Steven Furtick - Why Am I Anxious?
I want to share a message with you today on the subject of anxiety, and I want to do it from Psalm 139. So we're somewhere near the middle of this series looking at David's life and looking at the lyrics of the psalms that he wrote, and we're making comparisons. When we saying that David is the greatest rapper or MC of all time. And I stand by that. I stand by that. I would say that David's words in the psalms are divinely inspired to help us search within ourselves. And one Psalm I didn't tell them this last night, The reason that I love Psalm 139, where I'm going to share with you from today, the reason I love it is because the first time I tried to write a Christian song, I wrote it based on Psalm 139. And Holly's laughing because every once in a while we'll mention this song. It's not a very good song. I'm not going to go into it right now, but it was based on Psalm 139, and it had this cool little walk down in it; but other than that, the song really wasn't very good. But I was only 16 at the time.
And so, it's a wonderful psalm because it gives us a picture of both God's all-seeing eye, meaning that He is watching over our lives in every situation and season, and the intimacy with which God sees our lives. And so I want to pick up in verse 17 today and bring you into the flow of the psalm a little bit. David said this, Psalm 139:17, "How precious to me are Your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand, when I awake, I am still with You. If only You, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! They speak of You with evil intent; Your adversaries misuse Your name. Do I not hate those who hate You, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against You? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies". Here comes the shift, because David is focusing on external factors; and all of a sudden, he makes this move that we see him make over and over again in his life, from dealing with his enemies to the inner me.
And as much as that sounds like a little preacher thing, "I see what you did there". It's really the most important life skill, because David is about to take responsibility for his own anxiety. He's not going to put it on the economy, he's not going to put it on King Saul who's trying to kill him, he's not going to put it on his teenagers. He didn't have kids, but you know what I'm saying; not at this point. He did have kids and we'll talk about them in a future week. But he's not putting it on anybody but himself. In verse 33 He says, "Search me, search me". Those two words would set you free from 90% of the drama, because some of you borrow drama trying to look into other people's lives. Clap it's not like you. No one will know. "That's good, Pastor. Tell them". "Search me, God, and know my heart", Did you notice the shift? Kill 'em. The way things are in the world, these bloodthirsty men and all these selfish politicians and all this corruption, the systemic corruption. "God, do something about it". "Search me". Nothing changes until I do. "Know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts".
That's where I want to spend some time today. And I've been asking myself the question lately, this is my sermon title. "Why Am I Anxious". Why am I anxious? Apparently, according to my non-scientific YouTube study, all of you are anxious. And so I won't ask the question, have you experienced anxiety in the last week, because we live in the age of anxiety. Let's be honest about it. I mean, it is almost marketed to us through the stations that are supposed to be giving us our information. They actually engage us using fear tactics so that they can sell advertising time, often promoting the same drug and pharmaceutical companies, that is own by the same conglomerates that push out the information that is designed to make us anxious. But let's be careful, 'cause we sound like David now in verse 22. "Kill 'em, God". But David came to a place where he said, "You know, it's not what's happening out there, that make me anxious, it's what I allow in here to go undetected and unchecked. It's my thought process". He uses an actual Hebrew word that means disquieting thoughts. It's translated as closely as it can be into English, anxious thoughts.
So David is saying now it's not what is happening, that is creating anxiety, it is the way I am thinking about it. Look at verse 24. I know that David didn't know about neural pathways, but it sounds like he did because he said, "I want you to look inside, God, and see, if there is any offensive way in me". And now we know that when we think something long enough, it creates so 485 in our minds, a 77 in our minds. What's a highway in Toronto, L.J.? I don't know. The 401 for our Canadian friends and Drake. There's a process by which I get stuck in a rut. And so, David is saying, "See if I've been thinking in a way that has allowed the enemy to traffic in my mind where I've just been letting him in". And that's what I want to do today. I want to take you through a seven point test answering the question "why am I anxious", and hopefully help us to get past this point of answering that question with somebody else's name, and hopefully get us past the point of answering that question by mentioning something that is happening that is outside of our control, and hopefully to get us to the place where we can see that not only is God watching over my life, that's what David understood. It's that when Saul is trying to kill me, God is watching over me".
