03-22-2020: Gaining Victory Over Anxiety

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“Gaining Victory Over Anxiety”

Philippians 4:4-9

Summary: How God helps us gain victory over fears, worries, and anxiety.

I. Introduction – Fear & Anxiety.

Martin Luther on Fear: “God and the devil take opposite tactics in regard to fear. The Lord first allows us to become afraid, that he might relieve our fears and comfort us. The devil, on the other hand, first makes us feel secure in our pride and sins, that we might later be overwhelmed with fear and despair.”

Eleanor Roosevelt: “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’”

Eleanor Roosevelt: “Fear is the most devastating emotion on earth. I fought it and conquered it by helping people who were worse off than I was. I believe that anyone can conquer fear by doing the things he fears to do, provided he keeps doing them until he gets a record of successful experience behind him.”

Lastly, Bertrand Russell: “All religion is borne out of fear.”

The Bible promises us that through Jesus we have victory over sin – and – the power of evil.

The Bible also recognizes that even though we have already been given victory – we still struggle with temptation and desires of the flesh – and evil still creeps into our life – all because we haven’t changed the programming in our mind and – we lose the battle for our thoughts.

This Sabbath Day – because of the crisis brought upon us by this viral sickness – I want to look at an evil which plagues many people including Christians – anxiety – including worry and irrational fear – which in extreme cases can lead to panic or anxiety attacks – and phobias – and for sure – rumors.

II. Fear and Anxiety Separate Us from God.

            Fear and anxiety separate us from God because they can actually entrap us – preventing us from living a truly free life – a life like God wants us to have. You become a slave to your fears.

In my research, I discovered that anxiety disorders have become the number one mental health problem in America for woman – and – the number two mental health problem for men in America behind alcoholism and some professionals speculate anxiety or fears might be a contributing factor to alcoholism. Mental health experts say it is a growing problem because we are under so much stress – much of which is due to our fast-paced lifestyles – and now even more with this virus. While stress doesn’t cause anxiety – it is a contributing factor.

III. Fear Versus Anxiety.

Anxiety and fear are closely related. A fear is a reaction to something specific – if I see a snake next to me – I might freak out – that’s fear. Anxiety on the other hand is like fear only it doesn’t have a specific cause – it lacks an object. I might be in a situation where I begin to have the same feelings of fear – but I don’t know where it is coming from.

Fear in itself is not necessarily a bad thing – it initiates & motivates our awareness & our survival mode.

A. FEAR – A Natural Response of a Human to a Threat.

Fear is the body’s natural response when we are threatened. When we feel fear or become anxious – it is a warning system for our body. When fear kicks in, we become more aware of our surroundings – our adrenaline gets pumping – we go into fight or flight mode. Our bodies are trying to tell us something is wrong in order to protect us. Without our bodies normal fear response – we could put ourselves in danger. For example, if a lion walked into the sanctuary just now – our fear and anxiety level would probably raise and with good reason because it is sending the message to our body to get out of there.

            Without this mechanism we could get ourselves in trouble. Without this mechanism I wouldn’t be here right now. Have you ever watched those home videos shows where people in national parks walk right up to wild animals – moose, bears, buffalo – to get a better picture – or worst of all to feed them. They lack a healthy sense of fear.

B. FEAR: Sometimes It Can Go Overboard.

However – while fear is a God given gift it can sometimes go overboard from a good survival mechanism to an irrational phobia – an anxiety which immobilizes us and harms our everyday living.

Personally, I have two fears – which I would consider to be irrational – although not quite a phobia – the fear of snakes and heights. Snakes for obvious reasons and, my phobia of heights is a little weird. I can climb to any height and look down – but don’t ask me to look UP! I feel as if I am launching off the planet. Not sure what to call that.  

            A fear of heights or snakes – as irrational as they might be – are not necessarily a problem depending upon where you live and work. But what if your problem was: a fear of being in public places – or a fear of being rejected by people – or a fear of failure – or a fear of financial problems – or a fear of getting this virus – or worse you just seem to get anxious for no reason at all.

These become an obstacle for living the victorious Christian life Jesus came to give us because we become slaves to our fears. To avoid these fears or anxieties we may try to manipulate circumstances and people around us. If, say you have a fear of rejection, you are going to try to manipulate people to like you by how you dress and act – YOU WILL be a people pleaser.

Or, you may do the opposite and drive people away by your behavior so you can reject them before they can reject you. If you fear failure – you will push yourself to exhaustion perhaps even being a perfectionist so that you don’t hear the voice in your head saying: “I am a failure!”

IV. Christian Victory Over Fear.

There is victory over fear for Christian believers because they are not meant to endure this kind of fear and anxiety. When we become a believer in Jesus Christ – we become a new creation no longer bound by fear – worry – or anxiety. Listen to what Paul has to say in 2 Tim. 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

A. Our Trust in Christ Sets Us Free from Fear.

When we trust in Christ Jesus – we are set free from the spirit of fear; and all because Jesus has given us victory over fear by replacing our fear with his peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” – John 14:27 NIV.

B. Jesus Came to Give Us Peace Not Fear.

Jesus came to give us peace not a spirit of fear. There is nothing on this earth or beyond we should fear except God alone because God loves us and is in complete control of the universe – even when it seems to us that things are out of control. Therefore – we should not fear death because it has been conquered by Jesus through his death and resurrection. We are told this in 1 Cor. 15:55-57: “‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

            We should not fear Satan because God holds us firmly in his palm – 1 Jo. 5:18: “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them.”

