Robert Jeffress - Choosing Faith Over Worry
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". Few things wreak havoc on the mind like the effects of worry. Worry keeps us awake at night, it distracts us from the present, and it prevents us from experiencing joy. So how can we release ourselves from worry's grip once and for all? Well, like any other major transformation, change starts with God. So today we're going to see what the Bible says about the causes and the cure for worry. My message is titled "Choosing faith over worry" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
Someone has written a thief is running lose in our midst. He's a dangerous thief, intent on stealing our most precious possessions. Our joy, our peace of mind, even our health. The name of the thief? Worry. Author Arthur Roche has described worry as "A thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained". And that's what worry does, it strangles out the joy, the emotion of our life. The late Corrie ten Boom said, "Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. Instead, worry empties today of its strength".
Yes, worry can have a devastating emotional impact on us, but it also affects us physically as well. Dr. Charles Mayo, the founder of the Famed Clinic, said, "Half of our hospital beds today are filled with people who have worried themselves there". Worry not only affects us emotionally and physically, it affects us spiritually as well. Do you remember in Luke chapter eight Jesus told the parable about the sower who went out sowing seed and the seed fell on four different kinds of soil. And, of course, he went on to explain the seed represented the Word of God, the four kinds of soil represented the four conditions of the human heart that receive God's word.
And in verse 14 Jesus said, "The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and the pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity". This seed fell on soil, it began to grow, but then there was a weed system underneath that choked the life out of this plant. Jesus was saying for some of us, as we try to grow in our spiritual maturity, our spiritual interest is choked out by three things. He talks about a love of pleasure, a love of money, but at the top of the list that chokes out spiritual growth in our life is worry. Worry can strangle the spiritual life out of us. What's the antidote to worry?
Well, Jesus said in John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful". Christ's legacy, his gift to us was peace no matter what happens around us. How many of you would like to have that kind of peace, that no matter what happens around you you're at peace, all is well? Well, the way we experience peace, the conduit through which it comes into our life is through faith.
You know, the Bible says in Hebrews 11:1 faith is not some hope or wish. "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, it is the conviction of things not seen". Faith is the assurance that God is in control of our lives no matter what is happening around us. But faith is an attitude we choose in life, and it's the attitude choice that we're talking about today. Choose faith over worry. Now, before we talk about how to choose faith in our life, let's look at some common causes of worry. In fact, as I look through scripture, and after 40 years of talking to people who worry constantly, I've identified three major sources of anxiety in our life.
Cause number one, a wrong value system. A wrong value system. I want you to get into your minds right now something you're worried about. What is the thing right now you are most worried about? Somebody has said the cause of worry is building your life around the temporal instead of the eternal. Whenever your heart, your affections are built around things that can be taken from you, there's going to be a low-grade anxiety that consumes your life. How do you deal with that?
Some people deal with that fear of loss by trying to indemnify themselves against any kind of loss, but the truth is we cannot protect ourselves against every loss in life. And that's why Jesus said in Matthew 6, verses 19 and 20, "Do not lay up yourself treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, for thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break and steal". Sometimes our anxiety reveals a wrong, not a sinful but just a wrong value system. Building our affection around the temporal instead of the eternal.
A second cause of worry in our life can be unconfessed sin. Whenever we are consistently and willfully disobeying God, the byproduct of that disobedience is anxiety, worry. Our disobedient lifestyle just produces the sense that somehow God's going to get even with us, we think. God is going to punish us. We don't know how he's going to do it, but it's like we're living our lives with a sort of damocles hanging over our head. We're fearful that disaster is going to come into our life at any moment because of our disobedience. It reminds me of what the puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards said. "The unrighteous tremble at the rustling of the leaves".
Unrighteous people are just naturally fearful because even though they may not proclaim to believe in God, deep down they know there is a God and that he is unhappy with them. You know, conversely, righteous living produces a peace of mind. In Isaiah chapter 32, verse 17, the prophet writes, "And the work of righteousness will be peace, and the service of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever". What I'm saying to you today is the fact is unconfessed sin can often be a cause of anxiety in our life.
There's a third cause that we don't talk about often. Some of our worry is the direct result of Satanic attack in our life. I know that sounds extreme, so don't write me off before I explain what I mean by this. You know, in Ephesians chapter six, Paul describes the spiritual armor that is available to every Christian to fight against Satan's attack. Remember Paul reminds us that our struggle in life is not against flesh and blood. It's really not against other people. We think it is, we think our struggle is against our maid or our children or our employer or somebody else, no. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, Paul says, but against the unseen forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Spiritual warfare demands spiritual weapons. And remember in verse 16 he describes one of those pieces of armor available to us. "In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one". I frankly think Satan has a number of flaming arrows he shoots into different people's lives. But I think among his favorite arrows is worry. He loves to send that flaming arrow of worry in our life. And the reason I say that is because of the effect it has on our life.
