Anyone else dealing with anxiety?

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I’m a couple of days late and a few dollars short! I think that’s how that saying goes! As I have been preparing for my wife’s surgery coming up this weekend, anxiety has decided to rear its ugly head. I know that my wife will be fine. She knows that she will be fine. But it’s the thoughts that run through my mind over and over again. It’s like a CD that is on repeat. It’s like that moving What About Bob? You know the types of thoughts that we have when we have anxiety? For instance, try some of these on for size:

“I doubt that I’ll die on this airplane, but I certainly hope it’s not the pilot’s time to go!”

“I’m worried about ‘so-and-so’ because I haven’t seen them in a long time. I hope something hasn’t happened to them!”

“I know that God is in control, but…(we can fill in this blank with all sorts of things!).”

There’s just so many variables in this life–so many possibilities–that it is unfathomable to us to think that everything is going to be alright when there are troubled seas ahead.

Today, after having a special lunch with a counseling professor from my alma mater, I was telling him how I deal with anxiety and how it’s really affecting me right now. He said to me, “Do you know what anxiety is? Anxiety is based in the past and it is fear of what’s going to happen in the future.” There are so many things that all of us have been through in our lives that affect us. It is something that happens when we face traumatic experiences, especially as young children. Then our mode of operation is set in stone until we ask the Stone Crusher–that is, Jesus Christ–to crush that stone of anxiety that we have.

Let me see if I can illustrate this a little bit better. If you were traumatized when you were younger by someone who abused you, the fear that is based in your past is now your anxiety for what might happen in the future. You may fear being abused again. Perhaps you’ve been involved in other abusive relationships and you just don’t know how to break the cycle so this anxiety with which you deal is something that seems like it can’t be broken. Various degrees of anxiety, ranging from concern to fear and dread, are natural to a degree, but they are also unnatural to a degree.

Anxiety is natural when a parent exhibits anxiety for his child. First Samuel 9:5 says, When they came to the land of Zuph, Saul said to his servant who was with him, “Come, and let us return, or else my father will cease to be concerned about the donkeys and will become anxious for us.”

A natural anxiety is when we have strong feelings of concern for the well-being of someone we love. Philippians 2:19-20 says, But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.

Natural anxiety might occur when we experience something that we don’t quite understand. Daniel 7:15 says, As for me, Daniel, my spirit was distressed within me, and the visions in my mind kept alarming me.

War causes natural anxiety as well. First Chronicles 17:9 says, I will appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and not be moved again; and the wicked will not waste them anymore as formerly, even from the day that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel. And I will subdue all your enemies. Moreover, I tell you that the LORD will build a house for you.

Jesus Christ our Lord cautions us concerning anxiety that is unnatural. For instance, the “cares of this world” may hinder the life of our faith and our participation in the kingdom of God. Mark 4:18, 19 says, And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, but the worries of the world, and the deceitfullness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. Again, in Luke 8:14, Jesus said, The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.

So what’s the cure for anxiety? So glad you asked! This is what I’m learning from Matthew 6:25-34. Read slowly what Jesus Christ said to us about anxiety:

This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the sky: they don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying? And why do you worryabout clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for youyou of little faith? So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow ill worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (HCSB)

Three times! Three times Jesus tells us not to worry. If He takes care of the sparrows and the lilies of the field, how much more will He take care of us? Because we know that He tells us the truth all of the time the cure for anxiety is to trust Him at His word! We have to remind ourselves of what He says because it is the truth that sets us free (John 8:32)!

Anxiety has reared its ugly head this week. So what? What does anxiety do for me? For you? Absolutely nothing! It doesn’t add one day to any of us nor does it add any heighth to us. Therefore, in the midst of my uncertainty, I will trust the One–the Stone Crusher of anxiety–who is certain in what He has said and will not worry about what tomorrow holds. My past doesn’t hold my future–Jesus Christ holds my future!

My Complaint

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Have you ever had one of those days? You know, one of those days where you wake up on the wrong side of the bed? I’m not really sure what that means except that the side you normally sleep on is not the side where you woke up!

At any rate, I know that I have had times in my days where I tend to just complain. I complain about something I’ve done. I complain about something someone else has done. I complain about something that someone hasn’t done. I complain about something I haven’t done. I complain, complain, complain. Quite frankly, it’s in my nature to complain.

As a Pastor I have to admit, I don’t like admitting my sin! In reality, I’m not so sure that any of us like to admit when we sin. James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” I really want my prayer life to be effective so it means confessing my sins!

What about you? Do you find yourself complaining about different things? Perhaps something in your home isn’t right or something with your work. What about something at church that you don’t think is right? Ever complain? I do. But I’m discovering that my complaining–and others who complain–isn’t something that we should just allow to slide by. We need to be mindful of our complaints. After all, when we are dissatisfied wtih something, the truth of the matter is that we have feelings of emptiness and unfulfillment, at either a physical or spiritual level. This is why we complain, and it is sinful to be unfulfilled when we have everything in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior!

