11/23/14- “Handling Anxious Times”
?HANDLING ANXIOUS TIMES?? Philippians 4:6-8
For a video of this sermon, please click here:http://youtu.be/tdZLxayaELQ
“Do not be anxious for 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, present your requests to God.? And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your 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.”? (Philippians 4:6-8)
Despite being among the richest countries on earth, America is by a wide margin according to the World Health Organization the most anxious.? One third of Americans will have anxiety disorders some time in their lives.? It is estimated that the cost of care for anxiety disorders is around $600 million and annual societal costs for anxiety exceed $50 billion.? Anxiety shows itself in families breaking apart, in an inability to trust God or others, and a general skepticism about the ability to obtain peace.? Anxiety and Stress can become addicting.? I think this shows in our reluctance to celebrate a Sabbath or the shrinking of Thanksgiving as a day of rest.? More and more stores are opening earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving and no one has the courage to say for the good of your employees and their families- stop.? One of the extreme stories of anxiety was Myron May who was a busy attorney in New Mexico. Tamp Bay?s new reported that he started taking drugs for anxiety and the mixture of a couple of those could cause paranoia.? May began thinking people were after him.? May was the one who drove to his alma mater, Florida State, last week and shot students at random outside the library, and then was killed by police.? One student remains hospitalized.? Paul would say to our anxious time- an eternal truth- turn away from anxiety and to Thanks to God. I. THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGING- Anxiety is caused in some ways by change, and we are in a super-fast moving society. Psychologists developed a stress scale- and the most stressful things they found were the death of a spouse, divorce, breaking of a relationship, imprisonment, injury, dismissal from work- these might be characterized as bad changes in life.? But there are also good changes- marriage, having a child/gaining a new family member, retirement, or getting a new job.? When we face changes, they bring with them stress- good or bad;? Stress brings with it anxiety and it disrupts our status quo and peace.? The Bible speaks of God as being our rock on whom we can count in the changes of life.? He is our refuge when the earth quakes and the seas and winds roar.? He is, in other words, a steadying force.? He enables us to give thanks in the changes knowing that He will see us through and get us through the valleys and mountains. ???? I believe we live in an extra stressful time.? I see stress among Americans that I don?t see in people of other countries.? Part of it is we are aware of the changes.? Life has changed tremendously for most Americans compared to 30 years ago. The knowledge we have is growing exponentially in some areas. ?Buckminster Fuller created the ?Knowledge Doubling Curve?; he noticed that until 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By the end of World War II knowledge was doubling every 25 years. But on average human knowledge is doubling every 13 months. ?According to IBM, the build out of ?the ?internet?of things? will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours. How are you going to keep up? The great thing is we are learning stuff. The sad thing is knowing things is not the same as being wise and being able to apply the knowledge we have for good or for a higher cause than ourselves. Anxiety can be caused by a feeling of being overwhelmed by the changes of life. ???? Speaking of change, the area we live in is changing. Chapin Zip code are has grown by 52% since 2000.? We now have more people in the Chapin zipcode than Newberry and Saluda Counties combined.? I can remember when Chapin seemed like a year away from Columbia.? Now it is a bedroom community.? The farms are turning into subdivisions.? The rural is turning into suburban.? There was talk at the last re-districting of making this area a new congressional district because of population changes, but they chose the beach instead.? Chapin High School, since I have been here has gone from a 2A to a 3A and next year a 4A high school- despite starting Spring Hill High just down the road.? Life changes.? The key is to adapt to the changes in the best way- learning from the past and sorting through the good and the bad.? The goal in life is not simply to change- for not all change is for the better.? The goal in life is not to keep things the way they were.? Most of us have thrown away our rotary phones and party lines and would rather have a cell phone with us that stop on the side of the road to use a pay phone.? But the rise in gangs, drug abuse, rape, sexual promiscuity, and suicides are things we may want to leave behind.? Keep the faith in the midst of the changes.? Heraclitus said ?Nothing is permanent but change.?? I disagree.? For we have a living God who ever lives but is ever reliable and faithful, His dependability is constant. It is for this reason Paul says we can give thanks in all circumstances.? For circumstances surely will and must change in this world, but that does not mean that the love of God is fickle, fading, or flippant.? We give thanks because the victory of God is sure.? Faith allows us to believe that life is more than a roller coaster of events- drought and flood.? There is a reason we can hear with integrity the words ?be anxious for nothing? and ?give thanks in all circumstances? and believe.? Faith alleviates anxiety.? Isaiah says, ?Be not afraid for I am with you.? Do not anxiously look about you for I am your God and I will help you, uphold you and be your righteous right hand.? II. THE ANXIETY- IT IS A GROWING- Paul was writing to people and telling them ?not to be anxious.?? No doubt that meant that they were anxious.? If you lived in Philippi you might be anxious.? This city was a city of contrasts.? On the one hand it was the first place Paul went in Europe and the first where a convert to the faith was made. Lydia was baptized outside of Philippi by the river.? But Philippi was the place where Paul was arrested and thrown in jail. ????? In a 2012 article in Psychology Today it was noted that America has more anxiety than most countries for two reasons:? 1) Trying to keep up with the Joneses, and 2) Over achievement.? In other words we work ourselves to death trying to get things or get a name for ourselves.? I hear people say all the time- I have a beautiful house on the lake but I usually get back too late from my work or my entertainment that I can?t see it .? I have a nice boat but I can?t seem to get it out on the lake in time.? I hear ?I?d love to spend more time with my kids and family but I have to keep working so I can get them these nice clothes and send them to a nice college.?? In the meantime- we have a hard time catching our breath. ?I am not much better than the rest of you.? But there is this scripture.? It is a call in the back of our minds- ?Let it go, let it go.?? Take a Sabbath.? The football game is for the long haul- being able to not give out of gas in the fourth quarter is important.? Being able to keep your soul, keep your family, keep your faith, keep your wits about you when all those around you are losing theirs is important in the long haul. ???? Paul knows from experience- he could have been anxious in the midst of Phillipi.? But instead he was singing songs and praying even when he was under false arrest.? There is power in giving thanks.? It is the power that erases anxiety- that takes our eyes off of what we don?t have but want and puts them on the blessings around us right now, and the blessings that cannot be taken away in the long haul- love, eternal life, peace. Being able to give thanks to God enables us to soften the worst of circumstances.? I have seen it in people who are dying but have faith that this pain and this life is not the end. III. THE HELP IS EVER STAYING Philippi was the place where Paul and Silas were thrown in jail, but it is also the place where Paul and Silas were miraculously set free.? They responded to their terrible situation- thrown into the inner underground dungeon in Philippi- by praying and singing songs of thanksgiving.? It was when they were singing that not only did all the prison doors fly open in an earthquake but their chains came loose. ???? Anxiety is not a new phenomenon for human beings.? It has been around.? It just so happens that we seem to have perfected it into a highly contagious strain of anxiety.? We pass it on from one generation to the next and continue the false notion that things and power will make us happy forever.?? The antidote for anxiety is not new either.? It has been proven true. ??? The first part of the solution is to will to not be anxious.? So Paul can command us- implying that we control our will concerning our anxiety- ?Do not be anxious about anything.?? Do not work yourself into anxiety- we imagine that we should be anxious- about the holidays, about family, about money and we worry.? Stop working yourself up. ????? The second thing we can do is pray with thanksgiving.? This means talk to God and thank Him for what you have.? Count your blessings- and more than that thank God for them in prayer. ???? The third thing we can do is change our thought patterns- whatever is noble and true think about such things.? A study found that we are anxious about 40% — things that will never happen; 30% — things about the past that can’t be changed; 12% — things about criticism by others, mostly untrue; 10% — about health, which gets worse with stress; 8% — about real problems that will be faced.? T.S. Elliot said that anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity.? When we face a real problem, we need to be a little anxious in order to get the adrenalin flowing.? I remember telling many a groom here at LMPC, it you are a bit nervous now, that is a good sign. If you were not then I would think this didn?t mean anything to you.? My preaching professor said that every minister should be a bit nervous when getting up to preach as it is an important act.? Anxiety or nervousness can be used for good.? In fact, being anxious about something can elicit thanksgiving when you get through it- if you involve God in your anxious moment.? But that does not negate the importance of putting anxiety in its right place.?? Anxiety should not control us.? God can help us control our anxiety.?? ????? Psychologists have (NY Times John Tierney 11/21/2011), not surprisingly confirmed Paul?s biblical advice to be thankful.? A joint study of University of Miami and Cal Davis found that people who kept a gratitude journal- with just five entries a week- writing down things for which they were thankful- were more optimistic, happier, fewer physical problems and exercised more.? A university of Kentucky study confirmed that people who were purposefully grateful were less likely to be bothered by criticism or take revenge.? A Baylor University study found that thinking about God can cause people to act and feel significantly more grateful and that praying increases gratitude.? I don?t think we need studies to confirm what we know in our hearts are true, and what Paul says here.? Taking time to thank God in prayer and to think about positive things makes us better people who are not caught up in the anxious moments.? John Ortberg says we block a sense of gratitude because we think we deserve blessings just by existing- that is a sense of entitlement.? A sense of entitlement can numb you and blind you to the hand of God.? But a deeper look can strengthen your faith and help you to live a grateful life. ????? I told you the sad story about Myron May, but I didn?t tell you the rest of the story.? Jason Derfuss was in the FSU library that night, 11/20, that May started his shooting.? He escaped the library.? Hours later he opened his backpack.? All the books were ripped apart, he said.? One book on John Wycliffe, who died to translate the Bible into English, had a bullet on the back page.? Derfuss said, ?There is no way I should be alive. Literally, those books saved my life.?? But Derfuss went on, ?It?s crazy.? One minute I am checking out books and the next I am crying on the floor thinking I shouldn?t be alive.? Those books saved me, and God saved me.??? This Thanksgiving, do not just give the glory to the books and the things that help you in life.? This Thanksgiving look deeper, look higher, look to God.