BY: TOM BROWN
January 17, 2019
Jesus said, "Do not worry about your life" (Matt 6:24) and the Apostle Paul wrote, "Do not be anxious about anything" (Phil 4:6). Paul didn't write, "Do not be anxious about some things...about most things." No! He wrote not to be anxious about anything. It is not enough to worry less; you are to worry no more.
Worry is a useless activity, but it is also a hurtful activity. It drains your energy; it escalates your blood pressure; it makes you grumpy; it confuses your mind; it robs you of sleep. There is nothing good that comes from worrying. It is a sin that has no pleasure to it. At least other sins give a person pleasure, but not worry.
As much as we all recognize that worry is wrong, it seems too hard to break it. I know worry can seem addictive. It's seems harder to break than cigarettes. You tell yourself that you will stop worrying, but soon, you find yourself dragged into the habit again. I know how you feel.
I was browsing through a Christian bookstore, looking for books that I think could help, not just me, but my members as well. I am always looking for good sermon material to bless my church. Max Lucado's book, "Anxious for Nothing" caught my attention. So I bought it and took it home. As I read it, it dawned on me that to conquer worry, I had to approach it from a four-prong attack. I couldn't not attack it from just one direction; I had to attack worry from all four angles.
You see, in my early years as a Christian, I had been taught that there was one way to overcome worry and that was to cast my cares on the Lord. The passage in 1 Peter 5:7 was the proof text of this approach, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." This is a powerful verse and it should be practiced. We do need to cast our cares on the Lord, and I have used this passage hundreds of times through the years.
However, the Apostle Paul expanded my approach to worry by writing, "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you" (Phil 4:9). He provided a promise from God that if the church would practice whatever they learned, or received or heard from the Apostle, then, not only would they have peace, but much more than peace, they would have "the God of peace" with them. Not just peace, but the God of peace. It is better to have the God of peace being with you, than just trying to have God's peace with you.
Paul also wrote to the Philippians, "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (v7). It is one thing to try not to worry, but it is altogether something different to have the peace of God "guarding your hearts and your minds." How would you like supernatural protection over your minds? Yes, of course! You can have it, provided you do what the Apostle said to do. In other words, if you will do the possible, then God will do the impossible by protecting your mind from worry.
The Apostle lays out the first three steps to ending worry, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (vs 4-6). Then he gives the final fourth step, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things" (v 8).
Max Lucado gave an acronym, and I have slightly changed it, to help you understand the four action steps you must take to end worry for good: C.A.L.M.
Celebrate God's goodness.
Ask God for help.
Live in the present blessings.
Meditate on good things.
Celebrate God's Goodness
Paul begins his prescription on worry with "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" I have never seen anyone conquer worry, if they do not practice rejoicing. It does not say to rejoice in your situation, but to rejoice "in the Lord." No matter what is happening to you, God is in heaven, rejoicing over you and cares about you.
The highest reason to rejoice is because God is still sovereign and is working on your behalf. He knows the problems you have, but He truly cares about you. At times, you can feel that God is far from you, but that is a lie. God is near you! He has not abandon you. You cannot let your circumstances lie to you.
Smith Wigglesworth use to say, "I don't let my body tell me how I feel, I tell my body how it feels." This was his way to say that he does not look at his emotions or circumstances to determine how he views God. God is love. God cares. God is faithful. So I have a reason to rejoice! It is because of God's power and love that He displays and will display in my life.
You may have financial troubles, but God will "meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus" (Phil 4:19). You don't have to worry over money, because God knows what you need. He will make sure to supply all that you need in abundance. Why, because you are His child and, like a good father, He will take care of you. So you don't need to look at the economy and rejoice in the GNP of your country, but rejoice in the Lord.
When you are tempted to worry, lift up your hands and give God praise. Rejoice in God's goodness. Tell Him how great, loving and faithful He is. You may not feel like rejoicing, but you can. Go against your feelings, and rejoice anyway. Put praise and worship music on and sing with it. God promises that if you practice rejoicing in Him that He will be with you and will guard your heart and mind from worrying.
Ask God for Help
Worry is a useless activity; but prayer is a useful one. Paul writes, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Since you are not to be anxious about anything, Paul says, pray about everything. Are you worried about your children? They haven't found a spouse yet? Or worse, they have fallen away from God? Then, pray for them. Ask God to send them a spouse or to bring them back to God.
Don't worry about them, start praying for them. Part of prayer is to cast your cares to God. So take your children and give them to God. Also, make petition. A petition is a formal request. Maybe you need to write down your request and then verbalize it.
Bill Fray was trying to remove a stubborn stump from his property. No matter how much he tried to pull it out, it would not come out. His dad showed up and just watched him. Bill looked at his dad and tried harder to pull it out. Still nothing happened.
His father shouted, "I know what's wrong."
Bill said, "Really? What?"
"You are not using all your strength!"
Bill was offended at his dad's words. With sweat streaming down his face, he said, "Really? I have tried with all my strength to pull out this stump. How could you say that I am not using all my strength?"
His father smiled, "Because you never asked my help."
That's it! Bill was not alone. He had his father to help, but he failed to call on his help.
We often to the same. We try everything to fix out problems, but nothing seems to work. We give our time, energy, money, and, yes, even worry, but nothing works. Why not ask your heavenly Father for help.
