Jack Graham - HELP! I'm Afraid
In my fifty years I've never seen so many changes in our culture as we're seeing today. And it is clear to me that we are in avalanche, as a result of all the changes and that we are in an avalanche of the upheaval in our culture, angst and anxiety. People are increasingly burdened and broken, overwhelmed and over extended. We are worried, we are wearied, we are fearful, we are fatigued.
A recent study by the World Mental Health Council surveying 14 nations determined that America, Americans, we are the most worried, anxious nation in the world. Amazing isn't it? With all the prosperity in our country and yet we are plagued with so much anxiety. We spend billions of dollars each year in this medication. Anxiety disorders country on anti-anxiety are the most common mental illness in America. We are living in an extreme psychological pressure, whether it is divisive politics or your cell phone and its screens, angry people and anxiety is often the result. Add especially to our young people, add in a secular world view that is being taught in our public schools, most of our public schools and universities, and you get an environment in which anxiety and fear is bred.
Where there is no God, there is no peace! Where there is no spiritual light, only secularism wonder that many of our young and narcissism, is there any people are asking the question: "Is it worth it to live? How can I keep going on"? And many are killing themselves! The suicide rate is up, up, up, among young adults under the age of 30, including teenagers. And still even those who love God, who read the Bible, maybe even study the Bible, attend church, can struggle with anxieties of all kinds. Now professional and pastoral counsellors are very, very helpful in times like these for each one of us. Physicians and therapists, appropriate medication is helpful for some and for some it is actually exercise, and good nutrition, life-saving. And then there's and proper sleep, and healthy habits which are effective in treating anxiety. But ultimately it is God's Word and God's wisdom that brings us comfort and even the cure.
Remember from last week the message "Your Mind Matters", Proverbs 23:7, "As a man, a person thinks in the heart, so is he". It's been said that 70 percent of all anxiety can be affected positively by changing our outlook and our habits. The therapy we need ultimately is truth therapy. The truth of God's Word as God speaks to us. Listen to this: "All treatments that assist us in containing and controlling our anxiety must be anchored in the hope and the peace that only God can give". Romans 15:13, one of my favorite verses, "May the God of hope", and this is a prayer. It's my prayer for you, "May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in believing, that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound (overflow) in hope".
God has promised peace beyond our comprehension. In fact, Jesus said in John 14 and verse 27: "My peace I give to you, not as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled". Hear me say clearly to build our lives on a sure foundation is absolutely essential in controlling our minds, our mental health! So that when tribulation and trauma and tests and trials and tragedies come our way, and Jesus said, John 16:33, "In this world you will have tribulation". When these come our way, we'll not be blown away, but we can be strong and steady in the storms of life, that we can face the gale-force fears that come against us. Because while we face our fears and deal with fears every day, we must never become obsessed with fear.
In fact, the Bible says in 2 Timothy 1:7: "God has not given us a spirit of fear (an obsession of fear) but love, power and a sound mind". So, the answer to anxiety ultimately and eternally comes from the Almighty. And we find it right here in Philippians chapter 4, verses 6 and 7: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus". Two words which I believe represent the antidote for anxiety, the prescription for peace in our lives, two words. Grateful prayer. What we're told in God's Word is "don't be anxious. Do not worry about anything, but pray about everything". In other words, be a worshipper, not a worrier! Turn your worry into prayers! If you have time enough to worry, you have time enough to pray! Grateful prayer!
Now Jesus spoke about this truth in the Sermon on the Mount. This truth of not being worried about anything. And in Matthew 6 (you should turn to it in your Bibles) He said, "Therefore, I tell you do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you be being anxious can add a single hour to his lifespan? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles (that is unbelievers) seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all".
And then verse 33: "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things (everything you need in life) will be added to you". Signed Jesus! That's Jesus' word on anxiety. He's saying to us worry is so unnecessary. It doesn't accomplish anything. It is so unhealthy and unproductive. It is even unholy because it represents a lack of faith. He said, "O you of little faith". If you have fears without faith, that's a fail. And I can imagine with a smile creasing His sun-encrusted face, Jesus looked up and as those birds, flying around, perhaps, singing. He said, "Look at the birds. They don't worry, they don't fret because even God takes care of them. God even takes care of them. And if God takes care of birds, don't you know He will take care of believers? That the Father has promised to take care of the children". He said, "Look at the fields". He said, look at nature.
And often when we are stressed or pressured or feeling anxious one of the best things we can do is to just get apart, even it's in your own backyard or find a place where you can look at the trees and hear the birds and look at God's creation and find peace in that. If you can find an ocean or a lake or even the face of a small child, find peace in what God has made and take a deep breath. Jesus said, "Look at the fields. Look at what God has made, the flowers, the birds, and know that since God has made all of this, He has made you and He cares about you". Jesus even said, "Not one sparrow falls to the ground but that God knows and cares about that little bird".
Now the birds do something; they fly around. Doesn't mean they just sit and wait for the worms to just jump in their mouths. You know, the only birds that get fat are the birds we feed or put in cages. They're flying around and finding their food, and God is providing for them. And it's this superlative, yet simple lesson that God does care about you! The point is: the more we consider the sovereign love of God, our heavenly Father, the less we will worry!
