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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Chris Hodges » Chris Hodges - Dealing with Anxiety

Chris Hodges - Dealing with Anxiety

Chris Hodges - Dealing with Anxiety
TOPICS: Let's Talk About It, Anxiety

Well, hello, church family. How is everybody doing today? Everybody doing good? I said is everybody doing good, today? Really good to see you. I am just honored to stand in front of you and to minister to you over the next few minutes, as we get into God's Word, and we are going to continue our series we're in week number three of a series called "Let's Talk About It". And these are topics that you actually gave us on Easter Sunday when we did a survey, and we just collected them all, and we're taking the top five responses of requests from you in this message series, and I can't wait to get to it. But first, let me look straight into the camera and say hello to all of our locations that are now joining us. We are one church in 26 different auditoriums across Alabama and Georgia. And, of course, I think you guys know this. We are bringing not only this service, but all that we are as a church.

So, between Sundays into more than 22 of Alabama's Department of Corrections facilities. They always go crazy, by the way, when we mention them. And I want to give you a chance to, come on, show some love to everyone that's joining us. God bless you guys. Good job. And then, of course, we are streaming live right now and people watch on demand, and we're glad you're with us, as well. We give a shout out down at our Auburn campus. I went to the Auburn campus on Thursday night, and the place was completely packed with college students going after God, and we had an amazing, amazing time, and I'm just so grateful for what the Lord is doing. And I also want to give a shout out to our Shoals campus.

So, we have a campus up in Muscle Shoals, Florence area, and I'm happy to report that this week we have broken ground on a new building for the, come on, the Shoals campus. All right. And then we're actually, next month breaking ground on a campus for Opelika. And if you're new to our church, we start churches portably. And after five or six years or so, we are able to build a building with cash. So, when I say we broke ground, we already have all the money that we need for both those buildings because of your generosity. Thank you so very much. And I'm actually meeting with our trustees, tonight, who are non-staff elders, and we're talking about Oxford next and property in Columbus, and property in Mobile, so you guys pray.

And again, thank you for your amazing, amazing generosity, that allows us to build houses of worship all over our states, and then also, of course, the missions works that we do around the world. Today, we are going to talk a little bit about the topic of anxiety. That was your third most requested topic, anxiety and depression. If you'll remember, 2 weeks ago, I brought a message to you on stress, and we really believe that those are two completely different things, and I address them differently. Stress is more about the external circumstances that happen to you that stress your life. One thing about external circumstances, you can't change those, so you can only enforce and reinforce your capacity to be able to handle bad days. And we talked about that, so that was the kind of nothing you can do about it, so sorry about that, but you can increase capacity to withstand the stresses of life.

Today, we're going to take the opposite approach, anxiety and depression. Actually, circumstances could be great, and there's a war going on, on the inside of your soul and of your emotions. I want you to look straight into my eye right here. And I say this, in the mighty name of Jesus: you do not have to live with that. That does not have to be a part of your life. You don't have to put up with it. There are real solutions in Jesus's name. And God's people said a good, it's true. It's very, very true. And today I stand before you, I think, with some moral authority to talk about this topic, because I have experienced what I'm teaching you today. I'm going to give you my story, the first part of this message. For a lot of you, you already know this.

If you joined our church, I actually tell this story in our membership class, which is week one of the Growth Track, but I was an associate pastor in Louisiana, and I've always been the glass is not even half full. It's always full. I've never had a bad day in my life. I wake up happy literally every day; but in 1999, I had the worst year of my life, circumstantially, and it got into my soul. And by 2000, I'm a pretty miserable guy, but there was nothing on paper that should have made me miserable. There was no external reasons anymore. In fact, we were in our dream job working at my home church. I was paid better than I would've paid me, you know. We had a house we had just finished building it was our first home. We put it out in the country. It was a small home, but it was ours.

You know, it was our first home. We were raising a family of five beautiful small children, and I think I'm just doing fine and dandy, but I'm miserable on the inside, and the problem with that particular instance is I didn't know why, and that was very, very frustrating to me, because I'm a fix-it kind of a guy. So, if I'd have known what it was, I'd have done something about it. I didn't know. Everything on paper said I should've been the happiest guy alive, and I was just about to check myself into a clinic. I had become convinced that it was chemical or biological, that there was something going on. And our church, like we do here at Highlands, I always did 21 days of prayer and fasting to start the year.

