"Power to Overcome Worry and Anxiety"#85-05
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on October 1, 2017
By Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Q&A Topic:How Should I Respond to Our Divided Culture?)
Copyright 2017 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Philippians 4:4-13
Our text for tonight is from Philippians chapter 4, these words. Paul says, "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say it. Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Don't be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
Paul says this, "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength." Christ has risen, He has risen indeed. Hallelujah!
It is good to be here with you, Messiah, God bless you. And to all those who are listening in today, we have a very powerful message. We're talking about faith in Christ, power for life to overcome worry and anxiety.
Now listen, about 1988, it was a few years ago, there was a song that took our country by storm. It was a real simple song. The guy started out whistling something, and then he started to sing. Do you remember what that song was? "Don't Worry, Be Happy." Yeah, Bobby McFerrin. "Don't Worry, Be Happy." The words went something like this. "In every life you have some trouble, when you worry you make it double. Don't worry, be happy."
Well, that sounds a little bit like what Paul is talking about tonight, right? The apostle Paul says something like this. He gives similar advice when he says, "Rejoice, don't be anxious about anything," but that's where the similarity stops. Because when you look at the song, McFerrin actually is able to talk about all kinds of reasons why you should worry. He says things like the rent is late, you don't have any money; you don't have someone to make you smile. But he never gives you a reason to conquer and overcome that worry. He just says, "Don't worry, be happy."
Well, Paul does the exact opposite thing. He in some sense tells you to look away from your anxieties and look away from your worries and look to that which conquers your worries. He really says look to what counts in life. He points us to Christ; he points us to the power of faith in Jesus Christ to overcome our worries, to overcome our struggles. In fact, I really think he says unleash it. Unleash the power of faith in Jesus Christ who is here to help you overcome all that is against you.
If you think Paul was living the good life, if you think he had cash in the bank, if you think he had six weeks of vacation, and a life that was calm and peaceful, think again. Actually, when he's writing these words, he's under house arrest. He can't move. He's basically waiting for Nero, to confront Nero, and to actually be under his judgment. It could end in his death. 2 Corinthians, he talks about what his life's been like. He catalogs the issues he's had to deal with. He says, "I've been beaten, I have been stoned, I've been in constant danger."
So let me say it again, Paul had credibility. Listen, he had credibility to talk about worry, to talk about stress, and to talk about all these things. And then he says, "Listen, I've got something to say to you. There is strength in knowing who this Jesus Christ is and putting the power of faith in Christ to work in your daily lives." He had a message that could deal with all that we are up against.
Now, I love the word that's used in the Bible for worry and anxiety. It's actually two words, and it talks about how worry means that we're double-minded. So when you're worrying about something, you've got your mind in two different places, and that's usually the beginning of this worry and fear and all these kinds of things. And so worry and anxiety divide the world and what it offers between us and what God and what he offers in our lives. Worry and anxiety are those number-one thieves in our lives. They're the things that actually direct us away from the provisions that God has for us.
Someone told me that when you worry and you're full of anxiety, he says it's like sitting in a rocking chair. A lot of motion but you don't get anywhere. So again, that double-mindedness, Paul is saying let's have a single-mindedness, focused on the things of Jesus Christ. So as Paul writes this letter to the Philippians and then, I think, to us, and he's got all kinds of struggles, too, that he has just like you and me, in fact, even more, he tells us first of all, "Stop and take a sense of your life. Stop and see how you are dealing with the struggles" and he says, "And deal with them in a reasonable, focused way." But there's the rub. Paul, what do you mean-"reasonable, focused way"? Pastor, what is that way? How are we supposed to deal with these things?
Now, before I answer that, let me just say this. I've probably been like you. I've tried all the-"Just don't worry about it." Sometimes, I just forget about it, maybe it'll go away. Then I tried to diet to get healthy and maybe see if that will whip my worries. Then I've tried some of the little self-help things and those kind of things, too. Every one of us does those things in a daily way to try to get past this or get past that. Now there's nothing wrong with that, but those are not the ultimate solution. They don't go to the root of the problem.
And so that's what the Scripture is talking about today. It's saying, "Hey, when you're dealing with these really big issues in life, your best is not going to cut it." In fact, the Reformation is coming up; we're going to celebrate the Reformation. You know what Luther rediscovered? Yeah, you need forgiveness for your sins but, you know, you need forgiveness for your good works, too? You need forgiveness for your best because we're broken people, and so God has to come by grace through faith to give us a whole new way of life as a gift. So that's what Paul is saying: put the power of faith in Jesus Christ and His grace to work, as you deal with the daily struggles of life. One of the ways then to do that is to start to put that power of faith to work through prayer, as you take your issues and your struggles to God with thanksgiving.
