Rejoice Series, Sermon 6
~ Anxiety ~
Tyson Graber, Herscher Christian Church
October 16, 2011
In today’s text there is a portion of scripture that is often quoted but seldom lived out in daily life.
Read Philippians 4:4-6
Don’t be anxious about what — anything. Really?
I am sure none of us here today are one of the 40 million Americans that struggle with anxiety on a regular basis. That is right, the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry recently reported that the number one mental health issue in the US is that over 40 million of us suffer from anxiety.
Time magazine’s cover story a few years ago was titled, “Understanding Anxiety”. The editors of Time believe Anxiety is such a significant issue in the world today that the magazine devoted an entire issue to the subject of anxiety. They also estimate that anxiety disorders cost the U.S. more than $42 billion a year. More people than we would like admit are struggling from anxiety to some degree.
The point is – life causes anxiety. It was true 2000 years ago when Paul wrote to the church in Philippi. It’s just as true today.
Let’s look at two questions and then we’ll look at God’s Word a biblical solution for anxiety. The first question is, what causes anxiety? And two, how do you know that you’re living in a condition of anxiety?”
What Causes Anxiety
First, what causes anxiety? Let me define anxiety for you in the non-clinical, non-technical way. Anxiety is anticipating the future in the worst possible scenario and freaking out about it. That means that you think you’re a prophet, but you’re a prophet of doom, and usually you’re a false prophet.
For example, this past week I had the unfortunate timing of being the operator of a combine when it decided to self-destruct. For the next few seconds my mind raced with the possible turmoil this mishap could lead to.
How do you know you’re being stressed out? Here’s what the experts say.
How about this one?
(You’re all like, “Hey, that’s convicting. Next one.” How about this?)
All of these can be anxiety related. How many of you recognize them in yourself.?
You’re stressed, you’re freaked out, you’re anxious. This is you!
If you read Time magazine, they’ll say, “Here’s what you need: behavioral therapy, cognitive therapy, anti-depressants, minor tranquilizers, exercise and alternative treatments like yoga, aroma therapy and acupuncture.”
I don’t know about you, but that right there just stresses me out. Think about all they are saying we need to do ; if you are stressed , put your heel behind your head, and smell something funny while somebody sticks you with needles. Like..., if I’m not stressed, that’ll do it.
Its not going to work, but God’s Word will. For those of us who have anxious responses to the world, the Bible can change us through the power of the Lord.
What to do about Anxiety?
Let's go now Philippians to find help with this matter of Anxiety and commit to living a life of Joy in the midst of an anxious world.
Read Philippians 4:2-9
When Paul wrote this letter he had been a Christian for about 30 years. About 11 years prior, he planted the church in Philippi. He hadn’t been there in about four years. Since that point he’s been shipwrecked, beaten, homeless, left for dead, and at this point, he finds himself in prison facing possible execution. And amazingly enough, though he’s been gone from the church for four years and he’s in prison, some bad news from the church comes to him about their problems.
And so, Paul, sitting in jail, writes a letter to his friends at the church at Philippi to help them with some of their own struggles. Today, we are going to examine two of these issues, the first being a Division among two members in the church and the second being the Anxiety about that division that the rest of the church is feeling.
Paul chooses to quickly address this issue of division or fighting in the church. Why? Because God’s people are to have unity. There are some reasons for that.
First and foremost, the Lord Jesus prayed that we would be unified repeatedly in places like John 17. “Father, my prayer is that they would be one as we are one.”
Anxiety over Divisions
Secondly, I believe Paul instructs this division to stop because he knows that what often starts out as a personal conflict between just a few people, quickly becomes a divisive church issue for the entire church. That’s what’s happening here in Philippians 4.
Strive for Unity
Finally, I believe we must strive for unity at all times because unity is what arer more effective at loving Jesus, growing in Jesus, introducing new people to Jesus, helping people who do know Jesus to grow in Jesus.
What happens when there is division instead of unity? The focus changes quickly from Jesus to . . .
“Have you heard this?” “Can you believe they did that?” “ Can we really trust them anymore?”
As Christians, we know that unity is incredibly important for a variety reasons within the church. Then the issue is, well what is unity? We have to define it so we can work toward it. If you think about it, unity is gained slowly and it’s lost quickly. This is why we must be continually building it here at HCC.
As a church, let's define unity in two main classes – First, the Theological, and then the Missional.
Theological unity - means we make it a priority to be united on huge matters of the faith. We have come to agree on what we will fight over, about, or for ..., and what we won’t fight over, about, or for. Okay?
Theologically, we’ve decided we believe the Bible is God’s Holy Word, the trinity – one God in three persons – Jesus is God, born of a virgin, lived without sin, died on a cross, and rose again. He’s the only way to salvation. We’re sinners. Hell is hot. Forever’s a very, very long time to have to go there.
