Craig Groeschel - Calm My Anxious Mind
Well, I'm incredibly honored to be talking about the message from my newest book "Winning the War in Your Mind: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life". I sincerely thank my God that this message is impacting lives, and so many people are saying it's transforming the way they think. What do we know about winning the war in our mind? We know that most of life's battles are won or lost in the mind. We know it's almost impossible to have a positive life when you have a negative mind. And that can be a problem when your mind races with negative thoughts and irrational worries like mine often does.
I wonder how many of you can relate to irrational thoughts and runaway fears that often just consume your mind? I don't know what it would be for you, but maybe you worry about something, something that seems normal. You're a student and you're worried about making a bad grade on a test because you know if you make a bad grade, then you're worried you won't get into the right college, and then you won't have the right job, and if you don't have the right job, you won't marry the right person, and if you marry the wrong person, you'll have the wrong kids, and because they're the wrong kids, they're gonna need braces and braces are expensive, and you'll put braces on them, but then you can't afford to send them to college because you're still paying for your own college. So your kids won't have the education and they'll resort to a life of crime and they'll go to prison, which gives you a headache. And speaking of a headache, you might have a brain tumor, and your mind races in the wrong direction.
I'm exaggerating, but not by a whole lot, right? We're just joking about maybe getting a bad grade, but you watch what's on the news, or you hear what happens to the life of someone that you love, or you're fighting for a good marriage and you're wondering is it gonna ever work? You've got more bills than you know how to pay. You're trying to make some kind of decision about the future, and it's so easy for you mind to race and to be overwhelmed with very real feelings of anxiety and fear.
That's why I want to start today's message with the word of God. And if you don't mind, and you're able at all our churches, would you just stand to your feet in honor of the reading of his word? We'll be reading again today from Philippians chapter four, and the context is that the apostle Paul was writing from a Roman prison in house arrest, awaiting potential execution. And he said these powerful words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
He said, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and," what else? Let's say it aloud, "and your...", minds, "...minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things". Think about such things. Think about such things. "And the peace of God, the God of peace will be with you". The title of today's message is "Calm My Anxious Mind".
Father, we ask that you would do just that, that we would take whatever is heavy on our minds and heavy on our hearts and bring it before you, casting our cares upon you, God, because you care for us. And God, as we seek you, renew our minds with truth. God, we cast all of our burdens on you, believing you care for us. Give us peace of heart and peace of mind, even beyond what the world would understand. We pray this in the name of your Son, Jesus, and everybody said amen. Amen.
Hey, why don't you look at the person next to you and just say, "Peace be with you". Would you say that? Type it in the chat if you want. Just type it in the chat. Peace be with you. If that's too formal, as you're being seated, you can just say, "Get ya some peace". Somebody say, "Get ya some peace". Come on. Type that in the chat right now. Get ya some peace, all right? What I want to do is this. Let's talk about worry, let's talk about anxiety, and let's talk about the mind. If you remember a key thought from our book and truth is this, that your life is always moving in the direction of your strongest thoughts, which is really good news if your thoughts are good and helpful and positive. But it's incredibly bad news if your thoughts are negative.
What do we know about the mind? We've been talking about both scripture and science, God is the God of science, and in our mind we know there is this little almond-shaped portion of the mind known as the amygdala. And the amygdala is an interesting little part of the brain that's shaped kind of like this little almond, and it's the part of the brain wired for survival. If you ever find yourself in a moment where you feel like I need to fight or I need to flight, that's because your amygdala is actively engaged. Any time you're in danger, this God-given little portion of the brain, the amygdala, it kicks in and what it does is it sends your body strong doses of adrenaline, and it says, "Be on guard, be aware, be alert, run if you have to".
