Fret Not Because of Evil-Doers, by Charles Finney

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Fret Not Because of Evil-Doers - a message by Charles Finney

In view of all the troubles and difficulties that are going on in the world today, it would be helpful to read this insightful message of Charles Finney, on the importance of avoiding worry and anxiety because of those who are doing evil in the world. A current definition of fret is “to be constantly or visibly worried or anxious.” While we are to do all the good we can in this world, God also wants His children to be free of anxiety. While Finney's message sometimes includes "old English," it is well worth the read.

 

            “Fret not thyself because of evil doers.” — Psalm 37:1

                                      by Charles Finney

 

Fretfulness is a state of mind the opposite of that meekness and patient

endurance which the gospel encourages for all believers. I shall show —

 

  1. WHY WE SHOULD NOT FRET BECAUSE OF EVIL DOERS. AND,
  2. HOW TO AVOID IT.
  3. WHY WE SHOULD NOT FRET

 

  1. Because, in fretting at the evil doing of others we do evil ourselves.

Many persons seem to think that they do well to fret when others sin: for

as much as they think it is right to manifest holy indignation and zeal for

the Lord of Hosts; and would say with Jonah, I do well to be angry. But

such persons ought to remember, that in fretting at others for their sins,

they are abusing God themselves. And surely this is a good reason why

they should abstain from fretting, if by so doing, they are but adding sin of

their own to that of the individual on account of whose sins they fret.

 

  1. Another reason why we should not fret because of evil doers is, that it

will do no good. It certainly can do us no good to fret. It cannot benefit

him at whom we fret. It does not tend to the glory of God, nor in any way

to the advancement of His kingdom. Why then should we fret?

 

  1. The third reason why we should not fret because of evil doers is, that it

will only add mischief to mischief. It will do us great evil; it will destroy

our own peace; it will break up our communion with God; it will quench

the spirit of prayer in our own hearts; it will bring us into condemnation; it

will destroy our confidence in God, and destroy our respect for ourselves;

it will in every way tend to the injury of our own souls.

 

Again, it tends to the injury of all who witness our fretting. It is a

stumbling block to them. And perhaps our fretting is a greater stumbling

block to them than the evil doing of those at whom we fret. Fretting at the

evil doing of others tends only to mischief. It is dishonorable to God, and a

manifest lack of confidence in Him. It tends in every way to the injury of

His kingdom.

 

  1. If we manifest a sweet and patient spirit towards evil doers, it tends

greatly to do them good. It also tends greatly to prevent the harm of their

evil doing. If, when they do evil we do well, and manifest a Christian spirit,

our Christian character, in some measure at least, is a set off against

their evil doing. If they dishonor God by evil doing, and we highly honor Him by

the manifestation of a heavenly attitude, we do all we can to retrieve the injury

done to the kingdom of God by the evil-doer. His evil doing tends to stumble

those around him — our well doing in manifesting a heavenly attitude tends to

the removal of the stumbling block. Bystanders will say, to be sure here is one

that has done a great evil, but another has manifested so excellent a spirit in

view of it, as on the whole to strengthen my conviction of the necessity and

excellence of the religion of Jesus.

 

  1. Another reason why we should not fret is, that the evil doing is allowed

to occur under the providence of infinite wisdom and love. God has chosen

not to prevent it, but on the contrary to allow it rather than to change the

administration of His government, in such a manner as to prevent its

occurrence.

 

  1. Another good reason why we should not fret at evil doing is, because

provision is made to overrule it for the glory of God and the highest good

of His kingdom. “The wrath of man shall praise Thee, and the remainder of

wrath shalt Thou restrain.” All the evil in the universe has been taken into

account in the great plan of God for the promotion of the highest good.

 He saw that in the wisest possible moral system all evil could not be

prevented: consequently what He could not wisely prevent He overruled

for His own glory. We can easily see in a great many instances, how God

does overrule, as a matter of fact, the most flagrant transgressions for the

promotion of His glory. Take the conduct of Judas in betraying Christ, and

the wickedness of Satan in that affair. These were among the most flagrant

transgressions the world ever saw, and yet they were instrumental in

laying the cornerstone of man’s salvation. God has taken occasion from

these transgressions highly to honor Himself and to benefit the universe.

Now although we cannot see the particular manner in which God does this

in every instance, yet we may rest assured that every sin that ever does

occur or ever can occur shall in some way be overruled for the promotion

of the glory of God. ...

