Unless the lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Behold, children are a heritage from the lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
These are perhaps the two causes of greatest concern in life: provision and protection. According to Solomon, both are in God’s hands. When we grasp this, we’ve entered the realm of proper thinking. We cease to go “round and round in circles” in our mind. We see that anxiety is an exercise in futility.
I want to demonstrate how this plays out in very practical terms. I’m dwelling on this point because worry has a stranglehold on far too many of us. Moreover, it has become an acceptable sin, meaning we don’t deal with it as we ought.
Let’s begin by recognizing that there’s such a thing as natural fear. There’s nothing wrong with it. As a matter of fact, this kind of fear is essential to human existence; we fear what threatens us, and we avoid what we fear.
But we need to recognize that there’s such a thing as sinful fear. My natural fear becomes sinful fear when I ascribe ultimate power to the object of my fear. Fear becomes sinful when I allow it to control me.
Similarly, we need to recognize that there’s a difference between natural worry and sinful worry. Natural worry takes necessary precautions to be ready for difficult situations. It becomes sinful worry when I ascribe ultimate value to the object of my worry. It now controls me.
Some of us worry about broken relationships, debilitating illnesses, premature death, or financial loss. Some of us worry about failure, rejection, or abandonment. Some of us worry about the state of the world: political structures are wavering, monetary systems are collapsing, and traditional values are disappearing.
These things should concern us. But our concerns become sinful when they begin to control us. When they control us, it means we fear something more than God. When we fear something more than God, it means we believe there’s something greater than God. When we believe there’s something greater than God, it means we’re guilty of idolatry. As we tear back the layers, we discover that the cause of sinful worry isn’t what’s happening outside of us but inside of us.
This kind of worry is a heart issue, which can only be resolved through the lively application of truth. And that’s what Psalm 127 gives us. Solomon celebrates God’s all-encompassing providence, demonstrating its reality in two all-important spheres: provision and protection. In light of God’s all-encompassing providence, we have no reason to worry.
Surely, this is Christ’s very point when he declares, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6: 26). I like to imagine that a flock of sparrows flew overhead when Christ spoke those words. How many sparrows have dotted the skies since creation? Can any of us compute that kind of number? Relatively speaking, they’re worthless, yet God watches over them. If God’s providence extends to a single sparrow’s provision and protection, then surely it extends to his children as well.
This calls for faith. Paul writes, “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1: 22– 23). All things are subject to Christ. There’s his spiritual kingdom whereby he rules by his Spirit and Word in the hearts of his people. There’s also his providential kingdom whereby he rules over the world, governing all things.
Here’s a wonderful truth: Christ rules his providential kingdom for the good of his spiritual kingdom. In other words, God has arranged the world’s history in reference to the destiny of his people. “For the eyes of the lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him” (2 Chronicles 16: 9).
There are no random events, freak accidents, chance encounters, or rogue molecules. His knowledge is perfect: he knows what was, what is, what will be, what can be, and what can’t be. He knows all things perfectly, immediately, and distinctly— at every moment. His power is perfect; he has never encountered difficulty— let alone impossibility. “None can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4: 35). Every detail of every life was in the mind of God before the foundation of the world. “Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139: 14).
We know his goodness dictates his providence, meaning he designs all things for our good. We know his wisdom governs his providence, meaning he knows what’s best for us. We know his power accomplishes his providence, meaning he’s in ultimate control.
Now, that’s proper thinking!
Excerpted from Longing for Home by J. Stephen Yuille.