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Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
BEING IGNORANT OF GOD’S LOVE
Let me say this very carefully. A fact that everyone of us has to face is that when we feel that life is meaningless, when we are bored with life, when we feel dead in our spirits, with our emotional hurts and pains, with our mental confusion ... all of those phrases add up to one thing, that at least at that moment we are IGNORANT OF THE LOVE GOD HAS FOR US. For when I know the love God has for me, then my mental confusion disperses like fog on a summer’s morning. The hurts and pains of my life are healed by His presence. Boredom is a word that can never be used of a person who walks in the love of God. This is the answer. It is the final key to all of our spiritual, mental, emotional health and, indeed, our physical health, too. The Love of God. One major symptom of not actively believing the love which God has for me is worry and anxiety. I believe, based on an intense research of Scripture, that anxiety, worry and fear need have no place in the life of a believer. I believe that with all my heart. I should never have my mind troubled by anxiety and worry if I live in the consciousness of the love God has for me. From the beginning to the end of the Bible the Spirit tells us plainly, "Do not worry." In the Old Testament He gives us case history after case history of persons who were placed in situations that caused them to worry. Then He shows us how they came out of it, living in the love of God. The New Testament is full of similar commands. I want you to realize this because we tend to treat worry casually. We ALL worry. Read this: BE ANXIOUS FOR NOTHING. That is a command. It is not a suggestion. God doesn’t come to us and say, "Well, I know how it is. You live in terrible times. I understand." He doesn’t. He says, "Be anxious for nothing. End of discussion."
What do we mean by "anxious?" It would be better if we substituted the word "worry" or "fretting." I think anxiety is associated in our minds with something almost clinical like a "panic attack." This is talking about the daily stuff that worries us. Stuff that we fret over. Stuff that makes your stomach go into knots and gives you a headache and a pain in the back of your neck. I will tell you what it is. It is STEWING WITHOUT DOING. It is when it is going around and around and around inside. You are doing nothing about it, because there is nothing to do about it, except to let it bubble and boil in our heads. The words in the languages of the Bible, Hebrew and Greek, mean to be distracted. It means to be divided. In modern English it means to feel that you are falling apart. In the Hebrew it means to be shaken as if you have yourself in the mouth of some dog, like a rag doll that is being shaken to and
fro. You will find it in the Old Testament something like, "the righteous shall not be shaken." It means the righteous don’t worry. It means your head isn’t being shaken like a rag doll.
What does the word "worry" mean? Interestingly, the word in ancient English means "to choke or to strangle." So when you worry, the meaning of the English word is that somebody has you by your spiritual throat and is choking the life out of you. I think that is about it, isn’t it? Whenever you worry you feel a sense of helplessness. It is when my mind is paralyzed and I become incapable of rational thought. It goes around and around and around. Like the merry-go-round. It keeps going, but it doesn’t go anywhere. Around and around and around. You get a thought in your head and it gets you. It keeps going around and around. Even though you are incapable of doing anything about it, you have the same thought going on, over and over because you have no conclusion to it. You have been cut off. You have been choked. Something has you by your mind and choking you so you can’t think creatively. Choked. Strangled. A person who worries, at least while they are worrying, is incapable of creative, energetic living. The people who are old before their time. They look haggard. It will even bend your body over because creative life (or as Jesus said, "Life more abundant") is being choked. It can’t get though. You say, "Well, I’m just a worrier." No. No. This is serious stuff. It chokes off the Spirit Which is love, joy and peace. It is all gone. Here I sit, worrying.