God has His surveillance system in every situation of my life. He will not suffer my foot to be moved. The Lord which keepeth thee, He's got 24/7 surveillance on me. Touch somebody; say, "You better be nice to me, God is watching how you treat me. God is watching how you talk to me and God likes me". How do you parents like it when somebody talks about one of your kids? God feels that way about you times 1.000 and He's watching out for you. So why am I anxious if my Father knows me needs? Why am I anxious if He's numbered the hairs on my head? Why am I anxious if He promised to supply every need? And I've got to get honest about it. I'm not necessarily referring to this in medical sense. Please don't take this to mean that I'm saying that your sin or behavioral choices are always responsible for anxiety. But what I want to show you today, regardless of where it's coming from, 'cause I'm not a doctor. You have to talk to Stacey if you want some help with that. But maybe there are some ways in me that are making me vulnerable to the way that things are, and allowing me to remain anxious. When the Bible says, "Do not be anxious," I don't think it means that we can never feel anxiety. It is when we stay anxious.
It doesn't mean that there won't be moments and seasons in your life where your hands are shaking. Demi Lovato couldn't sing the National Anthem without her hands shaking. I don't know if you saw it. She sang it in front of a lot of people. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about this pervasive sense of when things are going right you can't even enjoy them because it probably won't last long. I mean, looking around every corner for what's going to happen next, and I want to take you through something quickly today. It's kind of a sermon/seminar from Psalm 139. It's a psalminar. I thought you'd like that. It's a psalminar. And pay attention and write this down. If you don't write this down, you're not going to sleep any this week. You're going to have horrible stomach pains while you try to sleep. But write this down and God'll bless you.
Number one, when I am anxious, ask somebody next to you, "Why are you anxious". Alright, the first thing to check is your intake. The first thing that I consider when I'm anxious is how full I am of what? Because I found out that anxiety and cellulite have one thing in common, you can't pray either one of them away. They are both about intake. Oo, they showed me this new feature on my phone the other day. Can I show you? My kids are always showing me stuff and so they showed me a feature on my phone the other day. Oh, I've got a text from Holly. Okay. She just told me this should be my next book. Okay, but let me show you something else right now. You know, all these great functions on the iPhone, this is, what is this, a 7? A 7? The iPhone 7 has this function, and I want to show it to you. If you hit this button and hold it on the side, and then, you'll be shocked how many, y'all don't want to learn nothing today. You would be shocked, 'Cause I'm going to tell you a secret.
There is no way that we can... Take it, Touch somebody and say, "It's too much". We can't take it all in and still have room for the peace of God. You're praying for the peace of God. God doesn't have anywhere to put it. Your mind is too full. You were not designed to have the entirety of the conversation of the whole human race buzzing on your back pocket, on your butt bone; just walking around like snipers. What did they say? Where did they go on vacation? What about that press conference? It was not supposed to be this way. Of course, we're freaking out. Of course, we're zombies. Of course, we're numbing ourselves and drinking and smoking and popping. Of course, we can't stop it. The devil's got a shock collar, and we don't even know it.
Now, I'm messing up my seminar. Sit down. My psalminar. So you want me to like give you inspiration for 45 minutes every week, and you're going to lay it over top of 17 hours of media that is designed to hardwire the way you think. Then hope to we have peace if we don't make a place for it? And they used to teach me in youth camp this saying called Garbage In Garbage Out, and it was basically a way of saying "don't listen to rock and roll music and watch bad movies". And there's some good to that too. I think you've got to be in tune with your conscience in terms of what creates a sense of darkness in you. And you have to know that and we shouldn't make rules for each other, but say, "God, search me". I think that's very good. But I also think that sometimes what we don't take in is just as fatal to our faith as what we do take in. I think some of us are on a spiritual starvation diet and we don't even know it. And so, we have faith that we don't feed and then we cannot access the strength that we actually possess if we feed it.