2 Timothy 1:7, Paul says, "For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of love, power, and of a sound mind". How do you know if this is coming from Satan? Whenever this worry drives you away from God rather than closer to God, you can know that's not coming from God, it's coming from the evil one. You know another way I know most anxiety in our life comes from Satan and not God? Because it's based on a lie. I read this study by a guy named dr. Walter calvert. He did a study about worry and he concluded that 92% of the things we worry about never actually happen. Now how do we erect that shield of faith in our lives to extinguish the flaming attack of anxiety?
Well, let me give you just four positive steps that you can take, all based on God's word. Number one, and most importantly, repent of known sin in your life. You know God is displeased and you have this sense that if you don't stop, if you don't change, God is going to send his discipline into your life. And that fear is not without merit. Hebrews 12:6 says, "For those whom the Lord loves he disciplines, and he scourges every son whom he receives".
If you're involved in sin in your life, it's not a matter of if God is going to send discipline. It's only when that discipline is going to come. And he sends it into your life not because he hates you. He doesn't send it into your life because he doesn't love you. He sends discipline into your life because he loves you. Just like a parent who loves his child disciplines his child, so God, our loving Heavenly Father, sends discipline into our life as well. The good news is we don't have to experience it. We can escape God's loving but painful discipline in our life. How do we do that? 1 Corinthians 11:31 says, "But if we judged ourselves rightly, we should not be judged". Right now you have the chance, right now you have the opportunity to say, I'm not headed in the right direction. Today I'm going to start walking in a new direction. That's one way to avoid fear in your life, repent of known sin.
Number two, remove unnecessary fear in your life. You know, much of the fear we have can be easily removed simply by confronting the source of our fears. For example, many of us who are anxious about not doing things we know we ought to be doing. Let me give you three words that can remove a lot of the unnecessary fear in your life. Are you ready for them? Here are the three words. Do it now. Do it now. You know, removing unnecessary fear can also mean dealing realistically with your anxiety. You say, well, that sounds like a bunch of positive thinking mumbo jumbo. Where is that in the Bible? I'm glad you asked. Ephesians 6:14, talking about the spiritual armor we have. "Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth". Paul is saying we need to take these lose thoughts or even thoughts that are based on unrealistic fears and we need to confront them with truth. The truth of God's word. The truth of the bridge isn't going to collapse. That kind of truth makes worry evaporate in our life.
Number three, remember God's past faithfulness in your life. One way to erect that shield of faith is to remember and meditate on God's past faithfulness. You know, if you read through the Psalms, you'll discover that David battled with worry all the time. So many of his Psalms you can feel the anxiety he was feeling, and many times with good cause. For example, I think about Psalm 3 that he penned. He wrote that when his son Absalom was building a rebellion against his father.
Psalm 3, verses one and two. "O Lord, how my adversaries have increased. Many are rising up against me. Many are saying of my soul, 'there is no deliverance for him in God'". But then notice the quick change of mind he has in verse three. "But thou, o Lord, art a shield about me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head". Can't you hear our choir singing that? "I was crying to the Lord with my voice, and he answered me from his holy mountain. I lay down and slept. I awoke, for the Lord sustains me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me round about".
Now how do you account for that attitude change in the white space between verses two and three? What caused him to quit worrying? He remembered God's past faithfulness to him. He remembered how God had delivered him in the past. And he said, you know what? The same God who delivered me in the past will deliver me from this.
Finally, how do you choose faith over worry? Remain in contact with God. Turn over to Philippians 4 for just a moment, the passage we read earlier in the service. You remember the situation when Paul wrote to the Philippians. As one of my mentors used to say, Paul wasn't sitting on the French riviera sipping a pina colada. He was in prison facing what could have been his execution. He was waiting for the verdict of the trial, whether he was going to live or die. 19 times in that letter to the Philippians he talked about rejoicing in the Lord. Look at what he says in verse six. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus".
If you're plagued with worry, how do you apply this verse? Take out a sheet of paper and put at the top, my worry list, and start listing everything you're worried about. Some of us need more than one page, that's okay. Just keep writing and writing and writing until you've emptied every worry you have in your life onto that sheet of paper. And once you're finished, take your pen, cross out the word worry, and write above it, prayer. Make your worry list my prayer list. Those are the things you start praying about. Don't worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything.
One way we remain in contact with God is talking to him, but we also need to allow him to speak to us. That's what he says in verses eight and nine. "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure and lovely and of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things". What is he talking about here? We don't have time to do it today, but if you go to Psalm 19:7-10, you'll see all of these words are used to describe the Word of God. When you let your mind dwell on God's unchanging truth, it causes worry to flee from your life. Why, because the Bible is a reminder that God never changes.
The Bible is a record of God's past dealings with his people. And when we read these accounts of thousands of years ago we're reminded that God has the ability of taking care of us. And meditating on God's word gives us peace, and that's why he says in verse nine, "The things which you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and", what? There it is again. "The God of peace shall be with you". Prayer, talking to God, meditation on scripture, allowing God to talk to us, freed the apostle Paul from many anxious moments while he was in prison. And that same peace of God is available to you when you take concrete steps to choose faith over worry.