Thursday, December 14, 2006

Lloyd-Jones 'Spiritual Depression' (IV)

Lloyd-Jones is writing about miserable Christians, arguing that such a condition, though a decent description of many many people, shouldn't occur. He is examining the causes and cures of such a condition, being sad in the Christian life. I'm summarising him, and trying not to comment too much. I'm really enjoying the book - we need more Puritan-loving, Puritan-reading, Puritan-conversant preachers!

7. Fear of the Future
"For God hath not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (2Tim 1:7)

Satan is relentless, and not bothered how he gets Christians to be downcast. If looking at the past doesn't work depression (see ch 6) then he will try to scare or depress with thoughts of the future. This fear is very common, and there's lots of teaching in the Bible about it. But the supreme example of spiritual depression due to fear of the future is Timothy.

What causes such a condition? First, temperament is central. We are all made different, and this doesn't change at conversion; we are all ourselves, which is one of the great glories of the church. Some are, by temperament, nervous or worried - and Paul himself was such a man, going to Corinth "in weakness and fear and much trembling". Thus temperament matters. Other things also contribute to fearing the future. A high view of the Christian calling might do so, tending to depress those who both know its grandeur and their own inabilities. Further causes multiply, but we must not dwell here.

How are we to treat this condition? Some general propositions, then some exegesis. First, it is helpful to distinguish legitimate forethought from paralyzing forethought. It is right to think about the future, and foolish not to, but still wrong to be worried about it. Just as we saw it a waste of time to worry about the past you cannot change, so it is likewise pointless to exert energy on something currently obscure, or outside of your circle of influence.

Turning to the Apostle's teaching we see that he raises such reasoning to a higher level, giving us specific teaching of a two-fold nature: reprimand and reminder. First comes the reprimand, that God has not given a spirit of fear, which speaks of our major trouble in fear of being to forget what God has given us, namely a spirit of power and love and a sound mind. The trouble with Timothy was, as with all depressed Christians, a failure to realise what God had given him - or done for us. This fault in us is due to the failure to stir ourselves up, to think, to take ourselves in hand. We need to admit that the future contains fearsome things, and then continue to remind ourselves that we are sons of God, etc...

Power. We have a task, and we know our own weakness. Yes, but there is power even for weaklings - and such comprehensive power too! Read the stories of the Christian martyrs, and see not only the bold & strong make their good confession, but the weak, the small, even children, dying courageously & gloriously for Christ's sake.

Love. How many of us would have put this concept here on the list? Isn't love timourous, weak? Well, no - because self-love is often the root cause of fear, and thus love which absorbs us in someone or something else protects from fear. Think how this is modelled by Jesus.

Sound Mind. Discipline & clear thinking are a right antidote to the spirit of fear - as we have already seen.

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