If you see a poisonous snake, or if you're like me, any kind of snake will do, the amygdala says, "Snake, be careful, run, run, run"! If you're driving and like what happened to me recently, a driver evidently must have been texting and they weren't paying attention, and they started swerving over into my lane. Your amygdala kicks in and says, "Be aware, be alert, be careful, you're in danger". If you have an alarm system in your home and it goes off in the middle of the night like mind did not too long ago, your amygdala kicks in and you panic. Even to this day, I have no idea what in the world caused it. I can feel the adrenaline rush even now as the amygdala says, "Be careful, be careful, be careful".
God gave us that portion of our brain for our protection. The problem is that the amygdala is not objective. It's simply hard-wired to protect, and it's very easily triggered. I'll give you an example about how the minds works. When I was a little kid, my family, once a month or so, would go to our favorite hamburger restaurant, and I remember it so fondly. We were driving back from the restaurant, and evidently my dad did something in his driving that displeased another driver. And so this guy started following us home all the way to our house. We got out of the car. My dad didn't know what he did to offend the guy, and the guy got out of his blue van and charged my dad for a fight. Well, uh, he picked the wrong guy. My dad could hold his own with anybody, and the guy started waylaying on my dad.
So my dad just very, in a God-honoring way, laid hands on him in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, all in self defense. Quickly the guy realized he was out-classed and he ran back to his van sending out a one finger salute to my dad and saying very dishonoring things about his mother. I went in that night, and my mom set me down and my little sister down and said, "There's a guy out there who hates us, and he knows where we live, and he's obviously irrational. He's probably really dangerous. So any time you see a blue van," in fact the blue van looked very similar to this. "Any time you see a blue van, you need to come inside and lock the doors".
And so I was probably 17 or 18 years of age years later, and if I'd see a blue van, I'd run inside, lock the doors and hide under the bed. Not really, but to this day, if I see a blue van, if I see a red van, because it could have been blue and the guy painted it red, there's something in me that's triggered, that causes me to pause and hesitate because the amygdala that God gave me is hard-wired to protect. That's why our amygdala, it needs a little help from another thing that God gave us called the prefrontal cortex. This is the logical part of the brain that tends to think logically, so if there's a noise at night in the house, the amygdala screams, "You're gonna die"! And the prefrontal cortex steps in and says, "No, it's probably the cat. You're not gonna die. There's very likely a logical explanation".
The amygdala is all panic. The prefrontal cortex is all logic. The problem with the amygdala is it always responds according to the pre-programming. In other words, if you had my experiences, you will tend to believe blue vans are dangerous. And I don't know what it would be in your life, but because of some hurt or some fear or some trauma or even perhaps a misunderstanding of something that happened to you, my guess is that there are certain people or places or events or some type of news that triggers you with feelings of anxiety and fear and tension, and without even knowing it, your mind can race and run to a worst case scenario where you find yourself sometimes short of breath and panicking and wondering and trying to control things that you can't control, completely overwhelmed by a runaway mind.
That's why Paul said this from a Roman prison. He said, and I want to read it again, he said, "Don't be anxious about anything". Don't be anxious about anything. That could be your big test, that could be your job interview, that could be your health situation, that could be a decision about the future, that could be a financial burden. He said, "Don't be anxious about anything," but in every single situation, in other words, if it's on your mind, it's on God's heart. He cares about you more than you can imagine.
"In every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving". What do you do? You "present your requests to God," and when you give your burdens to God, scripture says, "the peace of God, which transcends all of our understanding," I want you to say it again, "will guard your hearts and," what? And your minds. Somebody type that in the chat. His peace will guard my mind. His peace, the peace of God, will guard my mind. It's so crazy to me, though, how often even Christians undervalue and discount the power of prayer. You see it all the time. People will be in a situation, we might be talking, and someone will say, "Oh my gosh. All we can do now is pray. All we can do now is pray". I can almost imagine God going, "And you think that's nothing"?
The God who can move mountains, the God who could raise the dead, the God who could heal the sick and open blind eyes and all you can do? No, prayer is powerful, and as followers of Jesus, we have to recognize that prayer is never our last line of defense. It's always our first line of offense. The author to the Hebrews said, "Let us come boldly before the throne of grace". We can come in prayer boldly, with confidence. Why, to find help in time of our need. James said this. He said, "You do not have," why? "Because you do not ask". Because you haven't prayed.
Prayer is always powerful. Not only does prayer move the heart of God, but prayer also changes the chemistry in your brain. I'm gonna say it again. Not only does prayer touch and move the heart of God, but prayer also changes the chemistry in your brain, which is fascinating to me because for decades neurologists believed that your brain didn't change after adolescence. How many of you are glad that your brain changed after adolescence? I don't know about you, but I thank God in heaven my brain didn't freeze when I was 15 years old. Our brain continues to evolve and it continues to change and it continues to rewire itself.
We talked about the neural pathways. When you think a thought, it's easier to think that thought again, and our brains are continually changing. In fact, the term is called neuroplasticity, and that means that it's constantly evolving and rewiring itself. Now, I love the study of something called neurotheology. It's the study of the mind and of God. It's also known as spiritual neuroscience. What neurotheology does, it's fascinating, it studies the relationship between the brain and a belief in God. Here's what research shows. Research shows that prayer actually changes your brain.
In fact, a book that I would recommend to you, and author, is Dr. Caroline Leaf. In fact, her book "Switch On Your Brain" is a fascinating book. She said a powerful quote about the brain and prayer. She said that, "it's been found that 12 minutes of daily focused prayer over an eight week period can change the brain to such an extent that it can be measured on a brain scan". Not only does prayer touch the heart of God, but prayer changes the brain. Just as toxic and negative thoughts harm your brain, prayer heals your brain, it transforms your brain, it literally renews your mind.
So why do we worry? Why do we find ourselves so anxious? If we're followers of Jesus and we should completely trust in God, why is it that our minds often race in an irrational way? Well, science would tell us that in many cases, we're experiencing an amygdala hijack. Our little amygdala, that's wired to protect, says, "You're in trouble. You better take control. You better work harder. You better stay up at two in the morning and worry about this because if you don't, it's only gonna get worse".
So science would say we're experiencing an amygdala hijack. Scripture would say that our mind is dominated by sinful thinking. In fact, what is a definition of worry? A simple definition of worry would be this, that worry is the sin of distrusting the promises and the power of God. Worry is essentially saying, "God, I don't trust you. I don't believe in your goodness in this situation. I don't believe you care about what I care about. I don't believe you're gonna come through for me. I'm gonna worry about this because ultimately I don't trust you".
And so instead of letting my sinful nature control my mind, which is what can so easily happen, what I want to do as a follower of Jesus is I want to choose to let my spirit direct my thinking. Instead of letting my sinful nature run my mind in all sorts of fearful ways, I'm gonna choose to let the Holy Spirit, which dwells within me, direct my thinking. I'm gonna let the logical part of my brain choose that which is spiritual. I'm gonna take my prefrontal cortex and say, "You think on what's true. You think on what's excellent. You think on what's praiseworthy. I'm putting my trust completely in you".
In fact, here's how scripture says it in Romans chapter eight, verses five and six. Again the apostle Paul. He says that "those that are dominated by the sinful nature," what happens? "You think about sinful things". When your mind is dominated by your sinfulness, your mind drifts toward things that are dishonoring to God. You think about sinful things. "But those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death, but letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace," and that's why we're gonna take every thought captive and we're gonna make it obedient to Christ.
From a scientific standpoint, we're gonna let our prefrontal cortex grab the amygdala by the tail and say, "You quit being irrational. We're choosing to be spiritual. We're giving this to God". I'm choosing, God, by faith, to trust in you, to believe in you, to give you my burdens. Even when my irrational fears start to run wild, I stop, I grab that thought, I take it captive, I make it obedient. I'm not gonna let my sinful, fearful dishonoring nature run my mind in the wrong direction. I'm choosing intentionally to let the Holy Spirit direct my thoughts.