I love what Bill Hybels says about the power of prayer. In his book, Too Busy Not to Pray, he says this: "Prayer is surrender, surrender to the will of God and cooperation with His will." And then he reminds the reader, he gives us a picture. He says, "When you throw the boathook," (he means the anchor), "when you throw that out onto the shore, do you pull the shore towards yourself, or does the shore pull you back?" Yeah, the shore is the thing that's the anchor, the shore is the thing that holds and your boat actually aligns itself with that protection. He says, "That's how we pray to God. We pray, 'Lord, align me with Your protection, align me with Your grace, align me with Yourself and Your will. And then use me as You will.'"
That's why Paul says, "Listen, pray that anything you're dealing with-pray with thanksgiving." It's a powerful statement. Bring your petitions, your requests to God because He loves you. Bring your struggles, your issues to the Lord because He's already forgiven you, because He wants what's best for you, and then see what He can do as you align yourself with the God who loves you with an everlasting love. So here's the tough question, Paul says pray about everything with thanksgiving. Let's break that down for a second.
Have you ever thanked God for your troubles? Have you ever thanked God for your struggles, your hurts, your difficulties, your pains? Have you ever thanked Him for that? What do I mean by this? We're not masochistic here. That's not the point. But when you pray in that spirit of thanksgiving, even in the midst of your problem, what are you saying? Lord, I know You are already in the fight with me. I know You are already in this. I know You've already created a path of victory for me too even if that path of victory is eternal life with You. I know I can trust You, and I can entrust my life to You.
God's in the fight with you. Your thanksgiving acknowledges that you trust Him no matter what you're facing at this moment. You thank Him for being in your life. You're admitting there is no reason for you to doubt, even though you can't see through what you're dealing with at this moment, and that's what Paul is saying. He said, "That's how we as Christians-who know that He has lived and died and risen again for us-we live every day in that reality no matter what we face." In fact, he can later on say, "Trust in the Lord" like the psalmist said, "with all your heart, and don't lean on your understanding." He's on the job for you.
I remember when I learned this a little bit when I was a kid. How many of you love to go camping with your parents? Do we do that anymore? But I remember when I was a kid, my dad, we used to go up, and this is for all those who might be listening in, into the Upper Michigan, into the UP of Michigan, the Upper Peninsula. And I remember we're out in the middle of nowhere, and I'm hearing noises I've never heard before. Our tent was just big enough for the boys, so my dad had to sleep outside. I remember getting scared because I thought what if a bear comes, my dad's out there, and then I'm the one in here? Man, I might be the first line of defense for my brothers. It scared me.
And I remember saying to my dad something like "Hey, do you want to come and sleep in here with us?" And I remember my dad, even like it was just yesterday, he said to me, he said, "Boys, I've been out here before. Everything's going to be fine." He said, "And no matter what comes near this tent, I'll take care of it. Don't you worry about it. Now go to sleep." And I remember thinking, dad's on the job. Dad will take care of this. In fact, my dad, in many ways, at that time of my life, was bigger than life.
But he was on the job, and when he looked at me and said, "Don't worry about it, I'll take care of it," that was enough for me, and I remember I didn't worry, and I was happy, and I went to sleep. Dad's on the job. No need for anxiety, no need for worry. But that's just a glimpse of what Paul is talking about when he says Christ is on the job. Christ is the One who's your rear guard. Christ is the One who's gone before you, and Christ is saying to you, "I'm on the job. By the power of the Spirit, you can trust in Me. I've got your back. I've gone before you. You are Mine." Christ on the job.
It's interesting; Paul uses this picture of the sentry. He uses this picture of people being on guard. I bet you he looked out at the people who were guarding him. He was under house arrest and, of course, that's not a good thing. Those people wouldn't let him go, and those people wouldn't let people come in to visit with him necessarily, but Paul is saying, he's watching that guard, and he's going, "That's a little bit about how God is for us. He's always on guard." So he took this negative thing and he made a positive application. He says, "Think of it this way. Christ is always on guard for you. He's guarding your hearts. He's guarding your mind. He's guarding your lives and with that, knowing He's on the job, you can have a peace," he says, "that passes all understanding." Wow!
So think about this. Right now, if you have faith in Jesus Christ, you have a peace knowing that Christ is on the job. You have an assurance that no matter what happens in this world, He has you. You will live in peace with Him forever. It's the peace that He's won for us by His death and His resurrection. It's a peace which fills our hearts; it's a peace which can actually overcome our anxieties because we are in His hands, and He is on the job. And Paul says you can be certain about this peace, and he says it when his life is even in shambles. He said because Christ has a hold of me, even then.
