We talked about worry and anxiety and how Jesus simply said not to do it. At the same time we were honest in dealing with the fact that worry and anxiety attack us all, and sometimes the attack can be overwhelming. “Shrug it off” is not always possible to pull off… sometimes the situation seems so hopeless we can’t see a way out.
But there is most definitely a way out.
Jesus is the simple, easy answer. Many people would even get mad at me for saying, “Jesus is ALWAYS the answer”, but the truth is… I believe HE is THE answer.
Do you trust Jesus for your salvation? Do you trust that Jesus died on a cross for your sins and rose again 3 days later and will be there to welcome you into eternity whenever “your time” comes? If so, why is THAT not an “easy” answer? Seems “Jesus is the answer” is good enough for your eternal well being, but not for your stress?
Now if you come to the end of that statement and say, “yes, that’s how it seems. I trust Jesus died for me and eternity is settled, but it’s hard for me to give the same easy answer to my stress” I have good news for you… You are not alone!
One of the things I failed at this Sunday was to spend adequate time on what we do when we are stressed out. What we do when anxiety is turning into depression, and that depression is killing you.
If your stressed, worried, anxious, depressed… the chances are you are way too focused on the wrong things.
Shift your focus!
We read in Luke 12 how Jesus said not to worry and to put our attention on “The Kingdom of God and His righteousness” and all the things we are worrying about will be added to us… essentially Jesus said they will be taken care of eventually. So how do you shift our focus in times of stress and anxiety.
Some people choose to cover it up, ignore it away, drink it away, drug it away, etc. My question, if that is you… how is that going for you?
I spent my time years ago trying to drink away my problems, ignoring that my life was falling apart in every direction. I even ran to Alabama to get a “fresh start” and found that all of my problems and worries followed me there. It wasn’t until Jesus came into my life, showed me a better way, and helped me focus on things worth my attention that I began to see a difference in my life as it related to worry and anxiety.
Read Phil 4:6-9
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 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. 9 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.
Essentially some people will tell you to pray about everything and that will make it better. While this is full of truth and I believe prayer is one of the best ways to shift your focus and think on the right things as this verse says, I believe verse 9 is the key for long-term relief from stress and anxiety… we must PUT INTO PRACTICE what we are learning from our time in prayer and with Jesus to realize the God of peace is walking with us even in the middle of stressful situations.
See, we can pray about the things that have us worried, but all to often those things don’t go away. They might get better, stop getting worse, etc… but the entire situation is not likely to turn around in a 180 the second you pray. It could… but if it doesn’t then you and I have to find ways to be at peace in the midst of the storm. When all is not right with the world, can we stand strong even though stress and worry are calling our name?
So we pray about everything, practice what we know to be true, and shift our perspective!
Change your perspective. Change your focus. We all have things to stress about, and we all have things to rejoice about. Which will you focus on? That my friends is up to you and me! Do we focus on what crushes us, or will we focus on the things that lift us up? Focus on all thats wrong with today, or find the things that are right with today and feed that thought to our souls?
What do you read? What are you listening to? What are you watching? Philippians 4 is asking us what are we thinking of?
What has earned the right to rent space in your head? If it’s not something you want there… its time to send and eviction notice and kick that punk out of your head! You get to decide what lives and dies in your head! So what’s it going to be?
It’s your move!
Make it count!
Every communicator has things they wanted to say and didn’t or things they only touched on but should have spent more time clearly stating their point. Sometimes they forget, they run out of time, they go off on rabbit trails (as if that ever happens to me!), etc. Phone conversations end and you think… dang it I didn’t even say what I called to tell them! E-mails and text messages can go 3 or 4 threads deep because you remember later that you forgot to say something you planned on saying all along. Well, sermons are no different. Most weeks I walk away thinking of all the things I didn’t say, which forces me to the posture of trusting God is sufficient to work with the limited material He was given : )
This is my attempt to pick up some of the pieces from Sunday’s and possibly continue the conversation about what was communicated.
I’m not sure if this is what other pastors and communicators feel, but often what I think is going to be the most important part of the talk becomes ONE of the important things in the talk. This week we talked about how Jesus told us all Not to Worry (Luke 12). Worry is something that we all struggle with. 2000 years ago the worries may have been different to a certain degree, but clearly worry was on the face of many Jesus encountered. I thought the main focus of the talk was going to be that worry keeps our focus off of what Jesus intends. He says to those of us who worry in Luke 12 verse 31, “But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” He tells them to shift their focus off of their worry which only leads to anxiety and depression to the greater things of the Kingdom of God. Shifting our focus was going to be my main point throughout the talk, but then as I talked I realized that shifting our focus is good, but hating the worry, anxiety, and depression was more important and possibly first and foremost in the hierarchy of how to deal with worry.
So, I asked how we should see worry, and I pointed out that Jesus sees worry as our enemy. In just about every case where he deals with worry and anxiety he follows up with something about the enemy, the one you might call, Satan. As far as Jesus was concerned worry and anxiety are enemies to our souls. We see in the parable of the sower Jesus said that worry and the enemy steal the first three seeds that do not produce a harvest (Matthew 13:18-23)
This is where I should have camped out longer in the talk. If you and I are going to be faithful followers of Jesus who produce fruit, we can’t entertain worry, stress, and anxiety.
They are enemies to your soul!
