Recently I started getting anxious over all the problems in America, and the direction that it is going towards. I went out with a friend to a restaurant one afternoon to voice my concerns with him. As he sat there calming me down, another friend walked in who is in the military and began to tell us what is going on all over the world. I walked out more anxious than before I went in! Yet as I was praying over the anxiety, and working on a message for a church, a verse that I was extremely familiar with popped out at me and removed the anxiety, “The fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” (Proverbs 29:25)
We all go through times of anxiety; it affects us all in different ways. Anxiety is not sin, what do we do with it, and how we let it affect us has negative consequences. Anxiety can eat away at your spirit. It can paralyze you emotionally. It can even destroy you physically. Anxiety has tough effects on us physically causing back problems, ulcers, sleeplessness, and shortness of breath to name a few. The top three pharmaceutical pills sold in the U.S. are pills for depression, ulcers, and anxiety which show us that anxiety and stress affects millions of people.
It is easy to be anxious since we are living in a wild and chaotic time period. The nations that the Bible says will be major players fighting against one another in the end times are starting to position themselves for war, sending verbal threats to one another. The global economy is staggering and leaders are preparing for a major global recession. Our country is printing billions of dollars every month which is devaluing our dollar; and we see inflation starting to eat at our paychecks. We also see that perversion is now the norm, while prudence is considered abnormal. We have truly become a nation where good is considered evil, and evil as good.
The American churches are starting to lose their influence and anointing as they move away from teaching the Word of God to becoming an experience movement. The largest church in the U.S. is falsely teaching us that God wants us all to be rich, and to think only positive thoughts. There is a new reality TV preacher’s show that glorifies false teachers, while proclaiming them to be legitimate. The Bible describes these false teachers in the chapter of 2 Peter 2:1-22.
We have a nation where the political parties are totally fractured. Recent reports have said that the hatred between the two parties is equivalent to the animosity that they had for one another before the civil war. The whole country is caught up in the fractured process, where the talk shows and television programs are fueling the fire. We should remember the words of Jesus; “a house divided against itself will fall” (Luke 11:17). It is only a matter of time before we crumble as a nation!
If you look at the national and global problems as a whole, you can see how we are entering irrational and perilous times. When we add our own personal situations, whether it is spiritual, financial, physical, or relational, it could be quite unnerving! Suddenly it seems like there is no more peace on the earth, as well as in our personal lives.
The Apostle Paul lived during an irrational and perilous time as well. Even though Paul had rabbinical training, his résumé also includes an incredible life: “Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren…” (2 Corinthians 11:24-26). What lessons we can learn from Paul is what sustained him through all these hardships, so that we too could endure as the times start getting tougher.
The Lord is Near
Paul writes in Philippians 4:5-7, “…The Lord is near. Do not 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.”
“…The Lord is near.”When Paul wrote these verses 2000 years ago, I am sure that he felt as many in the church did (read the books of 1 and 2 Thessalonians) that Jesus was coming back shortly. Now 2000 years later we are in the same situation, we believe that Jesus is coming back shortly. The difference between today and the time of the early church is that all the prophecies have been fulfilled in order for Jesus to return. Also, when you read the account of someone asking Jesus, “what will be the signs of His return,” Jesus did not say it was a secret, or that it was in a hidden code. He simply told us what to look for in Mark 13:7-8, “Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.”
Billy Graham recently wrote, “There’s a great deal to say in the Bible about the signs we’re to watch for and when these signs all converge at one place we can be sure that we’re close to the end of the age. Those signs, in my judgment, are converging now for the first time since Jesus made those predictions.” Just recently this past October, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the United Nations General Assembly, “Biblical prophecies are being realized.” If you read or watch the news as you read the Bible, you can see the unfolding of the end of the ages. As Luke 21:28 states, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Do Not Be Anxious
“Do not be anxious about anything…” In one Peanuts cartoon, Linus was dragging his blanket along when he happened to notice Charlie Brown. Charlie Brown looked bad: “Charlie Brown, you look depressed.” “Well, Linus,” Charlie Brown answered, “I worry about school a lot. I worry about my worrying about school. Even my anxieties have anxieties.” When you look at the conditions of the world today, it is easy to be anxious, even to let our anxieties have anxieties! We add to our own self-destructive worries of our personal problems, and it starts to eat at us. We start to become worried, anxious, and fearful because we do not trust in God’s wisdom, power, or goodness. The Apostle Paul, who wrote this epistle, set the example for us. Even though Paul was imprisoned for his faith, beaten, lived poor at times, and was in constant dangers, he wrote “do not be anxious aboutANYTHING.” Jesus told us not to worry are be anxious in Matthew 6:25-33, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Based on those Bible verses, a woman by the name of Elizabeth Cheney wrote a poem called, “Overheard in an Orchard.” I heard that poem years ago, and never forgot it because it applied what Jesus was saying in the above passage to my life:
Said the robin to the sparrow,
”I would really like to know
Why those anxious human beings
rush around and worry so.”