So in Christ, by the power of His Spirit, in closing today, I tell you, listen. If you are sitting in your own cell of worry, anxiety, maybe you're dealing with depression, listen to what the apostle Paul says. He encourages you right now to fill your minds with those things of God; fill your minds with the joy that He provides that can overcome worry and anxiety. He tells us to refocus our minds and thoughts on the things that really matter. So listen to what he says.
He says, "Try this. Think about these things. Think about whatever is true. Think about what has been fully tested and occurred and that's the things in the Scripture. Think about what is honorable, deeply respected, and revered. Think about what is just, that which meets God's standard, approved by God. Think about what is pure, what is lovely, something you want to reach out and embrace. Focus on what is admirable, reputable, spoken of with goodwill."
And then finally he says, "Whatever is excellent, whatever is worthy of praise, think on these things. And not only think on these things," he said, "but put them to work. Put those thoughts to work. Focus ultimately on Jesus Christ who embodies all these things and with those thoughts and with that mind and with that assurance of Jesus Christ, put that faith in Him to work," which means I'm going to tackle my worries. I'm going to tackle my anxieties by learning to give them away to Him and to walk confidently by faith in Him, not even just for myself, but for those He brings into my life.
So you know, we get to practice his faith. So I guess I'm saying put it to use. Put this faith to use, this faith in Jesus Christ, this ability to think differently about the world in which you live, to think differently about the problems that you might have or the struggles that you have. Think about them in the context of the One who loves you with an everlasting love, and practice that, each and every day, giving those things over to Him and seeing what He can do with your life and mine.
I love what the great pianist Arthur Rubinstein said. He said, "If I miss practice one day, I notice it. If I miss practice two days, my friends notice it." He said, "If I miss practice three days, my audience notices it." The point is even someone as phenomenally gifted as he needed to keep practicing the gifts that God had given him. Well, that's what's he's telling me to do tonight. Put your faith to work, put the gifts of grace that God has given you, put those things to work, unleash the power of faith in Jesus Christ, as you deal with the anxieties and the worries of this life, in Him.
Paul sums it up this way. He says the secret for living a life that is content in all situations, whether fed or hungry, living in plenty or want, is to remember I can do what? All things through Christ who gives me strength. That is what really counts. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and all of God's people said "Amen."
Action in Ministry for October 1, 2017
Guest: Rev Dr. Tony Cook
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. This is Action in Ministry, your call to action in response to all that God has done for you in Jesus Christ. The Rev.
Dr. Tony Cook is our director of United States Ministries. He joins us now to talk about a free print resource we'd like you to have. It's titled Live the Six: Learning to Live as an Everyday Missionary. Dr. Tony Cook, thank you for joining us.
Tony Cook: Hey, thanks for having me.
Mark Eischer: Well, today we heard how God gives us the power of overcome worry and anxiety. I'm wondering-how does this print resource help our listeners develop that way of thinking, that way of living?
Tony Cook: It really helps you to have a different perspective on your daily life. One of the first things that it teaches is that in our daily life, regardless of what we're doing, we are always representing God. We're representing His kingdom. We are representing what it's going to look like when He comes again. Just the knowledge that we're not simply going to work or making money or buying groceries, but that we are ambassadors or representatives of God's kingdom. The second thing it does is it reminds us that as those representatives, as we're out in the world, as we see people and we discover their needs, that we are to bring those needs to God. That as the church, we are to lift people up in prayer, but also we can join together and meet the needs of people around us. It helps us see ourselves from God's perspective of who we are as His people.
Mark Eischer: That really speaks to finding our God-given purpose for life. How would you help our listener determine what that might be in his or her situation?
Tony Cook: Well, it's interesting, because when you look at this book, one of the first things it has you do is simply be aware of the people around you. Look around you. Who are the people that God has placed in your midst? What you'll realize is that there are many roles and responsibilities that you've been given-be it a father or a husband or a coworker or a neighbor. You'll realize that all those people that are around you, that they have needs, and all those people are broken in a variety of different ways. What this book does is it helps us see the ministry that is already there before us: the opportunities that are in our everyday life.
Mark Eischer: You talked about our brokenness. It's a reminder that this way of life could get kind of messy at times.
Tony Cook: Exactly. Not just for those who are non-church, but for everybody.
Mark Eischer: Yeah.
Tony Cook: Everybody's life is broken, and we're all broken about different things, but the one thing that we know is that God has called us to be His people in the place where we're been planted. We can bring that message, that incredible message, that Jesus has entrusted to us, to the world. Not only do we have that message, but we have the ability to take that message out as representatives in that way to the people around us-noticing their needs, but also owning their needs and taking responsibility for the needs of those that we live with and love.
