.  And if God wants to take us home, that is his prerogative. We surrender to him.

In verse four it continues: I will fear no evil.  For maturing believers with minds saturated in Scripture and in the shepherd, faith can trump fear.  Well, why? Verse four. Because you are with me. Our mind is filled with faith.  We trust the shepherd.  And we know that the Lord is always with us.

Verse four continues in part: Your rod and your staff they comfort me. Sheep are comforted by their shepherd’s rod and staff. Believers are comforted by Scripture and the Spirit of God even to the very deepest recesses of our minds. If there is anyone—and there is only one—that can really reach deeply into our hearts and minds, into our thinking and our emotions, to be able to comfort and to be able to apply the salve that we need to help us through the really difficult times and that is our shepherd, our God, our Lord.

In verse five it says, in part: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  The eastern imagery here is of a host at a meal that always protects his invited guests from enemies. The Lord ultimately will protect, will deliver believers from all of our enemies physically, economically, spiritually and mentally. That is, ultimately, because we will go into eternity to live, to exist with him, ultimately, we will be protected from all of our enemies.  And this should comfort us.

In verse five it says: You anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows.  Here the shepherd and the sheep in the imagery that is given here the shepherd would anoint his sheep with soothing olive oil, because sheep would often gash their heads on sharp stones and briers and thorns as they grazed. That is the imagery.  And the shepherd would also provide water to overflowing to his thirsty sheep.  And so from this imagery the Lord will provide healing and help for us for us also, not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, spiritually.
But someone may say: But the Lord does not always heal? Sure he does. He heals his own here and now or over there and then. But God always heals his own people.  It is a question of geography, whether here and now or over there and then.  Geography and timing. But God always heals ultimately and this should also comfort us.

And then in verse six: Surely goodness and love will flow to me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  Now that is a positive mindset, built on faith in shepherd, in my Lord, saturated in Scriptural truths, not just knowing the psalm. It is living in and with the author. And I am not talking about David, but the Lord, our shepherd, our great shepherd king.

The closer we are to the shepherd, the closer we live in him, the less stress, because our focus, our mindset is not on troubles. It is trusting him.  Won’t you trust him even with your troubles even today?

 

David Johnson is minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ, Sellersburg, IN.




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I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33