'Life As God Intends For His People' - we've covered quite a bit of ground, I'm sure you'll agree. We looked on Sunday evening at 'Life Eternal', this life of God that has been deposited into our souls. We looked on Monday night at 'Life Empowered By The Spirit', and how we need to be endued with power from on high, that there is that experience taught within the word of God - and we each need our personal Pentecost; and the fullness of the Spirit, as that is maintained, and the fruit of the Spirit manifest in our lives. Then Tuesday night we looked at how our life is to be a 'Life Of Grace Not Law', we are to live a life of faith through the grace of God, not particularly any code or old covenant, but the Holy Spirit's power in our lives through the grace of God. Then Wednesday night we looked at how this life as God intends is to be a 'Life Of Hearing God', hearing from God, and mainly through the scriptures, but not only through the scriptures. We looked at that little verse in John 10: 'My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me' - what it is to hear, internally, the voice of God, as His Spirit witnesses with our spirit that we are children of God.
Then last night we began two parts of 'Life Free From The Enemy'. We looked last night - and some lives were truly touched last evening - as we looked at freedom from the oppression of the devil, demonic oppression, and unforgiveness. That was a huge area, but tonight's is equally as large, because tonight we're again looking at 'Life Free From The Enemy', but regarding fear and anxiety - it's a massive one, and we're going to take the time tonight to deal with it. I'm sure it affects many of you gathered here this evening.
So we're turning our Bibles to Philippians, Paul's Epistle to the Philippians, chapter 4. If you have a copy of the word of God, do open it there, and also I would encourage you, please, to take notes if you can. Of course these meetings are recorded, so if you haven't got pen and paper you could get the recording and go over it in detail - but while you're here, and while the Holy Spirit is moving in our midst, it would be good for you to jot down some of these things, particularly some of the things that speak to you personally. Now I'm in a bit of a panic today - I'm going to talk about fear and worry, but I just wanted to know: is this Ballymoney water I'm drinking? Because if there's any ill effects, you'll be getting a solicitor's letter! I hope this is boiled, is it? Holy water!? Well, I'm going to trust the Lord that it is holy water!
Verse 6 please: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy; meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you".
Now I've invited you each night to pray with me, and pray for yourself. God has been moving this week, and we give Him all the praise and all the glory. He's a God of Grace, and without Him we can do nothing - but He has been pleased to visit us this week, I believe, and touch people's hearts and speak to us. He has been really speaking to me through the ministry, and let's make tonight no exception. This is a problem, I know, with many: fear and anxiety. Let's come and open our hearts and say: 'Lord, speak to me, and minister to me in this area'.
Father, we thank You for Your holy word. We thank You that it is the power of God, we thank You, Lord, that it is as a two-edged sword, dividing the very bone and marrow, soul and spirit. It is the discerner of men's hearts, and the intents of their heart. So, Lord, we come tonight again and, as we prayed last evening, we ask: search me, O God, and know my heart, and see if there be any anxious way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Lord, this is a vast problem, and it's certainly a problem that has been devastating in my life - but I thank You for deliverance through the blood of Jesus. I thank You for the victory that we have through the Lord Jesus, that we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us, died for us, was buried and rose again, and who is with us as our Great High Priest by the power of the Holy Spirit. Lord, we pray tonight that the victory of Jesus and the power of the blood and the Emancipator will be here tonight to deliver. Lord, we quoted it to You last night, where the Lord Jesus opened the book in the synagogue at the prophet Isaiah, He opened the scroll, and He read: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, for He has anointed Me to preach glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to set at liberty the captives, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord'. He sat down, closed the book, and sat down and said: 'Today is this Scripture fulfilled in your hearing'. Lord, we believe the Lord Jesus Christ is the glorious Emancipator, and we pray that tonight He would come and set people free for His glory alone - as we ask now for the help of the Holy Spirit, in His all-victorious name we pray, Amen.
'Life As God Intends For His People' is a life free from fear and anxiety. These are two of the greatest problems in believer's lives today. In fact, fear and anxiety, I would say, are at epidemic proportions in our society. Now you only have to look at the headlines, particularly - I need to be careful, I'll be getting sued if I don't watch - but there are certain red-top papers, and they use sensational headlines on a daily basis. One in particular, and if you tell me what the headline is, I deliberately will not believe it! That's true - because it's scaremongering. Wherever we look, even watching the news at times can get you all nervous with the scares, the health scares, terror scares, and economic scares, and so on and so forth.
