Steps to Overcoming Worry: Paul’s Words 2

Philippians 4:6-8 (NKJV) 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.

We have been spending time dealing with the subject of worry and how to overcome its affects on our lives. We learned a number of things from Jesus’ words in Matthew chapter 6. Last time we looked at Paul’s approach to the problem from Philippians 4. We started with Paul’s admonition to be anxious for nothing. Coupled with Jesus’ words saying that we should not worry about provision, clothing or the future in general, we have the permission of the two most important teachers in the New Testament not to worry.

If I am not going to worry, I must do something else. God gave us an imagination. He made our minds active. If we are going to keep worry out, we must put something in. The obvious answer is that we must put the Word of God into our minds. Paul gives us a few other things we can do as well.

He says that the way to counteract worry or “being anxious” is to pray. Sometimes the most profound solutions to problems come in the simplest forms. They are so simple and obvious that we forget to do them or discount the power in them. If you are a Christian, you know that you should pray. You probably do pray. However, what we fail to realize is that prayer is counter to worry.

Paul does not just say pray. He says that we should bring “all things” to the Lord in prayer. How often do we simply neglect to ask the Lord about the thing that is causing worry? If we ask, how often do we take the burden of it right back on ourselves. Prayer is a powerful deterrent to worry if we use it as such. Paul wants us to realize that there is nothing in life either too big or too small to bring to God in prayer.

How does prayer help us defeat the worry thoughts that come to our mind? When the thought comes that you do not know how you are going to handle the situation you face, tell yourself, “I have prayed and God is working on it.” When you are tempted to try to figure out the solution, remind yourself that you have placed it in God’s hands. Then ask him if there is anything you need to do. If nothing comes to your mind, let Him handle it.

It is not enough to pray. We often pray as a matter of religious form. That is not what Paul is talking about. He is talking about the prayer of faith. In order to make sure that we are praying that kind of prayer, Paul tells us to offer it “with thanksgiving.” Praise and thanksgiving are the language of faith. If I pray but do not give God thanks for the answer, I have not prayed in faith. If I give him thanks from my heart, I remind myself that he is there, he has heard my prayer and I believe that he will do what he said!

Jesus said much the same thing in Mark 11.

Mark 11:24 (AMP) 24 For this reason I am telling you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe (trust and be confident) that it is granted to you, and you will [get it].

In this quote from the Amplified Bible, we see that Jesus says we must be confident and trust that our request will be granted. In the NKJV and the KJV, it says, “When you pray believe you receive.” If we believe we receive from the Lord after we see the manifestation, we are not operating in faith. If we choose to believe it is ours at the moment we pray, that means we trust that God will do what he says he will do. The outward expression of that attitude is thanksgiving.

Paul tells us something will happen if we do this from our hearts.

Philippians 4:7 (NKJV) 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Peace is the direct opposite of worry. If I pray about all the things that trouble me and from my heart give God thanks for taking care of them, a peace that cannot be naturally understood will attach itself to my mind. It will drive out fear and worry. Something from much deeper than the place where worry lives will begin to take control of my mind. It says here that it will guard our hearts and minds. From what will this peace guard our hearts and minds? Many things but one of the most important is worry.

If we do not honestly go to God and ask him about the situation, this peace will not come. If we pray but do not give God thanks for the answer, this peace will not come. If we do not meditate on the promise we are trusting in, this peace will not come. If we pray, give God thanks and trust in his Word, the Word of God promises this peace to us.

With this peace that passes understanding at work, we can look at the problem without worry. We can decide what we need to do and make plans without fear as a factor. The peace of God will strengthen us so that nothing can shake us. Worry has nothing to take hold of in a peace-guarded mind.

Paul tells us one more thing we must do. We must choose what we will think. Look at the list in verse 8. Can things that are true, noble and just in any way be a product of worry? Are worry thoughts “lovely” or a “good report.” What about virtue and praiseworthy things? Do we find either of those included in worry? Of course not.

Paul says we must choose to think on those things. When worry thoughts come, find something from Paul’s list to replace them. If thoughts come to your mind that do not fit his list, you know that they are thoughts of worry. You can choose what you dwell on. It is not always easy but it is possible. You may have to replace worry thoughts with “list” thoughts every few minutes for a while. The more you choose God’s thoughts over the devil’s, the easier it will be.

We might ask, “Where can I find ‘list’ thoughts.” Jesus fits everything on Paul’s list. When worry tries to come in, think of Jesus. Remember how he gave his life for you. Remember his love is everlasting and that his care for you did not stop at the resurrection.