And so, you've got to get your intake levels up. Buck, when he first started trying to get me to work out more, he said, "The first thing I want you to do," because he was telling me the only way for me to get the result I wanted, he said, "You've got to do two things". What as the little cheesy motivational poster you had up in your gym? "You can't out train a bad diet"? Is that what it said? And he was like, "So I want you to keep a food log and write down everything you eat". And I didn't do it, but I thought it was a good idea because before I can change what I take in, I need to know, track what I take in. I wonder what it would look like if you kept a thought log of just what you let in. So if you let the enemy in and then pray for God to drive him out, it creates a cycle where you are creating your own state of mind that you're trying to pray away. So there has to be a knowledge "Search me, God". You have to let God show you. You have to let His eyes see what it is that you're taking in. And I even mean this in terms of relationships.
Some of the people that you're around are draining your faith. And I know you have to be around them a little bit, but you might need to put on a little protective, yeah, like UV75. SPF75. Spiritual Protection 75, just to get around them. And I think it would be good sometimes for us to check our intake levels. "Oh, well, you know what? I didn't read a Bible verse since the last time they put one on the screen for me at Elevation Church". I've got all these apps on my phone and 97% of them are empty calories. I mastered Candy Crush. I'm not saying don't play Candy Crush, 'cause Holly would leave me if I put that out there in the universe. She loves Candy Crush. But I'm pretty concerned sometimes that we're filling ourselves with empty calories; and then so we're weak in the battle and we wonder why. Check your intake. It's good, isn't it? It's good teaching, because your intake levels have to be balanced.
The second thing I want you to write down is imbalance. Check for imbalance. I don't mean chemical imbalance. That's beyond my purview. But I do mean that when you don't have a sense of what's important in your life, when you don't have a sense of priority in your life, and everything feels urgent, it's a sign that you haven't figured out what's really important. Now you are open to everybody's demand, and they all take up equal space. And so, by saying yes to people who don't really matter, you say an automatic no to those who do. By saying yes to people who essentially are using you in order to achieve their own goals, now you find yourself unable to give because you are a limited resource to the people that God has entrusted to your care the most. So I have to have, watch this, a sense of balance. I could preach about balance. You know, you've got to work out and pray and eat and all of that. But this is not that kind of seminar. What I mean is you've got to be balanced in what you give weight to. That's what I mean is that sometimes we are stressed out because we are giving too much weight to the wrong words and not enough weight to the right words.
And so, we're out of balance because we have this feed, and everything on our feed is the same size; and because it's all the same size, we think it carries the same weight, so we live in a state of stress because we haven't learned how to weigh it out. You've got to weigh it out. When someone doesn't like you, sometimes it doesn't matter. Depends on who they are. Y'all are pulling on me. I'm going to start telling you things I shouldn't. The other week, someone was telling me that there was somebody who hated our church and came and said it wasn't that bad. I said, "I don't care". I knew it wasn't that bad. In fact, not only was it not that bad, it's freaking awesome. Tell 'em I said I didn't need them to validate something that I see every week. Thank you very much. I already know God is in this place. I already know He is glorious in this place. I'm glad you think it's not that bad, but I wasn't really waiting for you to hand me the award for not that bad. It was not that bad before you decided it was not that bad.
And so, I was talking to a guy one time about something here at the church that was complicated. And I gave him a 30 minute speech, asking for his advice, I got my notebook ready to hear what he would tell me after I listed everything that was happening, and he goes, "Steven, it doesn't matter". So I wrote that down. 'Cause I need you to tell me what to do. And do you know, he didn't say another word. It just, turn to the person next to you and look at 'em and say their name. If you know their name, say, "Steven". Tell 'em, "It doesn't matter". No, you've got to tell 'em with that little bit of, you've got to do it from your diaphragm. You ready? Tell 'em, "It doesn't matter". Now, what you just said is true about 99.9999999999973% scientific number of what they're staying up worried about. And one time, I was laying in my bed at night and worrying about something and God spoke to me through His spirit. "You are staying awake worrying about something that I've already worked out".