Fear and anxiety is a major cause of mental and physical ill-health. A wife once rung the doctor one morning, and said: 'Doctor, come quick, it's my husband!'. He says: 'What's wrong?'. 'Well, he got up this morning, he took his vitamin pill, then he took his appetite suppressant, his antidepressant, his tranquilliser. He took his antihistamine, and then some Valium'. He says: 'Well, what's wrong?'. 'Well, he lit up a cigarette, and there was an explosion!'. Now we know that smoking kills, don't we? But how often do you hear people say: 'Anxiety kills'? It does. It's a well-established fact that stress contributes to people becoming physically ill. Mental, emotional and spiritual problems are often at the root of illness. In fact, there is a minimum estimate that 50% of illness is psychosomatic. Now that does not mean it's all in your head, but it means it can be derived from mental and emotional problems. You will even hear statistics as high as 75% of illnesses being derived from problems in the mind and in the heart.
But if fear and anxiety are physically and mentally devastating, how much more spiritually devastating are these problems? Because fear and anxiety robs the believer of many of the benefits of the blessings of the Gospel of Christ that He has given us in His grace. Not only does it rob us of our blessing, but it paralyses us for service. We find that our usefulness is diminished because we are in the grip of fear and worry.
Now I hope you dear folk know, and we touched on this on Sunday night - we looked at John 10, didn't we? Jesus said: 'I give unto My sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish'. The devil cannot take away your salvation, thank the Lord for that! But what he can do, what he knows he can do, and what he seeks to do is: rob you of the benefits, here and now, of your walk with God. Two of the greatest ways he does this, and two of his most successful weapons in his arsenal, are fear and anxiety. One of the reasons why they are so powerful is that we readily cooperate with him. Some of you here, even tonight, this could describe you: you have a love-hate relationship with fear and anxiety. You can live with it, but you can't live without it - isn't that true? It becomes like a sort of security blanket, where you would almost feel that you were irresponsible about your life if you weren't concerned about something.
I used to be like that. If I hadn't something to worry about, I got worried why I hadn't something to worry about. Is that you? I would go as far as to say that many people, including many believers, have a love affair with fear and anxiety. It is a common pet sin for Christians. I think that's probably for two reasons. First of all: it seems a less immoral sin than many others. In our contrived list of more serious sins - which doesn't exist, by the way - we maybe have murder at the top, or something like that, or rape, child abuse; the top ten list of most heinous sins. Well, I would almost guarantee you that you wouldn't have worry up there with any of them - yet the fact of the matter is, the Bible is very clear that it is serious to be fearful and anxious, for it is essentially unbelief. The book of Romans teaches us that whatever is not from faith is sin, and so worry is sin. But we tend to think that because it's not a 'dirty sin', and it's a bit of a secret sin - nobody else need know about it, it can be going on in our heads and our hearts - we don't think it is so serious.
The second reason why this is probably the Christian's pet sin is: it's often attributed to a person's personality, or even their family trait. You know, you say: 'Well, I'm just in the melancholic category, it's just the way I am. I've always been like this, my mother was like it before me, and my granny before her - it has just been a family trait. It's the way I am, and I'm hardly going to change. It has been like that through the generations'. Now, I have no doubt in my mind that there often is a generational aspect to this sin. Sometimes we are taught to fear by our parents. I remember hearing of a young girl who grew up to be a woman terrified of spiders, and any time she saw a spider she would jump onto a chair. She received some counselling for this, and was asked where this fear of spiders began, and she said: 'Well, it began one day when my mother opened the oven to put in some baking, and this big spider crawled out'. The counsellor said: 'Well, were you afraid?'. She said: 'No'. She said: 'What happened?'. She said: 'Well, I looked at my mother, and she jumped on the chair and screamed, so then that's what I did' - and ever since that she had a fear of spiders. Now we can laugh at that, but we have to realise that you can be taught as a child to fear and to worry by your parents, or your grandparents, or another guardian - and that has to be broken.
There can even be a spirit of fear, and I believe in a literal demonic spirit of fear. There is a human spirit of fretfulness that the Bible talks about, but I do believe that we can give way in our lives to demonic spirits of fear that can get a hold on us through various means. All of these need to be broken, but I have to tell you: to plead to your personality, or family history, as a reason why you are a worrier is really a copout. It breeds resignation. It makes you say: 'Well, hands up, I can't do anything, and I'm just going to be like this till the day I die' - when it is sin and, more importantly: life as God intends for you is a life free from the domination of fear and anxiety.
So let's deal first of all with fear. Now it's difficult for us not to be fearful, and the simple reason is: fear is a natural part of life. You may not realise this, but fear is actually a gift from God. Instinctively we fear getting hit by a car crossing the road, that's why we look right and we look left. We fear when we're putting a block on the stove, lest we get our fingers burnt. It's a gift from God, but the problem comes whenever our fears get out of proportion - and that's often what we mean when we talk about fear. So it's good to be a little bit afraid of getting hit by a car crossing the road, but whenever the fear of getting hit by a bus stops you going out your front door - that's when the fear has grown out of proportion. This is an interesting thought, because it could be broadened out and applied in various ways, how Satan uses some very powerful gifts that God has given us for our detriment and for sin. I'm not going to go into this tonight, but one of the greatest blessings that God has given humanity is the gift of sexual intimacy. Like fear, it is very powerful, and Satan knows both the power of fear and the power of sex; and he capitalises on them, gifts from God that are pure, but that he uses to our detriment and to his exaltation.
