There are three ways to stop worrying. I pointed out that we can stop worrying when we think about how our Heavenly Father takes care of us. I just want to emphasize again that our problem with worrying is in our thoughts. Worrying takes place in your mind, and in 2 Corinthians 10:5 we read that we are to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
The battle is in your mind, and you stop worrying when you change your thought patterns. I believe that most of our problems begin with wrong thinking. It's certainly true in our lives; as soon as we allow our thoughts to get out of control, to think about things we should not be thinking about, that's when worrying moves in and we become worry-warts!
Philippians 4:8 says we are to think about what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. When you're worrying it is often not true, certainly not noble, never admirable or excellent or praiseworthy. So we need to stop worrying. And you do that by replacing wrong thoughts with right ones.
When you find yourself in worry mode, if you will stop and intentionally change your thoughts, replacing those worrying thoughts with how your Heavenly Father has promised to take care of you, to never leave you or forsake you; how he loves you and cherishes you, then the worry has to go. It may only last for a few minutes before you start worrying again, but if you will simply keep replacing wrong thoughts with right ones, soon you will build spiritual muscle and you'll discover that you're not worrying nearly as much as you used to.
Please remember: Worrying is a totally useless and worthless activity. And you have the power, through Jesus Christ, to be rid of it.
We've looked at three reasons Jesus gave us for not worrying: First, because of who you are as a child of God. Second because it never does any good, and third, because it is a poor testimony to the world around you who observe you worrying.
Worry is a function of your mind, your thoughts. So, in order to stop worrying, you have to change your thought patterns. And in order to change your thought patterns, you have to replace wrong thoughts with right thoughts. So here is the thought that can stop you from worrying:
1. You have a heavenly Father who is taking care of you.
Jesus said in Matthew 6 that our heavenly Father knows what we need and will provide for our needs when we seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. Now, this may cause you to ask some questions, like 'Why doesn't God answer all my prayers if He is taking care of me?' That's what we expect a father to do, right? I think of my own father and I am certain that if he could meet any need I had, he would, and he often did.
It often seems that our earthly father is more predictable than our Heavenly Father. Most earthly fathers can be counted on to do anything they can for their children. Yet often our Heavenly Father doesn't come through for us the way we think He should, or the way we want Him to. Does He love us less than our earthly father? Why doesn't He act like my earthly father would?
The answer to that is because He has a different agenda for us from our earthly fathers. He has an eternal agenda, and His purpose is to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ. The daily transformation that needs to take place in our lives often comes through unexpected-and unwanted-ways.
Spurgeon, a great preacher of the 19th Century, wrote: 'O blessed acts of sorrow that cut a pathway to our God by chopping down the tall trees of human comfort.' So, even when you're in the midst of difficulty and you don't see how God is taking care of you, you should not worry, because He is working everything out for your good. 'In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose' (Rom. 8:28).
A second reason Jesus tells us not to worry is that it just simply does no good whatsoever. Jesus said, 'Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?' Worrying is totally worthless. It never produces any good results, but instead it causes us to lose our peace, to lose our joy, to waste our energy. Do you know how much energy it takes to worry? You are spending lots of emotional and mental energy when you're in worry mode-and has it ever done you one bit of good? No, of course not. Worrying is worthless! That's a really good reason for any sensible person to just refuse to worry.
Then Jesus gives us another really strong reason not to worry. In Matthew 6:32 he says, 'For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.' All these things Jesus refers to are what you eat, what you drink and what you wear. Jesus told His disciples that those who are not believers are always worrying about these things.
Isn't it true that most of the people around you are worrying? Just think about the conversations you have with people, particularly people who are not yet believers in Jesus Christ. You'll observe that they are worrying a lot. So, if those of us who are disciples of Jesus Christ worry just like everyone else, what kind of testimony is that?
If you are a real worrier, you can be sure people know it, because you talk about it, it shows on your face and body language, and it's not particularly attractive. Do an honest assessment of yourself: Are you prone to worry too much-and any worry is too much, according to Jesus. He told us not to worry. Worrying is evidence that you're not trusting Jesus in that particular situation. And it's not a good testimony for the difference that Jesus makes in our lives.