Remember what God has done in the past and think on that. We tend to remember what God has not done. Instead, revisit some of the “altars” of your life. That is why God told Israel to build altars every time something good happened. He wanted them to remember what God had done especially when there was something to worry about.

Finally, think about the Word of God. Remember his promises. He remembers them. If you fill your mind with what God said, it will drive out the worry and you will experience the peace he so graciously promised.

Steps to Overcoming Worry: The Words of Paul

Philippians 4:6 (NKJV) 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

Overcoming worry is one of the most important things we can do if we are going to open the gates of the supernatural to our world. Worry and faith constantly fight against one another for dominance of our thinking. Worry is meditation in fear while faith is the result of meditation in the Word of God. Whichever one we allow to dominate will control us.

We all worry. That is just part of human nature. There is no reason to be condemned about that. It is not the thoughts that run through our minds that cause problems. It is when we do not resist those thoughts that they hinder our faith. We must resist worry actively by taking our minds off the worry and placing them onto the Word of God.

We have learned a number of keys from the words of Jesus in Matthew chapter 6:24-34. Let me list them.

1. Submitting to worry is submitting to the God of mammon. We cannot serve both Jesus and the God of mammon so submitting to Jesus will break the power of worry.

2. Worry does not work. Running the possible negative scenarios in your mind is not being responsible. You may plan, research and formulate what actions to take. That is not worry. Simply dwelling on the negative produces no good fruit.

3. When we see the care the Father has for the birds and the flowers, we can be assured he will care for us. (This seems like a “cutesy” little thing but remember it was Jesus who said it. Use it!

4. If we seek the Kingdom of God first in our lives, worry will have much less hold on our minds. Worry is about self. When we turn from self, we have no time for worry.

5. We do not have to worry because the God of the Universe, our heavenly Father, knows what we need and will surely take care of us.

6. We need to realize that there are things we cannot control, chief among them the future. That is uncomfortable for us but it is true. We cannot control them so worry will not help deal with them. God is in control so faith will work every time.

7. (From the words of Peter who lived and worked with Jesus.) 1 Peter 5:6-7 (AMP) 6 Therefore humble yourselves [demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation] under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you, 7 Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.

There is much more we could say from the teachings of Jesus about the conflict between faith and worry but I want to look at what Paul said on the topic as well. Paul’s letters to the church are different from the teachings of Jesus in that he was living in the church age. Jesus chose him as a vessel to translate his teachings into daily living. Paul may not have lived in quite the same world we do but he did live in the world in the same way we do. I believe he had the same tendencies to worry. How would he have handled this problem? He also had much to say on the topic but I want to concentrate on today’s scripture.

Let me start where he starts. He says, “Be anxious for nothing!” To our minds that seems impossible. However, if it were impossible the Holy Spirit would not have allowed this statement into the Word of God. Let us look at this verse in the Amplified Bible.

Philippians 4:6 (AMP) 6 Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.

We see from the amplified that Paul is talking about the same thing Jesus is talking about in Matthew 6. We are not to fret or have anxiety about anything. The first word in a list of synonyms for fret is worry. The second word in the same list for anxiety is worry. Paul tells us not to worry about anything. Again, we might say that is an unreasonable request except it is in the Word of God.

Paul tells us here not to worry. Before we get into the details of what Paul is teaching here, I want to focus for a moment on the power of this statement. It is especially powerful when coupled with Jesus words to the same affect.

Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow. Paul tells us to be anxious for nothing. As I have said, we tend to equate worry with being conscientious. That is a lie but when we push worry out of our minds, we often feel guilty. It is not right to ignore problems but putting a stop to worry is not ignoring them. If we have done what we can, we need to put our focus on the Word and the Kingdom of God.

It is also all right to be happy even if we face difficult times. Being happy, or more accurately joyful, is a sign that we have placed the care of the problem in the hands of Jesus according to 1 Peter 5:6-7. You are not being responsible if you are snapping at your spouse, grumpy with your children or a bear at work. Those are all signs that worry has a hold on you mind. The joy of the Lord is our strength. (Neh. 8:10) Do not let the devil steal it through worry.

Here is a thought that will help you. Keeping in mind that Jesus has given us actions to take and that Paul is about to do the same, both give you permission not to worry! If both Paul and Jesus say it is all right not to worry, I think it is all right not to worry!

The definition of worry in English is to feel anxious about something unpleasant that may have happened or may happen or a troubled unsettled feeling. We might call all of that “care.” Care means worry in this context. I use this to defuse the power of worry and the condemning voice of the devil.

Jesus and Paul both give me permission not to worry. Both give me permission not to care. I care in the sense of being responsible. I care in the sense of caring about the wellbeing of those around me and those I love. I reject the care associated with worry.

When the devil tells me I am not going to make it, I tell him, “I don’t care!” When my own mind wants to bring anxiety about something that has happened or may happen, I tell myself, “I don’t care!” When someone else tries to get me to accept unsettling feelings by points out how bad things are or how I cannot possibly succeed, I tell them, “I don’t care!”

I am not saying this to ignore the problem or to be irresponsible. I do what I need to do and take the proper steps to solve things. I use this to remind myself, the devil and the world that I refuse to take the pressure of worry upon myself. My Father knows my needs and he cares for me. Why should I take that burden? Peter tells me to cast the whole of my care on the Lord because he cares for me. I cannot do that if I am going to take the care myself. Therefore, “I don’t care!”

Try this technique. It may be hard at first. I know it was harder for me than I thought it would be, but it worked and I believe it can work for you.

Steps to Overcoming Worry 3

Matthew 6:34 (NKJV) 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

In the last few posts, we have been looking at ways to overcome worry. Worry is meditation in fear and worry is one of the major problems in our society. It plagues just about everyone and it can become debilitating when we do not deal with it. It is possible to overcome worry. Jesus addressed this in Matthew chapter 6.

From his words, we have found a number of things. We have found that worry does not work. It never solves the problem we face. Worry always deals with what has not happened. We should analyze problems, make plans and do what is necessary to deal with them. Worry is none of those things. Worry is mentally running thoughts of fear through our minds until those thoughts control us. Once again, this does nothing to solve the problem.

We have seen that the Father knows we have natural needs. He takes care of the birds of the air and flowers of the fields. He will take care of us as well. We have learned that if we seek the Kingdom of God first, God will add all we need. One of the most important keys to defeating the power of worry is to pursue the things of God actively. When we are focused on the Kingdom, we are functioning in faith and worry will be much less a problem.

I want to look at one more key from Matthew 6. It is difficult for us to accept that there are some things we cannot control. One of them is the future. It does us no good to worry about what is out of our control. In this verse, Jesus points out that the only things we can deal with are the ones we face today. Some would say that this is saying we should not plan for the future. It is not. It is saying it does no good to worry about the future.

Remember, worry is allowing thoughts of fear to fill you mind with possibilities that have not and may never happen. You might be sure they will happen but you cannot know that they will. With God, anything is possible. I know very well that it is not as easy to stop as I am making it sound. However, it is possible. Look at this scripture from 1 Peter 5 in the Amplified Bible.

1 Peter 5:6-7 (AMP) 6 Therefore humble yourselves [demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation] under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you, 7 Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.

How can I get rid of worry about the future? How can I stop the endless loop of fear thoughts and images from running in my mind? This scripture tells us how. The first step is to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. Worry is tied to our belief that we should be able handle whatever comes our way. This is not true. You do not have all the answers. You cannot control tomorrow. You cannot control other people. Once you have done what you know to do, it is out of your hands.

Nothing illustrates this more than children. When they are born, they are completely in our control. We are responsible for everything in their lives. As they grow our control over and responsibility for them gradually diminishes. Finally, they move out of the house, marry and have families of their own.

Mentally we know that we no longer have the same control over them. We know that we are not responsible to providing for them. They are adults and the responsibility and control are theirs now. However, it is very difficult sometimes to get rid of the feelings that we had when they were small.

My son is 27 and not yet married. He lives with us and sometimes I forget that he is an adult and responsible for his own wellbeing. As he was mildly expressing his frustration over that once I told him, “I have been responsible for you your whole life! It’s a little hard to break old habits.”

This has been a bit of a problem with all my children not just the last one living at home. I was, according to my children, a good father. I did what I needed to do. I was not perfect. No parent is. I raised my children to be good citizens, good spouses, good people and most of all good Christians. I did my job. Now that they are grown, I cannot control what happens to them. I cannot carry the responsibility for them.

It took me a long time to get that revelation. I borrowed money and got into debt because of it. My children did not ask me to do that. I just could not allow myself to make the transition from “Daddy” who took care of everything, to father who watches, advises and helps when necessary. If I had any resources, including credit, I took care of the problem before they asked.

This seems to be good on the surface. It looked to me like responsibility. The problem was that I was taking a place God did not intend for me to take. I am not the answer to every problem. I finally came to the end of my abilities. It was then that I finally heard the Lord say, “Why don’t you let me take care of them? I am their Father too and I am not limited. You did your job. Let me do mine and let them learn to trust me.”

