Breaking the Chokehold of Worry (Lessons from Philippians 4:6-7)

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Have you ever felt pulled in several directions at once? You know you should have faith in God, and yet worry, and anxiety have a chokehold upon your whole life. Your life seems to be going nowhere. You find it difficult to sleep. You ask: “Where is God in all of this.” Despair is ruling your life. What can you do?

The word “worry” comes from the West Germanic word, “wrygen” which means “to strangle” or “to choke.” Worry chokes us spiritually, emotionally, socially, and physically. God knows the power that worry and anxiety have upon us. He tells us in Philippians 4:6-7: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

How do we break this chokehold that worry and anxiety have upon us? God gives us several ways to break this chokehold.

1. Understand the consequences that worry and anxiety have upon our lives.  The words “be careful for nothing” have the idea of “stop being pulled in different directions.” Worry is a sin because it keeps us from giving glory to God. It also keeps us from serving God and others to our full capacity. Worry causes us to doubt the goodness of God, which creates confusion in our lives.

2. Focus upon God and not upon our circumstances. The above passage says, “Let your request be made known unto God.” God is the source of peace. When our eyes turn from our trials and focus upon God, we will see the greatness of God’s power, wisdom, love, and sovereignty. We know that we can trust Him regardless of what comes our way because God is greater than any circumstance in our lives.

3. Talk to God about the source of our worry and anxiety. The passage says: “but in everything by prayer and supplication.” God, our loving Father, wants us to take every hurt, misunderstanding, health issue, family issue, financial problem, and doubt, unto Him. He alone can carry that burden. “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) Worry and anxiety say I will carry my burden. Faith says I will take that burden to the Lord and leave it there.

4. Learn to give thanks to God in everything. Many problems and heartaches that choke us can be turned into blessings when we learn to give God thanks in everything that happens. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Th 5:18) When we thank Him in everything, we are saying to God: “I commit this circumstance, person or problem that is choking my life unto you. I thank you that you are fulfilling your great purpose in my life even amid this great trial or burden.”

5. Enjoy God’s promise of His Peace. God tells us that His peace “passeth all understanding.” God’s presence and peace shine forth in those who face their deepest trials with faith in Him. I have been beside many people who are facing death, and yet they had a peace that passes all human wisdom. God’s peace doesn’t make sense to the people around us. They only see our difficult circumstances, but they don’t see our enjoyment of the presence of God.

God doesn’t want any of us consistently pulled in two directions. He wants us to turn our faces directly towards Him. The songwriter wrote: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, and look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His Glory and Grace.” God will break the chokehold of anxiety and worry in our lives. Will we trust Him to do so? “The truth shall make you free.”

-Mark J. Booth-

A New Year: A New Look at Life

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The year 2020 has arrived. Perhaps, we have already made some goals for our life. However, this is an excellent opportunity to take an inventory of our spiritual lives.

God says in Haggai 1:5: “Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways.”God’s people had returned to their land, but they had neglected to rebuild the temple. The people placed God on the back burner of their lives. Their priority was building their own lives without any thought of God.

Today, we often neglect our spiritual lives because we become preoccupied with all the activities in this world. Like the Israelites, have we neglected to take an inventory of our relationship with God?

The word “consider” means to note thoroughly, to perceive clearly, to think deeply. This word is used sixty-six times in the Bible. Why does God place such a priority on this word? Is it because He knows that we have the habit of keeping busy so that we don’t take the time to consider our walk with Him? Here are some questions to help begin an inventory of our spiritual lives.

1. Do I know God? “That I may know Him.” (Philippians 3:10) These words show Paul’s great desire to know the Lord in a personal way. He didn’t just want to know about God but to know Him as His Father, Lord, and Friend. Will we sacrifice our time and effort so that we can know God better?

2. Do I know myself?  “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:” (Psalm 139:23)We often find it difficult to allow God to search every aspect of our lives. We tend to excuse our sins and follies. God sees all and knows all. His examination not only shows us our sins and failures but also the way to move forward in 2020.

3. Do I use my time wisely?  “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16)  Time is a gift that we often waste on matters that are not very important. Do we sacrifice the important things in life for the urgent? Time is a gift that we can invest in those things that promote our spiritual well-being.

4. Do I encourage those around me? We often focus upon our own lives, and we forget the impact that our lives have upon other people. One of my favorite Bible characters is Barnabas. He was a man who was always encouraging others.

  • He encouraged others by his example. (Acts 4:36-37)
  • He encouraged others with his friendship. (Acts 9:26-27)
  • He encouraged others with his words.  (Acts 9:23)
  • He encouraged others by giving them a second chance. (Acts 15: 35-41)

5. Do I glorify God in all that I do? The highest purpose of our life is to bring glory to God. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) God desires us to bring glory to Him in all that we do. Do we glorify God in our thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions? De, we honor God in our family? Do we glorify God at work or at school? Do we glorify God with our plans and goals in life?

