Life is happening right now. And in this moment, there are a lot of things taking place. And I think it’s hard to enjoy the ‘now’ of each day. For some of us we are stuck in yesterday. That means as life is happening right now, we are thinking about a previous hurt from yesterday. The wounds, the hurts, the betrayals, it’s hard to move forward. When we are stuck in yesterday, that makes it hard for us to enjoy today. For some of us, we are thinking about the future. That means as life is happening right now, we are thinking about the challenges of tomorrow, what could go wrong tomorrow, and how to plan for tomorrow. That can create fear, anxiety, and stress. When we are stuck in tomorrow, that makes it hard for us to enjoy today.
That’s why what Sam said last week was so helpful when He shared scripture and said, life is a journey. It’s a journey filled with the good and the bad and the ugly. It’s filled with sin, pain, adversity, wreckage, and challenges. And our journey doesn’t always go the way we would like it to go, even when you are a Christian. It’s called life. That’s our reality today.
So, Paul writes to us:
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. NIV Philippians 3:16
In this journey of life and its ups and downs, Paul says, press on and focus on the prize of heaven. We don’t look back. We aren’t distracted by this world. We press on.
The one-point Sam brought out that impacted me was when he said, the world we live in has one purpose. To do anything and everything to take our focus off of eternal things. And that makes perfect sense because John wrote;
We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. NIV 1 John 5:19
Think about that for a second. Has the world taken your focus off of eternal things? Has the junk of our world, news, politics, etc. taken your focus off eternal things? Yeah, those things matter but what is more important? The eternal, life and death, heaven, and hell things.
We continue to read Paul’s letter. He just told us to press on and focus on eternal things. Then he writes this.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. NIV Philippians 4
In your journey of life that is filled with struggle, don’t be anxious about anything. When you read that, don’t you think, ‘Well, thanks Paul. That’s a help. Moms can’t feed their kids today. I don’t know what is going to happen to my job. My last visit to the grocery store cost me hundreds of dollars. Russia is at war. China wants to invade Taiwan. I don’t even trust our news media. But, yeah Paul, I won’t be anxious now that you said it. ‘
Doesn’t that sound naïve to you? Almost like a Christian bumper sticker, a t-shirt? It sounds so simple – doesn’t it? What if it was that simple? What if it wasn’t complex? What if we could make one choice, could it really change everything? I want you to think about this. Just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it lacks depth.
Paul said, do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Could it be that simple?
Most people in these days report, anxiety, stress, and depression are growing. Some are stuck in the hurts, the wounds, the betrayals of yesterday. Some are stuck in the fear of taking on tomorrow. As we move through today, we can’t enjoy it can we? And how could we? Anxiety is ruining our mental health. We feel wave and wave of anxiety, depression, fear washing over us.
Paul told us, press on, focus on eternal things, and when anxiety hits, and it will, make a choice. Make a simple choice. Replace anxiety with prayer.
In The Message Version, verse 7 says:
Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
When was the last time you made the choice to pray, to worship? When was the last time you experienced Jesus displacing worry at the center of your life? Please hear me tell you, just because it’s simple, doesn’t mean it lacks depth.
Big question here to think through this. As a disciple of Christ, as you live out today, is prayer the first thing you do when you feel anxiety and worry? Some do but most don’t. Don’t you find that we do everything but pray? Doesn’t our anxiety swirl in our hearts and mind? Isn’t prayer sometimes the last thing we turn to? What do we tend to do instead of praying?
We try to handle it ourselves. We think we must be tough to overcome our anxiety, so we muscle through the day on our strength. We try to think through it. We think our anxiety is something we can process and think through, and it will go away. We try to avoid it. We think we can ignore it and maybe it will go away. We talk endlessly to others because we are verbal processors. We think the more we talk the better it will be. We are plugged into the news and social media. We spend hours putting other people’s comments into our heads.
What happens when we try to deal with anxiety and worry by ourselves, with our own human strength? Anxiety isn’t replaced with prayer. In fact, anxiety grows and grows. Over time, we are worn down, defeated, and we can be all over map emotionally.
What if our human effort, our human strength is useless? What if what we need is a spiritual touch from God to do what only He can do?
12 Give us aid against the enemy, for human help is worthless. 13 With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies. NIV Psalms 108:12-13
1 Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. NIV Psalms 127:1
Please hear me, you need God.
Prayer is a choice. Prayer is entering into the reality of your messy journey that creates anxiety. It’s connecting with God and experiencing: He is in control. It’s the process of replacing anxiety with peace. It’s a choice. It’s the choice that says, I want to experience God coming and displacing anxiety and worry from the center of my life.
Do you remember what Jesus said?
Jesus said, 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you- you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. NIV Matthew 6:25-34
I love what Jesus asked in verse 27. Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Based on your human effort, your human strength, can you add one hour to your life? No. Based on your human effort, your human strength, can you defeat anxiety and worry? No. Through your worry and anxiety, will you change anything? No. Only God can displace worry from your soul and give you His peace.
I want to wrap this up with a few comments and then we are going to walk into a worship set. We are going to replace anxiety with prayer today. We are going to experience God displace anxiety from the center of our souls.
First thing I want to say. Life is spiritual and there must be a day when you decide, I need a spiritual solution. I can’t do this without God. That’s what it means to be a Christian. I get to a point when I stop muscling through life on my strength. I turn to God for His strength.
Listen, you will face anxiety, we all do. That’s not unique to you, that’s everyone. Scripture teaches us, the first we do is make a simple choice. We pray. We invite God to displace worry from the center of our lives. Remember, Jesus taught, our worry and stress can accomplish nothing.
Second thing I want to say. Life is spiritual and with God’s strength, we are expected to engage the day. That means we work hard. We make wise choices. We fully engage people. We will face fear. When God gives us His strength, it’s not permission to be lazy, sinful, or irresponsible. God’s strength is given to us to take into this world, and it will take faith to do it.
God’s Spirit doesn’t make cowards out of us. The Spirit gives us power, love, and self-control. CEV 1 Timothy 1:7
Last thing I want to say. Life is spiritual which means we are dependent on God. I believe our biggest issue today is the North American church, we are trying to fix things on our own strength. The problems we face are God problems. We need God.
What do you think about? What do you worry about? What stresses you out? Have you given up and feel frozen into today? How is your mental health? Are you stuck in a hurt from your past? Are you stuck in the fear of facing tomorrow? Would you like God to enter your life, right now, today, and displace worry from the center of your life? You can.