We should not fear other people and what they can do to us because they can only do what God allows them to – they can only touch the body – but they can’t touch the soul. Rather there is only one we should fear and that is God who has the ability to destroy the body AND the soul – Luke 12:4-5“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.”

We should not worry because God is in control and will take care of us.

V. So, Why Do We Struggle?

Why, then do we – as Christians – continue to struggle with anxiety, worry, and fear? It is because we have brought our old baggage with us into our new life in Jesus Christ – our past experiences & their influence on our thoughts. Generally speaking – fear and anxiety have their root cause somewhere in our past. The exception to this would be a direct attack from Satan.

Most often our fear or anxiety is from an experience in our past – it could be traumatic or even a minor incident which has caused a stronghold in our heart and mind – which gets triggered under certain circumstances. Whenever we face a similar situation we go into fear or panic mode. For example, the reason we fear rejection is because someone rejected us in the past and caused a deep hurt within us.

 I remember a person who got a dog from the humane society which had been abused by its previous owner. Even though my friend gave the dog a loving home – the dog still shook with fear any time his new owner got mad because it was afraid his new owner would beat it.

 Sometimes we are like that dog – even though God has given us a warm loving home – and has called us his own – we tend to act like the dog and fear our new master because of our past experiences and our false understanding of who God is.

VI. Steps Toward Victory Over Anxiety.

So – What do we do to gain victory over our anxiety, fears, and worry?

A. Ask God to reveal your source of fear or anxiety to find healing

The first thing we can do is ask God to reveal the source of our – fear or anxiety – and I do not mean what you fear but to ask God to reveal to you where it all began. Did you have a parent who hurt you or put you down – or wasn’t there for you – as it applies with this crisis – perhaps you – a friend or family member – were very sick in your youth – or they died.

Remember fear and anxiety don’t just materialize out of thin air – there is a cause somewhere in your past. This may be difficult to do and take some time to determine.

You may need to just stop – take a big breath – or two – and speak to God about your concerns for yourself – your family – your friends.

B. Ask God to Reveal What Lie or Doubt About God or His Promises We Are Choosing to Believe?

The second cause for anxiety is an unbelief or doubt in God’s character and promises. When we worry – we’re doubting God –  – His wisdom –  – that He knows what is best –  – His love and goodness –  – that He cares for us and wants what is best –  – His sovereignty –  – and that He is able to do what is best.

When we fear something – we are doubting that God will protect us. What we need to do is ask God to reveal the lie or doubt about God and his promise – we are choosing to believe.

If I struggle with the fear of rejection – I am believing the lie that what other people think and say is more important than what my Creator and Redeemer thinks and says. Galatians 1:10 NIV: “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Behind every anxiety and irrational fear and worry is a lie or disbelief about God. But – this is the beautiful part – we can renounce the lie and choose to believe the truth. For example, we can say – even out loud – “I renounce the lie that I am never good enough – and I believe the Bible’s promise that You – Lord – love me unconditionally no matter what I do.” You, and you alone have the choice to change what you believe.

C. Cast Your Anxiety on God (Prayer)

Even if we do these things anxiety – fear – or worry – will still try to creep into our life – so what can we do about that?1 Peter 5:7: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

When the feeling of anxiety comes – Peter tells us to cast our anxieties upon God because he cares for you. Paul tells us to pray – talk to God about what is making you anxious. I believe it is through prayer we cast our anxiety on him – we say: “God I can’t handle this situation, please take it away from me.”

Imagine taking your anxieties and worries and putting them “in a little gift box – tying it with a bow – and presenting it to God at the foot of the cross – an offering of faith to him.”

King David cast his anxieties on the Lord when he was betrayed by someone close to him – we call it Psalm 55. If you face anxiety but don’t know what to pray check out Psalm 55 and pray that Psalm for your situation.

D. Thank God for What He Has Done.

Another part of casting our anxieties upon God is to thank God for what he has done. This is one of our greatest offensive weapons against anxiety because thankfulness focuses our attention off of us and our problem and onto God and his goodness. Fear and praise and thanksgiving to God cannot coexist.

What is the result of casting our anxieties on God through prayer and thanksgiving? Philippians 4:7: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

God promises to give us the peace which passes all understanding and guard our heart and mind. Because we cast all of our anxiety on God lifting them in prayer and trusting God for the outcome – he promises to guard our minds. He protects our minds from the very thoughts that lead to fear and anxiety and keep us from trusting prayer.

The image here is of the Roman legions lining up side by side creating an impenetrable wall which the enemy cannot get through. Remember that the reason we experience anxiety is because our thoughts start running wild with possibilities of what could happen – but God wants to protect our thoughts and give us peace.

VII. Conclusion.

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ – In order to achieve victory over sin and evil we must allow God to help us gain control over what we think. By God’s strength we can control the negative influences we put into our minds – the lies of our culture – and the lies of the devil – and to replace it with the truth of God’s promises. As Paul tells us – we should “set our minds on things above”. When we do that, we fill our minds with the good things of God. The more we focus on our relationship with God and accept the truth of his promises – our minds get filled with more of Him and we find that we gain victory over temptation and sin because those attacks don’t even make it into our thoughts.

Children of God – you do not have to be bound by a spirit of fear and timidity but of love – power – and self-control. Jesus Christ came to set you free. You don’t have to live in fear of anybody or anything but God. Let God give you victory and peace.

Let us pray: “Lord, I pray for those here who are experiencing anxiety and fear that you would help them discern where their source of anxiety is so they might forgive and find healing, and that you would help erase their doubts and fill them with the truth about you and your promises. You are in control – you do love us and care for us – you will provide for our needs – in this we believe – in this we trust – in this we have faith. In your holy name – Amen.”