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

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Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

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-

Finding Love in an Angry World

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Photo by: Mark Booth

Where can we find love and mercy in this world filled with selfishness and bitterness? The Psalmist David found the answer! “I trust in the mercy (lovingkindness) of God forever and ever.” (Psalm 52:8)

God’s love is a breath of fresh air in a world of insensitivity, anger, and a lack of compassion. God’s mercy never ends. His love carries us through the hurts, pain, and hatred that is all around us. His mercy is like a plane that flies above the storm. With His loving hand, God can lift us above the animosity within the world. Will we take His hand, today?

“Dear Heavenly Father, we need to focus on your love and mercy in this world that has turned its back on you. We see the selfishness, anger, and bitterness all around us, yet we know that your love and mercy never end. Please help us to share your lovingkindness and mercy with others who need you. Amen”

PARALYZED BY GUILT

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Guilt can paralyze us! Guilt can cause us to doubt God. Guilt can kill our joy and peace. Guilt can isolate us from others. Guilt can even bring us to the point of taking our own lives.

What causes guilt in our lives? Guilt is caused by our own sins. Guilt also occurs because of regrets in our life. We think of things that we could have done in our life that we never did. Guilt is also caused when we feel as though we failed those whom we love.

Guilt never brings us to God, but takes us further away from Him. We often confuse guilt with conviction. Conviction comes from God. His purpose is to bring us back to Himself. His conviction says: “Yes, you have sinned, but you can repent and confess your sin to me and you will be completely cleansed and forgiven” (See 1 John 1:9)

Guilt doesn’t come from God, but from within ourselves. Also, guilt can come from others who want to manipulate us to do their bidding. Lastly, guilt can come from Satan, who is called the “accuser of the brethren”. Whatever the source of our guilt it must not find a home in our lives.

What can we do with our guilt? “Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O LORD.” (Psalm 25:7) We can take our sin and guilt to God and leave it there. His mercies are new every day. When we come to God with a repentant heart, He will never send us away unforgiven. He assures us time and time again of His love and mercy. He will never hold our confessed sin against us.

A Prayer Concerning Our Guilt “Dear Father, I thank you for your mercies that are new every morning. I thank you for your love that never quits on me. You know the regrets, the guilt, the sins that have come into my life time and time again. You have seen the results of my guilt. Yes, I have tried to deal with my guilt on my own, but without success. Father, you alone can take my guilt and shame from me. You alone can restore the confidence, joy and peace in my life when I deliver all my guilt unto you. Thank you for your work of restoration and cleansing in my life. Amen.”

Finding Delight in God

The Sun Breaking through the Clouds over Sydney, Australia.
The Sun Breaking through the Clouds over Sydney, Australia.

“DELIGHT THYSELF IN THE LORD” (Psalm 37:4) Why can we Delight in Him??
When we go astray, He is the seeking Shepherd.
When we are lonely, He will never leave us, nor forsake us.
When we are confused, He is our wisdom.
When we are weak, He is our strength.
When we are full of guilt, He is the merciful God who forgives.
When we need direction, He is our Light.
When we are sorrowful, He is our Comforter.
When we are without Hope, He is our hope.
When we need love, He loves us with an everlasting love.
When we are misunderstood, He knows our heart.
When we are anxious, He is our Peace
When we face death, He is the Resurrection and the Life.

“Dear Lord, we thank you for all that you are in our lives. Because we focus on our problems, pains, and the people in our lives, we often lose our delight in you. Please rekindle our delight in you! Help us to remember that you delight in us. How can we not delight in you! Amen”

Sweet Meditations upon Christ

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“My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord.” (Psalm 104:34)

Many thoughts pass through our minds every day. Some thoughts are innocent. Some thoughts are good. Some thoughts are sinful. Other thoughts are destructive, such as worry, fear, discouragement and discontentment. However, the most pleasurable thoughts  are upon Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

How often have we spent a day with very few thoughts upon Jesus? Yes, we pray, but are we meditating upon Jesus? Yes, we read our Bibles, but are we meditating upon Jesus?

The Psalmist shares his experience of meditating upon Our Lord. He describes this experience as “sweet” Why would the Psalmist use this word? Why doesn’t he use the word “uplifting” or “blessing”? The Psalmist uses the word “sweet” to describe the pleasure He derives from His meditation upon the Lord. He shares that there is no greater pleasure in this life than to meditate upon the Lord. He wants us to join him in this sweet time of meditating upon the Lord.

The word meditate has the idea of contemplating or focusing upon with all of our mind. Our mind is often going in several directions at the same time. We live in a society of multitasking; however, when we multitask in our meditation of God, the sweetness disappears. Our awareness of God’s presence diminishes. The pleasure is gone.

What makes meditating upon God a sweet experience?

1. Meditation upon God develops an intimate relationship with Him. Can you imagine if we were to walk in the sandals of Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and David? These men knew the God they served. They enjoyed His presence. They enjoyed His love. They enjoyed hearing His voice. They enjoyed seeing Him work in their lives. They confidently talked with God because of this intimate relationship with Him.