Now, when you give weight to that promise from God, when you give weight to the right things, when I give weight, when I have a clear sense of priority in my life, I'm okay if people are angry if I say no, because my no is a yes to something that I already decided was more important than what any given demand might require of me at any given moment. And this is the thing that I'm coming to realize is that Christ is the solid rock, but if you don't know how to stand on that rock with the right balance, the devil will push you around and you will always feel unsettled and you will always feel tossed and turned. But when you make up your mind what does matter and what doesn't matter, let me help you out a little bit. What doesn't matter? What they think. What does matter? What God knows. "Search me, God; know my mind, test me. You speak. You speak to me". It doesn't matter. He was so right. What he was talking about didn't matter.
In fact, I thought about writing a book and calling the book "It Doesn't Matter". And I've already got my subtitle figured out, "Really". And my first chapter will be called "At All". I feel somebody getting their balance back, getting their equilibrium back. You're seeing it right now for what it is. This doesn't matter. This matters; that I keep my faith, that I keep a grateful attitude, that I don't let my situation contaminate my spirit. This matters; not that. This matters; not that. 'Cause if you don't sort this out, you will live in constant imprisonment to your own indecision. Put that one down as number three. We're making terrible time. Indecision is a prison. So I want you to make three decisions before Wednesday. If you're watching this on a midweek worship experience you're running short on time. The clock is counting. I want you to set a D-day all you procrastinators. And you're claiming to be thorough.
I want you to make three decisions this week. I want you to set aside a day this week. Sit down. Have four cups of coffee so you numb your rational thinking processes. And go in and just make 'em. Just make the decisions and if you make dumb ones, apologize. But make the decision. My God 15 minutes to decide chicken or shrimp in a restaurant. I'm serious. You've been dating her seven and a half years and you can't decide if she's the one? Well if she's not, get out of the way, Oh, I'm preaching now, I just got somebody a diamond. Do it or don't, Do it or don'. Buy the house or don't. Sell the house or don't. Stay in Raleigh or don't. Do it or don't. You can always move back. And now we're making up more stuff to give us opportunities for anxiety and we call it options.
I don't know if it was just growing up in Moncks Corner, you didn't have to decide where to send your kids to school; there were two. I moved to Charlotte. I never saw anything like it. It's crazy. It's killing us. Too many options. I just want gas, not a slurpee, not a car wash, not a back massage. Just gas, it's too many options. I did it this week. I went in. I was feeling that anxiety and I told Jess to send over my notes for my "Why am I Anxious" teaching 'cause I felt like I needed my own notes. And I don't keep 'em after I write 'em. I give 'em away. I scratch 'em down and then give 'em away. But somebody else keeps 'em. So I said give me the notes and send 'em over. I need 'em. She said are you gonna teach it? I said no I need to live it. I was feeling all unsettled. I went through my lists and I found this one and the Holy Spirit hit me and said you're very indecisive right now. Everything everybody asks you and you go yeah when we get back to that I'm gonna go through the review thing. You're not going through a few things. You're not talking. You're not praying, anything like that. Just wait until it comes around again. It was becoming the way that I was handling things and so I just came in that day.
I made three decisions. I felt like I had spent a day at a spa just by making three decisions. They all started with N- and ended with -O and it felt so good. It felt so good. Try it. Try it. One, two, three, "No". Now, this only works if you are living with integrity. This only works if you are living with integrity and sometimes my anxiety is a result of a compromise in my integrity. It's kinda hard to have a peaceful heart when you're hiding secrets and feel like a hypocrite. It's kinda hard to have a peaceful heart when you're having to hope that your wife doesn't check your phone to see certain text messages. It's kinda hard to have a peaceful heart when you have three Snapchats and the one that your parents think is your Snapchat is just a decoy and now you're asking God to give you peace. But your life is so many different pieces. The word integrity means whole. Whole. Like in math class they taught us about integers: whole numbers. Whole. Integrity. Everything. All one person all the time.
When there are three different needs that I have to manage for every different situation it's kinda hard to pray the panic away when my own lifestyle is creating it. When I'm trying to figure out what mask to wear to church so that no one will see into my situation at home. When there's work me, and after work me, and Friday night me, and 9:30 Sunday morning me, it's kinda hard for me to have peace when my foundation is cracked. It's kinda hard for me to manage all those different needs 'cause I might send out the wrong one at the wrong time. Have you ever done that? I meant to send preacher me out there right now. It's kinda hard for me to ask God to bless a life that is divided in so many different directions.