1 Peter 5:6-8 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” You may have heard that you are to cast your cares onto Jesus, but Peter understood that anxiety and worry must be cast onto Jesus BECAUSE the enemy is prowling around like a roaring lion seeking whom is holding onto those seeds or worry and anxiety… Seems to me Peter is saying you are pray for the enemy when you let seeds of worry and anxiety live in your heart and mind. It’s like going camping, pitching your tent next to the warning sign about bears, and then cooking a good steak in the tent…
As I said yesterday, this is not to say that people don’t have real things to worry about, real things to be anxious over, real things that have happened to them causing them to have trouble in casting their cares on Jesus. But, if we see worry and anxiety as our enemy trying to break into our house and devour us… maybe just maybe it’s possible to slay this enemy once and for all! I know if my enemy wanted to come into my house and steal, kill, and destroy me and my family I’m going down in a blaze of glory! It’s either me or him, one of us will not make it out of that fight alive. The beauty of this metaphor is that we are not fighting alone. Jesus is with us. Jesus is willing to fight with us and for us! In John 16:33 Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Jesus doesn’t shy away from the fact that trouble and sorrow will find us, but He reminds us that He has overcome all of it for us, and if we walk with Him through it, we are over-comers! I’m living proof that you can walk through some of the most difficult territory and come out on the other side when Jesus is walking with you.
If you struggle with worry and anxiety, see to it that you call it what it is… it’s your enemy! It seeks to harm you and if something or someone seeks to harm you maybe it’s time to kick it out of your house!
This morning I have been pondering the 2015 Lenten season being over and that today is Good Friday. I can’t lie, I’m pretty happy Lent is over, I passed on coffee for more than 40 days this Lent, with hopes that it would draw me close to the ONE who gave it all for me. My friend Dustin told me Jesus would not be pleased with my choice of giving up God’s perfect bean… at least it’s Easter and I have something to repent of : )
Then I had this other thought… we know today to be “Good Friday” now, but nobody could envision good coming out of the senseless death of Jesus on that faithful Friday some 2000 years ago. A righteous man murdered simply because he challenged the way religious people lived their lives before God and others. They didn’t like His way of love, so they chose their own way. One of intolerance and violence in the name of “god”. We can all judge the people responsible for the killing of Jesus and think to ourselves, “how could they” especially as we see 2000 years removed the senseless murder for what it was.
However, I choose my own way everyday… I chose my own religious path instead of the one Jesus revealed as loving and truthful far too often and choosing my own way tends to leave a path of destruction behind me. People close to me get hurt, I claim superiority over people I have never met… but mostly I hurt myself. When I judge others, I become more intolerant. When I hold myself up as the model of perfection, the view I have of myself gets more and more distorted… and the truth of my imperfection that I need to confront gets lost in the fantasy of how I see myself.
Good friday is about a death that ends all death… because of the sacrifice of Jesus, death does not have the final say. If we trust Jesus… eternal life as God intended it to be is ours. But Good Friday goes beyond that. It points to a God who loves you and I in-spite of our imperfections, and allows His truth to illuminate our need for not only saving, but transformation into the people God wants us to be.
May your Friday be full of the awareness that Jesus died for you, and a desire to see yourself In The Truth and begin to be transformed into the man or woman Jesus desires you to be.
10 More days… thats how long this Lenten season has left. They say it only takes 21 days to develop a habit… good or bad. We are well past 21 days into Lent! If you are participating in Lent this year, you have likely beaten the majority of the temptations by now. You no longer dream of the succulent tastes and warm smells of whatever you choose to give up. Your free time is no longer ruined by your repeated desires for more of that thing you decided to trash for 40 days… it’s getting pretty easy to have less of that thing, if not ZERO of the thing you chose to give up for Lent.
I had this thought yesterday, it’s getting easier and easier to deny myself of this luxury and I could realistic see my life without it. It’s not a vice for me so I don’t think I need to drop it out of my life, but certainly denying myself the pleasure is much simpler now that 30 days ago when this journey started. But then it occurred to me… I’m supposed to be seeking God and praying every time I’m fasting, and I’m supposed to be relying on Jesus when I’m tempted and/or denying myself for Lent…
Truth is… I haven’t needed God’s help much in the last week or so and therefore I haven’t even asked!!!
Weather the temptations or desires are present, use the next 10 days to get close to the ONE who came close to give His life for yours. Press in to God in the coming 10 days and see what happens, you have nothing to lose : )
Have you ever prepared for something for so long that you didn’t think you could take the waiting? Sometimes the worst part of preparing for something special is the waiting…
I hate to wait!
Lent is a season of preparing your heart… preparing your heart and mind for Easter and all that Easter implies. Life, Death, Resurrection, Sacrifice, Love, Compassion, Forgiveness. (I could go on and on)
We are just a little more than a week into Lent, and no matter what you have chosen to sacrifice to enable the preparing of your heart and mind the next week or so is likely going to be the most difficult part of lent.
This is about the time you keep asking yourself if it’s worth it. And it seems like everywhere you look people are offering you the exact same thing you have chosen to give up… Everyone, everywhere seems to know you don’t want to be tempted with said item and they just seem to tempt you with it because they can.
I want to encourage you to keep doing the good God has called you to. Persevere when others are giving up and giving in. Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
Don’t give up!
I can’t make any promises, but I can tell you this… if you chose to fast for the purpose of preparing your hearts and minds for the celebration of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus AND you spend that time fasting seeking the heart of God there is reaping to be had. He is faithful to show up and He is faithful to meet you where you are.
So keep up the good fight!
May you endure through the cravings and the pull to abandon your quest for freedom. When you do, freedom will be yours and you will be able to look back on this journey and see that Jesus sustained and strengthened you.
My final hope for you is that you not only succeed in crushing the cravings, but you succeed in finding Jesus in your everyday life.