“Transforming Worry & Fear into Faith that Conquers Giants”
By Dennis Rainey
There it was … a prehistoric, genuine relic. I didn’t need Carbon-14 dating to determine its age. It wasn’t that old, and I still have my memory.
This treasure wasn’t discovered on an ancient archeological dig in Israel, but in a cardboard box headed for the parking lot dumpster. When I moved out of my FamilyLife office I asked a half dozen of our grandchildren to help. It was a blast! But it was impossible to oversee all these “ants” as they swarmed my office and went to work packing. This treasure was found in one of the boxes they packed that day three years ago.
The relic was an 8-inch by 8-inch stained and shellacked pine board with ancient-looking paper and hand calligraphy of what used to be my favorite verse, Philippians 4:6-7:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which passes all understanding shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
I turned the homemade plaque over and realized it was a treasure my kids and grandchildren would fight over someday. But you’ll have to wait until the end of this blog to understand why.
The worrier and the worry-wart
My mom was a genetic carrier of the “worry gene.” She had the “bent,” but I took the “bend” and nearly “broke” her. LOL!!! I feel sorry for her now. I think I was the chief culprit and ground zero for her worry. She used to affectionately call me a “worry-wart.”
Looking back on my growing up years, I gave her several substantial reasons to be anxious. I remember sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night and stealing our family car … when I arrived back at the scene of the crime, the lawn chair outside my window was gone and the window was locked!
But she had the last laugh … she gave me the gene!
Back in my college days I worried about:
Girls … would I ever find one I liked/loved and who liked me?
My looks … hey, there’s only so much that a guy can do! There is no paint that will cover “the barn.”
My grades … I had good reason to fret, my freshman year GPA mid-term was1.5!
My direction in life and future … what in the world was I going to do when I graduated and had to grow up?
For the first two years in college my life was a mess because I treated Jesus Christ like He was a spare tire. I kept Him in the trunk until I had a crisis. Out He would come for two or three days or a couple hundred miles, whichever came first, then after the crisis was over I’d chuck Him back in the trunk … until the next crisis.
The summer of my junior year, I read and studied the first three chapters of Romans. I began to find out about the God of the universe Who loved me and didn’t want to be a spare tire or just a passenger in the front seat of my life. No, He came and died for me. He came to take over my life and be the Driver, if I’d let Him.
Learning about Philippians 4:6-7
That’s when I heard a message on a cassette tape (some who read this may have to Google “cassette” to find out what that is, but just remember this was in the late 1960s and it was the best we had!). I listened to the speaker, Jon Braun, unpack Philippians 4:6-7 and explain what God said about my habit of worry. Let me attempt to share not only what it says, but how we can apply it.
First, there’s God’s command: “Be anxious for nothing …”
Do you know what the word “nothing” means in Greek, the original language of the New Testament? It means NADA. It means don’t worry about “diddly squat,” anything, no thing, nothing, zilcho, zero, zippo, or zot! (yes “zot” is a word. Google it!)
The absolute clarity of God’s command to not worry hit me hard. I confess I was a well-trained, habitual worrier. In my second year of college I went to a doctor whose diagnosis was that I was well on my way to acquiring a relative of worry, an ulcer.
I have concluded that the only thing worry changes is the inside of your stomach lining.
During the last half of my college experience I realized that worry won’t change my circumstances. I began to learn how to yield my life to the One Who is the Alpha and Omega and allow Jesus Christ to take over the steering wheel and take me where He wants me to go.
The second command in Philippians 4:6-7 is born out of God’s love for us and His desire for a growing relationship with us: “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Contrast those words with the four words at the beginning of the passage: “Be anxious for nothing.” Then look at the words again and meditate on them:
“but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
May I paraphrase what He’s commanding you and me to do?
Instead of fretting about things, God invites us to sit on His lap and talk with Him, to bring ALL of our burdens and ALL of our troubles to Him. He commands us to share ALL our fears, ALL our concerns, and ALL our desires with Him.
After all, if we have trusted in Christ as our Savior and Lord, that means we are His adopted children and He is our Heavenly Father. He wants a real relationship with us.
The essence of this passage is that your Heavenly Father loves you and wants you to be honest with Him about what’s going on in your life. Sure, He already knows what’s going on, but it’s a father and child relationship.
When I was a boy I really wanted a pony. I repeatedly pestered my father with my request, but he never once scolded me or spanked me for coming and asking. Why? Because every good father wants a relationship with his child, wants his child to freely come to him, and wants what is truly best for his child.