Now I don't mean by this that you have to interact with everybody on the same level. For instance, if we're to meet at Pizza Hut I wouldn't talk at this volume. I would modulate. People say you should be the same on stage that you are out in public. Well, that would be obnoxious. Can you imagine touch three people at the baseball field? Scandalous. Touch what? Who are you touching? But I am saying is that although you might bring a different approach to different situations that the essential nature of who you are remains unchanged in every encounter. So it shouldn't be like that for my family to watch me preach and go like, "Who is that"? It shouldn't be like that. It should feel like a continuation. Somebody shouldn't see you on the television program and go, "You go to church"? I heard you say hallelujah on the church service but I hear you say some other, and it's costing you your peace.
I'm not condemning you. I'm telling you, you might be anxious sometimes because you are trying to manage so many different versions of you and if you would bring it all together and just be honest before God and just ask God what David, "Search me, know my heart". And if the way I'm doing it is wrong I want to be changed. I'm already accepted because of what Jesus Christ has done for me. Now God, help me to align my life with what you made me to be so that I can be the real me. I wanna be the real me, the highest version of me: that called me, that chosen me, that secure me, that stable me, that God loves me and I don't have to prove anything to anyone. This is my child. With him/with her I am well pleased. I don't have to be anybody else. My cortisol levels just dropped just by being the real me. 'Cause all that other layers of stuff and all that anger? That's not the real you. Not in Christ. That's what David is getting to the bottom of.
Did you notice that all of my points are starting with the same letter? The letter I. I figure that's a common denominator in a lot of our anxiety. Search me, God. Your eyes can see. God's eyes. God see beneath the surface of what the situation is. I'm anxious 'cause of my money and I'm anxious 'cause of my health. I'm anxious 'cause my mom. No, no, no, no, no. That might trigger it. But the truth of God's Word can enable your heart to transcend. This is what the New Testament preaches. Is that the peace of God will actually pass all understanding and guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. So no matter what triggers the anxiety in any situation David said search me and know me. Sometimes I have to fix my intention.
Sometimes I can reduce my anxiety just by shifting my intention. Just by going from "How are people thinking about me"? to realizing, they're not, Maybe if I would think about others. "Why didn't she speak to me"? Why did you speak to her? How 'bout that? Why did you? When I'm up here a lot of times I can get locked into performance mode real quick. It makes for a thirsty sermon. It's not the best sermon. It's hard to give living water when the preacher is thirsty. But when I shift my attention and go, and I hope this doesn't offend you. But sometimes I make up stuff about you. I just look in your eyes and pretend you're going through something horrible. I do. I just picture you just are on the verge. Just by wanting to help you rather than perform for you, when I shift my intention I just feel something fall off when I do. You can shift your intention in any interaction and immediately when you do, when you step out of the center and try to see, "How can I serve"? I'll tell you what will go when you step out of the center.
The burden of the weight of how you're coming across. The burden of the weight of how you're being perceived. The burden of the weight of what other people are and are not giving you. You have got to get out of the middle and see things from God's point of view. Search me, God. Am I anxious because it's just the rhythms of life? Then fine I'll get through it. Or am I creating more waves than necessary because my eyes are not focused on Jesus? I find out a lot of it is not even real. Have you noticed that? A lot of it is in this sacred place that God has given us by which He shows us who He is. It's the sacred space of your imagination. I want you to reclaim your imagination. You hear me? I want you to take back your most valuable asset. I want you to take back that place in you that used to be playful and now it is so stressed and panicked. That place in you that used to just make up games as a little kid. Just make up games. Just would walk up to anybody.
I want you to get back that child-like faith. Just play around. Just play around. See? The Devil wants to turn the place that was meant to be your playground, where you could enjoy God, into a battleground where you can't even feel or experience Him. When the enemy comes after your destiny his first step is to set up a stronghold in your imagination. The enemy wants to make it where you can't stand to be alone because you've got an internal ISIS that has set up terrorist cells. And every time you go to think you worry so much about what might happen that you can't worship God. So now you can't worship because you're so worried but God said today we're gonna get this thing turned around and recapture your imagination. To where you feel free again. To where you can dream about something again. To where you can think and think crazy thoughts and just write stuff down and just walk around singing stuff, off tune, making up words. You used to do that. You used to walk around just with just anything. But now you're so "What'll they think"?