In fact, I'll give you a visual example, and perhaps this is an illustration that you could use in your own life. What tends to happen? All of us, at some point, in some way, have something that we're worried about. The good news is we're not on our own. We serve a good and a faithful God. So what do you typically do if you're a follower of Jesus and you're worried about something? Well, you take your worry, your concern, your burden, and you give it to God. You say, "God, I pray about this. God, I'm giving this to you, and God, I trust you with my worry," and you give it to God. Then you wait, and you get freaked out, and it's been five minutes, and nothing's happened, so you take it back from God and you say, "God, I don't really trust you with that".
Symbolically, whenever we worry, that's essentially what we're doing. We're saying, "God, I'm gonna pray about this, but because I don't see what I want to see and because I'm still worried," we're essentially taking back the very thing that we gave to God. Why do we do this? The reason is is that your God is too small and your worries are too big, and somebody needs a bigger God and a little smaller worry. And what you're going to do at that point is you're going to take whatever it is that's weighing on you, and whatever it is that's dominating your mind, and scripture says we cast our cares upon God. With prayer and petition, we take everything and we give it to God.
What I would encourage you to do, perhaps, even at your apartment or your house, is to get your own God box. It doesn't have to be as cool as mine. It could be a shoebox, and you may even symbolically just put on there God. What I want you to do is any time you find your mind racing and any time you find yourself worried about something, I want you just to take it to God and then write down that worry on a piece of paper. It might be your teenager, you're worried about your teenager, it might be your marriage, it might be your future, it might be your health, it might be your job, it might be anything you have, and you're going to cast your cares upon God because he cares for you.
And then you give it to God and you trust him with it. Then what I want you to do is go on with your life, trusting God. And any time you want to choose to worry about it, symbolically what you have to do is walk over to your God box and take that which you've already given to God out of your God box to symbolically remind you that you're choosing at this moment not to put your trust in God. If you ask me, "What is it that worries me," I've got all sorts of different worries that burden my heart.
It's a little bit embarrassing to tell you sometimes what I worry about, but I love Amy so, so, so much, and sometimes when she is running late, which, respectfully, happens regularly. Sometimes my mind starts to wander and I worry, is she okay? Did something happen to her? And my mind can go in the most ridiculous direction to where if she was hurt or killed in a car wreck, I would not be able to function, I couldn't continue leading the church, and I wouldn't want my life to go on.
The same is true with my children. Sometimes I'll send them out in a car. You know how it is when you send a 16 year old son or a daughter out and they're just learning to drive. And this irrational thought comes over my mind. What if? I have to choose to say, "God, you love them even more than I do. I'm trusting them with you". Another thing that weighs on me is just the spiritual responsibility of leading the church. It's so easy in our culture today to accidentally or even unintentionally say something or do something that can create all sorts of controversy, and I'm always aware that I'm representing God and that what I do matters, and a lot of times I worry.
I don't want to let God down. I don't want to ever hurt the name of Jesus, and it's heavy on me, it's heavy on me. And these are my worries. What do I need to do? Instead of just giving my worries to God, what I'm want to do even more is I want to give my life to God so that I'm hidden with God in Christ Jesus. My whole life belongs to him. My whole life, everything. I trust him, I believe in him. He's good, he's always faithful, and some of you are gonna say, "Well, that's irresponsible. You're just living in denial. You've got to be more responsible than that".
Now, here's my philosophy, and you may adopt this into your own life. Three big thoughts. First of all is this. I want to do what I can do. Would you say that aloud? I'm going to do what I can do. You can type that in the chat, those of you online. Come on, Team LC, all over the world, type in the chat, "I'm gonna do what I can do". In other words, if you've got an exam coming up, you're not just trusting God for your exam. What are you doing? You're studying. You're studying. If you want to get in better shape, you're not just praying about your health. You're gonna eat right, you're gonna exercise, you're gonna get good advice. You're gonna do what you can do.