So really - maybe I'm confusing you - but it's important to understand that not all fear is wrong, it's when fear gets out of proportion. Here's something for you to remember as a principle: fear is meant to be your servant, not your master. Turn with me to 2 Timothy, please, chapter 1 verse 7. Now Paul is talking here about fear out of proportion: 'For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind'. So let me ask you a question: if the word of God says that God has not given us a spirit of fear, who has given us a spirit of fear? The devil, or demons, or this world system - but ultimately it is not of God. Now I have to tell you that one of the keys of overcoming fear and anxiety is knowing its source, knowing where it is coming from, knowing your enemy, knowing that it is a fiery dart that he is using to set your soul ablaze. Satan's arrow of fear comes in many forms. Some people have a fear of the devil to such an extent that they have magnified the devil's power over God's. It was Corrie Ten Boom who said: 'The fear of demons comes from demons' - that's right! As we have quoted on previous nights: Jesus is stronger than Satan, and Satan to Jesus must bow.
We are on the winning side. He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world, and yet we can be terrified! Maybe you were terrified last night when I talked about demonic oppression, but we ought not to be terrified. Some people have a paralysing fear of death, even some Christians - they ought not, but let's be honest, some of them do. Some people have a fear of never being loved, or being left on the shelf. Some people end up applying that to the Divine, and they think that they are not accepted by God because they don't measure up, or because of something in their past, or they feel that they have to achieve in order for God to smile upon them. They're afraid that God is angry with them. Some people have a fear of being childless, a fear of other people's disapproval, trying to live up to the expectations of another. Some have fear of failure, some of our dear young people are struggling with fear over their sexuality in a generation that's told it's acceptable to be homosexual, bisexual, transsexual - you name it. They're confused, as they're growing up, going through puberty, all sorts of hormones rushing and raging, and temptations before them in a society that tells them: 'Just go and do whatever you feel like!'. They have a great fear. How could you not have a fear of financial insecurity in this present credit crisis? People have a general fear of the future, what it holds - or maybe your fear tonight is a fear of a specific person, or an object.
Well, listen, whatever your fear is this evening, the root of any unreasonable fear is a belief that is not based on truth. Let me repeat that: the root of any unreasonable fear is a belief that is not based on truth. In other words, it's based on a lie - that's how you know the source, because Jesus called Satan 'the father of lies'. He has told you a lie, and you have believed that lie. Let's take the example of the person who has a natural fear of getting hit by a bus, but it doesn't make them cautious crossing the road, it prevents them going out their door. Now they have believed a lie from the devil, the lie is that they are safer inside than they are outside - that's one lie, but sure something could happen to them inside. Another lie is that people are getting hit by buses all the time. People are very rarely getting hit by buses - and yet they have believed this lie, and this fear has grown out of all proportion and paralysed them. But what I want you understand tonight is: when you believe a lie, you enter into an agreement with Satan - this is very important - which is essentially like signing a contract, just like Adam and Eve did in the Garden. They believed the lie of the devil that God had not said they would surely die if they ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and they believed a further life from the devil that they would be like God if they ate it. By obeying through their will on the basis of the lie of the devil, they signed a contract with Satan - and we saw it last night - they effectively relinquished their authority over creation and gave it to the devil, and that's why he is now the god of this world.
Now I want to say to you that if you believe a lie of the devil in your life regarding fear and anxiety, you are, as it were, entering into an agreement with the devil. You're signing a contract so that he will have power over you to intimidate you and terrorise you in that particular area. Are you with me? At the root of every controlling fear is a lie. Now if you have a problem with fear and anxiety tonight, I want you to do something just now. I want you to pray to God from your spirit, and ask God to reveal to you, by the Holy Spirit, the lie that you have believed, and the corresponding truth of the word of God that will counteract that lie. Would you do that just now? Just from your heart say: 'Lord, what is the lie whereby I have entered into an agreement with Satan over an untruth that is terrorising me and destroying me? I want You to show me the corresponding truth from Your word to counteract that lie'.