I told the Devil the other day: "Get your hands off God's property. My imagination is God's house. My imagination was purchased with the blood of Christ. You can't set up camp here". I got dreams to dream. I got visions to see. I got a future to imagine. The good news is if you're really good at worrying you're gonna be great at worship. 'Cause all it is is the same imagination serving the opposite purpose. So what I'm doing now... Y'All help me preach. I'm about to close. I'm about to close. But before I close God said we need to reverse the cycle of the way that you're thinking about things. We need to reverse the cycle so when you wake up in the morning stop checking the fearcast. Stop waking up in the morning and thinking about how every possible meeting could go wrong and you don't have anything clean and you wore that on Tuesday. I promise you nobody has been keeping a spreadsheet of your shoes. Put on those same shoes you wore Tuesday and walk into your Thursday and expect to see the goodness of the Lord. Where you at faith-people? Do I have any faithcasters in the house?
David said, "If I take the winds of morning or dwell in the outermost part of the sea..". Watch this, "...even there Your hand will lead me and Your right hand will hold me fast". 'Cause God is watching over me. He's looking into me. I didn't check the fearcast this week. I checked the faithcast. It's corny but I bet you it'll drive back depression if you check the faithcast because God has been too good for me to stay anxious. How many did I give you? I heard a sermon one time that said don't stop on six. So stand up. I'll tell you the last thing when you stand up it makes me know I'm out of time. Because the enemy wants to fight you in isolation. Why am I anxious? I think the answer to that question can often be found right in the middle of the very word itself. The word anxious right in the middle of the word is the letter I. I was looking at it a few weeks ago and I was just looking at the word anxious. And I was thinking why should I feel discouraged? Why do the shadows come? Why should my heart feel lonely when Jesus is my portion, a constant friend is he, When his eye is watching over my life?
David said You were there for my conception and you have been there for every conflict and every season of my life. David wrote this beautiful Psalm although we cannot pinpoint the occasion many think it was at the occasion of his coronation as the king over both the southern and the northern kingdom. It really doesn't matter when he wrote it because God was watching over every stage of his process. David says, God, I want you to show me what's really making me anxious so I don't spend the rest of my life waiting for my enemies to disappear before I chose to have peace. I was looking at the very word and I saw something. That I is right in the middle of anxious but the word ends with -us. I was thinking about what we do in coming to church, you know, for our weekly reminder that we're not the only ones. We are not the only ones. Because when you came in you felt like it was just you. But touch somebody. Say, "It's not just you". It's not just you.
We came into the presence of God today to be surrounded by like-minded people. But let me tell you something. You gotta stay surrounded to stay at peace. So I want to challenge you this week to take my Psalminar and go through it. Why do you always talk about Zaxby's on the way the way out of church and never take a moment and just digest what you heard, act on what you heard? Ask God what David did. In fact, can we do it for a moment? Can we just be still for a moment? Even lift our hands if you feel comfortable lifting your hands. It puts you in a posture where you're no longer self-conscious but you're more God-conscious. Just pray this. Father, show me the ways that I'm thinking that are preventing your peace from flooding my life. Stay right there for a moment.
I believe this week God is going to show you decisions that need to be made and how to make 'em. I believe that when you will get in His presence and ingest the pure milk of the Word of God, the pure air of worship, come out of the air of anxiety that the world is suffocating with and come up to an altitude where you can breathe the breath and the grace of God. That the peace of God that transcends all understanding would guard your heart and your mind. In Christ Jesus, I declare this over you today. Regardless of your situation. I declare this over you today regardless of your diagnosis. I declare this to you today in the name that is above every name. The name at which demons tremble. We don't tremble before demons. Demons tremble before the name of Jesus and we speak peace to storms in our soul today in the name of Jesus.