Mark Eischer: Again, why live this way?
Tony Cook: Well, this is how we've been created by God to live. This is the very reason that we gather together as people of God. Now, a lot of people think that it's simply a one-day-a-week kind of thing, but this book helps us understand that it's not just a once-a-week opportunity to go to God and receive His good gifts and respond and worship to Him, but that every minute of our daily lives is an opportunity to serve God by serving other people.
Mark Eischer: There's really a lot to think about in this resource. To request your free copy, give us a call or go online. I'll give you that information in just a moment. Once again, Dr. Tony Cook, thanks for joining us today.
Tony Cook: Hey, thanks for having me.
Mark Eischer: That's our Action in Ministry segment for today, to bless, to empower and to strengthen your life in Christ for others.
Mark Eischer: Once again this resource is entitled Live the Six. You can download your FREE copy at lutheranhour.org or call 1-855-JOHN316. That's 1-855-564-6316.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for October 1, 2017
Topic: How Should I Respond to Our Divided Culture?
Mark Eischer: After recording today's sermon, Pastor Seltz responded to questions from the congregation; he elaborated on the sermon theme.
Pastor Seltz: The message tonight was not meant to have you say, "Oh, we're always going to overcome all of our worries." Some of you are going to struggle with worry all your life, but you're going to struggle with it differently; you're going to struggle with it by always bringing it back to Christ, knowing that He has you, even though you can't seem to work these things out.
I'll give you an example: I used it in our Bible study today over at work. His name is Connie Walker, and Connie was a chaplain for the 101st Airborne, made over a thousand jumps with his guys behind enemy lines. So this guy was battle-tested, but he just didn't carry a gun. He carried a Bible. He went to war with his guys and tried to make them know that they are always in God's hands.
At the end of his life, he had cancer and he didn't overcome it-the way you think he should have, like, "We prayed, and he didn't get well." Yes, he did. He is completely well right now. Okay. But here's what he said in his last day: he thought he was overcoming, and he thought that the treatments were working, and then it all just came back, ravaging his body, and he remembers saying to his wife, and they talked about this, he said, "Honey, I think God has something for us to do at the hospital today." Now, that's a totally different way of thinking about going to the hospital for your treatment. He was thinking, "God has something for us to do at the hospital and somehow He's going to do it, even through our suffering and our pain." That's how he thought even of his struggle. I think we all have a little bit of that perspective in our lives and we just pray, "Lord, make us stronger in that. Help us to be useful in victory or in struggle as long as we give it all to You." That's what you have. That's your perspective on life. Just pray that the Lord continues to solidify that in you because you will be a powerful witness in success-or in struggle-as long as it's in Christ.
Only a Christian can actually say, "Thank You for what has come against me" because the point is, it's not that you're saying "Thank You for the pain." What you're saying is "I'm thankful, Lord, that in all things You are with me on this." One of the great temptations, I think, of our culture is that we have it so well, right? Very often and, having abundance, we forget God, and so there's a point where one of the things you can even say thanks ... I actually say thanks for this all the time; I thank God I always just barely have enough money to get by with what I need to because I always seem to have enough, but I never seem to have so much that I got no worries, but I would get in a whole lot of trouble if I had that kind of money. There's a part of me that's just thankful I've got things to do that keep me busy, so the bad stuff doesn't have time to do its thing.
Again, you're just saying, "I know that this life is not perfect. I know that there's all kinds of nonsense in this life, but I know God is with me always, so I give thanks even now." That's the point. There are some times you can even be thankful for the things that come against you because it builds in you a confidence in the Lord, not a confidence in yourself. That's how we deal with struggles. No one else can deal with struggles that way because that's absurd if you don't know Jesus, but it makes total sense if Jesus Christ is right there for you. That's a tough one. I'm not saying that I just resolved the tension, but what I can tell you is Christ won't let you down.
What does Paul say? Neither life, nor death, nor angels, or principalities, or things present, or things to come ... none of that stuff ... so that's the point: I can even rejoice in the middle of it. I would just say, not only does God help you get through these things, but even the getting through these things is bigger than something just for you, and that's what we think differently about struggle and suffering. We always think am I useful to God for others? Your whole life is to be lived in Christ, for others. That's what life's about. The thing that's going to finally matter at the end is the others you live for that live for you. That's all that's going to matter. Suffering and going through things sometimes is a blessing to them, even if it's a problem for you. So the question I always ask is "Aren't there some things worth living and dying for?"
Mark Eischer: This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"How Firm a Foundation" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)
"Evening and Morning" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)