God takes so much interest in worry because it is unbelief. And it is unbelief in such deep disguise that when we meet someone exercising this particular form of unbelief, we feel like giving them sympathy. "There, there, now. You will be all right." Whereas, God says, "No. Repent. Stop this way of life." This isn’t something to give you sympathy, to affirm you in your worry. It is rather to say, "Stop that, at once. Be anxious for nothing." Why is it UNBELIEF? Because I am going to show you that all worry, all my fretting and stewing is simply not believing that God is in control. I don’t believe God is in control, at least for the moment I’m in control. Or, I am trying to be. That is all the trouble because I am trying to be what I can’t be and was never meant to be. There I go trying to be it. At least for the moment, I don’t believe God knows all things. I aim to find out all things. I don’t believe God has a clue what is happening. So I have to send out my puny little brain on its merry-go-round to try to think what is happening. I don’t believe that God is all Wise and has a perfect plan that even at this moment, in the midst of what I am calling evil, He is meaning for good. I don’t believe that. And in this moment of worry, I certainly don’t believe that He loves me limitlessly and unconditionally. I don’t believe He cares for me and numbers the very hairs of my head. I don’t believe that when I am worrying. I believe I am alone in this world and all this evil that is happening to me and I have got to know tomorrow, and I have to work out my own plan.
That is why I say, "Worry is a radical kind of unbelief." We have dared to take the place of God in our lives. We are thinking that we are supposed to (and not only supposed to, but we think we can) somehow control our future.
THE MISUSE OF IMAGINATION
When we worry, we determine to use our imagination other than the way it was created to be used. It was made to "see" God in everything, but when we worry we take it into a nonexistent world. This is a dangerous world. In this a non-existent world, no angel is there. Not even God Himself is there, because God only exists in reality. God can’t be in what isn’t. Here am I (when I worry) going into the land of "is not." I am going into the "never never land" that doesn’t exist. You see tomorrow doesn’t exist. Here, in my imagination, I have created what I think will happen tomorrow, what I think possibly could happen tomorrow. It is all fantasy. It is total fantasy. Another word for fantasy is LIES. My God is the God of truth. He is Reality. He is in the NOW. He is in the REAL life. And so I am out there alone, really alone. The only thing I hear are demonic voices that keep telling me how bad it is going to be, pushing me on into further lies.
The magic password into the land of "is not" is the "WHAT IF?" All you do is get into the misuse of imagination and say the magic words, "WHAT IF?" Then you are on your way. What if I lose my job? What if I can’t get another one? What if I get sick and there is no money? What if they raise the rent? If I lose my job we will all die on the street. What if? All the insane "what if’s" about the job tomorrow can weigh you down tonight. Perhaps you have already started your "what if’s." What if this happens or that happens. It is endless. You could spend all night, but you see, it is all fantasy; it is all lies, because probably nothing will happen. If what happens does happen, it is probably not what you thought would happen exactly anyhow. We sit there, or lay there in bed at night, going through every possibility. You think, "What if my son-in-law loses his job?" "If they become destitute, we don’t have enough to support them. What will we do?" Then you wake your husband up and ask him how they are going to support themselves if he loses his job. Your husband has no idea what on earth you are talking about, because until you brought it up, he thought he had a very secure job. What if? Out there in the "never never" world of unreality, where there are no angels and God Himself cannot come, it is only a nightmare. Turn the magic key and you are off into a Disney Land of Apocalypse Now.