And so in January of the year 2000, we were in this fast, and I really took it very, very seriously. I'd always fasted something, you know, like broccoli and cauliflower or something like that, you know. But I had gone all in with this fast, because I was actually very desperate. And on day 17, I had what's called an open vision. In other words, I saw, really, in my mind's eye, as clearly as I'm seeing it in my physical eyes, right now, what I'm looking at right now. I saw this room, this size, and shaped just like it is with the sloped floor in the back. I saw it. I saw the vantage point I'm standing at, looking at right now, and I did not know what city it was in. I didn't know. All I know is in a moment, I want you to hear this, in a moment, joy flood my soul.

Now, this is not the only solution, but it is a solution. I'm going to talk about it in just a second. I mean, I had a new sense of purpose and vision. I was so fired up. We talked to my pastor, and he said, "It's God. God's leading you now to be a senior pastor of a church". Now, I didn't know anything about being a senior pastor. In fact, I've always said I would never be one. I wanted to be the best number two guy in the world. I did the music in the church. I was very, very happy doing what I did. And I said, "Well, what do you do next"? He said, "God's going to give a supernatural love for a city. Just start looking for one".

And so long story short, Tammy and I found Birmingham, Alabama, going to the SEC baseball tournament, I mean, watching LSU play baseball. We were here in May of 2000 watching that incredible tournament, and I was at the Summit. And a lot of you guys know this story. I was standing up there at the Summit, at the Barnes and Noble, getting a cup of coffee before I went to the Hoover Met. And I'm looking down at Highway 280, I mean, traffic going in both directions, six lanes of traffic, and the Holy Spirit speaks to me as loud as I'm saying to you, "You're going to pastor the people down in that traffic jam". I drove up and down 280 for an hour and a half, on purpose. And I'm the only one who loves that traffic jam. And I was looking into people's eyes as we were stopped at red lights.

"Oh, I'm gonna pastor you one day". I'm just, I don't know anybody in town. I'm just having a vision. I'm having a moment with God. And I'm telling you, I can't explain to you the opposite of the depression and anxiety that left my life, as I had a real sense of purpose and vision for my life. The rest of the story, of course, is history. Look what the Lord has done. Nobody more amazed than me. I know who I am. I know who I am. And this is God. Come on, everybody. I said this is God. Fast forward to 2011. Our church is 10 years old. I just buried my dad. Just buried Tammy's dad. I mean I'm grieving, and I led the funerals. I'm pretty tired, and the church had been just kind of going at this crazy pace for 10 years.

And I got invited to go to Australia with Pastor Mark Pettus to go speak at the Australian Christian Churches Pastors Conference, about 3,000 or 4,000 pastors. And so he and I flew over to Australia. And when I landed in Australia, I got off the plane and went straight to a Bible school, a seminary, and taught for half a day. Got back on the plane in Sydney, flew up to Brisbane to speak to the Friday night service of a church there, spent the night, got back on the plane, flew from Brisbane down to Melbourne to speak at the church that was the host of this pastor's conference, both the Saturday night services, Sunday morning services.

And then we are now in the car headed to this retreat center to spend Sunday night, and my teachings would begin on Monday down there in the Victoria state of Australia. I'm telling you the sun is setting. It is by now the most peaceful moment I have had in the entire trip, so far. I'm relaxed. I've been preaching all day. I'm in the passenger seat with the pastor. Of course, it's on this side. They drive on the wrong side of the road, so he's over here. And going through, I'll never forget, we're going through the Outback. It was gorgeous. The sun was setting. We're getting ready to go have dinner, have a good night's sleep, get to preach to some pastors again; when all of a sudden, a 2,000-pound man sat on my chest. My left arm goes numb. I can't breathe, and my heart rate, I would find out, was at about 180 beats per minute.

And I'm screaming at the pastor, saying, "I'm dying, I'm dying. Pull over, pull over. I'm dying". And I can't breathe. I'm telling him my last words. I've actually told him what to tell Tammy. I really think I'm dying right now, and he calls the paramedic. We're out in the middle of nowhere. Brings me to this little bitty clinic out in the middle of the Outback. Stayed there for about 30 hours while this pastor friend of mine, Shane, Pastor Shane held my hand, never let go of my hand for 30 hours, told me it's gonna be all right. They couldn't find anything wrong with me. I mean, look at me, everybody. They could find nothing wrong with me. And they said, "We want to keep you for a week and do tests". I said, "Man, I've got work to do. Let me go".

