A couple of days ago, I was in the kitchen making tacos, and the TV was on in the other room, and the network news broadcast started. And I heard nearly the whole thing. While there were stories on a number of topics, they were all basically the same. Whether they were about the economy, politics, the weather or crime the story was the same; things have never been this bad and you should be afraid.
And it is not just the network news and the so called mainstream media, although they are certainly industry leaders, after all one of the founding fathers of American mass media once quipped “no one ever went broke predicting the end of the world.” The alternative media in many of its various forms gleefully joins in chorus too. You could hardly be blamed if you didn’t realize that violent crime in the US has been declining for decades, and that as a nation the US is in a period of great prosperity that has lasted for decades or that the number of hurricanes has been declining since the 1990s.
I’m not saying that everybody experiences safety and security or prosperity in the same way (and I’m specifically talking about in the U.S.) or that there is no violence or wickedness in society. But what I am saying is that the narrative that these are the most perilous of times is false.
And I’ll go a step further, buying into the narrative and being overcome with fear and anxiety is sinful. Witness Philippians 4:4-7.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
“Do not be anxious” gets the headlines, but notice the other commands: 1) rejoice always 2) rejoice 3) let your reasonableness be known 4) make your requests known to God.
To be anxious, to fail to rejoice, to be unreasonable in your response to the things you hear about in the media is sin and those sins often lead to the sin of prayerlessness. And to succumb to the henny-penny hew and cry to be afraid of everything is simply to be conformed to a worldly mindset. And that is a sin too. Paul is very clear, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Rom 12:2a).”
When we succumb to the cacophony of doom predictions we hear in the news and read online and are otherwise bombarded with, we are being worldly. Fortunately Scripture tells us how to fight this kind of worldly thinking by being transformed by the renewing of your mind. And the way to that renewal is to fill your mind with Scriptural truth. And the truth that most fights fear and anxiety is properly understanding God’s sovereignty.
The sovereignty of God runs like a thread through Scripture. It is taken as a given; The comprehensive nature of God’s sovereignty is most succinctly explained in a passage that is not about the sovereignty of God, because the sovereignty of God underpins everything.
In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of his will. – Ephesians 1:11
But not only does scripture make clear that God is sovereign in a Global sense, it can be very specific too. So I want to very briefly look at some of the things that Scripture says about the three areas where I hear the most alarmist reporting.
I’ll confess this is the one that really drives me crazy. I’ve lost count of how many “storms of the century” I have lived through. I’ve even made it through a couple “snowmageddans.” What’s worse this is an area where the media has been caught lying, and when their predictions of death and destruction fail to materialize many reporters seem genuinely disappointed. What does Scripture say?
From where, then, does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding? It is hidden from the eyes of all living and concealed from the birds of the air. Abaddon and Death say, ‘We have heard a rumor of it with our ears.’ “God understands the way to it, and He knows its place. For He looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens. When He gave to the wind its weight and apportioned the waters by measure, when He made a decree for the rain and a way for the lightning of the thunder, then He saw it and declared it; He established it, and searched it out. And He said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’” – Job 28:20-28
Notice what is wisdom, to fear not a weather disaster, but to fear the Lord. And as he extols the supremacy and glory of God Elihu says this:
They (storms) turn around and around by His guidance, to accomplish all that He commands them on the face of the habitable world. Whether for correction or for His land or for love, He causes it to happen. – Job 37:12-13
But what of climatic issues?
And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” – Genesis 8:21-22
You just can’t get away from a constant stream of angst coming from both the right and left of the political spectrum that says if the wrong person comes to power or gets elected calamity will ensue. But who has the only vote that counts?
The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom He will and sets over it the lowliest of men. – Daniel 4:17
But what happens once God gives a man power?
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He will. – Proverbs 21:1
How should believers respond?
Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. – Psalm 146:3-7
When you get shaken by things in the political realm, in that instant your hope is not in the Lord.
If you were to judge by what is commonly reported you would get the impression that the U.S. is in the grips of an unprecedented crime wave. The fact is it is not. In fact violent crime has been falling steadily for decades. Yet we are endlessly bombarded with crime reporting. This is the one area where scripture is most explicit that there is no reason to worry.
Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. – Psalm 37:1-2
We are commanded to not worry, and we are told why, their end is sure.
Philippians 4:6 says to put off anxiety and put on prayer. And we can come before the throne of grace with confidence and make our requests known to our loving Father. And that crushes fear.
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” – Romans 8:15