For the last several weeks I have been in a stronghold of anxiety, fear, and worry. It has completely been crippling. I won't go into all the details about it, but I will say that it has brought me to a point of complete desperation and dependance on God. I prayed about it begging God to release me from this. I was on my face before the Lord, quoting Scripture, and literally singing to myself, "I Need Thee Every Hour." I had a loss of appetite and couldn't sleep well for almost two weeks due to nightmares. The only relief I would get was when I was reading the Word. As I have talked with others over the last few weeks, I have discovered that many people, women mostly, struggle with anxiety as well. It is actually more common than I even realized.
In our Sunday School class we are studying the book of Colossians right now. In chapter 3, there is a verse that really stood out to me, especially since I was struggling. Colossians 3:15 says, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful." I knew that peace wasn't ruling in my life during this time. Yesterday, Landon and I taught about this verse, and I thought I would share since I feel that it applied to many in our Sunday School class...ME INCLUDED!!!
According to the verse I quoted above, peace is to rule. If peace isn't ruling then what is? The opposite of peace is stress, anxiety, fear, worry, or frustration. Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of God. We are commanded to let peace rule, so that would make the opposite a sin.
Recently I read this article that was referring to the impact of sexual sin, but it could apply to any sin. I love the description of sin in the article. Call sin what it is...
"Now that it is in the house, don't buy it a collar and a leash and give it a sweet name. Don't "admit" sin as a harmless (but un-broken) pet. Instead, confess it as an evil offense and put it out! Even if you love it! You can't domesticate sin by welcoming it into your home. Don't make a false peace. Don't make excuses. Don't get sentimental about sin. Don't play the victim. Don't live by excuse-righteousness. If you bring the baby tiger into your house and name it Fluffy, don't be surprised if you wake up one day and Fluffy is eating you alive. That is how sin works, and Fluffy knows her job. Sometimes sin lurks and festers for decades, deceiving the sinner that he really has it all under control, until it unleashes itself on everything you built, cherished, and loved.
Be wise about your choice sins and don't coddle them. And remember that sin is not ever "who you are" if you are in Christ. In Christ, you are a son or daughter of the King; you are royalty. You do battle with sin because it distorts your real identity; you do not define yourself by these sins that are original with your consciousness and daily present in your life."
I think many people struggle with this and instead if eradicating sin from our life, we tend to just learn how to deal with it. That is not what God desires for us. He desires for us to have peace to rule and for us to live life abundantly.
I am not diminishing the fact that sometimes life is hard. It can be difficult and sometimes painful. If my car breaks down, that is a difficult situation. If I have an accident and am permanently disabled, that is painful and life changing. There are these two extremes and anything in between. Difficulties usually occur in the ordinary activities and responsibilities of life, but the question is: How do we respond?
In the New Testament, there are twenty-seven character traits. Love is the most repeated, with humility in second. What would the world be like if we actually did these? In third, trust in God is mentioned approximately thirteen times. The opposite of trust in God is either anxiety or frustration. Jesus had much to say about anxiety. In Matthew 6:25-34, He deals directly with this issue. "For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do now sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the filed grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive to day and tomorrow is thrown in to the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat? or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
If you are familiar with the Bible or have been in church, that passage is familiar, but do we really take these things to heart when we live in a state of worry or anxiety? Do we nod our head and get all warm and fuzzy when we hear these words and yet not apply them to our lives? I have been guilty.
Philippians 4:6 says, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." Did you read that??? Be anxious for NOTHING!!! Not one thing!! Take it to the Lord instead by prayer and supplication. Then in verse 7...good news!! "and the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." 1 Peter 5:7 says, "Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you."
Anxiety is a sin for two reasons:
1) It is distrust in God. When I give way to anxiety, I am, in effect, believing that God does not care for me and He will not take care of me in that particular circumstance.
2) It is a lack of believing in God's sovereignty. God is in control over all things. When I am anxious, then I am saying He is not in control.
Worry is a synonym for anxiety. Most of the time we worry, it is over something we have no control over anyway!!! We worry about things that more than likely will never happen. Worry will do no good. It will not change the circumstances at all. It just creates turmoil within us and shows that we have a lack of faith.
Both fear and anxiety are battles of the mind. In 1 Peter 1:13, we are commanded to "prepare our minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix our hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." This same terminology is used in Ephesians when we are told to put on our armor so we will be prepared for the schemes of the enemy. We are told to "gird up the loins with truth..." In the 1 Peter passage, we need to "gird up the loins of our mind." This was an image that the people of that time understood well. When they went to battle their uniforms were basically like a dress. In order to be prepared to run, they would have to tuck in their "dress" into their belt so they wouldn't have any loose ends to trip them up. That's exactly what we are to do with our mind. Don't let your mind just go! We must tie up any loose ends so we aren't tangled up in thoughts that will trip us up.
We must Philippians 4:8 our thoughts. "Whatever is TRUE, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." Once again, this isn't just a suggestion. It is a command. We must take control of our thoughts.
2 Corinthians 10:5 is another scripture that we should memorize! "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." As soon as a thought enters into our head, we must do the Phil. 4:8 test to decide if it can stay. If it is not true, pure, lovely, excellent, praise worthy, worthy of praise, we need to take the thought captive!! In that we destroy speculations, things that are not TRUE, and we kick the thought out to the obedience of Christ. Does this seem radical or extreme? It did to me, but this is what we are told to do. This is the only way to live in freedom from anything besides letting peace rule our lives.
