Summary: God is not like one of us in many ways.
GOD IS NOT!
Every dysfunction begins with a distortion about who God is. That’s why, in addition to knowing who he is, it’s important to understand who he isn’t. Most believers realize that God is holy, sovereign, righteous, pure, majestic, powerful, sufficient, wonderful, and a lot of other adjectives we’re pretty familiar with. And we could spend years exploring those attributes and barely scratch the surface. But to set a foundation for our understanding of what God is like, we also have to know what he isn’t like. We have to undo those distortions about who he is. One of the dysfunctions that I see in so many lives and again and again in my own heart is the dysfunction of anxiety. Maybe you have no fears. Maybe you’re one of those rare people who doesn’t worry about your finances because you know God is your source, or about your relationships because you know God is your Father. But most of us get anxious about these kinds of things, and that says a lot about what we truly believe about God. Anxiety is not only a dysfunction; it’s a sin. We may hear more about the sins of lust, greed, bitterness, or anger, but when our hearts are anxious, we reveal a belief that God is not really in control of our lives. When circumstances take a turn for the worse or even when we think they might we freak out and act like God took a nap or went on a lunch break. That’s an offense toward him or, in other words, a sin. And that’s why we need an accurate understanding of who he is. The Bible gives us clear instructions: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6 – 7). Those words offer a lot of encouragement, but the passage begins with a command: thou shall not be anxious. The only way we can do that is by knowing who God is and who he isn’t. Of course, there are many things God is not. He is not angry with us. He is not distant. He is not capricious or unfair. But when it comes to overcoming our anxiety, it would be helpful if we realized that God is not incapable. When we live our lives in a state of panic and anxiety, we infer that God is unable to help us.
When Unmet Needs Meet God
Typically, anxiety is a result of an unmet need in our hearts. One of the great characters from the Old Testament knew something about an unmet need and through it came to grips with who God really is. Abraham is the progenitor of our faith. He was an average guy living in Ur (where Iraq is today) when God found him and promised to make a great nation through him. His name was Abram at the time, and things were going well for him except that he had no heir to carry on his legacy. God had already given him great wealth and helped him win many victories over his enemies. Still, Abram couldn’t have a child, and without a child, he had no heir. According to the custom of the day, if you didn’t have a son, the main servant of the household would receive the inheritance and carry on the family’s legacy. That didn’t seem to fit the promise of someone who would one day be a father of nations. Abram needed a son, and it didn’t look like that would ever happen. Knowing how something like this could cause him to worry, God appeared to Abram and encouraged him: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward” (Gen. 15:1). That should have been a comforting thing to hear from the God who made heaven and earth. “I am your defense and your offense,” God was essentially saying. “I’m going to protect you and provide for you. It’s already taken care of, so just go about your business and trust me.” Abram wasn’t so sure: “O Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus? . . . You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir” (vv. 2 – 3). Just as we do so many times, Abram felt it necessary to explain his situation to God. As if God didn’t already know. He was anxious because he did not trust God. In this short response, he demonstrates his view of God as incapable of fulfilling his own promise. What can the God who made him give to him? The question is almost an accusation that God is untrustworthy, that there are some things he just can’t do. How do you call God sovereign and then start by questioning what he can do? We do it all the time. At least Abram had some reason to be incredulous. He and his wife were old and wrinkled, yet God was talking about giving him a son. Look at the kinds of things that make us anxious: