This post will probably be the first among several in a series that deal with spiritual and mental health in the church. I will not address much with those outside faith in Christ. This subject has become a major burden to me as I see many believers struggle over things and issues in their life only to seek help in something or someone other than God when I believe everything they need is found in the treasures of God’s word. In reading my thoughts on this you might be able to think of some situations in which my conclusions are incomplete or unsatisfactory. But, I write as a pastor of people. I am not an expert in this area. But again, I do not think I am ignorant on this issue either. I am currently doing tons of research on this, and hopefully will continue to write as God places things on my heart. I would love your comments. Enjoy!
If I asked a thousand Christians if they believed God`s word was sufficient to help them understand God, themselves, the world, and the Christian life, I would probably have an overwhelming majority give me an emphatic “YES”, and rightfully so. But, a question that keeps coming up in my mind is: is our “YES” being displayed in how we live? In other words, do our lives as believers display that we truly rest our lives solely upon the words of God, or are we leaning on other things and philosophies to help us cope with life to live our lives? This is a very important question, because what we rely on day to day matters on many different levels.
First, it matters to God. It matters to Him whether we trust in what He has said for the details of our lives. It is a matter of worship to Him. There is no way one can call Him “Lord” and not do what He says (Luke 6:46). Secondly, It matter to us. It matters whether we build our lives upon God’s truth or if we build them upon the philosophies of the world (Matthew 7:24-29). When the storms of life arrive, and they always do, it matters whose words and what promises we rely upon. Our “theology” during those times is vital on how we will respond and if we will grow closer to the Lord, or walk further away from Him. Thirdly, it matters to others. When we proclaim faith in Christ, it matters to others if we demonstrate that faith through our lives, or is it only a religion. It matters to our kids, who hear what we say we believe, then watch to see if we live what we say. It matters to our fellow Christian family, for it will impact their walk with God. It matters to non-Christians, who watch us with eyes that want to see if there is any power to our faith. So, it really does matter that we not only say God’s word is sufficient, but that we diligently search His word for the answers we need for life, showing we trust in its sufficiency.
2 Timothy 3:14-15 says, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (emphasis mine)
These verses tell us that God’s word is sufficient to tell us all we need to know in order to be saved from our sin. It tells us to place our full trust, not on ourselves, but on Christ alone for salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The next two verses (2 Timothy 3:16-17) continues, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (emphasis mine)
These next two verses then tell us that His word is sufficient to instruct completely in all we need in order to live a content, fruitful, and mentally and spiritually healthy life.
So the Question is: What do we need in addition to God`s word in order to live good, moral, spiritually and mentally healthy lives? Answer: Nothing! That may be hard for some to truly accept and believe, but that does not change the fact that it is indeed true. His word truly is enough. It is complete. It lack nothing.
The first church in Acts 2 was devoted to at least four things. The word of God, the community of believers, prayer, and worship. They relied upon God’s Word to give them all they needed. There hope for life and eternity was found in what God had said and what He was saying through the apostles. Our hope should not be any different than theirs. Romans 15:4 says, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (emphasis mine)
So to say we need something else besides God`s word is bring into question His character and His ability to communicate and provide the needed resources for us to live our lives faithfully. Because God’s word is sufficient for everything we need for daily life, then that should encourage every believer to seek out what God has said about any particular need in their life. This does not mean that His word will answer every single thing we might conjure up in our minds (i.e. – Do aliens exist?). But it does mean that we can seek His word in prayer for wisdom, direction, and instruction for what we need for life. It also implies that to rely on anything else is to trust in something less solid, faulty, or a down right lie.