“Dear Heavenly Father, I am entering a new year. I need to consider my ways as I look forward to 2020. Please help me to know you more intimately. Guide me as to the use of my time. Use me to encourage the people you bring into my life. Above all, I want to glorify you in all that I am and do. Thank you for the blessings of 2019. Thank you for continuing your work in and through my life. Amen”

Marriage and the Supreme Court Decision (One Pastor’s Thoughts)

Marriage handsRecently, the Supreme Court weighed in on the subject of Gay Marriage.  Their decision was no surprise to me, nor should it be to any person who claims to be a Christian.  This decision reflects our culture and where we are as a nation.  Yes, we would like the laws of our country to follow our beliefs, but many of them do not.  Our nation is not a Christian nation, though in past times it followed Christian principles.

What should be our response to this decision by the Supreme Court?  First of all, we as Christians should forsake once and for all the idea that we can see people change through government action.  Should we expect people to live and believe like a Christian when they are not Christians?  The early church didn’t demand laws to show their beliefs. The early church understood the sinfulness of man.  The way the early church changed the culture was to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Gospel changes the heart of a man.  Unlike Jesus Christ, no government can give a man a new heart.

Secondly, we need to remember that Jesus made it clear how we are to relate to the culture around us.  In the Sermon on the Mount, He said; “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.  Ye are the light of the world.  A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.  Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” (Matthew 5:13-15)

Our lives should shine forth as a testimony of our love for the Lord Jesus Christ.  A light shines brighter as the darkness increases.  There are two extremes in dealing with the sin that is so clearly accepted in our society.  One extreme is to compromise our beliefs so that we become more acceptable to our society.  The other extreme is to totally withdraw from our society.  A light needs to be in the darkness to shine, but it doesn’t allow the darkness to overcome its light.

Thirdly, we need to think about our own personal lives and our walk with God.  Yes, our culture has embraced sin and rebellion against God.  In the midst of our concern, have we forgotten our own walk with God?  When we get caught up with confronting our culture, it is easy to forget our own sin before God.  The early church at Ephesus did a great job of separating themselves from the evil of their culture.  Christ says of them: “Thou canst not bear them which are evil.” (Revelation 2:2) This church hated the evil that was a reality in the Roman Empire, but they had forgotten something in the process.

Jesus continued to speak to this church with some very convicting words: “Nevertheless, I have somewhat against, because thou hast left thy first love.” (Revelation 3:4) Have we left our first love?  Have we forgotten our daily walk with God?  If we are walking close to the Lord, we will have a greater impact upon the lives of those around us.

Fourthly, the Supreme Court ruling has no bearing upon our own marriages.  Why is it that professed Christians have a divorce rate that is equal to those who don’t claim to be Christians?  Yes, we have no control over the Supreme Court decisions concerning its view of marriage, but we can make our marriage one that honors God and His Word.

When God gave His instructions about marriage in Ephesians 5, He did so in the midst of a culture that allowed all sorts of immoral activities.  God’s focus is upon our own marriage.  We need to seek to love each other within our marriage and seek to fulfill Psalm 34:3 as a married couple. “O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.” 

Fifthly, Jesus Christ made it clear that we shouldn’t be surprised if we face persecution from the society around us.  Before His death, He said: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.”(John 15:18)  Our culture has no interest in the Biblical Jesus.  Yes, it wants a Jesus who loves everybody, but they have rejected the true Jesus of the Bible.  The Biblical Jesus loves, but He also is holy and He hates sin so much that He died on the cross for our sins.

Persecution can become very real as our society departs from any kind of Christian worldview.  The early Christians were persecuted because they were different from those around them.  God’s Word proclaims truths that our culture rejects and mocks.  Will not our culture eventually reject anybody who believes on God’s Word and chooses to live their lives according to His Word?

One last response to this decision is that we can say with the Apostle Paul: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) We realize that death will be our entrance into the presence of Jesus Christ.  It will be a time of joy and worship.  We will no longer be exposed to the wickedness of this present world.

We can also say with the Apostle John at the end of Revelation: “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”  One day there will be a government which will exalt righteousness, holiness and truth.  Jesus will one day return to reign as the King of Kings.

“Dear Lord, I see your Word being trampled underneath the feet of our culture.  I know that this is only natural because of the fact that we are born into sin.  Thank you for sending your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ to be the Savior of the World.  Please work through your people so that we can be an effective witness to those around us.  Thank for your love that is patiently waiting for people to turn to you.  Amen.”