 

  1. Another reason is, it is Satan’s plan to make us fret. He understands

very well the injury that we shall receive from it ourselves, and the great

evil of fretting is to the government of God. He is an enemy to human

happiness, and loves to disturb our peace. He loves to stumble others and

to see God dishonored; and understands full well that few things are more

hateful in the sight of God and destructive to all good than fretting. It is

therefore a prime object with him to promote as much fretfulness as

possible. But shall we gratify the devil?

 

  1. Another reason why we should not fret is, that the very evil doing at

which we fret, is often allowed in providence, as one of the means of

perfecting in us the grace of patience. Mother, did you ever consider that

the trying conduct of your children is often designed to perfect the grace of

patience in your soul? The Apostle says — “Brethren, count it all joy

when ye fall into diverse temptations, knowing that the trial of your faith

worketh patience: let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be

perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” The things at which we are so prone

to fret all occur under the government of God, and are all parts of those

means which God is using to perfect holiness within us.

 

  1. The evil doing of others affords a good opportunity to glorify God. If in

view of the evil doing of others, we manifest a God-like temper, this is

highly honorable to God. What can be more lively than for a man under

severe trials, to manifest the character of Christ? When did Christ Himself

ever shine more gloriously than under His severest trials? The character

which He manifested, was more glorious to God, and reflected more of the

divine beauty of His character, than was manifested perhaps under any

other circumstances. So when we are greatly tried with the evil doing of

others, God has given us an opportunity of manifesting most of the divine

character to the world around us.

 

  1. It manifests unbelief to fret. If we only realize that the hand of God is

concerned directly or indirectly in everything that occurs; if we firmly

believe this, we shall not fret at the occurrences around us. No man who

practically believes in the universal providence of God, will fret at the

occurrences around him any more than he would fret at God Himself. He

will perceive that fretting at these occurrences, is but fretting at God,

 

  1. Fretfulness is an expression of self-will. No man frets at what occurs

around him, if his will is swallowed up in the will of God. If a man has a

will of his own, and is set on having his own way, he will fret at anything

that crosses his path, and opposes his inclinations. But if his will is lost in

the will of God, he will recognize the universal providence of God, and

having no will of his own, he will sweetly submit to all the Providences

around him. ...

 

  1. It is un-Godlike to fret at evil doers. God never frets, and why should

we fret? And yet it concerns Him rather than ourselves, to resent

wickedness. If anybody is injured vengeance belongs to Him, and not to us.

But if He has good reasons for not fretting at what occurs , surely we

need not fret about it. ...

 

  1. Fretting destroys our own peace. Who does not know that the

indulgence of the least fretfulness instantly breaks up the peace of our

minds, brings a cloud over our spirits, and throws our souls into darkness?

What Christian does not know this by his own experience? It is remarkable

how easily our peace is destroyed. The least rising of impatience if

indulged but for a moment, brings the spirit into rough waters, stirs up the

sediment, and makes it for the time, like the troubled sea.

 

  1. Fretting is also destructive to the peace of others. A fretful man is a

great nuisance to all around him. Fretting seems to be contagious. If

parents fret at their children, the children are almost certain to fret in

return. If husbands fret at their wives, or wives at their husbands, the other

is almost certain to fret in return, and thus the peace of a whole household

will be continually destroyed by the wickedness of one fretful member.

 

  1. Fretting grieves the Holy Spirit. He will not live where there is a fretful

spirit. We are shocked and grieved if we go to a neighbor’s house and find

them in a fret. We feel embarrassed and uneasy, and if we find them out of

humor, we retire in distress and disgust. And will not the Holy Spirit be

grieved away and retire from us, if we allow ourselves to fret in His

presence?

 

  1. It is destructive to our influence to fret. A fretful person can have very

little Christian influence in any community. A fretful parent never governs

his family well. A fretful minister, a fretful neighbor, in short, anyone that

frets, destroys his Christian influence.

 

...Another reason why we should not fret is, God will take care of the

evil doers. The verse immediately following the text, says: “For they shall

soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.” They are in

the hands of God. He will take care so to dispose of them, as to promote

His own glory. We need not therefore fret ourselves because of their evil

doings.

 

... Another reason why we should not fret at evil doers, is because they

are among the “all things that work together for good to them that fear

God.” How often can we see that the trials into which we fall, the

temptations of Satan, and the wickedness of men around us, are working

together on the whole, for our edification and growth in grace. We thus

learn many lessons which we could learn in no other way.