WORRY ABOUT NOTHING
Mind you, this isn’t in major crisis. See what it says, "Be anxious in NOTHING." In the Greek it is saying, "Be anxious not even in one thing." Just in case you missed the point. In case you missed it negatively, he comes in positively and says, "But in everything (that is,
how ever small, ever how insignificant) give thanks." No matter what it is, it must not disturb my harmony and peace. I cannot be disturbed over anything, not even one thing. Jesus spoke so much about this. It is interesting that when He spoke about this, He said that we would find this temptation about anxiety in the area of food, clothes, shelter, possessions. It is interesting to me that the things that Jesus said not to be anxious for ... that is what fills our televisions screens. That is the subject of most commercials and is the hidden message in most of what is televised. The world says to be anxious for this ... if you don’t have this, don’t bother to live ... you don’t have this or that? how could you ever be happy without it? ... they say, "Be anxious if you don’t have these things." Jesus says, "Don’t be anxious over food. Don’t be anxious over shelter. Don’t be." He says to not be as the Gentiles, or a better word is "heathen." Heathen are those who have not received a revelation of Who God is. He said that you know Who God is. You know He is your Abba, your Father Who unconditionally loves you. He says not to be anxious over things such as this. These, while basis things, are important things. Remember the parable Jesus gave of the sower. It comes up again, only the word He uses is much closer to the meaning of this word in English. Remember where He says, "The thorns came up and CHOKED it." Remember what he said was the thorns that choke you? "THE CARES AND WORRIES OF THIS WORLD." He said they choke you. Don’t misunderstand. Jesus did not teach anywhere in the Scriptures that we are not to prepare for tomorrow. Nowhere does it teach that. But this is what it does teach, that I must do today what must be done today, in order for tomorrow to be fruitful, BUT NOT TO TRY TO GO INTO TOMORROW AND TRY TO DO WHAT BELONGS TO TOMORROW. So I have, as Jesus said, twelve hours in a day to work. God gives us increments of life in 12 hour slots. Jesus says, "Now, don’t you dare go into tomorrow and do what belongs to its 12 hours today. You do today what must be done today, in order that when the next 12 hours comes around, you will be ready to do what has to be done that day." If you are a farmer, when it is springtime you put the seed into the ground. But now when you have the seed in your hand, you don’t stop and say, "I wonder what the weather forecast will be in June." "Will we have a tornado in June? Will we have hail? Is it worth planting this seed?" No. You see, because June is not in my domain in the spring, it is none of my business what happens in June. I have one thing to do in springtime and that is plant seed. Because when I plant seed in the springtime, I will then harvest in the fall. Whatever happens in between, well, "sufficient unto the day," that is, when that increment of 12 hours comes, I will deal with it as God leads me, but not until it comes. But if you sit down as to worry what will happen, if you proceed in this manner, you will be so paralyzed with fear, you will forget to plant the seed and then there will be no harvest even if there is no tornado in June. Active? Yes. In fact, the person who does not worry about tomorrow is more active today than the person who does worry about tomorrow, because he is no longer choked in his creativity, no longer is he strangled by worry. He is a free person.
WORRY HAS FRIENDS
Worry brings with it a lot of friends. Certain sinful behaviors associate with worry which causes only further dysfunction as a human being. For instance, I become angry. What’s that nice word we use now days, I become uptight. Worrying in the office, you come home and kick the cat. You yell at your kids and snap at your wife. They have nothing to do with it. You are worried about something in the office, but you are lashing out at everybody. That’s one of worry’s friends, anger at non-related persons and events. Always, worry brings with it self-pity. I find that in between me worrying over this awful life that I have created in "never never land," I sit down and say, "Why me?" I mean, it hasn’t happened to anybody else. I then go further into envy and I look at everybody else in the congregation and I enter into lying and I say, "It never happened to them." And I ask God why He always blesses the Smiths and never blesses me. It always happens. There is this pity party and you are allowed to come if you bring gifts, like sympathy, that nod of the head that says, "I don’t know how you manage." Then you are allowed to join the party. Or we learn the art of dumping on others. It is a very careful art, you see. You don’t just go around and do it. You are careful about it. Just after you have left they can’t figure out why they are all in depression. You can always see the dark side and you bring in all your troubles and you carefully lay them all around. Not that your troubles leave you, you still have them but you share them all with everyone. "No," says the Scripture. "Be anxious for nothing." Repent. Change your mind about this.
