*Anxiety Disorders affect 18.1 percent of adults in the United States (approximately 40 million adults between the ages of 18 to 54). – National Institute of Mental Health
*Of those 40 million people, almost 7 million of them suffer from GAD, with 15 million suffering from social anxiety disorder, 14.8 million suffering from major depressive disorder, and 7.7 million affected by post-traumatic stress disorder- National institute for mental health.
Worries. Pain. Fear. Frustration. Doubt. Stress. Faithlessness. Exhaustion.
All of these words paint vivid pictures of the complexities associated with “anxiety.”
If you are reading this right now, then no doubt you have experienced your fair share of anxiety from time to time. You may have even rented a room in the “Distress District” as of late, due to your workload.
We often feel anxious about our finances: How can we make this month’s bills? How will I be able to fix my aging car if it breaks down? What if I lose my job? How will we put the kids through college? How can we meet our medical bills? How will we ever save enough for retirement? What if the economy fails?
We feel anxious about our health, especially as we grow older: What if I get cancer or Alzheimer’s? What if I’m disabled or have to go into a nursing home? If we’re younger, we may have these same anxieties concerning our aging parents.
We’re anxious about our children: Will they turn out okay? Will they avoid drugs and sexual immorality? Will they be safe in this crime-ridden world? Will they be able to get into college and then get a decent-paying job? Will they marry a godly person and have a happy home? What kind of world will their children have to live in?
The lists could go on and on. Maybe you’re getting anxious just reading this as I give different reasons for anxiety! Sometimes we can’t identify any specific reason for our anxiety, but it’s there, nagging away at our insides. If we don’t learn to deal with it properly, it can cause all sorts of health problems, which in turn feed our anxieties. Few of us are strangers to anxiety. It creeps in over big and little things, gnawing away at our insides.
Someone graphically described anxiety as “a thin stream of fear trickling the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other things are drained” – (Arthur Roche)
Anxiety in the Greek is the word “mermina” which translates as “care or worry,” which comes from the Greek root word, “merminao” which literally means dividing and fracturing a person’s being into parts.”
There’s no wonder that worry and anxiety make us feel like we are literally falling apart.
Anxiety kills faith. Anxiety kills hope. Anxiety limits our devotion to God. Anxiety bogs down our prayer life. Anxiety places a wall between the factual, and the supernatural. Anxiety weakens. Anxiety distorts. Anxiety clouds. Anxiety is not from God. Anxiety is a swift attack on the mind, which then affects the heart, and ultimately affects the body. Anxiety must be understood, dealt with and removed in order to have deep and personal fellowship the Lord.
I love how Dr. Tony Evans puts it: Worrying is interest paid before the trouble is due.
No one in scripture dealt with the reality of worry and anxiety more than the apostle Paul. He is arguably one of the most central figures in the growth of the early church, and an excellent example of how to proclaim the gospel with authority, conviction, passion, zeal and respect. Paul addresses the church in Phillipi while arrested after an incident we’ll read about in acts 16:20.
20 And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. 21 They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.”22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.”
Here we see Paul suffering at the hands of roman soldiers for what had happened a few verses earlier, driving a demon out of a girl who could for-see the future with demonic possession. Once the magistrates got word that this was taking place, they flogged both him and Silas and put them both in prison.
Paul had worries. I’m sure Paul felt a great deal of anxiety as a church planter, missionary and pastor.
Paul had much to worry about if he were to solely deal with the facts of his constant sufferings, but in the middle of a dark & dungy prison, Paul pens one of the most encouraging letters to believers. The letter to the Philippians. Paul uses what the enemy intended for evil and destruction to encourage believers to seek Christ’s joy in the midst of their most difficult times.
To those who follow Him, Jesus promised, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). He spoke those comforting words on the most difficult night He faced on this earth, the night before His crucifixion. Seven times in the New Testament our God is called either the God or Lord of peace. That peace can be the constant experience of every Christian, even in the midst of trials
I want to focus our attention to the passage in Philippians 4:4-13 and draw 4 simple points to live an anxiety free life.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness[d] be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned[e] and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. 10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Rejoice in the LORD.
