“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.