Winning Over Worry
By Shawn Thomas
In Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow, a Russian count was exiled within the confines of a hotel which he could not leave at the risk of his life. At one point, the Count is consumed with worry: “Sleep did not come so easily to our weary friend. Like in a reel in which the dancers … come skipping brightly down the aisle, a concern of the Count’s would present itself for his consideration, bow with a flourish, and then take its place at the end of the line so that the next concern could come dancing to the fore.” (p. 267)
Some of us have basically had that same experience: one worry after another takes its place in our minds! That is NOT the state God desires for His people. But how do we deal with worry? Philippians 4:4-9 shows us:
First, it encourages us to REMEMBER THE LORD. It begins “Rejoice in the Lord always …” and adds: “the Lord is near.” Many of us who worry need to consciously remember that God is with us, and rejoice in HIM. There’s an old expression: “glance at your problem; gaze at God.” We don’t need to “stick our heads in the sand” and pretend problems aren’t there. But we shouldn’t obsess over them either. “Glance” at that problem — but GAZE at God! And rejoice in who He is in your life.
The first thing to make sure of is that Jesus IS the Lord your life. You can’t rejoice in Him always if you’ve never really committed your life to Him. The gospel is that we sinned, and separated ourselves from God. But Jesus came to die on the cross and pay for our sins, to reconcile us with God. When you repent of your sins and trust Jesus as your Lord & Savior, He forgives your sins, sends His Spirit into your heart, and promises you a home in heaven with pleasures that are literally “out of this world”! With that kind future ahead of us, a person who belongs to Christ can ALWAYS find something to rejoice in! When you’re tempted to worry: “Rejoice in the Lord”!
A second way to alleviate worry is to PRAY CONTINUALLY. Verse 6 says: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
This could be summed up: “Worry about nothing; pray about everything.” That’s easy to remember, and makes sense — but the thing is DOING it! Many things in life we “know” to do — but we just don’t DO them!
I’ll be honest: there have been situations in my own life when I began to worry about something, and only later thought: “You really need to PRAY about this — PASTOR SHAWN!!” We’ve all probably been in that situation. We get so caught up worrying that we forget to REALLY pray. We “know” to, but we don’t always DO it as we should. And like everything in Christianity, the power is not in the “knowing” of it; but in the DOING of it.
So every time you’re tempted to worry; PRAY. Put this verse on a card in your pocket or tape it on your mirror; memorize it; and each time you’re tempted to worry, quote it, and pray. How many times do you need to do that? AS MANY TIMES AS IT TAKES! 500 times a day if need be. This is the spiritual battle. Don’t give in to worry. “Worry about nothing. Pray about everything.” If you’ll do that, God’s peace will guard your mind, and you will win the victory over worry.
Third, WATCH YOUR INPUT. The old adage is, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That applies to worry as well. It’s no coincidence that:8 says: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure … let your mind dwell on these things.” Why would God say that, right after He spoke to us about anxiety? Because what we “feed our minds” has a big impact on how we think and feel. At least SOME of the anxiety we experience is a result of what we watch, read, and listen to.
Sometimes the media seems to THRIVE on making people anxious, so they’ll stay tuned:
— we have to see if that storm develops!
— we have to know if that riot gets worse! And so on.
Several people have told me over the past months: “I’m turning the news off; it’s making me too anxious.” And that’s legitimate. Not that we should “bury our heads in the sand” and ignore what’s going on in the world, but we also don’t need to watch the news 24/7 — especially if it increases our anxiety. Again, a good prescription here would be: “glance at the news, and gaze at God.” Give God more attention than you do the media.
We should evaluate all our input by Philippians 4:8: “Is this ‘true’? Is it “honorable’? Is it ‘right’? Is it ‘PURE? …” If it’s not, we shouldn’t read it, watch it, or listen to it. Many of us would worry less if we better guarded what we feed our minds.
And it’s not just what we DON’T watch or listen to, but what we DO. We need to fill our minds with godly books, music — and especially the word of God.
A doctor grew up in England in the 1800s, with a widowed mother and several siblings. It was hard for her to provide for them. But he said whenever his mother was discouraged or worried, she would sit down and quote Psalm 20, and it would give her peace. So the kids called Psalm 20 “Mother’s Psalm.”
Find a scripture that will become “your Psalm,” and turn to it whenever you’re tempted to worry. God’s Spirit will use that to help you trust Him. But that scripture won’t just “magically” appear in your mind — you have to make the effort to memorize it. But replace your anxious, worrisome thoughts with God’s words that are true and right and pure; and it will make a difference in your attitude.
Each of us should ask ourselves:
— What input should I cut out, that causes me to worry or stress?
— What input can I ADD to my life that will help? Start with daily Bible reading. Memorize scripture. Listen to Christian music. Cut OUT what drags you down; add IN what helps you trust God. It will make a difference. What you feed your mind matters.
Verse 9 says: “PRACTICE these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” You can have the peace you’re looking for. You can win the battle over worry. But he says you have to “PRACTICE these things.” You must DO what he shows you here. But if you will, you CAN win the battle over worry.
“PRACTICE these things — and the God of peace will be with you”!
Shawn Thomas has been a Southern Baptist pastor for almost 35 years, he currently serves as Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Angleton, Texas. You can read more from Pastor Thomas Here.
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