God`s word is sufficient to help us in everything we need, but it requires believers to search the Scriptures diligently to find those answers, and to do so in prayer, trusting God will lead them to the right understanding. Unfortunately, many find the effort too hard, or too long, or too revealing of their heart. We often want our circumstances to change, yet when we read God’s word, He shows us that it is us that need to change. Often, we do not like this, so we instead turn to other things in order to help cope with life (alcohol, drugs, pornography, etc.) or we seek “professionals” that can help us (prophet in their church who “has a word from God for them”, psychologists, psychiatrists, Oprah, Dr. Phil, horoscopes, palm readers, etc.). While we can get help from people, unless they point us to truths found in God’s word, their help, while maybe giving temporary relief from the stresses of life, only mask the deeper issues of the heart and in the long run cause more damage than good because what really needs to change is us, not our situation. When life gets overwhelming and it begins to consume us, it is not the circumstances that have grown, but our view of God that has shrunk. It is more often than not our lack of faith in Him that needs to be called into question (Mark 9:21-24).
Really, it all comes down to whether or not we believe that God’s word is enough and that He is able to do all that He said. Is His word sufficient to speak to our fears, anxieties, our addictions, our pride, jealousy, hate, bitterness, lust, hurts and wounds, our selfishness, idols, and hardness of heart? God said His word is sufficient for all that (Hebrews 4:12). And I think, deep down inside, most believers know this to be true. But to go down that road means that we must admit that the reason we can not cope with life has very little to do with our childhood, or our health, job situation, family problems, death of a loved one, or financial pressure. Those things simply reveal the person who we really are inside, and we do not like what we see. Often, we try to blame our unforgiveness, bitterness, addiction, and fears on other things when all the time it is our unwillingness to trust in what God has said. This is not a new thing. It all began with Adam and Eve. Adam blamed God for giving him Eve. Eve blamed the serpent. But in reality, we are the ones who chose to turn away from what God has said and place our trust in other things. We try to hide our bitterness, lust, pride, selfishness, idols, addictions, and hard hearts with church attendance, theology talk, and giving money. But those are just fig leaves trying to hide the corruption on the inside. We have to trade those fig leaves in for a real sacrifice that can truly cleanse and heal us. And that sacrifice is none other than our crucified Savior, the Lord Jesus. And we learn of Him in God’s word.
The biggest problem for humanity is not that we cannot cope with life. It is that we cannot cope with ourselves. The answer is not about fixing character flaws, bad habits, a personality deficiency, or having our circumstances change. The answer is we need to be transformed by faith in God’s word. We need a renewed mind and heart that has turned away from sin and self, and has begun trusting in Jesus. One of the biggest hindrances to this in the Christian church are the myriads of people, who instead of turning to God and His word, they turn to pop culture and modern psychology who point them in the opposite direction. Dr. (Fill-in-the-Blank) holds more weight in the lives of believers than God does. God’s word is treated as a nice gesture, but when in really gets down to the every day matters of life, it is tossed aside for something or someone else. And we wonder why so many in the church struggle with fear, anxiety, addictions, bitterness, depression, drastic mood swings, revenge, unforgiveness, lonliness, etc. God’s word is not seen as a treasure full of wisdom, instruction, and truth that can help us. God’s word is not seen as enough.
But, God’s word is enough. We must saturate our lives with it. Every day. Not just once in a while or on Sundays. The devil is working against us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our hearts are deceitful and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9). Without a continual diet of God’s word and daily trusting in it, we will fall to the devil’s schemes. We simply cannot do battle against the devil and our own sinful desires and ideas by ourselves. We need God, and He has promised to help anyone who will turn away from their sin and turn to Him and trust in Him alone. The real question is: Do we really believe this? Or is God simply our parachute we put on when the plane is in flames and we simply have no other choice because we tried everything else first. God is not to be our emergency, He is to be our life. First place in all things (Colossians 1:18).