Why do we worry if God is in control? I've analyzed that on myself from time to time. Why worry? Or as Alfred E. Neuman said, "What me worry"? Alfred E. Neuman reference, first time from this pulpit, I think. And that's another generation. Sometimes I feel guilty if I don't worry! You know what I'm saying? When something is wrong with myself, something in our family, something in the church. If something is wrong, I think I have to fix it first. And if I just give it to God in some way first, I think, well, if I don't worry about it, bad things are going to happen. Am I telling the truth? If I don't worry, if I don't get my hands all over this and fix this then bad things are really going to happen! No! When we turn our fears over to God, truly give them to Him, then He begins to fix it. You can trust God with anything and everything that concerns you!
2 Timothy 1:12: "This is why I suffer as I do but I am not ashamed for I know whom I believe and am convinced that He is able to guard until that day (when I see Christ) what has been entrusted to me". God says, "Give it to Me. Entrust it to Me". God is able to guard what you give to Him. Here's my definition of worry: Worry is assuming responsibility that God never intended for you to have. Let me say that again: Worry is assuming responsibility God never intended for you to have. We are much better off, we are healed of our anxious fears when we give them to Jehovah Yehwah Shalom, the God of peace. Here's our Lord Jesus Christ who promised us this peace. He is the Great Physician and He is the Prince of Peace.
So pray and turn your worries to grateful prayer. Because when you do, listen to me... You say, "what's the point"? Everybody says pray; Here's the point! When you do, you will tap into God's power. Your faith grows when you pray, when you call on the name of God. And we transfer our trust from self to Christ. And when we pray we receive abundant peace for our panic, for our pressures and for our problems. Again, Jesus said, "My peace I give to you". And how does He give it? He says, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it will be opened to you". We are strengthened when we pray, to get up and go again; to keep going when we feel like quitting; to prevail.
Can I tell you, I believe this with every ounce of my being; that something supernatural happens when we pray in the power of Jesus' name! And that something supernatural is what God does in our bodies, what God does in our brain, our being! Pray! And watch God work. So, the first word prayer is stop worrying and start praying. God is saying, "when you find yourself strangled by worry, pray and practice My presence". Pray and unleash God's grace and mercy to attack and defeat anxiety. Praise Him through the storm! Prayer tears down strongholds in your life. For some there is an obsession with fears and anxiety. It can become a stronghold, a fortress of fear in your life. Prayer is spiritual warfare. It's not pretty; it's messy, but it's powerful.
And prayer tears down strongholds in our lives and transforms you mentally and physically and spiritually. It transforms us with peace. Prayer! But I didn't say just prayer. My two words as the antidote for anxiety is grateful prayer! Don't miss grateful prayer. In fact, I want us to read that verse again out loud and I want us to emphasize that word thanksgiving. Let's put it on the screen. And when we get to thanksgiving, let's emphasize it. Say it out loud. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God". When you mix in this medicine of grateful prayer, when you mix in thanksgiving, you turn your petitions into praise.
Hans Selye who was the father of the so-called stress studies a generation ago, said that "Thanksgiving, gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotion". I believe that's true. The healthiest human emotion is thanksgiving, because gratitude defeats every toxic negative emotion in our lives! Gratitude, hear me, Gratitude is essential to mental health. Gratitude is so often the missing ingredient in our lives, and even in our prayers. You remember those ten lepers? Jesus healed all of them, but only one of the ten came back to say thank you. When we read that we may think to ourselves, "Well, I know I would have been one of the nine to comeback," and maybe that's true. But I'd like to thinking, one out of ten, ten percent of the healed lepers came back to say "thank you, Jesus".
I suppose that we say "thank you God, thank you Jesus," about ten percent of the time for all the things that He's done for us. One out of ten of the blessings of God we give thanks. Ruth Graham, Billy Graham's wife, said this: "Gratitude dissolves doubt, reinforces faith, and restores joy. You would worry less if you praised God more"! Gratitude destroys discontent and dissatisfaction and discomfort, often the sources of fears and anxiety. I would advise you to keep a journal everyday and if nothing else in your journal, write down two or three of the blessings of God upon your life. It's a proven antidote for spitirual problems and psychological problems.
I was once advised by someone, a counselor I was talking to, he's here this morning as a matter of fact, to write down my thoughts and write down my fears. I was in a period of struggling myself and I was advised to do something that I've often advised others to do and that is to write it out, to journal your experience, write down your emotions because when you write things down, it enables you to clarify some things and especially as a Christian, when we begin to write down our praise and our prayers to God, God moves!
"Count your blessings; name them one by one" is an old, old song but it's an ever-new treatment for anxiety and problems of all kinds. Grateful prayer has a profound impact, effect upon your mental health! The ability to say "thank you, Lord" is one of the greatest blessings in the life of a Christian. You can say Amen to that! God's peace is something you can't get ultimately in a pill, you can't get it in another person, you can't get it in pie, as much as I love pie, to keep the alliteration going. It's something that truly God gives, this peace. He describes it in verse 6 as the peace that passes understanding.
As a Christian we live with the confidence of heaven and hope, and hope wins. Psalm 84:11, "The Lord your God is a sun and a shield; He gives grace and glory. And no good thing will he withhold from them who walk uprightly". Bottom line: Jesus Christ is Lord! And because Jesus is Lord, when He is Lord of your life that means He's Lord over every circumstance and every situation of your life. The world can offer no greater solution, more healing or more antidote to anxiety than the presence and the power and the peace that God gives.