2. Meditation upon God increases our faith. One of the greatest struggles in our life is the struggle of faith. We walk by sight and our own wisdom instead of walking by faith. Our struggle with faith occurs because of our ignorance of God. The more we meditate upon God, the more we will know His attributes and His promises. This knowledge will help us to put our confidence in Him.

3. Meditation upon God changes our focus from ourselves unto God. We have the habit of viewing life through our own eyes. Our focus often becomes self-centered. We become filled with the “selfs” of life, such as self-pity, self-centeredness, self-glorification, and self-gratification. When self becomes the focus, joy leaves our lives. However, when we develop the habit of meditating upon the Lord soon our focus will change from self to God.

4. Meditation upon God gives perspective to our trials, heartaches and suffering. Life is filled with tribulations. We feel hopeless in the midst of a deep trial. What can we do in the midst of this great difficulty? When we meditate upon God and His promises, we see His strength, power and love. We understand that no matter how great the difficulty, God is greater than any trial that comes our way. The disciples had to learn this lesson often. However, David when he faced Goliath, he had great confidence because He had the habit of meditating upon God and His Word.

Meditating upon God means that we take the time focus upon His person.  Here are a few ways that we can enjoy the sweetness of meditating upon God.

  1. Meditate upon the attributes of God. Perhaps, every day focus upon one attribute of God. This will enable us to find sweetness in every one of God’s attributes instead of focusing on only two or three of His attributes. When was the last time we meditated upon the immutability of God, or the jealousy of God? The more we know who God is, the sweeter He will be to us.
  2. Meditate upon the works of God. The Bible is full of God’s work in the lives of people as well as nations. We see God’s wisdom, power, justice, power and love flow through the deeds that God performs throughout the Word of God.
  3. Meditate upon the promises of God. We become discouraged and worried because we have forgotten God’s promises. In Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian finally escapes the Castle of the Giant Despair when he remembered the key in his bosom that opened every look in Doubting Castle. This key was called “Promise”. Meditating upon God’s promise helps remove doubts that haunt us quite often in this life.
  4. Meditate upon the names of God. The Bible is full of various names of God. They are like beautiful jewels waiting to be discovered.

“Dear Lord, I often read your Word and pray, but yet I don’t take the time to meditate upon you. Help me to develop a habit of meditating upon you each day. My thoughts upon you bring a rich reward of bring great pleasure to my soul. Thank you for bringing sweetness to my life. Amen”

Ten Reasons to Thank God for the Valley

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The valley is a place that we never choose for ourselves, but God chooses it for us. His plan for our life doesn’t just include the blessings and the mountaintop experiences.  His plan includes the valleys. At times, we are so deep in a valley that we forget God and His promises.

The valley challenges our faith in many areas, including our trust in God, our steadfastness in Christ, and our love for God and others. When we enter the valley, we struggle with having a grateful heart before God. We look at our dire circumstances and feel numb. We feel as though we are watching a tragedy unfold and we are one of the main characters. We lose our focus upon God as we travel deeper into the valley.

After the initial shock of entering the valley, we realize that we need to cry out to God. We ask for deliverance. We ask for relief. We ask for strength. We ask for wisdom. However,  worry and fear are still affecting us spiritually. Why is there no relief? Have we neglected to thank God for our valley?  How can we travel through the valley with an ungrateful heart? Giving thanks to God helps to give us perspective concerning the valley. Gratefulness enables us to see the valley as a place of abundant blessings from God.

As the song writer wrote: “When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed; when you are discouraged thinking all is lost; Count your many blessings, name them one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” What are some of the reasons that we can thank God for the valley.

1. The valley gives us a thirst for God. Nothing can satisfy our soul in the valley but God Himself. “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.” (Psalm 42:1) The valley causes us to run into the arms of our loving Father. The valley creates a thirst that only our Heavenly Father can fulfill.

2. The valley gives us a broken and contrite heart. The valley has a way of bringing us down to our knees. The valley shows us our weakness and need for God’s help. Our heart becomes broken and humble before God. Nothing is more special in God’s eyes than when His children come to Him in complete desperation.  “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

3. The valley gives us an eternal perspective concerning life. Often we are so involved in the things of this life that we forget our glorious future with the Lord. When God takes us into the valley, our perspective on life is changed. The eternal suddenly becomes much more important in our lives. “Set your affections on things above, and not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2)

4. The valley causes us to search our hearts. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: (Psalm 139:23) The busyness of our lives often keeps us from reflecting upon our hearts. We go through the motions and neglect to take inventory of our lives. When God takes us into the valley, we find ourselves looking for answers. This helps us to search our hearts as to our past, present and future.

5. The valley can often bring marriages and families closer together. “Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he (Lazarus) whom thou lovest is sick.”
(John 11:3) Tragedy and heartache can bring families closer together or further apart. In the case of Lazarus, his death brought his family closer together. When one member of a family enters into a valley, it is a great opportunity for others in the family to travel with their loved one.

