We are finishing up our sermon series on anxiety today.
In our first message called “Why are you so Anxious, O My Soul?”, we learned that anxiety thrives on uncertainty, but is driven out by certainty. That’s why we cling to God’s promises, because there isn’t anything more certain than our certain God.
In the second message called “The Anti-Anxiety God”, we studied the those certain promises of Jesus: Promises that guaranteed a place in heaven, knowledge of the way to heaven, the Holy Spirit within us, Jesus never truly leaving us, and the peace of God himself.
Today we want to talk about how to battle anxiety on a day-to-day basis.
A battle with anxiety can come out of nowhere.
It was the day after I had preached the Anti-Anxiety God sermon for the third time. I was very literally listening to parts of it, in order to critique my delivery, and editing down the full service to get a very brief sermon-only YouTube video.
When I received an email from our adoptive agency…
There was a humanitarian flight leaving that Friday that we could possibly get on in order to get down to our daughter in Colombia. All we had to do was fill out a few some forms online (in Spanish), finish up getting our medical reports Apostilled downtown, and hope that we get on the flight.
Almost immediately, my mind was racing!
When was this email sent?
How much time do we have?
Is this the fastest internet connection to use or should I call up Spectrum??
How am I supposed to fill out a form in Spanish?
Is the link to the right website?
This word “salida.” Google translate says it means “exit” in Spanish. But are you sure it isn’t asking my favorite place to eat lettuce?
Are the “apostilling” accepting appointments?
Do you think they’ll squeeze us in if I ask nicely?
What if they do but the notaries did the notary-ing incorrectly and it doesn’t get accepted?
What if they do but the notaries are offended by my misuse of the word “notary-ing” and I don’t get accepted?
What happens if we do all this work and we don’t get on the flight?
Will I be prepared for worship?
What happens if we do all this work and we do get on the flight?
Will I be prepared for fatherhood?
It was attacking me.
It was winning.
And right after preaching a sermon on anxiety.
What tools does God’s Word give us to fight off an anxiety attack? Before we look in God’s Word, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth. Your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
Philippians 4:4-7 is a section of the Bible made for battling anxiety.
REJOICE in the Lord always! I will say it again: Rejoice! (v.4)
Do you know the backstory to this section of Scripture? It was written by a guy named Paul. Paul was a believer in Jesus who had gone to many different cities spreading the good news about Jesus, the Savior of the world. But some people didn’t like it. They falsely accused him of starting riots and planning to destroy Jewish tradition. As a result, Paul was put on trial and taken into the city of Rome in order to await trial by Caesar, the king of the Roman empire.
Paul waited for that trial for two long years.
During that, he was under house arrest.
And while he was under house arrest? He wrote these words.
REJOICE in the Lord always! I will say it again: Rejoice!
Can you believe that?
It’s like Paul was on quarantine for two whole years.
What reason could Paul possibly have to rejoice?
A big one.
(1) …In the LORD
This is a key phrase.
Because there aren’t always amazing reasons to rejoice.
During the pandemic, you might have had to lower your expected reasons for rejoicing.
You might’ve rejoiced....
…in completing a word search.
…in the new season of Umbrella Academy on Netflix.
…in tutoring your kid to a B- on her English homework.
…in the Uber Eats guy bringing food before his expected arrival time.
When there aren’t a lot of good reasons to rejoice, Paul provides one:
In the Lord.
Rejoice! In the Lord, there is freedom.
Rejoice! In the Lord, there is belonging.
Rejoice! In the Lord, there is forgiveness.
Rejoice! In the Lord, there is eternal life.
Rejoice! In the Lord, there is peace.
(2) …as a Verb
It’s easy to misread this phrase in Scripture as a command to “feel happy.” That would be strange. Because it is hard to command emotions.
Just ask any mother of a newborn baby who looked at their tiny newborn throwing a fit and said, “Just be happy.”
Or when I tell me dog to just “be peaceful.”
It doesn’t work.
God doesn’t command us to feel an emotion of happiness here.
He’s commands us to do the action of rejoicing.
To sing a hymn.
To turn on worship music.
To shout God’s praise.
To write a praise post on social media.