Also, if we "set our mind on the things above, not on the things of earth," our attitude in every single situation will change. (Colossians 3:2)
This section was highly convicting to me!! Where anxiety involves fear, frustration usually involves being upset or even angry at whatever or whoever is blocking our plans. How often does someone or something block my plans? Almost daily!! When I am trying to get out the door for a practice on time and my child can't find all their gear they need, I can simply lose my mind. Or when I am in a hurry to get somewhere and traffic doesn't part like the Red Sea for me, I can be tempted to be frustrated. When my computer won't work properly when I'm trying to send an email or print something important and nothing is cooperating, I can wig out. Frustration invades, peace is gone! In these moments, do I stop and think about God? According to my responses, sadly I would have to confess no. Here is a Scripture that I read in a book on this specific issue that had an entirely new meaning for me. "All the days are ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Psalm 139:16. This verse is familiar to me, but I haven't ever thought about it in this context. Our days are ordained before we were even born, yes, but what about the circumstances of my days? Of course they are are ordained as well!! I believe God is sovereign in all things including the circumstances of my daily activities. When you think of it in this way, then everything changes. When I discovered this "sin" in my life, I have really been aware of the times I get frustrated over so many little things, things that block my plans.
Instead of allowing frustration to rule, we need to learn how to respond in a godly manner. We can pray for wisdom in the situation. We can pray for our nerves to be calmed and for peace to rule. We can ask if there is something we need to learn or if there is something we need to be attentive to. For me, usually in these situations when my frustration level is high, it does more harm in the situation anyway. Above all, we need to remember that there are no events in our lives that do not ultimately come to us from the invisible hand of God, even through they come through some visible cause.
How do we obtain God's peace? "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence." 2 Peter 1:2-3. God's peace comes from true, experiential, not just theoretical knowledge of the Source of peace, God and Jesus Christ our Lord.
One of the names of God is Jehovah Shalom, which means God is Peace. It is first found in the book of Judges. Quick summary of the time during the Judges...In those days there was no king in Israel. They were to let God be their king. They were supposed to be a holy, called nation, and set apart from all others around them. However, they were not holy and set apart. When Moses dies, he passed on the responsibility to Joshua. However after Joshua's death..."A generation...arose who...did not know God or the work which He had done for Israel and they forgot the Lord their God." Judges 3:7. Then Israel, "did evil in the sight of the God and served Baals (Judges 2:11) and they provoked God to anger (Judges 2:12) and they forsook God and served Baal and the Ashtaroth. In sum, Israel forgot God's person and power, forsook Him and began to fear other gods who are no gods at all.
In Judges 6, there had been forty years of peace in the land. However during this time of peace, Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord. Thus, God gave Israel into the hands of Midian and they prevailed against Israel. How did Israel respond? They hid in dens, caves, and strongholds instead of running to hide in the cleft of the Rock of their salvation, they run to the rocks and clefts. They are afraid and terror stricken, filled with anxiety. They have lost their peace by doing evil in the sight of God which will disturb peace. They were brought low and cried out to the Lord. He responded to their cry by sending His Word by a prophet and reminded them that He had brought them out of Egypt, out from slavery, and He delivered the from the hand of all oppressors and gave them the land. But despite all that God did for them, they did not obey.
During this time of oppression from enemies, Gideon found himself in the winepress--threshing out the wheat that would sustain both his life and the life of his family. Threshing wheat was a job to be done outside because the wind helped in the process. He was inside because he was afraid of the Midianites. This is where the Angel of the Lord called him to be a valiant warrior. Gideon asked how was he to do this great thing since his family is the least and he is the youngest of the least. This shows, once again, that God can use ANYONE! He uses the unexpected to show His power lest we boast of our own strength and abilities or prestige. God sees what we do not see. He sees our potential, not who we are at the time. He is in the business of transforming lives. He takes our inadequacy and transforms it by His adequacy. God sees beyond our fears and frailties. God does not save us and use us for what we are but for what by His grace we may become in Christ.
What did God promise to Gideon? He promised him HIs presence, that He would be with him, he will defeat Midian as one man, and PEACE. God reveals His name as PEACE and that He would pour out peace in a time of war. Like I said earlier, peace isn't the absence of conflict but the presence of God. We can have a supernatural peace in the most difficult and trying situations through God alone.
True peace comes from the source of peace, Jehovah Shalom. Jesus is called the "Prince of Peace" in Isaiah 9:6, and Jesus says right before He is crucified, "Peace I leave with you." At Pentacost, the Spirit of Peace in the form of the Holy Spirit was poured out on all who believe. So all three parts of God, declare and pour out peace. It is Their nature.
As a believer, we are to have peace. We are to let peace rule in our hearts. It is also one of the nine fruits that we are to bear, not produce ourselves. It comes through the power of the Holy Spirit alone. The secret of genuine peace with God is founded in trusting Jesus Christ, not just a one time event, but every single day for the rest of our life. It is dependence and surrender to Him. This complete trust in Him will manifest itself in obedience and the ongoing sense of the peace of God.
God grants us peace and grace when needed in situations. Steven was granted peace at the time of his death. There have been numerous other martyrs for their faith in Jesus that have died willingly. They were given peace unto their earthly death as they were ushered into eternity with Him forever.
We won't achieve complete freedom from anxiety or frustration in this life, but we should never accept them as part of who we are or as part of our temperament any more than we would accept something like adultery as part of our temperament. If anxiety, frustration, fear, or worry is ruling, then peace is not.
"God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself because it is not there. There is no such thing." C.S. Lewis
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