Fret not… but we do (Part 1)

Fret(ting)an irritated state of mind; annoyance; vexation. An ongoing state that is corrosive and abbrasive.

Fret not yourself because of evildoers, and be not envious of the wicked, (Prov 24:19)

Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day. (Prov 23:17)

Yet many believers that I know fret quite a bit about one thing or another. Let’s consider these two verses, with the help of the couple of others.

First, the grammar. These are not suggestions, as in “Try not to fret if you can help it..” or “It is understandable to fret but you should resist it…” etc., etc. Even though these are Proverbs and therefor somewhat general words of wisdom, these are nonetheless more that mere offhanded suggestions for optimal living. Let’s remember “which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Luke 12:25). The phrase “do not be anxious” appears numerous times in the New Testament, applying to the circumstances and concerns of life. Overall, Christians are admonished throughout the New Testament to worry for nothing because our sovereign Lord has it all in hand, always.

Now, Let us narrow to a particular kind of fretting that seems to be encouraged in our day. That is, fretting about the declining state of the world and the seemingly universal actions of ungodly people. Many believers seem to spend a great amount of time in fretting about these two topics.

In Prov 24:19 we are instructed to stop worrying about the second of these – the evil being perpetrated in the world by others. The wicked cited here are unbelievers, since they are evildoers (ie. sons of disobedience – Eph 2:2), outside the circle of the saved (or elect).

But if we are not to fret over them, what are we to do, if anything? “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God ” (Rom 12:19). Dealing with the wicked and their iniquity is the exclusive mandate of the Lord. Both judgment and vengeance are His alone, not ours. In fact, if we judge, we will be judged similarly (Matt 7:1), since we too are recalcitrant sinners all.

Bear in mind that this worry is different from discernment. We are not to judge, but we should be discerning and avoid willful association (aside from entering situations to preach the Gospel) with the sinful behaviours and their perpetrators. This require appropriate situational judgment and thought, which is separate from the judgment of the Lord.

This is also separate from the requirement for enforcement of law and order within society. That is separately mandated to the state by the Lord. As such, the that judgment is part of His mandate and within his sovereign plans.

Since we, having “Put on the whole armor of God” (Eph 6:11), are instructed not to worry, it would seem rebellious to do so. God is absolutely sovereign in all things in the world. It is His concern and not ours. We are to live in faith, within the outworking of His sovereign plans. To make the worry ours is to claim a portion of His sovereignty in ourselves.

Yet, like Paul (Rom 7:15), we often do what we endeavor not to do! Thank heavens for Grace!

With all this in mind, if we are not to fret, what are we to do?

Irrespective of the world around us, our task is to preach the Gospel and to follow His commandments.

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