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Philippians 4:4-9  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 every situation, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, 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. 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.

Paul said we are to be anxious for nothing, anxious about nothing and that happens as we commit to talking to God about everything.  There is a release that comes when we pray.  There is a transfer of our burdens when we pray.  And regular praying, like, every time a worry or concern comes our way, keeps us from getting overloaded.  It keeps anxiety from building to the point where we are overcome. 

I am not referring to anxiety that is the result of a chemical imbalance, but I’m referring to our response to potential anxiety-producing events and experiences.  Paul says we have an opportunity and responsibility to deal with the things that come at us in a godly and strategic way.

In verse 8 Paul suggests that we can feed our anxiety OR we can starve it by directing our minds onto the things that are helpful.  We can speak positively.  We can get into the Word and meditate on the promises of God. It won’t do us any good to reinforce our anxieties by ruminating on negative thoughts and feelings.

In verse 9, the Apostle Paul challenged people to put their faith into practice.  Faith isn’t faith if you aren’t practicing it.  You aren’t powerless over what I’ll call “circumstantial anxiety.” The battle for your mind and soul are as real as this building we are sitting in.  Satan wants you troubled.  Satan wants you frustrated.  He wants you to dwell in the lowest place possible, where there is no hope.  He wants you restless and unable to sleep.  He wants your stomach churning and your neck, shoulders and back to stay in knots.  He wants you to be cocooned by anxiety because anxiety will keep you from stepping out and following the Lord in faith.  Satan knows nothing can stop a Spirit-filled believer who is walking by faith.  He can’t bear the thought of what would happen in this world, this world that he claims for himself, if the people of God threw off anxiety and practiced faith in every situation.

While there are things that happen which are beyond our control, we need to assume a greater responsibility for our response to those things.  We need to understand how we might be opening the door for anxiety to grow in our life.  We need to acknowledge that we might be feeding our anxiety instead of our faith.  We need to be accountable for the ways we are giving Satan a foothold in our lives, through the ways we are inviting anxiety in.  Here are some ways we might be contributing to the anxiety in our lives.

  1. Anxiety rises when we are overloaded with information.

Our brain and our nervous system and our emotional selves are not equipped to handle the burdens of the world.  Only God knows it all, I John 3:20, and only God can handle knowing it all.  We aren’t meant to handle all that is happening in every part of the world. God is infinite.  We are finite. We aren’t meant to be able to absorb the drama in every household that is posted on social media.  We don’t have the capacity to take in information 24/7 and not be drained or strained or stressed by it. 

TMI-Too much information is too much!  We are not powerless against information overload.  We can limit our social media time.  We can resist letting network news be the soundtrack for our lives.  We can take extended breaks from pursuing information that isn’t pertinent to us.  You might be thinking, “It’s all pertinent.  We’ve got to know what is happening in our world.  We need to be able to pray for the things that are going on.”  I am certainly an advocate for prayer, but if you think that everything that is happening at one time everywhere in the world depends on your ability to pray, you have just elevated yourself to a status that is delusional.  Only God can know everything and impact everything with His power at one time.  You will only feed anxiety if you think it is your job to know everything.  There is a way to be informed without making information an idol.  Ask God to show you how much is enough, and ask for His help to know where to get the information you absolutely need to know.

  1. Anxiety rises with shifts of power. Every time there is an election,

especially a presidential election, anxieties run high.  There is fear every time someone new takes office and even when the same person takes office.  Often, hope is wrongly placed in a political candidate, with an expectation that he or she will have the power and authority to right everything that is wrong with America.  Because we often have unrealistic expectations of those people, when the person we didn’t vote for takes office, anxiety skyrockets.  Listen, God doesn’t cease being God when the person we didn’t vote for takes office.

God is always ultimately in control.  Sometimes, when there is a change in political power, we get what we pray for and sometimes we get what we deserve. It’s true!  Ultimately, God is the One who is in charge.  Daniel 4:17 says that “The Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.”