The second thing is we're going to give God what we can't do. Somebody say that. I'm gonna give God what I can't do. If I can't do something, I'm gonna trust it to God. I'm giving God what I can't do. First, I'm gonna do what I can do. I'm gonna give God what I can't do, and finally, I'm gonna trust God no matter what. Because of who he is. Because of his character. Because of his nature. God, I'm gonna do what I can do. And God, I'm gonna trust you, casting my cares upon you and give you what I can't do. And no matter what, because of your goodness, your promises, your faithfulness, I'm gonna trust you no matter what.
What I want you to do for a moment is I want you to imagine a heart of peace. I want you to imagine a life filled with unending joy. I want you to imagine peace of mind trusting God, and I want to tell you, it's possible and it's also a choice. It's a choice. Dominated by sinful nature or dominated by the Spirit. Can we review our four weeks of study? If your life is moving in the direction of your strongest thoughts, do you like the direction your thoughts are taking you? Because I didn't. For so long, my thoughts were dominated by negative, self-defeating thoughts. You're pathetic, you're not good enough, you're never gonna measure up, you don't have what it takes, I can't keep up, I'm always overwhelmed.
Well, if you don't control what you think, you'll never control what you do. So what are we doing? We're identifying the stronghold. Whatever is the lie that we've been believing, the dominant lie where our spiritual enemy is talking us out of the truth of God, and when we identify that lie, we then replace it with a truth. Not just a practical truth, but a spiritual truth from God. And then what do we do with that truth? Well, we do this. We write it. And then what else do we do? We think it. And then what else do we do? We confess it until you believe it. Say it with me somebody. We write it, think it, confess it until you believe it. Again, we write it, think it, confess it until you believe it.
I need some help online. Type it in the chat. What do we do? We write it. Think it, confess it until you believe it. Over and over and over again. We write it, we think it, we confess it until we believe it. So what do I declare in my life? Where does my mind need to be renewed? Let me tell you. Jesus is first in my life. I exist to serve and glorify him. I am disciplined. Christ in me is stronger than the wrong desires in me. Write it, think it, confess it, believe it. I am growing closer to Jesus every day. Because of Christ, my family is closer, my body is stronger, my faith is deeper and my leadership is sharper. I am creative, innovative, driven, focused and blessed beyond measure because the Holy Spirit of God dwells within me. Declare what's true about you. Write it, think it, confess it until you believe it. Write it, think it, confess it until you believe it.
We're renewing our minds with truth. What is true about you? If you don't know what's true about you, let me declare it. You are not hostage to your unhealthy thoughts because the weapons you fight with are not the weapons of this world. Your spiritual weapons have divine power to demolish strongholds. And what do you do? By the power and authority of God, you demolish every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God. Worry is not your master. Why, because you trust in God. His peace guards your heart, guards your mind and guards your soul in Christ Jesus. You are not a slave to your habits. You are not a prisoner to your addiction. You're an overcomer by the blood of the Lamb and by the words of your testimony.
Come on, somebody. You have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the kingdom of life. Renew our minds. Renew our minds. Renew our minds. We also know that you can't control what happens to you but you can control how you frame it. You can look at life from a negative perspective and say, "This is bad, this is hard," or you can look at it from a different perspective and say, "God, you are good, you are faithful and you're true".
And what's so powerful as followers of Jesus is this. We're not interpreting God through our circumstances. God, where are you? You're not good because life is bad. No, what we're doing is we're interpreting our circumstances through the goodness of God. And then, as followers of Jesus, we cover everything we do in prayer, and we're not gonna be anxious about anything, but in everything, with prayer and petition, we take our requests to God, and the peace of God, the peace of God, not the peace of this world.
The world can't give it and the world can't take it away. It's the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and what else? Come on, and your... Minds. And your minds in Christ Jesus. So as followers of Jesus, we're gonna let God empower you to win the war in your mind. And when you know the truth, the truth will set you free. We are stepping out of the lies of our spiritual enemy and we're stepping into the truth of God. And it's the truth of God, a renewed mind, which will set you free.