IT DOESN’T TELL YOU NOT TO WORRY
Notice, if it just said, "Be anxious for nothing" it would be no better than what the world gives you. The world says, "Cheer up. Don’t worry." This isn’t saying, "Don’t worry." In fact, that is very bad advice. God would never tell you not to worry. If God told you not to worry, then you would immediately concentrate all of your efforts on worry. In fact, you would have then bound yourself to worry. You have multiplied the power of worry in your life. And of course you will continue to worry and then you will worry that you are worrying. And so it goes on until you find yourself in chains. You never go into a dark room and attack the darkness and try to throw it out. Nor does Jesus say to attack worry. If you attack worry and say you are not going to, you will immediately do that. It doesn’t merely say, "Do not be anxious for anything." It doesn’t say just that. It says, rather, to stop worrying by doing something else. "Be anxious for nothing, but- BUT in everything by prayer and supplication, make your requests known unto God." That is, he is saying you are concentrating on the problem. You are concentrating on problems that don’t even exist yet. You are giving your entire life to thinking about problems and you are giving what is left of you to trying to find resources within yourself to answer those problems. He says, "NOW, STOP THAT! REPENT. STOP. CHANGE YOUR MIND. BE ANXIOUS FOR NOTHING, BUT TURN YOUR ATTENTION THE OTHER DIRECTION, MAKE YOUR REQUESTS KNOWN TO GOD." Turn your whole attention to God. Our anxieties and our fears arise out of a lifestyle in which we have forgotten God. I don’t know a gentler way of saying that. The great benediction of the Church, "THE GRACE OF
THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, THE LOVE OF GOD, OUR ABBA, OUR FATHER, AND THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT BE WITH YOU ALL." You can’t worry in that. To live in the grace, the energy of God’s love coming to us through Jesus Christ. The unconditional love of God which streams to us from the Father is made known to us in Jesus Christ. And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, Who is closer to us than breathing, Who brings to us that love. You can’t worry in the midst of that. Again, let me say this very carefully, as gently as I know how, that when we worry we are really saying that in this particular case, I deem that God is irrelevant. He doesn’t really apply here. "I’ll be back later, God. I have got to handle this one. In this case the love of God the Father does not apply. In this case the fellowship of the Holy Spirit could never meet this one. Of course, when we talk about it like this, it is ridiculous. You know it is ridiculous. You do. We believe that we are in charge here.
HOW DO I OBEY THAT COMMAND?
Choose to believe. Faith is a choice. In my studies on fear and worry, I have found that 366 times in the Scripture it says, "Fear not." I suddenly realized that that is a command. I realized that I had thought that fear and worry, well, you can’t help that. But the Scripture says you can. You stop that, FEAR NOT. How do I "FEAR NOT?" That is, how do I obey that command. It has nothing to do with your feelings. It is a choice. It is a choice to believe God. I choose to believe His presence is with me and it is in His presence that my fear is swallowed up. In prayer this morning, as in every morning, Lucy and I (I started to say "said") ... No, we HURLED the Apostle’s Creed into the darkness. You should do that, too. Do you understand? I FEEL the urge to worry. Then hurl it out ... I BELIEVE IN GOD, THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH. etc. That is your choice. The other choice would be "I do not believe." Well, I make the choice to believe. I believe in God, the Abba. He is my Father. He loves me. I am His child. He is "Almighty" and there is no problem I have that can match that. You see, I stop, and deliberately choose to declare my choice OUT LOUD. "I BELIEVE IN GOD, THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH."
"... present your requests to God" It is a deliberate turning from our supposed problems, from our non-existent resources, TO GOD. In fact, the Greek word for "to" in "let your requests be made known to God" means "unto in." You could use this as "living in vital union with." It means "communion." It could be used for intercourse. It is two joined together. So he is saying, "making your requests made known in your union with God." You are aware that you are joined to Him. Aware that His love that took the initiative has come into you and you are in Him, and you two are one. AWARE of that "make your requests known to God." So you see, you don’t come against worry. You don’t try to attack the darkness. You come TO God, the God I am joined to. Freedom from worry is not a formula. I know, we love the idea of "ten steps to overcoming worry," but there is no formula. Rather, it is a growing relationship with the God we are in fellowship with.