And so we ended up, went and preached. And I'm still having these bouts of fast heart rate, all these same feelings, kind of worked through it. Man, I've gotta thank Mark Pettus, who actually just, I mean, cared for me and got me home. Well, my cardiologist was in this church, and I was already texting him. I said, "Andy, man, I've gotta see you". He goes, "Listen to me. If we really want to know, these stress tests, that's not going to work. We're going to need to get you a heart tap". I said, "What is that"? He says, "We're going to go in through your leg, and we're going to go all the way up into your heart with a camera, and we're going to see what's going on". I said, "All right, do it." and so I'll never forget kind of coming out of the drugs that they put you out.

And I'm sitting in this consultation room, and he walks in. He says, "PC, got good news and bad news". I said, "Well, tell me that good news". He goes, "Your heart's perfect". He said, "What's the bad news is," he goes, "you have a pace that is gonna destroy your life". He says, "Man, you've got to slow down, or you're gonna die. Your body is trying to tell you something". And I said, "Really"? I said, "Will you give me the prescription, and I'll do it". And he did. I can say before God, and our elders know this, that he gave me a prescription of how I travel and how I Sabbath, how much time I spend, how many Sundays I speak, everything, and I have not broken it one time since 2011, and I've never had that type of experience again since that time, as well. I was having, yeah, I was having, I was having a panic attack.

Fast forward now to 2018. 2018, two pastors in America who I never had met, not even one time, committed suicide, young pastors in their 30s. When I'm in my home office, I'm reading these stories, and I'm weeping like they were my best friends. I was, and I've done this long enough to know the Lord was putting a burden on me. He wanted me to feel something for the benefit of other people. And I'm sobbing. I'm trying to find their widows' phone numbers so I can do whatever I was going to serve them any way I can. I'm sobbing like these were spiritual sons of mine. And I knew God was speaking to me. Well, we were in a series. It was September of 2018, and we were in a series just like the one we're in now.

That year we called it "Reply All". We were taking your questions and answering them. And one of the questions was about anxiety and depression, and so I spent that week, five days, studying. It was, I'm embarrassed to say that in the 18-year history of the church, I had never done a message on depression or anxiety. And I did 5 days' worth of study, which was not nearly enough, brought a message to you guys that year, and it became the most rewatched message times 100. Brought it to a pastors conference about 2 weeks later. My phone was ringing off the hook. "You touched a nerve. You touched something I was dealing with". I did 2 years of research after that. I decided I'm gonna study it; and if I'm good enough at it, I'd write a book about it. And I didn't want just a spiritual solution.

I wanted to also know the practical, I talked to psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, and I read at least 20 books on depression and anxiety. I still don't know everything there is to know, but I know more than most. And I ended up writing a book. You guys know that. It released in 2021. And I was in the middle of the manuscript, and the manuscript was due March of 2020. Anybody remember that month? By the way, it's just going to be 15 days to slow the spread. All right? And we were trying to figure out how to shut a church down, how to minister to you guys in all these crazy ways. We were setting up studios in my house, increasing the fiber running to my house, so we could, we didn't know how long we were going to be doing church, you know. We didn't know.

And it was, of course, it was disorienting, as we all experienced, and then we also had this crazy election, and we had the economy was freaking out, and, of course, the racial tensions that were taking place during that time. It was a year, of course. And I called my publisher. I says, "No way, I'm not gonna get it done. It's just no way. I need more time". They were, "Ah, that's all right. We actually, if you turned it in, in the fall, it'd be better for us anyway, because May is Mental Health Awareness month, and instead of releasing it in January like we planned, we'll release it in May. That's even perfect. You can have 4 more months".

I found out later that, that was God, because I would go through that year, that summer especially, literally the darkest time of my entire life. I had such a series of panic attacks. It was just really hard, you know. And none of us knew what to do. We were all trying to do our best at everything. It was just crazy. It was crazy. And I won't go into the details. I was very, very honest about it, if you want to know the details, in chapter 3. I wrote, the introduction of chapter 3 gives you all you need to know, because it was just kind of crazy. You know, we had threats on our life. We had all kind of things happen. And so anyway, but I knew the Lord wanted me to expand it, because I heard the Spirit of God say, "All right, let's see if the book works".

And I knew I was supposed to actually go through my own writing and test it before I ever released it, that I was supposed to see if this stuff actually works. And I remember saying, "If this doesn't work for me, it can't work for anybody else; and I will never release it if it doesn't". And I remember coming out of all of that anxiety and fear and intimidation and pressure and panic. And I'm gonna tell you, I got healed. I remember the moment when God healed me, and I would have the confidence, and the joy, and the passion once again.

And, of course, released the book in 2021 called, "Out of the Cave". And I'm going to share with you just a few thoughts in it. I don't have time to give you the whole book, but I'm going to give you a few thoughts in it that I think are going to help you today. And here's one of the main things that I learned, and that is that anxiety is not a malfunction of your mind. It's trying to tell you something. If you're depressed today, you need to know your body's trying to tell you something. If you have anxiety, your body is trying to tell you something. If you're anxious or depressed, you're not weak, and you're not crazy. You're a human being with unmet needs that God has for your life, and we certainly need to remove the stigma off of mental illness, anxiety, and depression, and I think the church needs to lead the way. I really do. I believe that with all my heart.

And I'm taking the great risk, you have no idea how it feels to stand in front of you, trying to be your leader, and to tell you how weak I really was. And so I'm taking the risk to be vulnerable and honest and transparent in the hopes that it might help some of you. One of my greatest discoveries in my research, my 2 years of research is I found about nine major causes of depression, seven of which had nothing to do with your body, actually. They weren't genetic or biological. They were actually what they call psychosocial. In other words, it either happened to you or you're doing it to yourself. So, in other words, there are things you can change in your lifestyle or in your experiences to be healed from that will change it.

And so, and, of course, there are two that are biological. They're genetic. Tammy and I, our youngest of five children is autistic, and he requires some medication. For years, we were looking for something to help Joseph. And you work so hard as a parent trying to find something. I'll never forget the day we found this one doctor. We kept changing doctors. We found this one doctor, and he said, "Look, try this". And we were always cautious about any medications. But he said, "Try this". On day three, Joseph walks into my office and said, "Dad, thank you so much. For the first time in my life, all the wires in my mind connect". Amen.

And y'all don't, yeah, praise God for that. And I've never told anybody this. I'm telling you now. But there were two years, the last two years of his high school years that every single day he walked in and told us, "I can't live". And so we could never leave him alone. And now he's healthy and strong, and he can stay on his own, and we're doing great now. Praise God. But I also know that biology and medication seems to dominate the conversation in this space. And if you allow biology to be the only solution and medication, you'll miss the real solutions. Because seven out of the nine have things to do we can change in our lifestyle. We can heal from the things that have happened to us, and I want to share those with you.

Now, I don't have the time to give you all the things I learned and how anxiety and depression happens to us. You can get the book and read those if you want to hear my thoughts on that. But in 1 Kings chapter 18, we're gonna go to 1 Kings chapter 19. It's the story of Elijah, this great prophet who in chapter 18 defeats 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah. I mean, it's really one of the best preaching material in the whole Bible. And then he prays a prayer that ends a 3.5 year drought. And then you jump into chapter 19, and just one verse later and it says, "Now Ahab, who is the king of Israel, told Jezebel, who's the queen of Israel, everything Elijah did when he killed all those prophets of Baal and Asherah," because those were their prophets, and they were pretty not happy about it.

So, Jezebel posted on Facebook to Elijah to say, and I'm telling you, I'm being actually not funny, but like I'm being serious, because it was a comment on social media, their version of social media, and some of you need to hear that. "May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I don't make your life like one of them". In other words, "You killed them, I'm gonna kill you now". And this great prophet, who could stand in the face of 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah, ran for his life. And when he came to Beersheba, remember that? I'll talk to you about it in about 15 minutes. "When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there".

Big mistake. I'm gonna deal with this all by myself. "While he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it, and prayed that he might die". And I dedicate this message to anyone who prayed that prayer. I have had enough, Lord. Take my life. And then he throws in this random comment. "I'm no better than my ancestors". What does that have to do with anything? I talk about it in the book. But Elijah did at least six of the nine causes that I found in my research. And then I want to read to you the next portion of these verses, because five things happened to him in the rest of the text of 1 Kings 19.

When I wrote this book, these are not my opinions. I did bring in the research that I found, but then I just outlined 1 Kings 19. That's all I did. So, the content of the book is not my thoughts. It's the six things that he did in the first few verses and the five things he did to get out of it in the next few verses. And I always have two messages with this. So, I actually preached, when I do bring this to churches or conferences, it takes two messages: how you get in the cave of depression and anxiety, how do you get out? And I always have to choose. So, one place, I actually did six ways you get into anxiety, depression. And after I finished, this guy walked up, and he says, "Pastor Chris, that was so good. You got me in the cave. Ge me out of here".

You know, so I'm gonna get you out of here today. Okay, here we go. "Then he laid down under the bush, and he fell asleep. And all at once, an angel shows up", it's an angel of the Lord. It actually is the Lord in angel form. It's what they call a theophany or a Christophany, "and touched him and said, 'Get up and eat.'" Notice that he didn't say worship. Notice he didn't say build an altar. Notice that he didn't say repent. Notice he said, "'Hey, first prescription, get up and eat.' And he looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals," and probably a slab of butter too. And he ate, drank, and he went back down for another nap. And the angel of the Lord came back a second time, and he said, "Build an altar. Sacrifice an animal. Repent". No. "Hey, let's eat some more. For the journey is too much for you".

So, he got up and ate. And strengthened by food, he was able to travel the next 40 days. So, I just want to note with you that the first prescription that God gave Elijah had nothing to do that was spiritual or even emotional. It was physical. He says, "Long before I would take you on this spiritual journey and this emotional journey, we've got to get you healthy enough physically to take that journey". And it is prescription number one, that some of you are trying to fix something, and you're too sick to fix it. You're like a surgeon with the flu. You can't help me now. You go get well, surgeon, then come cut on me. One researcher that I read, that I learned so much from, he said, "We need to talk less about chemical imbalances and more about the imbalances in the way we live our lives". Another one said this: "We were never designed for the way we're living our lives".

Sedentary, indoor, socially isolated, fast food laden, sleep deprived, frenzied pace of modern life. For many of us, your first prescription I'm so excited to give you is that you need to find a different pace. I call it the pace of grace. The pace of grace is not what you're able to do. It's what you can do and stay sane. And for many of us... would you look at me for a minute here? You're doing too much. You're trying to fit way too much in your life. You're living that American dream that if one is good, two is better. If one house is good, two is better. If one dollar is good, two is better. If one car is good, come on, help me out. Two is better. If one wife is good, two is, wrong. Don't you do that. Don't go there. The Bible says it's better, everybody say better. Better to have one hand full and have what you are all looking for, tranquility, than to have two handfuls and to have toil and the chasing after the wind.

So, the truth is I'm just trying to bring you prescription number one from the angel of the Lord himself. You ought to lay down and eat something. You ought to come to church and now go home, and not mow grass and maybe get some work done. Get the week started off right. No, no, no, no. You ought to go, I call it you ought to go and get in front of the TV, turn the golf tournament on, and not watch it. Trust me. When you wake up, they'll still be doing the same thing. All right, you won't have missed a thing. And then you ought to tell your wife, "Hey, honey, let's go take a walk through the neighborhood". And then after she passes out, pick her back up and grab her hand and like hold hands, and maybe come back in and have some Rice Krispy treats.

Come on, somebody. Are y'all listening to me? And just sit and talk about your week, and maybe go to bed a little early, and watch how much more emotional energy you can bring into a new week, if you're not living a two handful kind of a life. The wisdom of life consists of the elimination of the nonessentials. Do you know what that means? Don't just make a "To Do List". You ought to make a "Not To Do List". No, I can do it, but I don't think it would be good for me. Yes, we could play that sport, we could do that thing, but we can't do that many at a time. So, sorry, we have to say no. And if you say no, you'll trade popularity for respect. Nah, just can't do that, so sorry, so sorry. Look at the second thing that happened. "Then he went into the cave and spent the night. And now the word of the Lord came to him: 'What are you doing here, Elijah"?

Now watch this. This is very interesting. He said, "I've been very zealous. Like, I'm one of your best guys. I left it all out on the field in chapter 18. And the Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, put your prophets to death with the sword. And I'm the only one left". Now, that wasn't true. He was already told at the beginning of chapter 18 that there were hundreds of other prophets. So, he's lying to himself. We'll get back to that in a second. "Then the Lord said, 'Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord.'" This is prescription number two. "For the Lord is about to pass by. And a great and powerful wind tore through the mountains and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord wasn't in the wind. And after the wind, there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And then there was a fire, but the Lord wasn't in the fire". Earth, wind, and fire.

There it is right there. They thought they made it up. They didn't. "But after the fire came a gentle whisper, and the Lord was in the whisper". Like, there's something about experiencing the manifest presence of Almighty God. Listen to me, church. It's probably one of the greatest prescriptions and medications for anxiety or depression that exists. I'm not kidding. And that's why every one of us have to learn how to cultivate the whispers of God, the presence of God for ourselves. Now, my prayer is you experience it today. When you're in this room worshiping, I hope there's a sense of, "Thank you, Jesus". But then there's six more days without it. And that's why we have to learn how to enter the sanctuary of God on our own.

Go read Psalms 73, the whole thing. I don't have time to show you the whole thing. But it's written not by King David. It's written by a guy named Asaph, who was basically the C.J. Brunt for King David. He's the chief musician, and he's like having a bad hair day, real bad. And the first 15 verses, he's complaining like crazy. It's all negative. The whole thing is negative. He's talking about how bad life is. He's talking about the evil have it good, and the godly people have it bad, which is not fair. He says, "And when I tried to understand it, it made me even more depressed until I entered the sanctuary". And the rest of it goes, "And now I understand how God is".

And it's just he knew how to take his anxiety and depression and find that place where God is. And I just sure hope you have that in your arsenal. And if you don't, you are missing one of the easiest, quickest, most powerful tools for depression and anxiety, and that is just the presence of God. "Oh, PC, how do I do it"? If you will just turn to him in prayer and worship at any point in the day, he'll come and answer your prayers. Listen to me. But you ready for this? It's even better if you do it the first part of the day. Now, he'll do it all day long, but it's not all is well that ends well. It's all's well that begins well. Like, if you'll learn how to start your day, I'm asking you to try this for one week. Every depressed, anxious person in the room, fear and intimidation do one thing as a test case, and that's set your clock 15 minutes earlier than you currently have. Get up, put on some great worship and just talk to God.

In fact, I call it the first 15. Five minutes in the Word, 5 minutes in worship, 5 minutes in prayer. And your app that we have will facilitate every bit of this. You can go, and we'll give you a one-year Bible. Like, you can spend time with God, and I promise you it'll calm the savage beast on the inside of you. You've gotta learn how to cultivate the presence of God. Anybody in this room who has ever experienced that, say a good amen. There you go. There's your testimonies. Okay. Third thing. "And when Elijah heard that gentle whisper, he pulled his cloak over his face". Your face represents what you believe about yourself, your identity. "And he went off and stood at the mouth of the cave. And then a voice said to him, same question, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'"

And watch what he answers this time. "I've been very zealous for the Lord. I've left it all in zeal. I'm one of your best guys. In fact, the Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, put your prophets to death with a sword. I'm the only one left, and now they're trying to kill me too". He repeats the lie for the second time. Listen to me. For a lot of you, the reason why you're anxious, have anxiety, depression, is you have talked yourself into a lie about you that's not true. And you've rehearsed it, and you're even good at, you're even good at saying it. You say, "Where does it come from"? Well, it comes in two places. First, it comes from things people are saying to you about you. And for a lot of you, it's coming on social media.

Okay, listen to me. Some of you have been convicted about what you look at online and on social media. And I was supposed to say, in this moment, as a confirmation for you to actually do it, it's time to get off. You've gotta stop listening to the voice of the haters, everybody. You've gotta stop, you've gotta stop it. Now, I enjoy just as much as anybody, or I used to, but I just, and it just, it shocks me that nobody, there are actually people who don't like me. I can't fathom. I, honest, like, what did I do? Like, I really don't understand. It's kind of frustrating to me. And it just got to a point where I just, I just couldn't listen to it anymore. I have other people that watch it for me. I just, I cannot pollute my mind with what haters think about, I just can't, I can't do it. I am sanguine enough, where it actually bothers me. And I believe that's what I am? That's what I do? Oh, no. Like, and some of you need to stop too.

Now when people say, "Did you hear"? Like, "No, didn't hear that". And I honestly don't finish that sentence. I don't need to hear it. And some of you need to be careful about, I call it selective ignorance. You've gotta select what you're ignorant about. You want some peace in your life? That was worth coming to church today right there, everybody. Okay, but not only, watch this, not only what the world and the others say about you, but it's what you're telling yourself. Sociologists, psychologists call it rumination. Rumination is the focused attention on the symptoms of your very real distress, but you're going to ruminate it. You're going to chew on it, swallow it, chew it some more. That's what a ruminating animal does. They chew the cud. Right? Chew it. Get some grass.

Come on, y'all are country folk. Get some grass, chew it, and their jaws go sideways a little bit. They swallow it, these cows do. They throw it back up in their mouth, chew it some more, swallow it, throw it back up in their mouth, chew it some more, swallow it. That's why a cow cannot put his face on the ground for four hours, and he's still chewing something. Why? He's ruminating. And how many know every time that grass comes back up, it ain't coming up back better. It's coming back up grosser. And so do your thoughts. Sitting on the couch ruminating. Somebody sent me this. One of our pastors sent me this. It's funny and sad at the same time. It's called the anti-Psalm 23.

"I am on my own. No one looks out for me or protects me. I experience a continual sense of need, nothing quite right. I'm always restless. I'm easily frustrated and often disappointed. It's a jungle. I feel overwhelmed. It's a desert. I'm thirsty. My soul feels broken, twisted, and stuck, and I can't fix myself. I stumble down some dark paths. Still, I insist: I want to do what I want, when I want, how I want. But life's confusing. Why don't things ever really work out? I'm haunted by the emptiness and futility, shadows of death. I fear the big hurt and final loss. I spend my life protecting myself. Bad things can happen. I find no lasting comfort. I'm alone, facing everything that can hurt me. Are my friends really my friends? I can't really trust anyone. No one has my back. No one is for me, except me. My cup is never quite full enough. I'm left empty. Surely disappointment follows me all the days of my life and I will forever be free falling into void".

And for some of you, this is the narrative. Tell yourself, tell yourself, tell yourself, tell yourself. One of the researches that I studied is called "Brian Tracy". And he said, "95% of your emotions are determined by the way you talk to yourself". So, what do we do? We've got to let the narrative I believe about myself come from the only source of truth that exists on planet Earth, and that's God's Word. And that's why, if you get on the app today, I'm going to give you seven phrases and seven Scriptures that I want you to read over yourself in your prayer time, things like God wants me to give him my anxiety. God is with me. God is fighting for me. Anxiety doesn't get to win. God is greater than my anxiety. There will be peace in my life, and there will be victory. I'm going to give you this as a tool today.

Number four. I'm behind, but I'm going to keep preaching. This is okay. I'll let you out on time. You'll be all right. Y'all getting anything out of this so far? Okay, all right. And then the Lord said, "Go back the way you came". Remember I told you to remember the word Beersheba? Because that's the way he came. So, basically, he said, "Go back to Beersheba". Beersheba, the name of Beersheba is called the place of the oath. Beersheba is the place he said he'd serve God. And he says, "I need you to go back to the place you said you'd serve God. I need you to re-up, and then I need you to get back to work and anoint this guy, and anoint that guy, and anoint, in other words, I need you to get back in the game, dude. I need you to get back in doing what I've called you to do".

He says, "And the whole lies about you're all by yourself, no, there's 7,000 more. You're all right, bro". And what was God doing? He's doing what everyone in this room needs. This is what happened in my first story, what got me to Birmingham, and that is we need to find, or for some of you renew your God-given sense of purpose. So, I'm going to tell you something. You're never coming out of your anxiety if you keep making it all about you. The moment you start thinking about the needs of somebody else...Viktor Frankl, how I love studying his works. "Life is never made of unbearable circumstances, never, but only by lack of meaning and purpose".

And that's why I'd love for you to get back in the game, going after God. This was Paul's secret. I don't have time to read it all, but he said, "I have bad days every day. I'm so stinking depressed and anxious". He was talking about it. But he says, "But I don't lose heart. I'm actually in the middle of my anxiety. I'm being renewed". Why, Paul? "Because these light momentary troubles are achieving for me a glory that outweighs them," and I don't have my eyes fixed on Instagram, and Facebook, and the politics, and the economy. "I have my eyes fixed on unseen things". This his purpose. That's what God was calling him to do. So, in 2020, at the height of it all, I'm reading my stuff. This was already in the book. I got in my car. Went back to that same place that I camped in at the Barnes and Noble. And I'm telling you, I lifted my hands. I was saying, "God, I'm re-upping. I told you I'd serve you no matter what, and no matter what happened, and I'm re-upping. I'm going after you".

I felt that whole sense of purpose. Vision started flooding my heart. I was starting dreaming. How do you pull a church out of a pandemic? And how do we rebuild people's lives? And it all came back again just like it did the first day, because I had a renewed sense of purpose in my life. Are you all listening to me, everybody? You've gotta do the same. Last one, so then Elijah went from there and found what he should've done in the first place, a godly friend, Elisha, son of Shaphat, who was plowing his oxen, and he went up to him, and he threw his cloak on him. Now, in the Old Testament, a cloak, you putting your robe on somebody else says, "I'm a covenant friend. I'm going to be in covenant relationship with you".

And some of it, you're not... if you did all four of these prescriptions, and you leave out this one, it may still not work. But you were never meant to walk through this alone. Remember, he left his servant there. And some of you are battling your anxiety and your depression all on your own. "I can handle this. I'm tough. I'm a country boy from Alabama". No, no sir. You need a friend. You need an Elisha. In my studies, I found out your IQ drops 30 points if you're isolated, which is why the fifth prescription I'll leave you with today is you've gotta maintain your life with godly relationships. Can't live my life alone, can't do it. So, here's the book. And y'all know here at Highlands, if you want this book, if we had any here, I never make a dollar. I'll sell them to everybody else, but I don't make a dollar from y'all. I always get every resource I've ever written at cost. I don't make a penny from anything that I've written, because you're my church family. We were part of this together.

So, if you want this, and it's out there, you grab it. And if you don't have the money, take it, I will pay for it. I'm not trying to sell books. I'm trying to help you. Now, the rest of the world can buy one. Not you, but the rest of them can. But Tammy, remember the story? I was really at the end, my wit's end one day. I was having a real bad day. And I walked out of the basement level of our house to the back yard. And from the lower level of our house, I rounded the corner.

My best friend, Rick Bezet pastors in Arkansas, he just shows up. I said, "Bro, what are you doing here"? He goes, "I ain't leaving until you get right". And him, and Dino, and Lee, and...I should never start naming names. There was my pastor, Larry, everybody. You know, we were all a part. And I decided to dedicate the book to Rick, and there's a message in it for you, and I'll close with this. "This book is dedicated to Rick Bezet. For more than 25, now 28 years you've been a faithful and trusted friend. Our constant conversations always encourage me. Your positive spirit always lifts me. You are a gift to me from God. My prayer is that everyone could have a friend like you to help him out of a cave".

If you're at Highlands and you're in any of the conditions I described today, you are welcome here. We don't judge you. We want to walk with you, because we've all been through the same thing. Welcome home, welcome home. Amen, everybody? Let's bow for prayer. I'm exhausted. All right, let's bow, bow for prayer. Open your hands.

Father, I pray for every person here, that you just give them the sense of peace that you promised the people of God, the rest that you always promised. God, give them the courage to take some of the steps that I've offered today as a solution. And God, heal broken hearts, tired, weary, anxious, depressed, intimidated, fearful, worried. God, I rebuke it, in the mighty name of Jesus. Heal, I pray, God. Heal, I pray. Help them out of the cave, Lord, and then help them be someone who helps others out of that cave.

You could put your hands down. Keep your heads bowed, your eyes closed. If you're here today, and you're away from God, you need to make Jesus the Lord of your life. Honestly, I don't have any solutions if you can't let me give you the main solution, and that is a relationship with a living God, who is powerful. And if you need Jesus in your life, I'm going to pray a simple prayer, and you can pray it with me. And if you believe it, you can be born again, and a new creation, and on your way to a brand-new life. And then at the end of the service, if you need prayer, we'll have prayer teams. It was packed in the first service. You could come and join us. We'd love to pray with you and stand with you. But if you're far from God, and you need Jesus in your life, or if you need to rededicate your life to him, say this right now and mean it. Say:

Jesus, I need you. Forgive me for going my own way. Today, I turn to you, and I repent. Be the Lord of my life, number one in my life. I give you my life, everything. I believe you're the Son of God, and I believe you rose from the dead, and today I put my faith, my trust, and my life in you. In your name I pray, amen and amen.

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