The same principle applies in the area of worry. We feel we must meet the need. We have to do something. However, when we have done all we can do and when the circumstance is beyond our control, all that is left is worry. Worry does not work!

What should we do? I love what this verse says. We need to demote ourselves! We need to lower ourselves in our own eyes. We cannot do it! As long as we think we can, we will never overcome worry. Some things are out of our control but they are not out of God’s control.

The next verse tells us what we need to do in order to replace worry. We must cast the whole of our care [all our anxieties, all our worries, all our concerns, once and for all] on Him. The word “cast” is active. It means to throw, to fling or to hurl something. I need to throw all my care on the Lord and do it “once and for all.” That means I cannot take it back.

How can I do that? I need to remember that he cares for me. Again, the Amplified Bible’s language is very clear. He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. That is exactly how I feel about my children. I have more affection for them than for anyone in the world except my wife my grandchildren. I care so much about them that I just could not stop watching over them. I never will.

The thing is that my Heavenly Father cares the same way for me as well as for them. I can cast all my anxiety and all my worries on him because he cares for me. He will never fail me. He has control over things I cannot. Worry will not help. Casting the pressure onto Jesus will.

In order to overcome worry we need to take hold of those thoughts and cast them upon Jesus. He can handle them and he can do something about the problem. Sometimes we need to do this many times in the day. When the thoughts of worry first begin to arise, take hold of them and say, “Lord I cast the anxiety of this situation on you. I refuse the worry. I can’t handle the pressure but I know you can. You care for me and I am going to let you!”

How often will you have to do this? As often as it takes. Do not worry. The Lord will not get tired of hearing you say it and saying it does not mean

Steps to Overcoming Worry 2

Matthew 6:32-33 (NKJV) 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

Worry is a defining aspect of our culture. We worry about almost everything and if we are not worried, we feel we are not being conscientious. Worry leads to stress and stress to all kinds of physical, emotional and spiritual problems. Worry keeps us from being effective channels for the supernatural power of God in the world.

Yesterday we looked at the first step to overcoming worry. Jesus says that we should take no thought saying what shall we eat, wear or where will we live. The revelation here is that we take thoughts by saying them. When a thought comes to our minds, it has limited power. When we begin to give voice to that thought, we increase its power over us. If we say it enough it will become reality in our hearts and eventually reality in our lives.

Step one to overcoming worry is to replace the worry thoughts by taking thoughts from the word of God instead by speaking them. It is not easy to do. Our minds seem to want to worry and not meditate in the Word. If we want to break the power of worry, that is what we are going to have to do.

Today I want to look at the second step to overcoming worry. We see it in today’s section of scripture. We must seek first the Kingdom of God. Worry only has power over us when we focus on our own world and ourselves. If we put the kingdom of God first, worry becomes much less of a factor.

Let me be clear about something here. There is a difference between worry and genuine concern. I am concerned about the welfare of my children. That is normal and proper. When they were growing up, I was concerned about providing for them. It was my responsibility to make sure they were clothed, housed and fed.

I am concerned about my future. I am getting older. I am healthy, thank God, but we all understand that life is not forever and age forces us to face certain realities. I am concerned about our church and the church as a whole. I want to see the church be and do all that God wants and needs it to.

I did all that I could to provide for my family. I am doing all I can to provide for my own future. I am doing what I can to obey God and fulfill my calling to help the church be what it needs to be. I cannot do anything else.

Concern leads us to plan and act according to the necessities we face. It causes us to do what we should do and take our responsibilities seriously. It is not God to ignore challenges any more than it is God to worry about them.

What is the difference? When does concern become worry? Concern becomes worry when we dwell on the things we cannot control and imagine all the bad things that could happen until we believe they will happen. Concern looks at the situation and does what is necessary to deal with it. One of the most important differences is that worry offers no solutions and never considers the Lord in the equation. Concern says, “This is the problem. What does God say about and what should I do to meet the challenge.”

Worry runs negative scenarios in our minds while concern imagines the answer to the problem. Worry produces fear. True concern will lead us to the Word of God and faith. Concern works. Worry produces nothing positive.

Jesus tells us that we must replace worry about our own lives for an active pursuit of the Kingdom of God. He does not say that we should not be concerned about the necessities of life. He says that putting the pursuit of the Kingdom of God first will lead to all that we need being added to our lives.

It is not a matter of one or the other. We are not called to ignore the realities of life. We are not called to say, whatever will be, will be and go on our merry way until the walls cave in around us. When we do that and call it faith, we always end up blaming God. The problem is not that we have concern about the needs of life it is that we place those concerns above our concern for the Kingdom of God.