Now, we haven't got time to look at Ephesians chapter 6, we touched on it last evening: the armour of God. There's the helmet of salvation for your mind, your head; the breastplate of righteousness for your emotions; the girdle of truth that holds all the other pieces of the armour up, we are founded on the truth; feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace - wherever we go we should know the peace of God; but we should stand firm in the victory of Christ Jesus, and we should be ready to give an answer to any man who asks us a question - the shield of faith to quench the fiery darts of the evil one. But the only offensive, attacking weapon we have is the word of God, the sword of the Spirit. The word that is used in Ephesians 6 for 'sword' is not a big broadsword like you would see some of the warriors using in a movie, but they are small type daggers. There would have been an array of them in a soldier's armoury - in other words, he would have chosen which particular dagger to use on an occasion. The word for 'word of God' in Ephesians 6 is the word 'rema', not the word 'logos'. 'Logos' is used in John chapter 1, 'The Word was with God, and was God'. In Ephesians 6 the word is 'rema', which means 'the spoken word of God'. So put all that together: a specific truth from the Scriptures, not just the whole Bible, but a specific truth to counteract the lies of the devil - and sometimes, and more often than not, I would encourage you to speak it verbally to the devil, because he cannot read your mind, you need to speak it.
The lie isn't always obvious, it can even be subconscious. It can be a belief that you've learned from childhood, it can even be a fear that entered you through a tragic experience. Often it can happen through accidents - but a common denominator is often this: this fear entered you at a time where you felt vulnerable. Are you with me? You felt unprotected, and because of the vulnerability and the lack of protection - maybe a guardian let you down, father or mother, or grandparent, or somebody else that was meant to be looking after you, maybe it was a husband or wife - because they let you down, you felt exposed, and then the fear entered at that moment because you felt you weren't covered. The fear came in at that moment, and it has grabbed you and gripped you and controlled you from then on.
You see, the subtle lie that we believe on such occasions is: God is not in control. Even as believers, because something bad happens, or an accident, or some kind of tragedy, we conclude: 'I am not protected. No matter what I sing, no matter what I've talked about, and prayed, and hear from the pulpit, obviously God is not in control here. God is not protecting me, I'm exposed! I'm vulnerable!'. All of a sudden, when we think like that, there's a fiery dart of the evil one comes in: fear. You see that arrow? It's very hard to get out, because it's as if we've signed a contract with the evil one for it to be there. Now listen, the answer for this problem is the same for any of these types of fear, and it's simply this: you've got to confess it to God. Now, do you know what 'confession' actually means? We use a lot of theological and evangelical terms, and we don't explain them. Do you know what 'confession' means? It means 'agreement'. Confession in a court of law is when the accused put his hands up and says: 'Guilty as charged', and he agrees with the judge. When you confess to God, you are - this is very powerful, the power of confession - you are agreeing with God instead of agreeing with the lies of the devil. Are you following me now? The power of agreement in the spiritual realm is phenomenal! For the power that will control your life is the power that you agree with! So confession is agreeing with God, His truth, what He says - not what the devil says, not what the world says, not what your mind will tell you.
You confess, and then you repent - yes, you repent of fear. You confess it as sin, and you repent, you change your mind about it and you renounce the lies of the devil. Renunciation is very important if you have believed a lie. If a fear has come in like a fiery dart because of some tragic experience when you were not covered, and you felt vulnerable, and you felt God was not in control, you must confess that. You must also rebuke, if there is a spirit of fear that is doing this to you, if there is a demonic source - but ultimately here is the answer to fear and anxiety: you must believe God! You must take God's protection by faith.
Am I speaking to someone here, and you have been very vulnerable in the past? You've maybe gone through some of these experiences that I have talked about, maybe even abuse. You've lived your whole life trying to protect yourself, because you've got to look out for yourself - nobody else is going to do it, everybody else has let you down that you've ever put your trust in. But that has brought you to the place where you're like the hedgehog, and you curl up and all the prickles go out, and God can't even get in to you now. You haven't got the peace of God because you're looking after yourself, because you're afraid, you don't think there is any protection for you. Listen, my friend: you need to stop listening to the lies of the devil! He wants to rob you of the joy, and the peace, and the love of God that God has for you, that has been bought for you through the blood of Jesus. You've got to, tonight, once and for all, confess your sin, repent of it, renounce fear, renounce however it got into your life, renounce the spirit of fear that might be upon you, and believe God and take His protection over you, and enter into contract with Him!
Practically, to do that, you need a plan of action. It's alright doing it on a night like tonight, but you need a plan of action: what are you going to do the next time this fear comes at you, this flying arrow? Well, I often describe it to people like this: it's as if, when you get up in the morning, there are two postmen come to your door, and each of them has a parcel. One postman is from the devil, and he's got a parcel from the accuser. The other postman is from the Lord, and he's got a parcel from the word of God. It's all down to which parcel you receive, which parcel you open, which parcel you untie and imbibe, and believe and accept!