But the Bible tells us as believers that we are supposed to think differently–that we are supposed to find our fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Read how the Bible speaks of how we should then live without complaint:

  1. A spirit of complaining is not to be part of a Christian’s walk. Philippians 2:14-16 – 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15 so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I wil have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. James 5:9 – Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.
  2. Let your outlook and manner be that of patient acceptanceEcclesiastes 7:8, 9 – 8 The end of a matter is better than its beginning; patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit. 9 Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, for anger resides in the bosom of fools. Romans 15:7 – Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.
  3. Christ’s peace and contentment are vital ingredients for a positive spiritJohn 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. Colossians 3:12, 13 – So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.

These are but a few verses for us to consider when it comes to our complaining. I know that it is convicting for me to read these things when I am naturally a complainer when I don’t see my preferences being met or when I allow myself to be irritated with something or someone. As my son once said after explaining to him that I’m a germaphobe and he has germs, “Dad, you’ve got issues!” Yes, I do have issues. But in the scheme of life, we all have issues and the answers to these issues are found in the Scriptures.

So, what am I complaining about today? I had to repent on my drive over to my office this morning because traffic is fierce and hectic coming from Carrollton where I live. I had to repent about the post office where I picked up a package because it was not delivered the way they said it would be.

What I’m saying to you is this: we all have complaints but in the grand scheme of life, are they really worth it? Are they worth it if it breaks our fellowship with the Lord because we’re not living according to His Word and by His Holy Spirit? This is what’s on my mind this morning. I guess it’s because I have confessed my sin of complaining this morning and have repented of my thoughts toward traffic and the lady behind the counter at the post office not delivering my mail as I thought it was supposed to be.

One thing for sure, I’m glad that God promises to forgive in 1 John 1:9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The Walk

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As I’m sitting in my office this afternoon, I’m thinking of different spiritual disciplines. I know that we don’t always think of things like this, but as I said in this morning’s message, “We live our theology everyday.” That means that whatever we believe is how we live. Unfortunately, the more that I study the Scriptures, the more I come to realize that there are things in my thinking–opinions, preferences, expectations–that really don’t fit in with what God desires for me. In fact, I find that this is true for all of us. But for what reason? The reason is that He is God and we are not! The Bible is pretty clear about who He is and who we are, don’t you think? Isaiah 55:8, 9 says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher thant he earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

“Yikes! You mean to tell me that I don’t always have the right thinking?”

Yep! That’s right! None of do compared to the Wisdom of the ages!

So how then shall we live? I quoted this morning John Frame who wrote in his book The Doctrine of the Word:

“Christians sometimes say that Scripture is sufficient for religion, or preaching, or theology, but not for such things as auto repairs, plumbing, animal husbandry, and dentistry. And of course, many argue that it is not sufficient for science, philosophy, or even ethics. That is to miss an important point. Certainly, Scripture contains more specific information relevant to theology than to dentistry. But sufficiency in the present context is not sufficiency of specific information but sufficiency of divine words. Scripture contains divine words sufficient for all of life. It has all the divine words that the plumber needs, and all the divine words that the theologian needs. So it is just as sufficient for plumbing as it is for theology. And in that sense it is sufficient for science and ethics as well.”

That’s pretty powerful if you ask me! Frame says that the “Scripture contains words sufficient for all of life.” That is, as we continue our relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ, He has given us everything that is suffient to walk in Him in this journey called life in love of HIm and in obedience to Him.

So you want to have success in life? You want to have prosperity in your life? Success and prosperity does not by necessity mean material wealth. Rather, success and prosperity in life means that we have a good walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. This is foundational to our spiritual success: keep close to Jesus Christ! This theme of being close to Jesus Christ is equivalent to “walking” or “lifestyle” and how we conduct ourselves as we go through life. Maintaining that relationship with Jesus Christ is essential.

So here are some basics for you to consider when walking with Jesus Christ:

  1. God’s words to us through the prophets are insightful for what is needed. Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (ESV)
  2. A major aspect of this walk experience is remaining close to Christ. John 15:7, 10 says, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. … If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (ESV)
  3. Depending on the Holy Spirit produces fruit of the Spirit rather than deeds of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 says, “But I say, walk by [means of] the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desirs of the flesh.” (ESV)

Here are some specifics for each of us to learn this week:

  1. Romans 6:4 – Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (NASB)
  2. 2 Corinthians 5:7 – For we walk by faith, not by sight. (NASB)
  3. Ephesians 5:2 – And walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. (NASB)
  4. Ephesians 5:8-10 – Walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. (NASB)

“So how do you do this, Pastor Denny?” Here are some practical steps to help you this week:

  • Take time to review what you truly value (relationship with God, spouse, family, health, etc.). Examine your values very carefully to see if they line up with the Scripture. Write out Biblical goals to help support the values you have that are Biblical and goals to rid yourself of the values that don’t match what God says in His Word.
  • Practice journaling. Writing the events of the day, good and bad, will help remind us of our constant need to walk closely with Jesus Christ. Review your thoughts from time to time to check your progress. Evaluate! Examine!
  • Daily time spent in the sufficient Word of God, the Bible, and daily prayer is the key spiritual discipline for maintaining this close walk.
  • Charles Ryrie writes that “walking is by its very nature a succession of dependent acts.” First, we need to make up our minds to do it. And then “progress can only be made by trusting.”

As we walk with Jesus Christ individually, we will find that collectively our Fellowship is growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:23-25, NASB).

(Adapted from Quick Scripture Reference Guide.)

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