When I am actively involved in the work of the Kingdom, the needs of my life take a back seat. When my concern is more for the things of God, the preaching of the Gospel and pleasing my Father, the other things do not seem nearly as important. When I seek the Kingdom of God first, I can deal with the other things in a different light.

If I allow the pressures of life to be my first concern it is human nature to dwell on those things to the exclusion of all else. It will be difficult for me to drag my mind off the problem and onto the one thing that can solve the problem, the Lord. If I make the Kingdom of God my first priority, my mind will already be on the Lord and the transition to trusting God for my personal needs will be automatic.

In these verses, Jesus gives us the most compelling reason to believe that God will take care of me. He tells me that the Father knows I have need of all these things. I spoke earlier about the concern for my children’s wellbeing while they were growing up. I knew what they needed. I was concerned about it and it was my job to take care of their needs. The Father knows you have needs and when you seek his Kingdom first, he will be responsible for taking care of them.

As my children grew, they had more responsibility for their needs. When they left the house, they became heads of their own families and bore the responsibility for their own children. However, I have never stopped being concerned for their wellbeing and if it is within my power to take care of a need that they cannot, I will do whatever I can.

I am limited. Our Heavenly Father is not. He expects us to be responsible adults. He expects us to do what we should when it comes to our own needs and the things that come upon us in life. However, he is still there. He asks us to place put his Kingdom first in the order of our priorities. He also promises to make up any lack in our own lives that seeking his Kingdom could cause.

Worry assume that there is not help but our own efforts to solve the challenges of life. Worry does not work. Seeking the Kingdom of God first in light of the Father’s care for us does work. All that you need will be added to your life. Worry will add nothing and take away a great deal.

When thoughts of worry come to you, remind yourself that the Father knows about that need. Do what you should do to deal with the situation. Be responsible in your life and your choices. While you are doing those things, find something in the Kingdom of God that you can go after. Maybe it is an area of service in the church. However, it can also be giving God the praise and worship he deserves. Instead of trying to figure out how you can solve the problem, seek the Kingdom of God first by going to the Word and finding out what God has to say about the situation. Before you worry, pray.

You will see a change. First, that change will manifest inwardly. Eventually you will see a change in the outward circumstances. Nevertheless, the freedom from fear and worry are more important than any outward change you will see.

Steps to Overcome Worry

Matthew 6:31-34 (KJV) 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

God wants to open gates for the supernatural power of God to effect the world. We have found this year that there are things that open our gates and provide a clear channel for the supernatural to flow and other things that hinder that flow. Worry is one of the things that will clog our channel and keep the supernatural from flowing in our lives.

We have looked at worry from a number of perspectives. Worry is meditation in fear. Worry is the process of running scenarios, possibilities and conversations over and over in our minds. Worry always deals with what has not happened never with what has already happened. Worry gives the God of mammon an avenue to gain control over our lives. Worry does not work.

Faith comes from using the same mechanism as worry but turning it on purpose to the Word of God instead of letting it dwell on the negative possibilities. We cannot worry and meditate in the Word at the same time. The first thing we must do to defeat the power of worry is chose to set our minds on the Word of God instead. Our minds seem to be predisposed to worry. I believe that is one of the effects of the fall. Your mind will tend to fight you when you try to replace worry with the Word of God. That is part of the good fight of faith. Colossians 3 tells us what we must do.

Colossians 3:1-3 (NKJV) 1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

We have been raised with Christ. That is a spiritual reality if you are a Christian. We must learn to seek the things that originate where we are seated. When we focus on the things of the earth instead of the things of the Kingdom of God, we set ourselves up for worry. We must set our minds on the things of God instead of the things of the earth.

I have heard this likened to setting the station on the TV. Sometimes the show you are watching is something that hinders your Christianity. You have to change the channel to keep those things out of your mind. You “set” the channel on something that is more conducive to Christian living. When we are overcome with worry, we need to learn to change the channel to the Word of God. Faith will come instead of fear.

There are a number of things we can do that will help us defeat worry. In today’s verse, we see one that is particularly powerful. I quoted from the King James Version because I think it makes the connection more clearly than other translations. Jesus said, “Take no thought saying.” I know that is only part of the sentence and we will look at what he said we should not say but there is a principle in just those words.