I need to be clear one one thing. Seeing a psychologist is not a sin in itself. Are there times and real needs when a Christian should visit a psychologist? Probably. But, surely the percentage should much much lower than what we see in the average Bible-believing evangelical church. We need to beware of a real and present danger! Embracing counsel that is contrary to biblical truth in order to cope with life is sin, and this is often what happens when one embraces human psychological advice. Their goal is to help their clients cope with life, but they are giving advice based upon a human centered mindset, not a God- centered and God glorifying point of view. This subtle shift in a believer’s life can pull them miles apart from God’s truth and cause them to feel alienated from fellow believers who encourage them to trust in God’s truth. The word psychology literally means “study of the soul”. Knowing this, what better person to go to than the Creator of our soul and the one who has given us His word? He says that it is sufficient for everything we need. When we look to other people, other writings, pop culture and psychology for answers rather than God, it shows that we have a low view of Scripture, which ultimately shows a low view of God. And this works against our relationship with Him, not for it.
What is the answer then? Those who are convinced of the sufficiency of God’s word should diligently pursue to know God’s will as revealed in Scripture as their means to mental and spiritual help. But many do not want to make the effort to do this. They seek the easy and wide road, which leads them down a path away from God rather than to Him. There goal is not to worship God in their distress, but simply only to escape their troubles. Now, I completely understand their desire to escape the pain. I mean, nobody should like the pain that comes from life’s problems. But, what the believer cannot do is to lay aside worship, obedience, and truth in hard times simply because they would rather escape and turn to methods, theologies, and substances that help them escape, but never resolve the real issue at hand, which more often than not is a spiritual issue of the heart. One of the greatest joys in the Christian life is seeing God actively work in us as we walk through hard times. In the moment, it is sometimes hard to rejoice, but afterward, we would not trade the trial for anything in the world because our love for Christ and joy in Christ are astronomically greater because of God being with us through it. When our goal is simply to escape, we miss the hand of God in us that desires to refine our trust and faith in Him. Take a look at the following passage from Psalm 119. Notice at the psalmist’s desire to be changed by God’s word. Notice that he believes that this is the way to “life.”
33 Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.
35 Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!
37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.
38 Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared.
39 Turn away the reproach that I dread, for your rules are good.
40 Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!
Psalm 119:33-40 (ESV)
Really the whole chapter of Psalm 119 is great to ponder on when one is considering the sufficiency of God’s word. But I find this section so good as the psalmist pursues God by asking Him to change his thoughts and desires, as well as confront his sin by the sufficiency of word of the Lord. This should be the cry of every believer. So, how do we do this? We need to pursue God through His word while praying in the Spirit, by:
1. Individually reading and studying God’s word for ourselves
2. Being taught God’s word by someone who has a good grasp on what the Bible says, and whose life seeks to live it out (not perfectly, but blamelessly).
3. Being a part of a small group of believers whose goal when gathered together is to understand God’s will by studying His word so to that they may better walk in this life according to truth.
4. Seeking diligently to follow everything we learn in God’s word, no matter what that means. Whether it is through our alone study time, through a Sunday sermon, through a small group Bible study, or a podcast sermon, we must put in action what God clearly says. This will require our lives to change. No one can read God’s word and follow it without making changes to their lives. It requires confessing sins to God and one another. It requires humility. It requires a love for God above all things.
5. Being open to the counsel of other believers, who take and use God’s word to instruct you. If you are convinced that the only person who can help you is someone with “Dr.” in front of their name, then resolve only to seek counsel from a Christian doctor. But, anyone filled with the Spirit of God is able to take God’s word and instruct another fellow believer. It is not always done correctly. But let us be honest, no doctor gets it right all the time either. This is how we grow. We have to want a cure, not a spiritual band-aid or Tylenol that only numbs the pain.
In doing this we will reap spiritual fruit that will bring our Father in heaven great joy. It will also bring us great joy, for we will be living out what we were created for: glorifying God (1 Corinthians 10:31). And the troubles of the world will begin to grow dim in comparison to the overwhelming joy that comes from know God, knowing His will, and relying on everything He says. The one who seeks to do live this way will find that they become spiritually and mentally healthy simply because God has become the center of all things for them, which the healthiest place anyone could ever be, regardless of their life situation. His word is sufficient to do all of these things!