So Father, do it, we pray. Do it, we pray. God, I know there are so many in our church family, so many watching online that are overwhelmed with runaway thoughts, fear and anxiety. God, help us to cast those cares upon you.
At all of our churches today, those of you who have a real burden, a fear, something that makes you indescribably anxious, what we're gonna do today is kind of symbolically put it in our God box. You want to give it to God today. At all of our churches, there's something weighing on you that might keep you awake at night. It's kind of almost always there. It's just ever present, a burden that you want to give by God by faith today. Would you just lift up your hand? Just all of our churches, lift up your hand. Someone in the chat, you can just type in the chat. I'm giving my burden to God. Right now, whatever it is. You can even give it a name if you want to. I'm trusting God with whatever. Just fill in the blank, type it in the chat. I'm giving this to God. I'm trusting you, God, with this.
Now, Father, symbolically we just release this to you, the relationship, the health issue, the fear, the financial burden, the indecision, whatever it is. God, we just release it to you. We trust you to be good, that you're always faithful. And God, just give us the wisdom to do what we can do. If there's something we can do about it, God, give us the wisdom and the courage to just do it, to do what we can do. And God, we're gonna trust you with all the things that we cannot control. And no matter what, God, no matter what, we're gonna trust in you with all of our hearts and lean not on our own understanding, but in all of our ways, God, our mind acknowledges you, believing that you, O God, will make our paths straight. We release these burdens. God, I pray by faith for someone right now there's a release right now, right now, right now. God, I'm trusting you. I'm trusting you right now in this moment. God, we're trusting you. We're trusting you.
As you keep praying today, I can only imagine how many of you feel like I did for so much of my life when I had this heavy burden and this weight and this fear of where I stood with God. I remember too many times to count, just making deals with God. If you're there, help me, forgive me, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I always had this heaviness thinking I haven't been good enough for God. I didn't know where I stood with God, and that may be some of you right now. I've got really, really good news that can bring peace of mind beyond measure, and that is this, that God loves you. I want you to hear this. He loves you so much. And the reality is whenever you feel like you're not good enough for God, that is true.
None of us are good enough for God. We have all sinned. We've all broken God's commands, and that separates us from God. But here's a really good news. Because of God's goodness, he became one of us in the person of Jesus, his Son. Jesus was sinless. He never sinned. He was the perfect sacrifice. He died in our place for the forgiveness of our sins, and in the goodness and the power of God, Jesus didn't stay dead, but our God raised him from the dead so that anyone, and this includes you. It doesn't matter how dark your life feels, it doesn't matter how much you've done wrong, it doesn't matter how heavy the weight is, anyone who calls on the name of Jesus, your sins will be forgiven and you will be brand new. Peace of mind, peace of heart, peace of soul, because you're new. The old has gone and the new has come.
Online or at a physical location, those who say, "I need his grace, I want his forgiveness". We're just gonna step away from our old life, we're gonna step toward him. Our minds are not dominated by our sinful nature, but by the Spirit of God, and we find peace with him. All of our churches and online, those who say, "I need his grace, I need his forgiveness. Today, Jesus, I turn from my sin, I turn toward you. Today I give you my life".
If that's your prayer, life your hands high now, all over the place, and say, "Yes, that's my prayer". As we have hands going up at all of our churches today, we thank God for you. In the chat right now, just type it in there. I'm giving my life to Jesus. Just type that in the chat right now. I'm giving my life to Jesus. And as we have people all over the world, heaven is rejoicing in this moment, and so are we. We're gonna pray together, nobody prays alone. Would you just pray aloud? Pray:
Heavenly Father, forgive my sins. Jesus, change me. Make me brand new. Fill me with your Spirit, so I can follow you, live for you, think on what's true and represent you in all that I do. I'll do what I can do. I'll trust you with what I can't do. And God, I'm gonna trust you no matter what. Thank you for new life. I give you all of mine. I give you all of mine. I give you all my burdens. And I thank you for all your peace. In Jesus' name I pray.