To take a moment with your kids to talk about how great God is.
God isn’t commanding an emotion.
He is commanding a verb.
Despite our emotions!
And here’s the genius of God.
When you start singing…
When you start shouting…
When you start smiling about the joyful things God has done for you.
You start to feel joyful.
Which is why Paul tells us to do this…
Since it is an action, rejoicing is absolutely something that you can do in any situation.
Don’t believe me?
Consider Paul! He had recently been rioted against, falsely accused, transported hundreds of miles away from his family, endured a shipwreck, been bitten by a snake, and locked under house arrest for two whole years…
Still he writes: REJOICE!
The same is true for you.
Gained a job? Rejoice.
Lost a job? Rejoice.
Finances good? Rejoice.
Finances tight? Rejoice.
Feeling comfortable? Rejoice.
Feeling stressed? Rejoice.
Everyone healthy? Rejoice.
A loved one sick? Rejoice.
No matter what you’re feeling.
No matter what your situation.
Not matter what’s going on.
Rejoice in the Lord always; I’ll say it again: Rejoice! (v.4)
II. Be Gentle
Check out the next verse:
Let your gentleness be known to everyone. (v.5)
The word translated “gentleness” is the Greek word “epiekes.” It means to “be in submission” or to “be passive.”
That’s interesting here.
Because oftentimes when it comes to anxiety, we tend to fight it:
I don’t want this to happen.
I won’t be able to hand that awful thing.
I’m so angry and upset. I will fight to ensure that this doesn’t happen.
Does that fighting bring you peace?
Does fighting whatever it is that’s causing you anxiety bring you calm?
That’s why Paul wants us to be gentle in our words and actions…
(1) …to prevent ANXIETY BUILDUP within YOURSELF
Because anxiety is a pinball in a pinball machine.
And as the anxiety makes its way towards you and the little flipper thingies, you could gently hold down the button and calmly receive the ball, cradling it between the downward slant of the machine and your little plastic flipper thingie.
You could press the button as soon as the ball connect with the flipper causing it to fly in the opposite direction.
Directly into more bells and bumpers which causing your anxiety’s velocity to simply increase.
Imagine that you just got a message about a meeting with your boss at work.
It makes you anxious cause you don’t know what it’s about.
Because you’re anxious, you speak gruffly to my spouse.
They correctly tell you, to “calm down.”
You’re anxious that they’re right so you snap back at them even more loudly.
You look over at your kids who are making you anxious that they heard you.
So, you slam the door in a huff, noticing your neighbors across they street, anxiously wondering if they heard you as you drive to the office.
And you ignore the friendly greetings of your coworkers as you get to your desk, because “you’re not in the mood.”
When you calm down.
You don’t just have the anxiety of your boss’ meeting.
But the anxiety of ruined relationships.
Instead of responding to anxiety with volatile words…
Take a breath.
Avoid angry outbursts to keep anxiety from increasing within you.
(2) …to prevent BUILDUP within OTHERS
Allow me to illustrate this point. By communicating the same truth in two different ways:
1. Oh friend, there’s a mistake in this report.
2. HEY LOSER! THERE’S A MISTAKE IN THIS REPORT!!!
1. Honey, we’re running short on funding.
2. WE’RE RUNNING SHORT ON FUNDING!!!!
3. Sorry, Kids. This home teaching thing is difficult.
3. LISTEN, RUNTS! THIS TEACHING THING IS DIFFICULT!!!
Which style puts you on edge more?
The same is true for others too.
Be kind with your words.
To prevent anxiety for others.
But before you say, “Pastor, who cares about everyone else’s anxiety…”
Listen to the last part of the verse.
(3) …because the LORD is near
That’s both a scary and comforting thing.
On the one hand, God is near, and he hears you speaking that way to the spouse he created for you?
To the parents that he gave you?
To the children that he gifted you?
How much do you think it pleases him when you do that?
On the other hand, God is near.
You’re in his hands.
You are his forgiven child.
Whatever anxiety is causing you to feel so frustrated, it’s nothing compared to the God who died and rose again to save you.
You’ll be okay.
Take a breath.