The word “rejoice” means to be conscious and glad for God’s grace. To take it a step further, it literally means to “Hail” or bow down to God as a means to surrender any contrary feeling and subject it to the overwhelming reality of Gods goodness. Experience his joy & goodness and anxiety won’t take much part in our thinking. Notice how paul begins his letter in the fourth chapter, in prison. He says in simple terms: “First of all, you need to rejoice. Start with a spirit of thanksgiving and acknowledge Gods goodness”
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made it clear that anxiety stems from a lack of faith and from a wrong focus on the things of this world instead of on the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:25-34, especially verses 30 & 33). If we excuse our anxieties by saying, “Well, it’s only human,” or, “Anybody would feel anxious in this situation,” we will not overcome it because we are not confronting the root cause of it, namely, our sin of not believing God and of not seeking first His kingdom and righteousness.
Pray constantly, and consistently. Phil. 4:6-7 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Paul says do not be anxious about anything. This shows us that the very act of worry and living in worry are sins! He’s not making a pledge here, or 5 steps to a better life. No. What he’s implying is that the key to even begin to rejoice in the Lord is found in the secret room of your prayer life.
Proverbs 15:8 says: The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him. It literally pleases the Lord when we take part in continual prayer, it is our very fuel for the journey. Fuel your spirit with constant communication with the Lord! Constant! The promise is that HIS peace will be with you! This means that when it comes to the matter of dealing with our anxiety, we must, at the outset, confront our motives for even wanting to have peace. If our reason for wanting to be free from anxiety is so that we can live a peaceful, pleasant life, our focus is self-centered and therefore wrong. There are many people who come to Christ because they are anxious and they want the peace He offers. But if they do not confront the fact that they are living to please themselves rather than God, they will simply settle into a self-centered life where they “use God” for their own peace and comfort. Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s shall save it” (Mark 8:35). The peace Christ offers is the by-product of enthroning Christ as Lord and living for His kingdom. Saints, we must pray constantly & consistently.
When Paul says to make our requests known “to God,” the Greek word means “face to face with God,” to come directly before Him. This means that when we pray, we must stop to remember that we are coming into the very presence of the holy God, where even the holy angels cover their faces and cry, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts” (Isa. 6:3). Yes, He welcomes us into His presence as a father welcomes his children. Through our High Priest, the Lord Jesus, God invites us to draw near with confidence to the throne of grace to receive mercy and grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16). But we must remember that it is to the throne of the universe, to the Sovereign, Eternal God that we come.
This means, of course, that we must always examine our hearts and confess and forsake all sin when we come to God in prayer. The psalmist says, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear” my prayers (Ps. 66:18). But we also have the assurance that if we confess our sins, the blood of Jesus is sufficient to cleanse us (1 John 1:7, 9).
Meditate on The Word. Phil. 4:8-9 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned[e] and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you”
The God of peace will be with us when we truly learn to meditate on his word. (Ps. 119:9-16) This is an ongoing issue in the church. We are hearers of the word, but not many of us are doers. The issue lies with our lack of meditation in the Word. I personally know many people who can spit out Bible verses left and right but live their lives in constant worry, fear and anxiety. Sound like an oxymoron? That’s because it is! The bible is not a book of useful historical information. You and I are not historians merely scrounging around the texts trying to fit geographical/ historical issues together. You and I should recognize the bible for what it is; the unique story of redemption where we are united to a Holy God through the finished work of Christ. It is in his word that we get the nourishment for our souls, how to pray to our loving Father, how to appreciate and worship our redeemer how to live in holiness and oneness with God, and how to live a life full of spiritual victory over the powers and principalities of the airs! If you are living in worry and defeat, the bible is here to remind you to STOP!
Remember whom you serve: .Phil.4:11-13 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Note that this peace stands guard like a sentry over our inner person, our hearts (the comprehensive term for our whole person) and minds (specifically, our thoughts which threaten to trouble us) in Christ Jesus. We are in intimate, permanent union with Him, and to get to us, anxiety must go through Christ Jesus!
So what God promises isn’t just a quick fix, where prayer is a technique that will bring you calm until you get through the crisis. Paul is talking about an ongoing, deepening, intimate relationship with the God of peace, where you seek to please Him with all your thoughts, words, and deeds. In a time of trial, you draw near to the God of peace, you focus on His grace to you in Christ Jesus, you pour out your heart to Him, and the result is, His peace stands guard over your heart and mind. Remember whom you serve! Do you know God’s peace in the midst of situations that the world gets anxious about? If not, examine yourself: Is your faith in Him and your focus on His kingdom, rather than on selfish pursuits? Have you drawn near to God in reverent, specific, thankful prayer? You can put your full weight down on Him, and He will bear you up and give you His indescribable peace. It makes the flight so much more enjoyable!
Words from Jesus:
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[g] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.