6. The valley tests our friendships. “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17) The valley exposes the true loyalty of a friend. A true friend doesn’t run away when their friend enters into the valley, but they encourage him. They do whatever they can to help their friend. There are many so-called friends who are exposed in the valley because they watch from the sidelines as their “friend” travels the painful road in the valley.

7. The valley gives us a hunger for the Word of God. “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:71) When times are going well, we read our Bibles out of obligation, but when we enter the valley we read our Bibles out of necessity. The Word of God opens up to us with its promises, comfort and even conviction.

8. The valley is a place where Jesus becomes our sweet companion. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4) The valley is a place where we may feel lonely, but we are never alone. We have a companion who walks every step of the way in the valley with us. The walk in the valley is difficult, but we can find it pleasant because we experience a closeness to the Lord that we don’t normally.experience.

9. The valley broadens our ministry towards others. “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4) God’s ministry of comfort, strength and encouragement in our valley enables us to have compassion upon others who are in the valley. When we respond to the valley in God’s way, we will find many doors of ministry that will become open to us.

10. The valley enables others to minister unto us. “The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain:” (2 Timothy 1:16) The valley enables others to reach out to us. We become thirsty for encouragement and people see this need and refresh us. They can refresh us with their presence, with their words, and with their prayers.

Yes, the valley doesn’t seem attractive when we first enter; however, as time goes by, we learn the secret of the valley. This is a place of great blessing. This is a place of experiencing God’s love. This is a place of spiritual growth. The key to having the valley become a very positive experience is to thank God for this time in our lives.

“Dear Lord, I didn’t ask for this valley. I didn’t expect this valley. Yes, this valley has been difficult; however I thank you for this valley. It has been an experience that I wouldn’t trade. You have used this valley in my life in so many ways! Please don’t ever stop your work in my life. Thank you for the your wisdom, tenderness, strength and love that I am experiencing in this valley. Amen.”

Jesus: Our Companion in the Valley

Near Fontana Dam, TN.
Near Fontana Dam, TN.

 

The valley is often a place of loneliness. We may feel that nobody understands exactly how we feel. As we experience sleepless nights, the loneliness and darkness of the night seem to settle like a foggy mist upon us. The hopelessness of our situation paralyzes us . Where can we find hope, comfort and companionship during these dark hours in the valley? The answer is Jesus!

Jesus gives us this promise in Hebrews 13:5: “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”  No matter how dark the night, He will not leave us. No matter how deep the valley, He will not leave us. No matter how painful the path, He will not leave us. As we trod through the valley, Jesus promises to walk every step of the way with us!

The valley no longer is a cold, dark, lonely place when we seek after the Lord and become aware of His presence. David faced many valleys in his life. God used the valleys in David’s life to create a longing for fellowship with Him. In Psalm 42,  David expresses his longing for God. “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God.” (Psalm 42:1-2)

The valley may not be our plan for our lives, but it is God’s plan for our lives. He knows how easy it is for us to drift in our relationship with Him. We can even slowly fall into the sin of the church at Laodicea. This church had become lukewarm because they no longer saw their desperate need for Christ. In our Christian life, there are times when we become lukewarm. The Lord sends us into the valley to restore our passion for Him.

Many of us would say that some of the sweetest times in our lives is our valley experience. Yes, the valley seems painful, lonely, dark and confusing, but it is also quite sweet. It brings us once again to the feet of Jesus. We become broken before our Lord. We don’t pray out of obligation, but out of desperation. We cling to Christ and He takes us unto His bosom and brings great comfort to us.

Christ’s presence changes our whole outlook of our valley. No longer is the valley a place filled with sorrow and bitterness, but a place to accept with joy. How does Christ change our valley from a place of bitterness to a place of sweetness?

1. The valley is a place of darkness, but Christ changes it into a place of light. “I am the Light of the World” (John 8:12)

2. The valley is a place of anxiety, but Christ changes it into a place of peace. “My peace I give unto you.” (John 14:27)

3. The valley is a place of confusion. but Christ changes it into a place of understanding. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

4. The valley is a place of heartache, but Christ changes it into a place of comfort. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

5. The valley is a place of rejection, but Christ changes it into a place of enjoying His love. “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”

6. The valley is a place of sleeplessness, but Christ changes it into a place of rest. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

7. The valley is a place of sorrow, but Christ changes it into a place of joy. “And ye now therefore have sorrow:but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. (John 16:22)

8. The valley is a place of uselessness, but Christ changes it into a place of ministry. “and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” (John 15:2)

9. The valley is a place of weakness, but Christ changes it into a place of strength. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

“Dear Lord, thank you for making the bitterness of my valley into something very sweet. Thank you for walking through this valley with me. Thank you for allowing me to draw closer to you during this very difficult time. Though this valley is not my choice, your way is always the best. Thank you for not only taking me into the valley, but also through the valley. Your presence has made all the difference!  Amen”