III. Be Prayerful
One more section of WHAT NOW? Think of it like a secret weapon against anxiety:
Do not worry about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. (v.6)
This verse really helps us to understand the word, “prayer.” Paul has followed it up with a synonym, “petition.”
What’s a petition?
A petition is something that you sign in order to ask someone in a higher-up capacity (government, work, school) to change something.
For example, a petition was integral in change the Wake school plans to be more virtual than in-person this year.
A petition was integral in allowing us to fly on a humanitarian flight to Colombia.
Petitions are integral in changing hidden racial prejudices within our American system.
If the change that you want has to do with your personal life, who do you take the petition to?
The government doesn’t care that much about you.
Your boss might not either.
Who should you petition in order to remove anxiety in your life?
Bring your petition…
(1) …to God
God’s never too busy.
God’s never too stressed.
God doesn’t require a group of about 500 to sign your petition before he takes the anxieties in your life seriously.
In fact, God already took the source of your ultimate anxiety (sin) out of the equation, before you ever even petitioned him.
He came to earth for you.
He lived perfectly for you.
He died innocently for you.
He rose triumphantly for you.
Now he waits attentively to hear your petition.
To listen to your anxieties.
To share your anxieties.
And he wants to hear it all.
(2) …in ALL Things
Sharing anxieties can absolutely improve your outlook, right?
But sometimes you don’t know who to share your anxieties with because…
Maybe they’ll gossip.
Maybe they’ll judge.
Maybe they’ll just get angry about that secret thing.
Maybe they’ll think this isn’t important enough.
Maybe they’ll do that thing where immediately; they start telling you all about their own similar anxiety before you finish your first paragraph.
He’ll simply listen.
No matter what it is that’s causing you anxiety, you can talk to God about it.
(3) …with THANKSGIVING
Look to the end of this verse on prayer. It mentions that we should pray to God with thanksgiving.
It’s kind of a circle back to verse 4 that says, “Rejoice in the Lord always!”
God wants us to come to him with a thankful heart, because that immediately refocuses our hearts from anxiety to thankfulness.
It’s like an actual thanksgiving meal where you sit down to a meal filled with delicious hot baked turkey, green bean casserole with the little crispies on top, asparagus, cranberry sauce, three different kinds of potatoes, hot buns, corn on the cob, and a variety of grandma’s hot pies awaiting you in the oven.
It’s VERY hard to make your first words a complaint.
Thanksgiving battles anxiety.
Even if you aren’t at the Thanksgiving table.
Looking for a practical way to do this?
Here’s what I was told to start doing by a pastor who knows what he’s talking about:
Before I begin each morning devotion.
Before I begin with prayer.
I force myself to write out 5 things that I am thankful for.
Could be anything.
My beautiful wife.
My beautiful daughter.
The dog licking my leg.
The cat batting my hand as I write.
The taste of last night’s Doritos on my breath.
But here’s what happens.
No matter how groggy.
How grumpy I might be.
Taking a moment to reflect on what God has given me, battles that anxiety.
Instead of focusing on what I wish were true,
I look at the amazing things that are already true.
And it immediately gets much tougher to be anxious.
IV. God’s What Now?
There’s an interesting finale to our sermon. Because usually we end with WHAT NOW’s for us. These are take-homes for us to put into practice.
But we’ve already got three of them.
This week we are ending with God’s WHAT NOW?
What is GOD going to do for you and for me to battle anxiety?
Look at his promise in verse 7:
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (v.7)
Paul was quite familiar with guards.
Since he was under house arrest, yes, he knew he couldn’t go out into the world.
But he was also safe from unlawful people who wanted to kill him.
Roman guards were there at his door 24/7.
Armed with a sword.
Skilled with defense.
Protected with armor.
In verse 7, God promises to
Send His PEACE to GUARD your heart.
It’s a peace beyond understanding:
We are sinners.
God is holy.
Jesus died and now we have peace?
Yet this is a true peace.
It is a God given peace.
It is a peace that guards our hearts and our minds against any anxiety that comes our way.
This means you aren’t alone.
You don’t have to battle anxiety alone.
God is with you.
God is battling it for you.
And God always wins.
In Jesus, you will have PEACE. Amen.