This might sound elementary stuff, but you know: I never cease to be amazed - and I, myself, have been very guilty of this in the past - it's astounding how God's people will believe anybody but God, isn't it? We certainly believe the devil a lot when he tells you: 'You're no good! You're useless! You're damaged goods! You've burned your bridges! You don't measure up! God is not pleased with you! You're a rubbish mother, a rubbish father!'. He reminds you of the sins you've done in the past, and tells you that you are no good as a Christian because of them - and we believe him, don't we? Sure we believe anybody - I mentioned the papers today - we believe the papers, and we should know better, shouldn't we? We believe the BBC News like gospel truth. I have to be careful of the company here tonight, but we believe politicians as well! Now some of them are to be believed, but you know what I'm trying to say, don't you? We find it very hard believing God, don't we? Just accepting what God says as truth and building our life upon it - but didn't Jesus say that 'It's when the storm comes, raging, that the one who has built their life on My sayings, their house will stand'? But we struggle with this, that's why Jesus, He called it 'childlike faith' because the child, if you tell a child anything they will believe you. Now we're not talking about gullible belief, but there is an illustration there of how simply a child will accept what is being said, and we as children of God are meant to be the same regarding our Heavenly Father. We are meant to just accept Him, agree with God. Listen: fear of God abolishes all other fears.
You remember the cowboy films, and you know the two boys square up to one another in the middle of the street and everybody disappears. They're walking up to one another, and one says: 'This town ain't big enough for the both of us!' - you know that talk. Well, that's the way fear and faith are in the heart. The heart is not big enough for the both of them. Fear will extinguish faith - but, praise God, faith will extinguish fear; but you cannot have both. If you give in at all to fear, it will overcome your heart, and it will push faith completely out. They are mutually exclusive, that's why you must venture your all on the promises of and the word of God. You must enter into complete agreement with the Lord.
That's fear, let's look at anxiety for a moment. Anxiety is slightly different than fear at times, because anxiety often lacks an adequate cause. Fear can be a genuine fear blown out of all proportion, but anxiety generally can happen for no reason whatsoever. We imagine it. Do you know what I mean? It's like the woman who worried for 50 years that she was going to die of cancer, and at 70 she died of pneumonia - and she wasted 50 years worrying about the wrong thing. It's true, isn't it? The things we worry about, and are careful and anxious about, are things that almost never happen.
Now, again, concern is a good thing, isn't it? We are concerned about things that we value, and so it motivates us to look after them - whether it's our children, or possessions, or whatever. It's natural, whenever you're going into an exam, to be nervous - isn't it? When you're going to the doctor's surgery to get your blood pressure done, it's natural that it's a bit because you're going to the doctor's. But the problem comes when, because of overt concern about the future, we lose out on the present, that it prevents us functioning today. Often the things we worry about, we don't even know what the outcome is going to be. You see, worry robs us of today by stressing out about tomorrow. That's why Jesus said three times, in fact, I say 'He said', He commanded us three times in Matthew chapter 6: 'Do not worry', 'Do not worry', and in fact the third time He said, 'Do not worry about tomorrow, sufficient for the day is its own trouble'.
Corrie Ten Boom was in a concentration camp imprisoned by the Germans, and of course her sister Betsy was killed and all of her family. In the last few years of her life, this is something she said: 'Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrows, it empties today of strength'. Jesus said: 'Here's why you shouldn't worry - apart from the fact that it's unbelief - it doesn't work!'. Isn't that what He said? You can't add one cubit to your stature, or one day to your longevity, by worrying! It doesn't do anything except destroy you from the inside out!
Worry is first of all based on assumptions, rather than facts. You assume something is going to happen. What's the thing you're worrying about tonight? Is it a fact? I guarantee it's not, it's an assumption, it's what you think might happen - but it's not a fact. If it's not a fact, it's not worth concerning yourself over. But another thing which worry is motivated from is: you have this assertion that things are somehow under your control. Now I know, deep down you know they're not - but if you would only accept that they are not in your control, you wouldn't worry about them, because you know that you have no power over those things, the outcome of which has not been determined yet. Do you understand? You must face this twofold. One: don't concern yourself about assumptions, only be concerned about facts. Two: things that are out of your jurisdiction - and I say this very politely to you - are none of your business!
Have you got a problem tonight with anxiety? Well, the answer is the same as the answer for fear: it's faith in God and the promises of His word. Now, in these moments that remain I want you to go to Philippians chapter 4, because there we have a medicine bottle with directions for fear and anxiety written on it. There are fivefold instructions here how to overcome fear and anxiety. Here's the first in verse 6: worry about nothing. 'Be anxious for nothing' - be anxious for nothing! We are to worry about nothing, here's the reason, let me reiterate it: worry is sin. Do you know what John Wesley said: 'I would no more worry than I would curse or swear'. That's not the way we think of it, is it? Just like any other sin, it robs us of the peace of God. F.B. Meyer, the Bible scholar, said that the English word 'anxiety' comes from the root of the word 'anger'. It actually refers to the physical act of choking! That's exactly what worry does to us, and fear, it chokes the life out of us! It takes the joy away! Do you know that feeling? I knew it for years, and I would still know it if I let my guard down today away from the promises of God: you feel like you're wrung, like a wet rag, inside. Your insides are taught and tied and uptight - that's what worry does, anxiousness.