I started doing this about a lawsuit against our insurance, State Farm. They refused to defend our church in court, then they denied our request for coverage, so we took them to court. The local judge dismissed the lawsuit, so we appealed. Many mornings I would get up early and pray about this lawsuit. I have been constantly asking God to speak to the appellant judges. Finally, we got to present our oral arguments, and it is was clear the judges were on our side.
It works to pray. Worrying doesn't work. People worry because they want to do something about their problems. Well, prayer is the something you can do. I encourage you to get up early in the morning and pray. Instead of carrying your anxiety throughout of the day, why not carry your petition throughout the day. Hold it in your heart. You have prayed about this, so you have confidence that the prayer is heard and that God is working on the answer.
Live in the Present Blessings
There is caveat to the prayer that Paul said to pray: "but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." You need to be thankful for what you currently have.
When you are thankful more often, you worry much less!
Worry is about the future. What you don't yet have or what you hope does not happen, yet you forget the current blessings you have now.
So the doctors have given you a bad report. They say you have a few months to live. That would be a good time to worry; however, have you forgotten one thing? You are still alive! Be thankful that you are alive now to serve God.
We can be so ungrateful to God for the present blessings in our lives by focusing on what we wish we had. Gratitude is the mindful awareness of the benefits you have in life. You may not have a million dollars, but you have food, clothes and place to live.
It is very hard to worry, when you are so grateful to God for what He has blessed you with in life.
Paul practiced rejoicing: "And because of this I rejoice" (Phil 1:18). He is rejoicing that the gospel has been spread as a result of his imprisonment. Paul writes this letter not on a vacation island, sipping a Mai Tai, but in a rat infested dungeon, called a Roman prison.
He is a small cell, not in a house.
He is in chains, not wearing jewelry.
He is eating moldy crusty break, not sweet fruit.
He is confined to four walls, not the mission field.
He has guard watching him, not a wife caring for him.
Yet, he rejoices. Every believer has great reasons to be thankful to God for what they have.
You are saved.
You are forgiven.
You are destined for heaven.
You may be sick in your body, but you are saved in your soul. You may be in a trouble married, but you have a spouse. You may have lost your job, but you still have food.
You need to practice gratitude.
Corry Ten Boom tells the story of growing up with her father. One of her fondest memories was taking the train with her dad to various cites. He would buy the tickets days in advance, but never gave her the tickets. He didn't want her to lose them or forget to bring them on the trip. As the train approached the terminal, Corry's father would pull out the tickets from his coat and hand them to her. She did not need the tickets yesterday. She didn't need them when her father bought them. She only needed them when the train arrived.
Listen, God does not give you grace for tomorrow. He gives you grace today. God already has the solution for tomorrow, but He doesn't give you the answer for tomorrow. But He gives you grace for today. There is in your hand, present blessing from God. Be thankful for what you have now.
Meditate On Good Things
Worry is a mental thing. So obviously, you will have to do something about your thinking. Paul says, "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things."
You don't have power to change a lot things in life, but there is one power you do have and that is the power of choosing your thoughts. You can't change the thoughts of your spouse, your children or you boss. But you can determine the thoughts you think.
Early in my walk with God, I was surprised to discover that I could control my thoughts. Up to this time, I believed my thoughts were just a result of what was happening to me. If a cute girl smiled at me in school, I thought about her all day. If my coach put me in as a running back, I thought about scoring touchdowns. If my grandmother asked me to drive her to a restaurant, then I thought about the food I would eat.
Those thought are harmless. Yet, if something bad had happened to me or someone I loved, I worried about this all day. When doctors found incurable cancer in my grandmother, I worried about her everyday. I thought that was the way the mind worked. It thought on what was currently happening.
Then when I got saved, I learned that I was to "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Cor 10:5). This means that some of my thoughts were enemies to do me harm, and that I had to take them captive, imprison them, before they hurt me. I started doing this with my grandmother. It works. I was depressed everyday. I learned that there was only so much I could do for her—pray for her and spend time with her was the best. I enjoyed my time with her.
Don't believe the lie that you cannot control your thought life. You can.
You are like the air traffic controller. He decides when planes take off and when they land. You decide what thought lands in your life and what thoughts take off. If the thoughts bring stress, then they are thoughts from the enemy. You need to cast them down. Refuse them from landing on the airstrip of your mind. Refuse them access. You can do that.
For example, let's say you get a call from the doctor and they want you to come in and go over the results of your tests. What do you do? At this point, you can let your mind go wild with imagination: "Oh, I'm in trouble. If it was good news, he would have told me over the phone. My family has heart trouble. That's it. I have heart trouble. That explains why I have trouble breathing. If I were to die, who would take care of my children? How will my family pay for all the hospital bills? Who will do my funeral?"
Notice what happened. A simple call from the doctor setting an appointment has turned into a tragedy. You already have set arrangements for your funeral; your children orphaned, your family bankrupt. Yet, there was nothing said over the phone that should have caused you panic. You see, the mind can go wild with imagination. You need to "cast down imaginations" (2 Cor 10:5, KJV). You have the power not to let your imagination work against you.
As you practice these four principles, God will give you supernatural power to stay in peace. Worry will be a thing of the past!
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