Over and over again it says in Scripture, "Fear not, for I am with you." Notice, it is not just "fear not," it is "fear not, FOR I AM WITH YOU." You remember David said, "I will fear no evil, FOR THOU ART WITH ME." It is a consciousness. It is an awareness of His presence. Note the words here in our text, just before this, it says, "The Lord is near." That doesn’t’ refer to the nearness of the Second Coming. It means He is NEAR. He is closer than breathing. You could almost say, "The Lord is near, therefore, be anxious for nothing." His presence is what counts. "Be still and KNOW THAT I AM GOD." Do you know that Psalm, "Though the mountains roll into the sea." Now that is some kind of earthquake. That Psalm describes the collapse of everything that you thought would be there forever. As the world is collapsing around the writer in Psalm 46, he says, "Be still ... hush... Be still and know that I am God." Now, you be still. Just acknowledge God. Sometimes there is nothing to say, He is there and you acknowledge Him. He is Sovereign. He reigns over all. He is the Almighty. He is All-knowing. He is infinitely present. He is All Wise. And He loves me unconditionally. And He said He is with me. He is for me. He is on my side. BE AWARE.
PRAYER, SUPPLICATION, KNOWN
"...in every thing by prayer and supplication" Prayer means that general turning toward God, basically what we have just been saying. "Supplication" does not mean a general turning toward God. It means a specific request made about a specific situation. Then he says, in case you didn’t catch it, "let your requests be made known." "Requests" means a specific presenting. Another place in the New Testament where that word is used is when the Jews requested Barabbas to be released by Pilot instead of Jesus. That was specific. We don’t want Fred, Jack, etc. We want Barabbas. So the Holy Spirit is saying here, "Turn toward God and very specifically share with Him EXACTLY what the cause of the worry is." Specifically lay it before Him. That is what He is saying. "... be made KNOWN ...." "Known" means to fully uncover. It means to lay the case out. This isn’t saying, "Oh God, bless me." That is almost an insult to God. I mean, you go into such detail in "never never land" and now coming into "real real land" be every bit as specific and revealing as you were in your fantasy of evil. God demonstrates this by giving us the Psalms. We are overhearing a man talk with His God. And most of the time he is in trouble. Read them and you will see that he just spills it all out. He tells God how he feels and sometimes you feel there is fire coming out of his ears, he is so clear about how he feels. He wants people dead, their wife a widow, their children orphans. He doesn’t go to them and kill them. Nor does he tell the whole church what he wants. He tells God how he feels. It is OK. Stop pretending that good Christians never get angry. Present it all to God. He can handle it and He can deal with you in a loving way. Let God have your anger. Be very specific. This is very Biblical. Remember the two on the road to the village called Emmaus. The bottom has dropped out of their life. They believed Jesus was the Messiah. They watched Him die. And Jesus, freshly risen from the dead, comes walking beside them. For whatever reason, they don’t
recognize Him. Jesus says, "You fellows look so down." They say, "Are you the only person in Jerusalem that hasn’t heard what happened." (He was the only One Who really did know what had happened.) Notice His response. "What things?" "Tell me." "What’s bugging you guys?" Well, they spilled it all out. There is hardly a pause. "We had hoped ..." "We thought ..." "We are disillusioned ..." Then He starts with Moses and all the prophets and explains to them until their heart was burning inside of them. Do you realize that our Risen Lord would not deal with their problems until He had them pour it all out before Him? He teased it out of them, then He dealt with it. Just go through your Bible and search out the questions of God. You will be impressed at how God deals with man. God asks questions, answers to which He already knew. He made us to communicate with Him. Sometimes we are so slow to do that, that He pulls it out of us. Don’t say that God knows already, TELL HIM. THAT IS WHAT HE WANTS. "Adam, where are you?" He knew. "Who told you that you were naked?" He knew. "What have you done?" He knew. "Where is Abel, your brother?" He knew. God knows all the answers to all the questions, yet He asks them. Why? To get man to talk to Him. God has chosen that He cannot help us until we will spill it out. "LET YOUR REQUESTS BE MADE KNOW TO GOD." This is the emphasis here ... MAKE IT KNOWN. This is not the time to tell God