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s a particular vein of teaching became popular that emphasized the power of words. As is often the case, there were some misinterpretations of what the bible was saying about words. On the one had there were those who seemed to teach that all you had to do was say the right words and God would move for you. It made no difference what your behavior was. On the other hand, there was a kind of bondage that developed in which any “wrong” or “negative” confessions were condemned. Both extremes diminished the truth of a powerful bible principle. The words we speak are important.

I will not spend time here going over the scriptures that state this principle. You might want to look at James 4:1-12 and Proverbs 18:20-21. Here we see that Jesus connects words to worry. We take thoughts by saying them.

What this really means is that when a thought comes to our mind it is just that; a thought. What we do with that thought determines what it will do in our hearts. If we accept the thought as reality, it will tend to grow in us until it takes over our thinking. Eventually it become reality in our outward life.

Jesus is talking about worry. He says that we should not take worry thoughts by saying, “what shall we drink or what shall we eat.” We all have those kinds of thoughts. You cannot live in the real world and not be concerned about those things. There are things that we must do to insure that we have those things. Some of them involve thinking and planning. That is not worry. ‘

The thoughts Jesus is talking about are the ones that involve things we cannot control. They are the unproductive worry thoughts that want to make us focus on fear and negative possibilities. They are thoughts inspired by our own experiences and thoughts that originate with the devil. We have a choice what we will do with them. We can “take” them receiving them as our own or we can reject them. Jesus tells us that the way we take them is to say them.

I do not want us to get into a mindset where we are now worried about every word we say. I do not believe Jesus is talking about a “slip of the tongue.” I believe he is talking about a pattern whereby our words continually take the worry thoughts by repeating them over and over again.

We have all been in that place where something bad is possible and we want to talk about what might happen. There is a time and a place to ask for prayer and help. When we just give into the pressure to speak the negative possibilities we are taking those thoughts and systematically producing what they represent in our lives.

What should we do? The pressure to speak is part of what makes us human. We know that words are important. We need the outlet of words at times to help us process things that we are dealing with. However, we cannot just let our mouths say whatever they want. That is the lesson of James 3. He calls our tongues “bits in horses’ mouths” and “rudders on giant ships.” Both have a particular function. They set the course.

Proverbs 18:20-21 speaks of the creative power of words. Death and life are in the power of the tongue. Jesus is telling us that both of these principles can be used to defeat worry. I must set the course of my ship with the rudder of my words. This is not bondage but instead a course to freedom. I must choose to release the life of God with my words and not the fear that comes from worry.

If Jesus said we take worry thoughts by saying them, the converse must also be true. I can take other thoughts by saying them as well. When I am tempted to speak unproductive worry words, I can choose instead to speak the words of life that are in the written Word of God. I can take those thoughts instead of the worry thoughts.

In my life, I have applied this with great success. There were times early in the ministry when we had very little money and a big family. If I told you I never worried about what we would eat or where we would live, I would be lying. I had to choose what thoughts I would take. I would walk the floors fighting the fear in my mind by “taking” Philippians 4:19 instead. This verse says that God will supply my need according to his riches in glory. When fear came to my mind, I would choose to speak the Word of God.

It took some time and a great deal of effort but eventually fear was replaced by faith and God did exactly what his word said he would do. What thoughts are you going to take? The choice is up to you.

The Thorns Choke the Word

Mark 4:18-19 (NKJV) 18 Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, 19 and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

Yesterday we began looking at another one of the things that will clog the flow of the Spirit in our lives. I believe we are in the beginnings of the next great move of God. If we are going to be a part of that move, we need to be open gates for supernatural power. Worry will keep either keep our gates closed altogether or cause them to be clogged with debris so we cannot be effective.

We found yesterday that worry is meditation in fear. The more we fill our mind with the worry thoughts based in fear, the less we will fill our minds with the Word of God. Conversely, when we fill our minds with the Word we cannot worry. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Fear comes by worry. To which are you giving the greater attention?

We also found that worry allows the God of mammon to be a controlling force in our lives. Jesus said we must choose whom we will serve. Worry chooses mammon while meditation in the word of God chooses faith and trust in God.

Today I want to look at one of my favorite teachings from the ministry of Jesus. Mark chapter 4 is often referred to as the parable of the sower. It would be more accurate to call it the parable of the seed and the ground. The seed is the Word of God and the ground is the human heart.

This chapter speaks of different kinds of hearts and how the seed of God’s word reacts in each one. The first two, pathway ground and shallow ground produce no plant at all. I believe the plant in this parable is revelation from the Word. The last kind of ground, good ground, does produce a plant. The plant produces fruit at three different rates but they all produce fruit. It is the third type of ground that I want to look at in relation to worry.