In fact, the Lord Jesus taught in the parable of the sower and the seeds, and the different soils - you remember that one in Matthew chapter 13 - that anxiety prevents the word of God taking root in our lives because, and here's what He said: 'The care of this world chokes the word, and it becomes unfruitful' - there it is! It chokes out your vitality, that's what the devil wants to do! He wants to rob you of your joy, your peace, and love in Christ so that you will not enter into the blessings and you will be useless for the kingdom of God. You see this expression in verse 6, 'Be anxious for nothing', be careful for nothing - it's the same expression that the Lord uses in Matthew 6 when He says: 'Take no thought', it's the exact same expression. 'Take no thought what you shall eat, what you shall drink, what you shall put on - don't worry about it'. Someone translated it like this: 'Do not, under any circumstances, worry about anything' - there's a command of the Lord Jesus. How do you fare on that one? Do not, under any circumstances, worry about anything.
It's a command that is unconditional, there's no loophole or caveat. It's unlimited: worry about nothing. Now listen carefully to what I'm going to say: I believe that you need to have satisfied insatiability in the Christian life. In other words, you should always be following hard after God, and you should be satisfied in Jesus - but you should be always going on and wanting more. But there's a lot of people, and they're robbed of what they have already, because they're fretting that much that they're not spiritual enough. Do you know what I'm talking about? This applies to worrying about your spirituality, it does. I'm not saying don't take heed to yourself, you know that that's not what I'm saying - but what I am saying is: you're not permitted to worry about your spiritual life, you're not permitted to worry about your friends and your relatives. You're to pray for them, you're to agonise over them, you're to wrestle with the burden of them before God in prayer - but you're not to worry about your answers to prayer either, because worry is not trust, it's the opposite. Even over the highest and holiest things, you're not permitted to worry!
Maybe there's someone here tonight, and God is robbing you of your peace because you're worried about unsaved loved ones, or you're worried about a prodigal son or a wayward daughter. Well, it's right for you to be concerned, but not to the extent that it robs you of your peace, for that's the devil's work. Scripture consistently forbids it: worry about nothing. Now, that is a command, so that means you have to engage with your will. You've to decide to worry about nothing. Will you do that tonight? Because we needn't go any further into the four other instructions on the medicine bottle if you're not going to do the first, to decide and determine to worry about nothing.
Here's the second instruction: pray about everything. 'Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God'. Now, when I said to you that you have to engage your will and decide not to worry, I know some of you are sitting there saying: 'Well, that's easier said than done! I mean, do you just switch a button and that's it, you stop?'. You're right, you can't just zap those fears and anxieties to disappear - but here's the spiritual mechanism whereby you do this: you 'Don't worry' by turning your cares into prayers, and turning them over to God, that's how you 'Don't worry' and decide not to worry; by deciding to bring your burdens, and take them to the Lord, and leave them there, and tell the Lord about them. Pray about everything - is that what you do? I know what naturally I often do whenever there's a crises entered my life, or something is going on, or I have a problem - one of the instincts I have is to lift the phone and ring somebody who I respect, or who I know I'll get good advice from, or who'll tell me what I want to hear. But you know what I'm trying to say: sometimes the last person that we go to is God.
Let me ask you tonight: the thing that you're fretting about as you sit in the seat in this meeting, have you gone to God about it? Have you really gone to God about it? We're to pray about everything! You might say: 'But does He not know already? I mean, Jesus even said in the Sermon on the Mount, 'Your Heavenly Father knows the things that you have need before you ask Him''. Of course He knows, He knows everything - but what you're missing is: praying about everything is an act of faith on your part. It's communicating to God that, 'I am giving it over to You' - He doesn't need to know! Sometimes you'd think, with the prayers you hear in the prayer meeting, that God didn't know about what was going on in the world, wouldn't you? He knows everything, but He wants us to relinquish the burden over to Him. We do that through prayer, and what a gift it is. It's an act of faith. The Psalmist said in Psalm 55:22: 'Cast your burden on the LORD, and He will sustain you; He shall not suffer the righteous to be moved'. Do you know what that means? Throw your burden on the Lord - throw your burden! Cast it away onto the Lord! Lay it on the Lord! It has the sense: 'Roll it over on to Him'.
A New Testament equivalent of that verse in the Psalms is 1 Peter 5:7: 'Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you'. J.B. Phillips translated it like this: 'You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon Him, for you are His personal concern'. You are His care! Is that what you do? Or do you carry it on your own back? I can see it's on some of your backs here tonight. Worry about nothing, pray about everything, cast it over onto Him - do you understand what this means? A wife said to a husband: 'Why can't you sleep?'. He said: 'Oh dear, I owe Sam next door £1000, and he wants me to pay it back to him tomorrow and I haven't got the money. I just don't have the money', and he rung his hands, and the sweat was on his brow, and his knees were knocking. The wife jumped out of bed, and she opened the bedroom window, and she stuck her head out and shouted: 'Sam! Sam!' - and Sam got up all groggy, and he mumbled, 'What is it?'. She says: 'You know that thousand pounds my husband owes you? He doesn't have it!', and she shut the window. She says: 'Now you go to sleep, and let him worry about it!'. That's what we're meant to do with God - seriously: cast your care upon Him, for His care is you.