Here is the deal: there are things that we’re gonna fight for and we think are very important or essentials to our faith. Other things like debates about the rapture, the age of the earth, home schooling vs. public schooling, democrat vs. republican and on and on ..., some things we’ll have to agree to disagree agreeably. We’re not gonna fight about some things.
Missional unity. “What are we doing?” What is our mission?
Our Mission has been and will continue to be “To share God’s love with all people everywhere.” God’s love has been displayed most perfectly in Jesus.
Jesus must be the flag that flies highest. Every other flag flies under that flag. Whatever your issue is, it’s secondary, because our mission is about Sharing God’s love in Jesus. If at any point we lose sight of that, we’ll have division.
Division can be and is often caused by sin. Division is also caused by false teaching. Sometimes legalism or many other things.
The bottom line is that there are times when people get distracted. The church is people and divisions can raise when we become focused on other things.
Recognizing and Dealing with the Problem
That’s exactly what’s going on in Philippians Chapter 4. There are two members of the church in Philippi who had a conflict and it had now enveloped the whole church. It’s a point of division and it’s gone all the way to Paul’s jail cell. So, now he has to write a portion of the Bible to deal with it.
Read Philippians 4:2-3.
These two fighting here are two women. Their names are given because apparently it’s become such a big issue, everybody knows who it is.
Some questions: are these woman Christian or non-Christian? They’re Christian. Their names are written in the book of life. They’re Christians.
Are these brand new Christians, or possibly mature Christians? Well, they’re probably mature Christians, because he says that they have “contended with him at his side for the cause of the gospel.” What that means is, these women are known workers in the church. They have had a fruitful ministry. They’ve been used of God. They have been very helpful to Paul and to the Lord Jesus.
There’s a debate in our day. Should women be in ministry? If a woman has a gift and loves Jesus, she’s in ministry. She’s serving, loving Jesus and serving and loving people. These women are in ministry. It doesn’t say they’re pastors or Elders. That’s reserved for men. (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1) But, they’re serving the Lord in this church!
So, what is the problem between these two ladies? He doesn’t mention sin. He doesn’t mention any teaching of heresy. So what’s the reason that they have this division? The answer is, It doesn’t matter. If it did matter, the Bible would tell us. But it doesn’t tell us because it doesn’t matter.
Sometimes the issue really isn’t a big deal. The division itself is the big deal. I don’t know what the issue was. Maybe they were arguing over trying to adopt some new church by-laws. Maybe somebody was opposed to youth group meeting on Sunday nights instead of Wednesdays, maybe one lady wanted pink carpet and the other wanted brown. Who knows? The issue didn’t really matter, what mattered was their disunity!
We don’t know what the issue was, but we do know that it had become a point of division, and so here’s what Paul says. “They need a mediator.” So he appoints a person that is reading this letter probably a pastor or elder, to get in the middle and make things right.
This is what Jesus does between us and God. We’ve sinned against God. Our relationship with God is separated, divided. We’re distant from God and there’s conflict because of sin. Jesus comes as God who becomes a man, lives without sin, dies in our place paying our penalty for our sin, rises for our salvation. If we trust in him, we’re reconnected to God. God then is mediated in relationship to us through Jesus.
1 Timothy 2:5 “There’s one mediator between men and God, Christ Jesus.”
Sometimes on the earth, we also need a mediator. You try to work it out, you try to talk it out, you try to sort it out, and it gets worse. The more you talk, the worse it gets. The more the gossip, the hurt, the bitterness, the frustration, the division, and so you bring in a mediator – a Godly third party.
How many of you are married? For those of you who are married, sometimes you might need a mediator. You can’t agree. The more you talk about it the more you disagree. It doesn’t fix anything. You say, “We’ve talked about it. We’ve prayed about it. We didn’t get anywhere. We still are fighting.”
You need a Mediator. Sit down, speak the truth with them together, listen to each other and let the mediator help you come to an agreement. Sometimes you’ve got to do this with your friends. Sometimes you’ve got to do this with fellow Christians. That’s what Paul says. Bring in a mediator to do a little bit of the work of Jesus to try to get the truth to sort this out and bring peace.
Now, so far, they haven’t worked it out, and the result is that people in the church are very anxious. There is great anxiety in this church because two people they all love are fighting. People are stressed out, not much different from people of the world today or for that matter people in our churches today.
Here is the good news. The Bible is written by God. It is perfect. The result is that it is always timely because it’s timeless. So even though they were living 2000 years ago in a foreign culture, they’re dealing with the same things we are. They’re responding in the same ways we do, and they have the same needs that we have. So this issue of anxiety is incredibly important for us to deal with in Christ today just as it was back then.
Here is what happens sometimes when we face anxious circumstances; sometimes we give ourselves permission to do Godless things. Any of you ever sent that email in the moment of anxiety and then thought, “Man, I wish I had a string on that. I shouldn’t have said that.”? Any of you left that voice-mail, and as soon as you hang up you are convicted of your wrong and know that was not good.” In that moment of worry you did something you really didn’t want to do.