  1. Anxiety rises when we overcommit. We cannot say “yes” to everything.  Only God is omnipresent, everywhere at once.  We cannot be.  We have to sleep.  We have personal responsibilities.  When Paul says, “Pray about everything” that includes asking God what you should say “yes” to. Maybe some of us are so busy doing what pleases ourselves and others that we haven’t even stopped to ask, “God, where do you want me to be involved?”  When your activities and agenda have been defined by God, you will not live worn out and stressed out. 

We only have so much time, and making sure we are strategic about how it is used, making sure we maintain a rhythm to our life that includes making our spiritual life and true family life a priority, is critical.  When that is out of balance, we invite anxiety to creep in.

  1. Anxiety rises when we live with unresolved conflict. Relational pain is real.  We have all experienced it.  We will all experience it in the future.  We’ve all been hurt or disappointed by people.  We’ve all felt left out.  We’ve all felt the pain of feeling invisible.  We’ve all felt unvalued or overlooked. We’ve all felt used by someone. We’ve all known what it is like to be betrayed or to have people say unkind and untrue things about us.  We’ve all had experiences where we were talked down to, belittled or made fun of. We’ve also been the one to blow it with others and have perpetrated pain knowingly and unknowingly. Since that is a regular part of life, we need to become skillful at dealing with those issues.  If there is anything a Christian should become proficient in, it should be in handling conflict. 
  2. Anxiety rises when we try to control and manipulate outcomes. When things don’t go the way we want them to, and we conclude our whole life is ruined, we have let anxiety win.  When we start mistreating people because they don’t fall in line with our expectations, we have let anxiety win.  When we can’t get all of the ducks in a row and keep all of the plates spinning and something doesn’t come off perfect, and it causes us to crash and burn, we have let anxiety win.  When we put so much pressure on ourselves to make a certain grade, to achieve a goal, and it doesn’t happen and all of our happiness was tied to our personal success, we have let anxiety win. 

Make your plans.  Set your goals.  Put in the work, but ultimately, if you say you are a Christ-follower, you are trusting God for every outcome in your life!  Proverbs 16:9 says the Lord orders the steps of His children.  When something doesn’t work out the way you want it to, it is likely because God has something better or something different for you or because He wants to teach you something.  If you trust that…if you trust God’s sovereignty to establish you where He wants you, then whether you win or lose, you can believe God is at work to advance you for His purposes.  If Mr. Right doesn’t propose, then guess what, God knew he was Mr. Wrong for you.  If the school you have your heart set on doesn’t accept you, it’s because God has a strategic plan for you somewhere else. 

  1. Anxiety rises when things don’t happen on our timetable. Delays aren’t always denials of your pursuits or requests.  God just knows the perfect time for us to have the answer we are seeking.  Psalm 31:15 says, “My times are in Your hands.”  When you don’t see things happening in the time frame you desire, you just keep praying.  Praying in those moments will grow your faith and dependence on God.  It will give you spiritual muscles that will be useful in the future.  Waiting shouldn’t produce anxiety for the believer.  It should produce faith.  That is the difference between just waiting and waiting on God while we are waiting. 
  1. Anxiety rises when we choose to sin. When we head off in the wrong direction and we know it’s wrong, it is going to produce anxiety.  When we know what God’s word says and we do the opposite, we will be conflicted.  We will wrestle with ourselves and God.  We will feel the weight of guilt and condemnation and that won’t be because God is trying to weigh us down, it will be because we have invited Satan into the wrestling match.  He will try to pin us down by drawing us deeper into sin.  I sometimes wonder if the rise of anxiety in our culture is because more and more people have just accepted sinful lifestyles, sinful ways of being.  Sin is literally a gateway to anxiety.  Sin has negative psychological, relational, physical, and other personal effects.  You can never go into sin believing there will be a favorable or pleasant outcome on the other side.  Time and time again you will find yourself being grateful that you obeyed God, but you will never look back and say, “I am so glad I sinned.”  It will never happen.

If you are experiencing anxiety for any of the reasons I have shared or perhaps for some other reason.  It is time to come to Jesus.  Maybe you need to make a return.  Maybe you need to repent.  Maybe you need to reprioritize your pursuits.  This I know…It is time to put anxiety to rest.

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