What is the most useless and unproductive thing that most of us do too often? I would say that the most worthless thing we do is worry! And yet, I ask you, how many days go by that you don't worry about something? It just seems to be the place our thoughts go to when we experience any level of uncertainty or fear or lack of control.
Jesus fully understood our propensity to worry, and he addressed it strongly in His Sermon on the Mount. From Matthew 6 we read:
“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 important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 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? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.. . So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For. . . your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Jesus gave us three reasons not to worry.
1. First, if you are a born again Christian, you should not worry because of who you are! Jesus said that God takes care of little birds, and even though they are not capable of taking care of their need for food, He provides food for them. And Jesus asks, 'Are you not more valuable than they?'
Well, are you more valuable to God than little birds? Surely the knowledge of how much God loves us, how deeply he cares for us should cause us to stop worrying. After all, our Heavenly Father is sovereign over everything and everyone in our lives; he is always in control, and because we are his children, He has pledged to take care of our needs. So, that's the first reason that we should not worry-because we are children of God and he never leaves us or forsakes us.
Satan's Flaming Arrows - Part 2
Flaming Arrow #3 - Self-Centeredness
Quite frankly, this is an arrow which our enemy has had a heyday within the last couple of generations, because we've played right into his hands with our emphasis on knowing yourself, being yourself, finding yourself, self-actualization, self-esteem and so forth. Much of psychology and psychiatry has aided and abetted this flaming arrow, as people have been counseled to focus on themselves and their pasts.
One subtle way satan uses this flaming arrow is to get us thinking that God was created for our benefit, instead of us being created by God for his glory. Do you find yourself thinking or saying things like, 'My prayers are never answered;' or 'God just isn't there when I need him;' or 'I don't understand why God isn't doing this for me'? Not always, but many times that's an indication that satan has gotten to us with this flaming arrow of self-centeredness.
I want to say this kindly, but I want to say it clearly - God doesn't exist to make us happy or give us fulfillment. We were created to bring glory to God. Certainly a wonderful side-benefit of knowing God is joy and contentment and fulfillment, but we must be careful not to get the cart before the horse.
Jesus said that we find eternal life by knowing God the Father, not by knowing ourselves. Look for the tell-tale signs that indicate the enemy is getting to you with this subtle flaming arrow of self-centeredness. This is one that we really don't see coming, and when it finally hits, it can cripple us for long periods and cause lots of damage to our walk with God.
Flaming Arrow #4 - Lack of Discipline
Sometimes we laugh at the areas in our lives where we lack discipline, but if you think about it, it's not a laughing matter. Is there some really undisciplined area in your life right now? It's like a flaming arrow in your side, getting in your way and keeping you from total effectiveness.
Maybe it's discipline in your eating habits or in your work habits or in the handling of your money. Could it be discipline in spending consistent time getting to know God, or perhaps discipline in taking care of your body through appropriate exercise? Think of the lack of discipline in your life as one of those flaming arrows that satan is aiming at you, to keep you as ineffective as possible.
Can you see where the enemy has been aiming any of these flaming arrows at you?
Satan's Flaming Arrows - Part 1
In Ephesians 6:16, we read about the flaming arrows of the evil one which he uses to try to disable us. He has an arsenal of these flaming arrows; he's learned to use them very effectively, and he's a very straight shooter! We're all pretty aware of the more obvious flaming arrows of the evil one-temptation to sin, break God's law, and disobey the Lord. But frankly, for most of us it is his more subtle arrows that give us the most trouble, because we don't recognize them as flaming arrows of the evil one. For example, here are some of those subtle flaming arrows:
Flaming Arrow #1 - Hurt Feelings
It seems to me that satan uses this flaming arrow on lots of people. Have your feelings been hurt lately? How do we usually react to hurt feelings? Well, it often causes us to quit-to quit communicating with someone, to quit trying to help someone, to quit caring, to sit on the sidelines and pout. Also, hurt feelings usually result in some kind of separation between people, relationships are damaged; bitterness and unforgiveness set in.
It's easy to see why satan uses this flaming arrow often: it works. It stops us and cripples us, and that's what he's trying to do with his flaming arrows. Ask yourself: Do you get your feelings hurt easily and often? If so, you can be sure that your enemy is shooting those flaming arrows at you and will continue to do so, because he's getting to you.