When we respond to our anxiety, we often allow our anxiety to control our actions.
The Sin of Anxiety
Here’s the issue. Anxiety is a sin when it controls us and we reacted to it in an unholy way, and we need to repent of it. Anxiety, at its worst, becomes the action of the heart and mind that displays our lack of faith and trust in God.
Some of you think that anxiety is a condition to be controlled. It’s not. It’s a sin that we must allow Christ to change. Because Jesus died for sin, those of us who are Christian can put sin to death through Him. So we don’t try to just control anxiety, we kill it through Christ.
Some of you would say, “But I lost my mind the other day ‘cause the circumstances were just overwhelming.”
And I would say, “You need to ask yourself, ‘Did it help? Does it work?’ Do you grow and love, or experience joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and gentleness and self control when you lose it? Are you growing to be more like Jesus? Are you introducing others to Jesus? Are you helping others to grow in Jesus? Are you building unity in your relationships? Are you building unity in our church? Is it helping?”
Paul says these things are out of a heart of love, yet, knowing they are suppressed in a life lived in anxiousness in response to circumstance, with anxiety being the ruler over us; it is a miserable life. It hurts you physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally and relationally and in all cases you suffer. And 40 million Americans do.
The Word of God through Paul gives us some great advice to do away with Anxiety.
REJOICE IN THE LORD
First, anchor your joy in Jesus, not your circumstances. Your circumstances change. Jesus doesn’t. Your circumstances always have some degree of negativity. Jesus is always good. Your circumstances, if they are the determination of whether you’re happy or sad, will rule over you. And in this, you can always find a reason to rejoice in the Lord. He said, “We should rejoice in the Lord always.”
Now, what this isn’t – this isn’t rejoicing in your circumstances. It’s rejoicing through your circumstances because you have Jesus. If you are sick, you don’t rejoice in sickness. You rejoice in the fact that God is with you in the sickness revealing Jesus to you, helping you be more like him. And even if you should die, you will be with him forever. There’s always a reason to rejoice.
In every circumstance, there are two things you can look at – reasons to complain or reasons to rejoice. You can always complain because there’ll be a reason, but you can always rejoice, because God is good.
Secondly, respond gently. When we are very emotional, when we are freaking out, when we are anxious, when we are stressed, we have a tendency to not be gentle.
I don’t know about you, when I’m stressed out I am not naturally what you would call gentle or even reasonable, but usually ... not gentle. When I become extremely frustrated it is not natural to be gentle ..., but Paul says be gentle.
Thirdly, know that Jesus is always with you. That’s what he says. “The Lord is near.”
Jesus said he would never leave you, nor forsake you. When you’re stressed out, anxious, particularly because of personal conflict with family, friends, co-workers, fellow Christians, you could feel very isolated, very alone, very abandoned. Jesus is alive. Jesus is there to intercede for you. Jesus is with you. I promise you that. Don’t forget that. Jesus is there.
His next point is, that as a result of His nearness, you should pray. You should pray. In everything, in prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your requests to God.
Some of you don’t want to talk to Jesus about the things that you’re freaking out about because you think he’ll be disappointed. I want to tell you something; he already knows. It’s not like you go to Jesus and say, “Okay, here’s what I’m thinking.” He’s not likely to respond, “I had no idea. That just totally caught me off guard.” He knows, so you can talk to him. And what Paul says is, to talk to Jesus, pray it out until the peace of God comes, until the anxiety lifts.
Respond to Jesus, not the circumstances.
Choose to be anxious in nothing. Nothing. Nothing. You have to choose not to be anxious. Do you know that you can choose not to be anxious? Do you know that you can decide, “Lord Jesus, I’m gonna talk to you, be with you, think of you, work it out with you, and I choose not to be anxious. I choose not to be stressed. I’m not going to ignore it. I’m not going to diminish it. I’m not going to pretend that things are great. I’m also not going to let one thing ruin everything.”
Read Philippians 4:8
“Meditate”, he says in verse 8, “think about such things.” You’ve got to stay focused on Jesus.
What such things?
Read Philippians 4:9
Live according to truth, not your anxiety. That’s what he says.
Accept the Peace of God
Finally, and maybe most importantly. Accept the peace of God. Through Jesus act of taking away our sin, we have peace with God. Furthermore, we have peace from God in all things. In Christ, you can have the gift of life and peace. “And the peace of God will be with you.” That is a promise!
It won’t make any sense that you’re not freaking out anymore over the things of this world. It won’t make any sense that you’re not stressed and anxious when previously you would have been stressed and anxious. There is an opportunity for new life in Jesus that includes better physical health, better mental health, better emotional health, better spiritual health, better relational health. That’s what Jesus called life and having it to the full. That’s what we want for you.
Will you accept it and live it?