 

... Another reason why we should not fret is, the things at which we fret,

are not worth fretting about. By this I do not mean that the sins of evil

doers are not great and grievous sins, and in themselves greatly to be hated and

deplored; but I mean that on the whole, considering the overruling providence of

God and all the circumstances of the case, they are not worth fretting about. Did

we see the end from the beginning as God sees, we should no doubt see this to

be true. If they were worth fretting about, God would fret about them.....

 

... The last reason I will mention is, that fretting makes us the very sport

of Satan. .....And such an enemy is he to our peace, and to

our souls, as to take an infernal satisfaction in spending his leisure hours in

causing us to fret. He loves to throw us into a tempest of fretfulness, and

then tell it in hell, and excite a laugh in the infernal regions, at the fact that

we profess Christ, and yet are so easily provoked to fretfulness.

 

 I COME NOW TO SHOW, HOW TO AVOID FRETFULNESS

 

Sink into the will of God. Acknowledge and consider the universal

providence of God. And know, that He is working all things after the

counsel of His own will. Sink therefore into His will and learn to be

sweetly and universally submissive. This is a sure antidote against

fretfulness.

 

Have faith in the wisdom and benevolence of the providences of God.

Settle down with your whole soul on the truth that everything that does or

can occur, occurs under the direct or indirect control of infinite wisdom and

benevolence. ...

 

Be self-possessed. It is of great importance to cultivate the habit of being

calm and self-possessed, under the various trials with which we are

surrounded. It is often important not to allow yourself to speak a word till

you have had time to think, and lift up your heart to God in prayer.....By being

self-possessed I mean that a person should cultivate the habit of

considering the reasons why they should not be irritated by circumstances

around them.

 

Reflect much also upon the forbearance of God. I love to consider the

infinite calmness of the divine mind, in view of all the provocations which

He has to anger. His infinite patience, long-suffering and kindness to evil

doers, is what I love to consider.

 

.... Learn not to look altogether on the dark side of things; consider the

virtues as well as the vices of those around you. Dwell on the good and not

altogether on the bad qualities of those with whom you associate. It is a

dangerous thing for us to dwell too much on the evil doings of those

around us.

 

Remember that it is God and not you against whom sin is committed.

The government of the universe is not committed to you. The kingdom is

the Lord’s — all things are His. He has made all things for Himself — even

the wicked for the day of evil; and you need not by any means take on

yourself the responsibility of managing His affairs, nor allow yourselves

to fret because things do not go as you would have them. He will take care

to secure the plans of His own government, without your getting into a

passion about it.

 

.....Don’t allow yourselves to dwell much in thought on the evil doings of

those around you. If you are abused don’t dwell on it. Pray for the evil

doer and dismiss it from your thoughts, lest it be to you too great a

temptation.

 

Pray for evil doers. You never can fret at a man for whom you are

sincerely and earnestly praying.

 

Labor to save their souls, and cultivate compassion toward them. If

you are deeply engaged in pulling them out of the fire, if you are exercised

with great love and compassion for their souls, you will not be apt to fret

at them.

 

Learn with the Psalmist to set the Lord always before you. Persons are

very apt to fret at little things when they would not at great events,

because in the less they see not, while in the greater they do see the

providence of God. .... Set Him always before you, and let your mind be filled

with the idea, that in everything that occurs, in some sense God is present.

 

......Lastly, learn to appropriate the grace of Christ to the complete

suppression of this sin of fretfulness. The providences that develop the

spirit of fretfulness, are designed to show us our weakness and the need of

the grace of Christ to perfect the grace of patience in us. That which you

need therefore, is to learn to lay hold on Christ in such a sense as to be

kept from the commission of this sin. The Apostle said — let us draw near

to a throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in

time of need.

 

....I love to reflect on the fact that God’s plan embraces all events,

that His plan is perfect, that He will do all His pleasure; that He can do all

His pleasure, that the wrath of man shall praise Him, and the remainder of

wrath He will restrain. That therefore we need not make ourselves

wretched and unhappy, and vex our souls on account of anything that

occurs in the universe, but compose our minds in view of it all, as God

composes His; concern ourselves to do our own duty, and not allow

ourselves to fret about the conduct of others. Let us try to reform them,

and try to do them good, pity and pray for them, but by no means allow

their evil doing to cause us to do evil, and to dishonor God. Always

remembering not to be overcome of evil, but to overcome evil with good.

 

Charles Finney

(AD 1792 – 1875)

 

 

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