There was a man and he was terribly troubled with anxiety, and everybody knew him for it. One day he was walking along the town whistling and singing, and the people looked at him and said: 'That can't be the same man!'. They stopped him and said: 'What's wrong with you, that you're not worrying?'. He said: 'Well, I'm paying a man to worry for me' - that's right! 'You're doing what?'. 'Paying a man'. 'How much are you paying him?'. '£2000 a day'. 'Where are you getting that?'. He says: 'That's not my problem!'. Friends, we're laughing at that, but there is a great truth there, isn't there? If God is in control, and God cares about you, why are you staying up all night late into the wee small hours, when He who neither slumbers nor sleeps is covering you? Now listen, we either believe it or we don't - and this is our problem: we don't! We believe it up here, but not in here.
We need to pray about everything, cast it all onto the Lord - here's the third thing: worry about nothing, pray about everything, but be thankful for anything. That's what it says here, look - this prayer is not ordinary prayer, it's praiseful prayer: 'Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God' - this is praiseful. It's like Isaiah says: 'He gives us the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness', and I have found this a great balm in my Christian life. Whenever I feel the heaviness of fear and anxiety approaching, I learn to praise God and it disappears!
You remember Daniel, he's a wonderful illustration of this, how he found peace through praise when the King announced that none of his subjects was to pray to anyone except the King. Daniel immediately went to his room, he flung the window open, and he prayed as he always had before - in Daniel 6 we read it. But look at his prayer, Daniel 6 and verse 10 we read: 'He prayed and gave thanks before his God'. This is a man who was almost certain that the action that he had begun in praying as usual was going to get him thrown into a den of lions, but he was able to pray to his God with thanksgiving. That is the reason why, listen: he could sleep with the lions, and the King was kept up all night.
Do you practice thanksgiving? Can I tell you: faith does not flourish in the atmosphere of pessimism and gloom. Now I believe in desperate praying, and I believe God, at times, only answers desperate prayer - but sometimes our desperation in prayer gives way to unbelief. It would depress you. Many a prayer meeting, I come out worse than I went in - that's the honest truth! Many a church service - do you ever feel like that? But the atmosphere of praise, it draws God, for it is filled with faith when you aspire to the characteristics of God in worship and His accomplishments. You're lifted into the heavenlies, and you realise what your God can do and who He is! You start to praise in prayer - well, what a remedy for care, fear, and anxiety that is! Someone said: 'If a life full of care is filled with prayer, and if that prayer is filled with praise, it will result in peace'.
Do you practice thankfulness and praise in singing? Even singing in private? Thankfulness is a hard thing, especially being thankful for anything - that's what he's saying here, being thankful for anything. I heard a story recently about a man who lost his wallet, a Christian, and he was able to be thankful - I don't know if he was from Ballymoney, mind you! Here's how he was thankful, he said that in four ways he was thankful, listen: 'One: he wasn't hurt' - isn't that something to be thankful for? 'Two: there wasn't much money in the wallet. Three: it had never happened before. Four: he wasn't the thief'. You see, you can do it - but we are so predisposed to negativity, aren't we, and pessimism, and unbelief? We need to practice thanksgiving.
Here's the fourth thing. Not only worry about nothing, pray about everything, be thankful for anything, but think about good things. Verse 8: 'Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy; meditate on these things'. Now in verse 6 we were told 'do not think about negative things', and now in verses 8 and 9 we're being told 'think about positive things'. The word 'think' here is the Greek word 'logizomai', which means 'dwell on'. Don't dwell on bad things, dwell on good things! Here's the reason why: there is a battle on for the mind of the believer, that is the battlefield of the enemy! He wants to conquer our thoughts, because it's our thoughts that determine our feelings, and it's our feelings that determine our actions. If he can conquer the mind-gate, he has conquered the whole man!
Do you have negative thoughts? Are you plagued with negative thoughts? Not all of them are your own, perhaps, the devil often sends thoughts into our minds. He can do that, he can't read our minds, but he can plant thoughts in our minds - but the more we try to weed them out, you know what it's like, the more the thoughts come. But look, it doesn't say in this passage, the medicine bottle's instruction does not say: 'Wrestle these bad thoughts', does it? Because if you do that, that's a sure way of aggravating those thoughts, and you'll get yourself into all sorts of trouble. What it says rather is: 'Cultivate good thoughts'. This is what the Bible calls 'renewing your mind'. It means replacing the bad thoughts with the good thoughts, pouring good thoughts in that will push the bad thoughts out.