Said the sparrow to the robin,
”Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no Heavenly Father
such as cares for you and me.”
Prayer, Petitions, and Requests
“…But in everything, by prayer and petition and with thanksgiving present your requests to God…” The Lord tells us through this scripture how to give everything over to Him; by prayers, petition, and requests. When we are taught to pray about everything, no request is too small, difficult, or insignificant to God. When Paul says to pray for everything, he says to be specific, not just to pray some general vague prayers. We have to remember that we are praying to the One that the Scriptures says, “Nothing is impossible with God,” (Luke 1:37) as well as Jeremiah 32:27, ”I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” So whatever is bothering us or stressing us out, we need to take it to God in prayer. The Scriptures tell us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). I pray over everything, from what to buy in a store to salvation for the old woman in front of me at the counter. Does that mean I never get anxious again? Of course not! The moment when I finally release it to God is when He works. We may be anxious about our job situation, or a single person may be anxious about who they are going to marry. We may be anxious over our health, and a number of other factors, but God tells us to pray over it, and to be specific. As believers, we are to trustingly “Cast all our anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) The word for “cast” means to unload, like removing a big stone. Jesus wants us to unload our problems on to Him. He gets jealous when you unload on to others and leave Him out of the picture! I truly enjoy when my 3 year old grandson comes to me saying “Pop Pop, I need you to fix this car,” or “Pop Pop could you help me get my boots on.” I cherish helping him in any way possible. I believe that the Lord is looking for us to come to Him and He cherishes when we acknowledge Him as our helper. The word for petition means to cry out. God wants us to cry out to Him, not just a rote prayer but one that cries out from the heart. I once cried out in Russia when I had an unbelievable problematic team member. I cried out in my bed at night as I did not know what to do with this person. The next day God answered my heartfelt and anguished prayer and removed the person from the middle of Russia!
Jesus wants us to come before Him with a spirit of thanksgiving. We come before Him with our prayer and petitions, knowing that He loves each of us unconditionally. We thank Him that He wants to fix our problems, and that He has promised to help us. We thank Him that we can come to the one who flung the planets and stars into space, and that He cares for even the smallest problem we have. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
George Mueller once said, “The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith. But the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.” Anxiety is a spiritual battle that determines if I am going to hang on to my anxiety or surrender the situation to Him. Either I am going to stay anxious over my situation or to cast all my cares upon the Lord and trust Him to work it out. Being anxious shows a lack of trust that God is in control. I am the type of person that gets anxious easily, and then God speaks to me saying, “Be still and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10). When we start to lose control of a situation, it is usually because we are trying to control it. God tells us to let go, and to give it completely over to Him; to the One who controls the nations and the earth. There is no problem too large or too small to give to Him. Once you surrender your anxieties, then He will take control and heal you of your fears and worries. All God needs from us is to cease striving, recognize His sovereignty and His caring hand in our lives.
The Peace of God
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Once we submit our worries, fears, and anxieties to the Lord Jesus and give Him control, He takes them and exchanges it for His peace. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27)
Paul tells us that this peace will transcend human intellectual powers, human analysis, human insights, and human understanding. I cannot really put it into words because it surpasses all comprehension. Paul experienced this peace throughout his beatings, shipwrecks, and dangerous journeys. Paul tells us in verse 4:9 to use him as an example. “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 is saying that he has taught us this and many truths that we have seen worked out in his life. Now it’s time for us to put them into practice so that the God of peace will be with us as He has been with him. So Paul’s conclusion is that those who honor God by trusting Him will experience the blessings of His perfect peace, and God will guard thier hearts and minds in Christ.
Bring it to God in prayer. Take your hands off the situation and trust Jesus to work it out. Cast your cares upon Him and you will be amazed how God handles it while giving you His peace that surpasses all understanding. “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)
If you never put your faith and trust in Jesus then none of this will ever work. You need to come before God and ask Him to forgive you of your sin which contributes to your anxiety. You need to come before Jesus and make your peace with Him, to surrender your life to Him. You can never have true peace with God unless you have a relationship with Him. Our Lord is calling out for a personal relationship with you. It all boils down to trusting Jesus with your life and confessing Him as Lord and Savior. Then His peace, warmth, love, mercy, and compassion will flood your soul and give you the life that you are seeking. Do yourself a favor and give yourself the very best thing you can - surrender yourself completely to the Lordship ofJesus. Then, and only then, will you find the true riches and peace that you have been lacking, and you will experience the highest calling and the purpose for your life. Amen.
What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer!