Craig Groeschel - When Anxiety Attacks
What I like to do in certain times, when things feel more unsettled, I like to go to some of the more traditional, popular scriptures that really minister deeply to my soul. And I wanna do that today. I go back to what's familiar. And I wanna look at one of my favorite passages in all of the Bible. And it was written from a time when most people would have been panicking and full of anxiety. It was the Apostle Paul who was writing from a Roman prison.
Now, what's interesting about this is Paul always wanted to go to Rome to preach the gospel. He knew if he could go to Rome to preach that could be the strategic way that he could reach the world. But his bucket list of going to Rome to preach ended up not going exactly as he had expected. Instead, he found himself in Rome as a prisoner locked up in house arrest to a different Roman soldier every eight hours of the day. From this place, from prison, Paul penned the words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to the church in Philippi and he said this, he said, "Rejoice in the Lord always".
Pastor Sam could you say, "Always"? Rejoice in the Lord always. In other words, in good times, we rejoice, and in more difficult times, we rejoice. We rejoice when the economy is strong. We rejoice when the economy is not strong. We rejoice when we are well and healthy. We rejoice if we are battling sickness. He said, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say again: Rejoice"! Then he said, "Let your gentleness be evident to all because the Lord is near". Then Paul said, "Do not be anxious about anything".
Pause there for a moment. Do not be anxious about anything. Don't be anxious about anything. I'm curious, did any of you disobey that command recently? Anybody? I know I did. Paul says don't be anxious about anything, but I don't care who you are. I don't care how holy you are, how spiritual you are. I don't care how many Bible verses you have memorized. I don't care if you can give me a detailed, eschatological discourse on the Book of Revelation in the original language of Greek. Sometimes you still get a little bit worried. Sometimes we battle anxiety.
During normal times, like way back in the old days, like six weeks ago in February of 2020 when things were normal, if you were gonna make a presentation to your team, you might have gotten nervous, or if you had a meeting with your boss, you might have gotten nervous, or if you had a chemistry exam coming up, or you had your big prom-posal and you had to get the Instagram moment just right, and now you can't even go to prom, and I'm sorry, and it stinks to be a senior in 2020. Ugh, I hate that, but you would get very anxious about that.
Now, any time you open up your phone and go to a news app, or you scroll through social media, or you turn on TV, and by turning on TV, I'm not talking about "The Tiger King". Let's go. Is that guy from Oklahoma? Are we from Oklahoma? I don't even know what to say. I'm not talking about "The Tiger King". We'll look back at COVID-19 and remember "The Tiger King". I'm talking about you look at any form of the news and what you've got is, you're just bombarded with stress-inducing news. The world is falling apart. The economy is this. Now we're projecting this many thousands of people could die. It's a really, really difficult season to live in. What I know is there's different levels of anxiety.
For some of you it's not that bad. Like I know a lot of people who would say, "This is actually kinda a good time. We're have family time together and it started kinda good". You're like really excited to spend time with your kids and now you're home-educating them and now you're like, "I'm gonna kill these kids". and "I wanna trade this one for two rolls of toilet paper", or whatever. And what's really funny is that we got a lot of parents, 'cause we've home educated our kids the whole time, we got a lot of parents calling Amy, saying, "How do we do this"? But what's really funny to me is we've got a lot of kids calling my kids asking, "How do I deal with my parents when they're homeschooling me"?
There's different levels of stress. We've got some of you dealing with that. Others of you, you're worried that you might be sick, or you've got some relatives that are sick, or you've lost a job, or you have the potential of losing a job. Some of you, you're battling anxiety and depression, and you're not even sure why you are. It feels like we're under attack. We're worried, we're afraid, we're anxious, and that's why I've called this message "When Anxiety Attacks". "When Anxiety Attacks".
Father, we pray that in the name of Jesus that your Holy Spirit would comfort your church, and God, arm us with the tools to put our trust in you, to seek you always. God, give us a peace that goes beyond our human ability to understand, that we could serve you well, God, and reach out to people who need to know you. We pray this in Jesus' name, and everybody said, "Amen and amen".
Let's go back to our text today, Philippians chapter two and I wanna read to you again what we looked at and then I wanna dive in a bit deeper. The Apostle Paul said this, he said, "Don't be anxious about anything, but in every situation". In other words, no matter what you're facing right now. In every single situation, he says, "By prayer". Somebody say, "By prayer". He says, "By prayer and petition, with thanksgiving". So prayer and with thanksgiving. We could say it this way, with prayer and praise. We're gonna be thankful and we're gonna pray with prayer and with praise, we're going to present our request to God when we pray and when we praise, we present our request to God.
Paul said, "The peace of God, which transcends all understanding". In other words, we can't necessarily explain it even in our human comprehension. That peace of God will guard, Somebody say, "Guard". Type that in the comments if you will. Just type in, "Will guard". It will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Prayer and praise. When we pray and we praise, God gives us his peace. You could say prayer and praise precedes peace. What does this peace do? This peace, it guards our hearts and minds. It guards. What is it that guards? The peace guards as we pray and as we pray.
See in other words, a lot of you right now, what you feel, is you feel panic. You feel anxious, you feel worried, you feel afraid. What you feel is panic. But what you want is peace. How is it that we get this peace? What is it that we do to experience the peace? The peace is preceded by the prayer and by the praise. We could say it this way, that prayer and praise are the pathway from panic to peace. Oh, I'm gonna preach myself some. If you don't get into this, I'm gonna get into this because I can just feel somebody out there saying, "Amen". That's a lot of peace. And if you can make something start with the same letters in a sermon, that's extra spiritual points in Heaven.
I learned that when I was in seminary. Prayer and praise are the pathway from panic to peace. What does peace do? Peace guards. Somebody say, "Peace guards". Peace guards your hearts and your minds. Peace guards. Hey. You may not know this, but this is important information. I'm actually trained in several different martial arts. I really am. I'm not any good at any of 'em, but I trained in several of them. I am good at nunchucks. Like, really legitimately good. Have you seen me do nunchucks? Am I good? Legitimate good. I honest to goodness, I have nunchuck skills. Computer hacking skills. Bow hunting skills. All the essential skills. Wherever you are, just work with me, man. We've been locked up, it's time to have some fun. I've been trained in several different martial arts.
My most experience actually came from, this was before I was a Christian, from drunk-fighting in college with my friends. Like, honest to goodness, dozens of times we'd get drunk, and then me and my three little brothers in the fraternity would fight. It would often be three against one and honest to goodness, Pastor Sam, many times I could handle the three of them. I could. And we'd be bloody and black eyes and twisted nose but we would get drunk and fight. A lot of my experience was there but I also trained in Aikido and I trained in Taekwondo, and I had one private lesson, one 90 minute private lesson in Jujitsu, and I watched "Karate Kid" probably 30 times, okay? Sweep the leg, wax on, wax off, so, that's the experience of my training.
I'm trained in several martial arts. I'm not good at any. In fact, I would be dangerous to myself. But my very, very best most supreme training actually came by working with a guy named Jody Nolan. He was a childhood friend. Now, before I show you pictures of Jody, let me just tell you, he's an actor, he's a stunt man, he owns his own gym. Jody actually was sparring partners and very close friends with Chuck Norris. Like, for real. In fact, I got a picture of Jody and Chuck. This is, obviously they look like they both could kill you, and they could. Jody's on the left and this is Jody modern day. But let me show you the Jody I knew. Like, this is literally, that is the guy that I used to fight, and let me show you what he could do with his leg.
Okay. This is what he could do with his leg up on my face. And so, Jody was teaching me to fight, and I think it was the 11th grade or so, that we put on full pads everywhere including the headgear and we were going at it. And I was holding my own, and I thought, "I actually am pretty dang good". And Jody, I never will forget, he said, "Are you ready to go hard"? I thought we were already going hard, but when he said it, I couldn't back down. In the moment, I said, "Sure, br", all I said was "Bring it". And evidently, when I said it, I got afraid because I just lowered my guard for just a second. All I remember is, "Are you ready to go hard"? I said, "Bring it". And the next thing you know, I was on my back. That's it. That's, I mean, I was on my back.
Now, if you've ever seen those cartoons where the guy gets knocked out and there's stars, that ain't no joke. Like, for real. There were stars and birds going around my head and I found out later, according to my good friend Jody, that he got me with a spinning back-fist, which I never ever saw coming. But I was on my back and he was on top of me just kinda going, "You dropped your guard! I told you don't ever drop your guard whatever you do! Don't drop your guard". Whenever anxiety attacks, don't drop your guard. Don't drop your guard. Somebody say, "Don't drop your guard". Type it in, type it in with an exclamation point. Put two exclamation points for Amy 'cause she loves extra exclamation points. Don't drop your guard.
What guards you? Peace guards you. What brings peace? Prayer and praise brings peace. Do it with me just for fun, come on Ray. Prayer and praise, don't drop your guard. Whenever your enemy attacks, whatever you do, don't drop your guard. Peter tells us his own version of this. He was telling us how to deal with anxiety and other things and he said this. He gave a teaching with a warning. And he says this in first Peter 5:8. He says "Cast all of your anxiety on him". If you're anxious right now, if you're afraid, if you're worried about your job, if you're worried about your health, if you don't know what's coming, what you do with that anxiety, is you cast it on to God.
Now, Peter was a fisherman, and so when he's talking about casting, you can imagine him. He's talking about taking this thing and just hurling it. Hurl your anxiety, your cares, your fears, your worries, your burdens, on God because he cares for you. Wherever you are. If you're in a hospital room right now, what I want you to feel is that Good is near. He is with you. He's not gonna leave you. He will never forsake you. He cares for you. If you're worried about how you're gonna feed your kids, he cares for you. Then Peter gives a warning and he says, "Be alert", kinda like be on your guard.
Don't drop your guard. Be ready with prayer, be ready with praise, be alert and be of sober mind. Why? Because you have an enemy, the devil, who prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. The devil's always coming after you. Pastor Sam, sometimes people say, "We're praying for you, Pastor Craig, 'cause we know the devil's attacking you". I wanna say, "And he's gonna attack you too". But he's always coming and the devil is always swinging and it only hurts if you drop your guard. Be on guard. Be alert, your enemy is on the attack.
How does he attack? Well, the devil's target is your mind. And his weapon is his lies. What does he do? He'll tell you, "You're not gonna be able to pay your bills". "You're not gonna be able to make rent". "Your marriage is not going to survive this"! He'll tell you, "You're gonna get sick, you're gonna be all alone, there's not gonna be a ventilator for you! If God really loved you, then he wouldn't be allowing this to happen in your life". And the devil comes at you again and again. His target is your mind, his weapon is his lies. And that's why you have to tell yourself again and again, "The devil is a liar"! He's always swinging.
Guard your mind, guard your heart! Prayer and peace, don't drop your guard. If you feel like right now, you're under attack, and some of you, I know you do, you feel like you're under attack. Amy and I , I feel like we're a little bit under attack. We rarely ever have arguments. This week, or maybe over the last ten days, we had two arguments, two big ones. I call them "tornado arguments" because a tornado where I live, a tornado blows in hard, does a lot of damage, then it leaves fast. And they were fast and we got over it quickly, but we just went at each other. One of the arguments, there was even a word that flew that was probably PG-13 or TV-MA, depending on how you rate it.
Now, I'm not gonna tell you who said the word, and whatever, but it was just... What happened? What happened is we dropped our guard. We dropped our guard. I had to immediately say, and Amy agreed, we need to pray and we need to be united because what happened is we just let this get to us. We dropped our guard. And to be honest with you, as a pastor and as a leader, what I wanna try to do is I wanna try to lead strong with faith and believe that God is with us and God is for us, but there are times when I just feel a little bit overwhelmed. Just like the rest of you.
From my perspective, it was two weeks of strict quarantine, coming back into the reality that our church cannot meet physically, and then, quite honestly, the pastoral burden of knowing all the people in our church that are in need. The prayer requests. A good friend of ours right now whose mom is dying in the hospital and they can't get there. The family members that have tested positive. All of the complications, the prayer needs that you all are facing. And then the reality that we're trying to help onboard thousands of churches into church online, and while other people are ramping down costs, we're ramping up, and it is a higher cost, but we believe it's a higher calling and we're gonna do that with joy to serve these churches and sometimes, the anxiety just kind of gets to me.
And I have to go to God and take it to him in prayer and with praise. I found myself just recently with kind of a shortness of breath, like just trying to catch my breath. What do we do? We keep our guard up. We go to God, with prayer and we go to God with praise. Whenever anxiety attacks, whenever you feel worried, don't drop your guard. Prayer and praise. Keep your guard up. Prayer and praise. Let's talk about prayer and let's talk about praise. Sometimes, Pastor Sam, people talk about prayer and they'll say like, "All we can do now is pray".
Sometimes I think about what God must feel like when somebody says that, "All we can do now is pray". In other words, you're in big trouble, all you've got is the power of God. Listen to me, prayer is never ever a last resort. Prayer is always a first line of offense. We can pray. We can go before our God in prayer and that's what we're gonna do. We are people of prayer, we've got our guard up. We're going to the all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present God, with whom nothing is impossible, to our God. If we have the faith of a mustard seed, and sometimes, Amy, that's the only faith I have, is a little bit of faith, we can say to a mountain, "Be removed", and as God hears that prayer, he will remove that mountain.
We go to God, I'm gonna go to God like the persistent widow in Luke 18 who comes to him again and again with this relentless type of faith and prayer. I'm not talking about the kind of like, safe and polished and formal prayers that you might hear me pray over a dinner or at a church service. I'm talking about the kind of prayers that sometimes you don't want anybody else to hear. The ones that are from the heart. From the depths of the soul, where you just cry out to God in anguish, "Help! Send help. I need your mercy, I need your grace". We're talking about prayer. We've got the armor of God and we can pray in the spirit at all times, believing that our God is with us. We pray and we praise. We praise. We thank God for who he is, not just for what we see. But we thank him for his character and for his nature.
We don't just stop with the prayers about what we want, but we pray and we praise. Paul said it this way, he said, "Rejoice in the lord always". In other words, anybody can praise him with things are good. But it takes real faith to praise him in the middle of a storm. In other words, what we're gonna do church, is we're gonna praise him when we feel like it, and we're gonna praise him when we don't. I will bless the Lord at all times. Scripture says, "From the rising of the sun until the moment that it sets, let the name of our Lord be praised". Somebody say, "Amen" in your living room. Say, "Amen" on your sofa. Say, "Amen" on your bed. Say, "Amen", let the name of the Lord be praised.
Paul wanted to go to Rome to preach and he found himself, instead in Rome, as a prison. Locked up, waiting potential execution. He said, "Rejoice in the Lord always". I will say it again, rejoice. Take your prayers and your praise, pray about everything, worry about nothing. With thanksgiving, present your request to God, and the peace of God, a peace from Heaven, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Don't drop your guard. Don't drop your guard. How could the Apostle Paul praise God when he could have been executed?
If you read in the beginning of Philippians, it's so powerful. Mackenzie, Philippians 1, you can read it there if you want to, but this is what the apostle Paul says. He says, "Hey, guess what? It's become clear to everyone in the Roman leadership that I'm actually in chains for Christ". In other words, he's saying, "They thought I was the prisoner, but I get a new guard locked up to me every eight hours a day. Who is the real captive audience? I'm telling them all about the grace and the goodness of Jesus". He's saying this, he said, "Everyone knows, everyone in the palace guard knows. I'm in chains for Christ". And then he said, "Because of my chains, most of the other Christians are becoming more confident in the Lord and they're sharing their faith without fear".
What I see, is I see some followers of Christ, that what the devil meant for evil, God is gonna use for good. That you're gonna become more confident in your faith. That you're gonna share the gospel without fear. In fact, when I see what God could be doing, it makes me wanna pray and it makes me wanna praise because he is working in all things, in everything, even in the bad things to bring about good. To those who love him. And are called according to his purpose.
If you can get your mind around this, this weekend alone, there will be around 20,000 churches from every country, countries around the world, using the LifeChurch online platform, for free! This is what's crazy. When you add up all those churches, we have people that will indicate, "I am choosing today to follow Jesus". Here's what's crazy. This weekend we will surpass maybe 110,000 or so people just since COVID 19 started spreading. 110,000 or more will have said "Yes" to Jesus, and the last time I checked, the pace of those that are coming to Christ would be about to exceed the pace of those who are becoming sick. I have enough faith to believe that the tide would turn and we may see more people through the LifeChurch online platform come to faith in Christ than who are getting sick around the world!
Somebody shout from wherever you are! Somebody give praise to God! We're gonna pray and we're gonna praise! We're not gonna drop our guard! We're gonna see God working in places that other people overlook. Don't drop your guard! Don't drop your guard. Don't let the anxiety of this world overcome the peace that God gives you in your heart. What do you do? You pray to God about everything and you praise him in all things. Wherever you are, praise him. Praise him today. I'm talking about the kinda praise that makes the devil mad. I'm talking about the kind that no one can stop, no matter what you see.
Let everything that has breath give him praise. What happens when you pray and when you praise, you start passing from fear to faith. You start moving from worry to his peace. You're the people of God. You have the power of the risen Christ dwelling within you. You have the very same spirit that raised Christ from the dead. Is this a very difficult time? Unquestionably, it's hard. Are there many, many problems to be solved? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. But if you're in Christ, remember, you are an over-comer. By the blood of the lamb and by the words of your testimony.
You are more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus. The devil's always swinging. You don't drop your guard. We pray and we praise and the peace of God will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. And that's why the Apostle Paul said, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, with prayer and praise, present your request to God, and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds, in Christ Jesus". With Chris, we will get through this. Don't drop your guard. Let's all pray together.
Father, we ask, that in your presence, you would give us a peace that goes beyond our human ability to understand.
Today as you're watching from who knows where, I believe the spirit of God wants to minister to you. For those of you that may be hurting, you feel anxious, you feel afraid, you don't know what's to come, you might be worried about your health, or worried about how you're gonna pay the bills, but at this moment, you wanna cast your cares upon God. I want you to do this, cast all of your anxiety on him because he cares for you. If that's you today, say, "Yes, I need his help, I need his presence, I want his peace". You can just click below me. "I'm casting my cares on him". You can type it. "God, I need your help". Just call out on him in prayer and praise.
Father, I pray for those who are hurting. I thank you God, that you care for all of us. We cast all of our anxiety, all of our burdens on you. We thank you God that you're a good God. You're a God who never leaves us, you're a God who always comforts, you're a God that always provides. As we come to you with prayer and with petition and with praise, God, may your peace that goes beyond our human ability to understand, may it guard our hearts and our minds, in Christ Jesus.
As you keep praying today, there may be those of you who recognize "I don't even know a thing about that peace". May I suggest to you that the very reason you're here today is because God wants to give you that peace. He wants to reveal himself to you. We talked about Jesus, the gospel. What is the gospel? The gospel simply means good news. Let me give you the best news you could ever hear. If you've ever wondered, "Where do I stand with God? I feel like I've done so many things wrong".
The reality is, you have and so have I. And the good news is that God sent Jesus, his only son, who was perfect and without sin, to be the innocent sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. He gave his life, God raised him from the dead, so that anyone, and this includes you, who calls on his name, the name of Jesus, God will forgive every single sin you've ever committed. He would save you, not just form eternal hell, but he would save you for a life of peace and joy and ministry to make a difference in this world.
In fact, wherever you're watching from, if you know something is missing, if you're hurting, if you're afraid, if you need his forgiveness, and you need his peace, call out on him today. That may be the very reason why you're here. "Jesus, I need you, Jesus forgive me. Today, I give my life to you". If that's you, just click right below me. You can raise your hand in your living room or your bedroom. You can type it in the comments, "Jesus, I'm giving my life to you", and as you're doing that today from places all over the world, it would be our honor as the global church of Jesus just to pray together with you wherever you might be right now. Just pray aloud.
Heavenly Father, forgive my sins. Jesus save me, make me new. Fill me with your spirit so I could follow you, walk with you, live for you, show your love in all that I do. My life is not my own. I give it all to you. In Jesus' name, I pray.