There are eight things to pour into your mind here, Paul says. Fix your thoughts on what is true. Is what you're worrying about true? Fix your mind on things that are honourable, right, pure. Is that what you're thinking about? Lovely, admirable, think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Now listen: positive thoughts don't come naturally, do they? That's why you must determine to do it, and you can my friend! Listen: one of the blood-bought rights of the child of God is a renewed mind - but a lot of believers have a saved soul, and a mind that has never been changed.
'I beseech you therefore, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God'. You worry about the will of God? Well, renew your mind! What do you pour into your mind? Let's be honest: we pour all the garbage of the day in through the television. I have a television, but we need to be really on our guard with television, and with films, and with pop culture, and with criticism as Christians, with ungraciousness among brothers and sisters. We need to be careful what we're feeding our minds on! Is it any wonder in the day and age in which we live that we are reaping a harvest of depression when we consider what we're feeding our minds on? Especially if we're feeding our minds on anxiousness. Someone has said: 'Fear is the darkroom where many negatives are developed'.
Here's the last thing on the instruction label of this medicine bottle: worry about nothing, pray about everything, be thankful for anything, think about good things, and do the right thing. Verse 9: 'The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you'. You see, you've got to think right thoughts to do right deeds. It's like the horse and cart - you understand the sequence here: our thoughts determine our feelings, and our feelings determine our actions. So we've got to regulate our thoughts, which will regulate our feelings, and then determine our behaviour. Almost everything in life depends on the thoughts: 'As the man thinketh in his heart, so is he'.
Do you need to regulate your thoughts? Do you need to reform your behaviour? For the things that you are doing are adding to your fear and your anxiety. Listen: 'Whoso offers praise glorifies Me, and to him who orders his conversation' - that means his life - 'aright will I show the salvation' - which means deliverance - 'of God'. Do you need to put something right? Here's the outcome of it all, verse 7: 'The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus'. You see that word 'guard' there? It's the Greek word for 'garrison', the peace of God will garrison a mount guard, like a sentry, standing there. Do you know what this is saying? If you do this, if you believe God and renounce the lies of the devil, if you determine upon the truth of God in agreement with Him, in contract covenant with Him, not to worry but to pray about everything, and be thankful for anything, and to think good thoughts, holy thoughts, and do right deeds - listen: God's peace will patrol and guard the gates of your mind and your heart, God's peace will shut out unhappy, unholy thoughts, and will create an environment of safety, of righteousness and blessing.
In this life, we can't avoid stressful situations, sure we can't? But we can avoid the condition of being stressed out. The Hebrew word for 'peace' is 'shalom'. Some of you have been in Israel, that's the greeting: 'Shalom', peace - but it doesn't just mean the absence of distress, it has a much broader, round remaining. This is what 'Shalom' means: 'the presence of wholeness, well-being, soundness, harmony and rest' - and that, listen to me, is the blood-right of the child of God who has believed in Jesus. It is promised!
Well, do you have it? The peace of God that is beyond understanding, that means everything in your life should be saying you're an absolute car wreck, but you have got a supernatural peace. Let us pray. This is life as God intends for you, child of God. Are there people here tonight, while the Holy Spirit is with us and ministering and speaking, who need to deal with the problem of fear and anxiety that's robbing you of your walk with God? I think, just like last night, we ought to pray, and we ought to pray all together just to help those pray audibly with us who are dealing with this issue. So will you pray with me, and repeat after me these words, and mean them and engage with God tonight if this is your problem, and say: 'Father, I come to You in the name of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for me and shed His blood to cleanse me from all sin, to deliver me from this world, and the power of the enemy. I confess to You my fear and my anxiety, and that I have believed a lie' - now, you tell the Lord the lie, the specific lie that He has revealed to you tonight that you have believed, tell Him, take it on your lips, whisper it, take it on your lips. Then say: 'I choose to believe the truth of Your word, and to agree with You. I choose not to worry, I choose to turn my cares into prayers. I choose to be praiseful and thankful. I choose to have good thoughts and reject bad thoughts. I choose to do that which is right, and I claim by faith now, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the peace of God that passes understanding that was bought for me by the precious blood. I rebuke the enemy, and any spirit of fear, and I tell him he has nothing in me for I belong to Jesus. I resist him in Jesus, and stand fast in the faith. Amen'.
Now can I tell you that I suffered from anxiety and fear right throughout my adolescent years, to the point of despair almost - but God delivered me, and He did. I'm not saying the devil doesn't come and whisper in my ear - sometimes he near hammers the head off me, but there is victory in Jesus.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Leaney Mission Hall in Ballymoney, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the sixth recording in his 'Life As God Intends For His People' series, entitled "Life Free From The Enemy, Part 2: Fear and Anxiety" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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