This passage changed my relationship with God. He wasn’t disinterested. He wasn’t too busy. I learned (and am still learning) that He delights in me and loves it when I come to Him.
Do you think God really delights in who you are?
The passage doesn’t end there. Look at the promise:
“And the peace of God which passes all understanding shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
He promises peace. And not some cheap version you can buy in bulk at Costco at a discounted price. Rather, the peace of God, which He lavished upon us through the most costly gift ever given, the forgiveness of our sins and peace with God through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.
The passage teaches us that peace shall “guard” your heart and mind. The word “guard” is a military term that means God’s peace will be a sentinel that marches back and forth guarding your heart and mind, 24/7. He promises protection “in Christ Jesus.”
I’ve come to believe that for each of us life is one long process where we repeatedly determine who we will believe. Will you believe God or your flesh? God or the world? God or the deceiver? Remember: The devil of hell is a liar. There is NO truth in him.
God’s peace is found in His Words. His Words deliver life, perspective, and happiness. If you haven’t read all 176 verses in Psalm 119 recently, you may want to do it. Underline every promise God makes about His Word, statutes, law, precepts, and commandments. (see Ps 119:105)
Covid-19: Time for an inventory?
This pandemic has certainly added a whole new strain of virus, but also new variants of worry, anxiety and fear. People who have never thought much about death ARE thinking about it now. Covid-19 taunts, “You are not in control, like you think you are! You could die!”
Perhaps you have worried about a family member who is in an “at risk” group.
Or you may be one of the millions who are unemployed and facing some serious challenges of losing your home, business, your cars, etc.
Others may be wondering about the future of your marriage and family. The “storm” called Covid-19 (see Matthew 7:24-27) is revealing much more than your roof leaking; instead the foundation of your home is perhaps not as strong as you thought.
Divorce rates are spiking too. Do NOT quit.
Undoubtedly others are living in or near areas experiencing increased crime and violence. Some wonder if America isn’t as secure as we once thought back, say five months ago.
Regardless, we all need peace in the midst of this turmoil. And, listen carefully, we need to repeatedly train/model/encourage our children where to find this peace.
Take an Inventory of Your Soul
Maybe it’s time for you to consider looking inside the warehouse of your soul and see, really see, and get honest about what you are thinking and feeling and evaluate what’s going on inside you.
Turn the lights of Scripture on and look carefully at what your values really are. What are your idols? Or saying it a different way, “If you were taken to the hospital tomorrow morning and put on a ventilator and died a week from today, what would your legacy be? What have you lived for? Who have you lived for?”
Perhaps it’s time to dust off some of those things that you have been hiding in there. You know, the stuff gathering dust back in a dark corner. Execute an inventory of everything you worry about.
I’ve done this more than once. A ruthless inventory that says, “I will not live in denial. I will systematically name the things worrying me and begin the process of taking them to my Heavenly Father.”
In the last three years, Barbara and I have gone through the process of purposing to step aside for a younger leader of FamilyLife, stepping down from our daily radio program and making room for a fresh set of biblical voices on FamilyLife Today. We are discovering a new script of what God expects of us in our next season of life, family, and ministry. None of this has been easy.
Ask Barbara … I haven’t been easy to live with.
Before I asked Barbara to marry me back in 1972, I did a self-examination. I took an inventory of my soul and was surprised that upon completion I had four single-spaced pages of fears, concerns, and worries.
I gave all those fears to God in prayer. I then asked Him that if He was calling me to ask Barbara to become my wife, to give me His peace.
Then I burned those four pages of fears.
It worked then and now. We’ll be married for 48 years on September 2.
So are you game? Then here’s your assignment:
Pray and ask God to show you what and/or who you are worrying about.
Name what you are worrying about. Name them. ALL.
Read Philippians 4:6-7, then read through your list and reflect on what God says about what you are to do with all you are worrying about.
Thank God that He delights in you, in all your brokenness, your gifts and spiritual track record. Talk to God and be honest with Him about your fears, concerns, and desires.
Keep on walking with God and talking with Him for a lifetime.
Share with your spouse and children what you’ve learned.
And now, the rest of the story about the treasure I found:
Guess who gave me the handmade, calligraphied plaque with Philippians 4:6-7?
A good friend who I was not dating at the time, but who became my wife, three years later!
Like I said earlier, it’s a treasure.
Dennis aka, former worry-wart, most of the time!
(My life verse)
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