How does worry work and why is it so dangerous? Verse 19 gives us a clear picture. Jesus calls this type of ground “thorny ground”. What makes it different from the other two types of unfruitful ground is that it has a full-grown plant capable of producing fruit. In other words, this type of believer has walked in revelation knowledge. He or she knows the Word. However, something is keeping it from producing. What is it that is choking the power from the Word in their life?

Jesus says that there are thorns that have entered into the ground. Those thorns are other plants beside the fruit bearing plant that occupy the same space. Those plants take the nutrients from the soil and rob the good plant of its ability to produce fruit.

He is not really talking about plants and dirt in this parable. He is talking about the Word of God, its ability to produce faith and our own hearts. When we plant the Word of God in our hearts through study and meditation, it will produce a “revelation” plant. Our hearts were designed by the creator to interact with the Word of God just as soil was designed to interact with seed.

The plant of revelation produces the fruit of faith. Faith connects us to the supernatural power of God. As long as the plant is fed by study and watered with meditation, it will produce faith. However, the scenario Jesus is describing is one that will cause the perfectly good plant to wither and become fruitless.

All of us have experienced this process at some point in life. We received a revelation from God and faith came. It may have been faith for a particular promise or just the sense of knowing God’s presence that active faith produces. After a time, we find that our faith has become cold and ineffective. We wonder what happened. Nothing has changed. God is still God. Why is it so hard for us to make the faith connection? This scripture tells us. Something is choking the Word.

There are three areas listed in verse 19 that will choke the Word of God. I would expect the second and third to be most problematic. The second is the deceitfulness of riches and the third the desire of “other” things. The New Living Translation says the “lure of wealth” and the desire for other things crowd out the message of the Word of God.

The interesting thing is that Jesus does not list those two things first. The first thing in a list is usually the most important. The first thing in this list is the cares of this world or in the words of the NLT, the worries of this life. Worry is the first thing that will choke the life out of the plant of revelation.

Everyone worries. Not everyone is drawn away by the desire of wealth or seeking things other than the will of God. Worry will lead to the other two but even if we do not give in to wealth or lust, worry will choke the Word until it cannot produce fruit.

We all have cares or problems that we face in life. That is unavoidable. There was a time when I thought that if a person had enough faith, nothing bad would ever happen. I found out that was not true. Bad things happen because we make bad choices and because we have a bad enemy, the devil. Pressure and stress come because we are in the world.

Jesus did not say that the cares of this world would choke the Word. He said the cares of this world, as well as the other two, entering in choke the Word. How do they enter into my heart? They enter in when I allow the thoughts of fear to go unchallenged by the Word of God. Worry is what gives the cares we all face the channel to enter into my life and keep the faith that I have from working.

We talked about the process to some degree yesterday but this verse makes it very clear. We have the Word of God in our lives and it is producing faith. The plant of revelation is healthy and growing. However, some challenges arise. Maybe they are financial or physical. Maybe they are in the area of family or relationships. Maybe it is concern for our future and what we will do in life.

Whatever it is, we know that the Lord can take care of the problem. We have seen him move in many ways. However, there are thoughts that begin to enter our minds. At first, they are just things that need our attention concerning natural planning or some such thing. As time goes on the thoughts become darker and more persistent.

“What if the car breaks down? How are we going to pay for it?” Maybe we hear some bad news about where we work. “What am I going to do if I lose my job?” An ache or a pain sparks this thought. “Am I getting sick? I don’t have health insurance. What am I going to do?” You can fill in the blanks any way that applies to you. Before long, the thoughts of fear and worry begin to enter your heart and faith seems very far away.

Let me make a suggestion. When those worry thoughts start, tell the devil, “I doubt that.” “You are going to lose your job.” I doubt that! If I do, my God shall supply my need!” The more we doubt the words of fear and choose to believe the Word of God the more real faith will be and the less power worry will have.

This process will not happen automatically. It is a fight. You must choose to pluck up the thorns as soon as you recognize them. There is a place for natural wisdom and planning. When they proceed from worry and fear, they are not from God. Get back to the place of faith and the life of the Word of God will solve whatever problem you may be facing.

Worry: The Thief of our Faith

Matthew 6:24-25a (NLT) 24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. 25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life….

Our church theme for this year is “Open the Supernatural Gates.” When the Lord first spoke this phrase to me, I was focused on the thought that God wanted to open the gates of his power on our world. I believe that is true. I believe we are in the beginning of the next great move of God. However, as I have progressed through the year the emphasis in my heart has changed a bit. I believe we are those gates.