what to do. The essence of worry is "I don’t know what to do." I don’t know. I stand helpless. Life is caving in on me. I don’t know the answer to this. It is not the time to tell God to make them all go away. Don’t bring God into your "never never land." Just expose it. Make it known to Him Who knows all things. Give it to Him. I face situations all the time where I simply do not know the answer. Often I even go through the physical jesters of holding out my cupped hands, palms up, and saying, "Here, Father, I give it to You. I am helpless. Take this (naming it specifically) into Your love for me. I give it over to You. Because You love me so much, it belongs to You. I give it over to You right now. Do whatever has to be done, because I don’t know." One by one, I give each situation, each problem, each person, each hurt to Him Who does all things well. To my flesh that is such a sense of helplessness, cause I am not even telling God what to do. I don’t know. It is a real abandonment to Him. "Our Father Who is in heaven. Your Name be hallowed in this situation, person, etc. In this case, let Your Kingdom come, let Your government be. I don’t know how You can work it out, but I know You are the All Wise One, the All Knowing One and that you love everyone of us, even those who are in an enemies posture right now, you love us unconditionally. Let Your will be done on earth now, as it is in heaven. And forgive us as we forgive each other. Etc."
"... with thanksgiving" We don’t just come blundering in. He says to remember God’s track record. It is a good one. Forget not all His benefits. Remember. And then the peace of God ... the shalom of God ... will guard your hearts and your minds.
"Shalom" is a bigger word than our word "peace." First of all, it is not changing circumstances. See, our idea of peace is that everybody finally does it our way. But that is not the Hebrew understanding of peace. Shalom means that in the middle of chaos, I have peace. That passes all human comprehension. The word contains in it the idea of success and prosperity. It means I have this success, peace and harmony in my spirit. It means I have harmony in my mind. I am successful in my thinking, I have creative light in my mind. I have prosperity in my emotions. Love and joy and peace so that even my body is successful at being a body. It is at rest. Proverbs goes so far as to say, "When a man’s ways please the Lord, even his enemies shall have shalom with him." Instead of dumping my gloom on people, I am one who carries shalom where ever I go, the peace of God. It is just beyond our comprehension. "Thou will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed upon thee." The Hebrews actually did not have a word for "perfect peace" so it is "peace peace" in the original. Double dose. Peace upon peace. The word for mind is IMAGINATION. Your imagination is not established in the "never never land" of unreality, but your imagination is upon Him Who is Reality, Truth. Your imagination is not rooted in the insane lies of "what if." Your imagination is stayed and established in Who God is. In Psalm 23, David imagines tomorrow and evil, but he does not surrender to that evil. He says, "Even if tomorrow has me walking through the valley of the shadow of death, I WILL FEAR NO EVIL (why?) FOR THOU ART WITH ME." There is evil, but in his imagination he sees the greater, which is GOD WITH HIM. He imagines God in all of his tomorrows. And, knowing God, he says, "Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days (tomorrows) of my life." That is a correct use of the imagination, SEEING GOD WITH YOU. THIS IS SINGLE VISION... SEEING GOD IN ALL THINGS. So you take your tomorrows, that do not exist, and you take the specific person and the specific situation that is causing you to go off into "what if’s," and you take that person, that thing, and you just give them to God. And then when you think of tomorrow, it is basically saying that whatever happens, though it is a valley of deep darkness, I here and now say I believe in God, the Father Almighty. I will fear no evil for THOU ART WITH ME. Whatever tomorrows hold for me, my spouse, my children, my children’s children, surely goodness and loving-kindness WILL follow (the word is "pursue" like hunting dogs) us all our days. Goodness and loving-kindness are like those hunting dogs that ever pursue me and are always leaping upon me. They follow me, pursue me relentlessly, all the days of my life. Psalm 55: 22 Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall. This peace of God will keep you, will garrison you round about, as you live from Him Who lives in you, for it is true of us that
TO LIVE IS CHRIST
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