Flaming Arrow #2 - Lack of Contentment
If the enemy can keep you discontented with something or someone all the time, he will effectively cripple you. Some of you have areas in your life where things are not right. Maybe you're in a job that's really tough, or you're married to someone who is difficult, or you're having health problems. For many it is discontentment with their financial status, or with what they possess. And there are lots of single people discontent with being single. Did you ever think that what satan is really doing is shooting the flaming arrow of discontentment at us and wounding us severely by making us continually focused on what we don't have or what we wish would happen.
Start to think about these flaming arrows and read Ephesians chapter six to see how to defend yourself against them.
The Great Reward
So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you!"(Hebrews 10:35, NLT)
What are you believing God for today? Promotion? Healing? Stronger relationships? Freedom from addiction? God has promised all these things to you in His Word. He wants you to live in blessing and wholeness all the days of your life. But in order to experience His promises, we have to do our part. We have to keep believing and trusting in Him. That's what today's verse is saying: if we will stay in faith, if we will keep believing, keep hoping, keep doing the right thing, God promises there will be a reward. I like how one translation puts it, "Don't get discouraged. Payday is coming!"
When you're tempted to get down, when things aren't going your way, just say to yourself, "This may be hard. It may be taking a long time, but I know God is a faithful God. I'm going to keep believing because my reward is coming."
Friend, as you trust Him and stand in faith, as you boldly declare His promises, you are positioning yourself to receive His blessing. No matter what your circumstances look like, remember payday is on its way—and you will experience the blessing and reward He's promised all the days of your life!
God is an expert at bringing good out of bad situationAt present you may be temporarily harassed by all kinds of trials. This is no accident. It happens to prove your faith which is infinitely more valuable than gold." 1 Peter 1:6-7 (Phillips)
"The things you wish were most removed from your life are often the very things that God is using to shape you and make you into the believer of character He wants you to be.”
Life is not a series of random, freak accidents. Life is not totally unplanned. Life is not without meaning. God knows what's going on. He's weaving the fabric in your life, and a tapestry has light and dark threads -- happy and sad times -- to give richness and texture and colour to your life. Nothing can come into the life of a child of God without God's permission. Everything is Father-filtered.
Don't misunderstand me. I am not saying that everything that happens to you in life is God's perfect will. That's just not true. There are a lot of things that are not God's will. If you go out and sin, that's not God's will. If somebody sins against you, that's not God's perfect will.
But God does have a permissive will. If I go out and I overeat, I pay the consequences. If I go out and wreck my body, I pay the consequences. God does not cause evil and God does not cause suffering. But He does allow them because they have a purpose. God permits them and then He uses them.
God is an expert at bringing good out of bad situation. He could have kept Paul out of prison in Philippi but instead He let Paul go to prison and the jailer became a believer as a result. God could have kept Jesus from the cross but He let Him go -- His own Son -- He let Him suffer and die. Did He bring any good out of that? I'd say He did!
God loves to turn crucifixions into resurrections. The things you wish were most removed from your life are often the very things that God is using to shape you and make you into the believer of character He wants you to be. He wants to use that problem for good in your life. There's something more important than your pain. It's what you're learning from that pain. God is in control.
So what's the key? What's our response? Our response is to look past the pain. "This is the reason we never lose heart. These troubles which are temporary are winning for us a permanent, a glorious and solid reward out of proportion to our pain. So we don't look at the temporary situation. We look beyond to see the eternal benefits." (2 Corinthians 4:16-17 Phillips)
Your Seed Determines Your Harvest
"Don't be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant"(Galatians 6:7 NLT).
Have you ever looked at a large, old tree and wondered how long it has been there? It's amazing to think that at one point that gigantic tree was merely a tiny seed. In the same way, our words and actions are seeds. We will always reap a harvest on what we sow.
Think about the types of seeds you have been sowing. Are you sowing encouragement, hope, blessing, love? Then that's what you'll reap in the future. But if you've been sowing criticism, judgment and anger, you're probably already reaping a bad harvest. It's time to start changing your seed.
Today, I encourage you to pray and ask God to help you uproot any negative seeds you may have planted in the past and begin sowing good seeds for your future. As you stay obedient to the Word of God, you'll see those seeds grow. You'll rise up higher and enjoy the harvest of blessing God has promised you.