The Holy Spirit does not just dwell in heaven. He lives in his church, the body of Christ. If God is going to pour out supernatural power, it is going to be through us. I am not saying that is the only way God can pour out his power. He is God. He can do anything he wants. I am saying that is the way he has established the outpouring of his Spirit in our day.

If there is going to be a move of God in the earth, God needs his people to be clear channels of the flow of his Spirit. We need to be open gates. We have seen some things that open our gates and some things that will keep them closed. For instance, thanksgiving opens the gates while unbelief keeps them closed.

Even if our gates are open, there are things that will tend to clog them up. Open gates that are full of debris are not really open. This week I want to talk about one of the major clogs that keeps our gates from being clear channels for the power of God.

Have you ever worried about anything? If your answer is no, you are in a very small minority of people. Everyone worries at one time or another. We worry about the future and we worry about the how the past will affect it. We worry about health and we worry about finances. We worry about our jobs, our families and much, much more.

People have always worried. I think we have developed the “art” of worry to a very sophisticated degree in our culture. We are bombarded with media that tells us we should be worrying. What have you done about retirement? What about health care? The news makes sure that we know all the possible catastrophes that could befall us in the next month.

We worry about floods. We worry about droughts. We worry about “global warming” while we worry about how to pay for the heat we used in the exceptionally cold winter we just experienced. Will it be that cold next year?

We worry about our children’s education while we worry about sending them to school because of sex, drugs and peer pressure. We worry about how to pay for college and we worry about what will happen to our children if they do not go.

The thing about worry is that worry always deals with things that have not yet happened and things that are generally beyond our control. The main purpose for worry from the devil’s point of view is to steal your faith in God.

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. (Romans 10:17) We build our faith by meditation in the Word of God. (Joshua 1:8) Those are biblical principles that God put into effect to ensure we can access and build faith at any time. The devil knows them as well as we do.

Worry is meditation in fear. We cannot meditate on the word of fear and meditate on the Word of God at the same time. We have to choose one or the other. Because of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, worry comes much more naturally than meditation in the Word of God. Left to itself, our minds will generally go to the bad possibilities and not the possibilities set forth in the promises of God. That is human nature. We do not have to settle for human nature.

We can choose what we will think. It is not always easy. The devil makes sure that we tend to see meditation in the Word of God as work while worry comes naturally. We even think that to worry is to be responsible. If I am not losing sleep over the possible bad situation, I am ignoring it. However, Jesus tells us why worry is so foolish. It does not work.

Matthew 6:27-28 (NKJV) 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;

I do not know why Jesus uses height to illustrate his point, but it works! I am a fairly short person. I joined the school basketball team when I was in 7th grade. At that time, I was the second tallest person on the team. I learned to play as a forward, which requires some height to be effective. I stopped growing shortly thereafter while the rest of my team kept growing. By the time I was a junior, I was one of the shorter players. I had to play guard, a short person’s position. I did not know how to play guard. How I wished I could “worry” myself into six more inches!

Of course, I could not. Worry will not do that. Why do we think worry will help us solve our problems? I am not saying we should not plan for the future. I am not saying we should not research options and make informed decisions. None of that is worry.

Worry is meditation is fear. It is going over and over in our minds what might happen in the worst case. Worry is that “movie clip” which comes to your mind’s eye unbidden but that you cannot get to stop playing. Worry is the questions and conversations you have in your mind that detail how dire the situation is even though nothing bad has yet happened. We must not allow worry to stay because we will eventually act on it. Then what we fear will, indeed come upon us.

Jesus makes an interesting connection in today’s scripture. Worry is how the God of mammon keeps us under control. When we give our mind to worry, we are giving our mind to the devil. That might seem a little harsh given that worry comes so naturally to all of us. I am not saying we should feel condemned because we fall into worry. You will do that and so will I. I am saying we need to recognize it as the enemy and do what it takes to deal with it.

When we are confronted with the choice to meditate on fear or meditate on the Word of God, we must choose the Word of God. This is usually a battle. The devil does not want you to meditate in God’s Word because he knows faith will come and you will overcome the challenge. You must take your mind and set it on the Word.

That is impossible to do if you never spend any time in the word. You will meditate on what you hear most. Again, look at the words of Jesus.

Mark 4:24 (AMP) 24 And He said to them, Be careful what you are hearing. The measure [of thought and study] you give [to the truth you hear] will be the measure [of virtue and knowledge] that comes back to you—and more [besides] will be given to you who hear.

The measure of thought you give to whatever you hear, whether it is fear and worry or the Word of God will be the one you empower to control your future. Take stock this week and see which you are giving power over your life.