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About this series
I Choose Peace
How to Quiet Your Heart in the Chaos of Life
Why is it that as soon as we get that house, that job, that car, that, "you-fill-in-the-blank," the shine wears off so quickly - the horizon just keeps moving, and we never really experience peace? In this series, Chip unmasks a vicious opponent that's constantly poised to steal our peace and create an all-consuming discontent. If you’re ready for a spiritual journey of adventure and an intimacy with God like you’ve never known before, this series, from Philippians, Chapter 4, is the road map you're looking for.More from this series
It is well with my soul. It is well with my soul.
You can’t sing a song like that and not pause just to ask: how is it going with your soul? Is it well? When you think of the fears, the frustrations, the thoughts about the future – how are you doing?
The song is really powerful but the story behind it might be more powerful. It was first sung in 1876. It was written by Horatio Spafford. He was an attorney that did well in investments in Chicago, he was a close, personal friend of a guy named D.L. Moody who was an evangelist of an earlier century.
In 1871, there was a fire in Chicago. It’s called the Great Chicago Fire. And he had lost almost all of his holdings, all of investments. So any of you that have ever gone broke, that’s where he was.
And as he has begun to build his life up again, he just felt like, We need to pause for a moment. He said to his wife and he had four daughters, “I want you to get on this ship, we will all go together, let’s get a couple months away to get perspective in Europe.”
Just ready to get on the ship and there was a zoning problem with some property and so he had to stay behind for a few days. He says, “I’ll catch the next ship.”
It is now a famous telegraph. The ship with his wife and his four daughters was hit by another ship at sea. It went down. And he received from his wife a telegram that says, “Saved alone.” All four of his daughters died in that shipwreck.
A very few weeks later he was on a second ship to meet his wife and when he came to the place where the two ships collided, the captain brought him and said, “This is about the place where you lost your daughters.” And the words that we sang earlier is as he looked out over the ocean with the Spirit of God speaking into the deepest parts of his hurt and his pain and his loss he said, “When peace like a river; it’s well with my soul. Like sea billows roll, it is well with my soul.”
And I don’t know about you, but it seems humanly impossible to
lose everything financially, lose four of your daughters, and to honestly and sincerely say, “It is well with your soul.”
And, yet, if you’ll notice on the front of your teaching handout, that is exactly what Jesus promised His early disciples and Horatio Spafford is just one person among millions over the last couple millennia who have experienced the Spirit of God to do something inside of them that is beyond any human understanding.
The last night Jesus, with His disciples, said to them, “I have told you these things so that in Me, that you might have peace. In the world you will have trouble, tribulations. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
This isn’t theory here. We have had ten memorial services in the last thirty days in our church. There are people all around you that have lost a mom, a dad, a grandpa, a child.
And that’s not unique. Everyone in this room, right? We have our issues. But we can choose peace. But how do you choose peace in moments of extraordinary anxiety? That’s what we are going to learn.
As we do, sometimes you have to learn a little bit about the problem before you can solve it. So let’s do a little research together. What exactly is anxiety? A textbook definition – it’s an uneasiness, apprehension, dread, concern, tension, restlessness, and worry. The anxious individual often anticipates misfortune, danger, or doom. We don’t need that definition. That kind of describes where a lot of us are multiple times a week, at times.
The biblical word for anxiety literally means to take thought. It can be used in a positive way like taking thought for something positively, but mostly it’s used in the New Testament for taking thought as being obsessed with something. You can’t get your mind off of it.
The German word comes from the word to choke or to strangle. And anxiety, at its heart, has the idea: inside your mind of being pulled in two different directions.
What makes us anxious or causes it is fear of the future. This is probably the most common one. Fear of failure, fear of another terrorist attack, fear of an economic downturn, fear that your kids won’t turn out right, fear you’ll be single the rest of your life, fear that the marriage that you’re in is never going to get any better, fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, you name it.
For others, anxiety is produced by conflict in the present. Conflict in your marriage, conflict with a friend, conflict at work, conflict with a neighbor, conflict with one of your kids, conflict with your in-laws.
A third cause for anxiety is in the past – regret. There are times when things are just going well and you’re just driving in your car and out of the blue, tsooo! You remember, Oh my. What you did back then that you hope no one ever finds out.
Or for some of us, we came to know Christ later in life and we made some mistakes and there are issues with some of our kids or some things about our life that we can’t change and we just start getting overwhelmed with, I blew it, I blew it, I blew it. And it produces this anxiety. Anxiety isn’t just a little thing to take a pill. Anxiety can ruin your life.
I have a friend who is a professor, a medical doctor. And he wrote a textbook on psychological disorders. Here’s a list of things that anxiety produces in us mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.
It makes people hyper-alert, irritable, fidgety, over dependent, insomnia, talkative, poor memory, fainting episodes, excessive perspiration, muscle tension, headaches including migraines, quivering voice, hyperventilation, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, high blood pressure.
I don’t know about you, but that list alone tells me: I don’t know how to get rid of anxiety, but I want to get rid of it in a hurry, right?
Here’s – so, that’s the issue. How do you overcome anxiety? There are many of you, this last week, you woke up at 2:11 and then 3:05 or 4:07 and you’re thinking about the future and your mind, it goes over and over and over again and you’re very fearful about something or you’re in conflict with someone and the stomach acid is going around.
How does that change? That’s what we are going to learn. Open your notes. I want to tell you that you simply do not have to live as an anxious person. It is possible to absolutely be at peace in the midst of horrendous, difficult, and uncertain times. Jesus promised it. “My peace I give to you.”
You might jot on the very top of your notes: 1 Peter 5:7. Peter would make a command and he would say, “Cast all your burdens upon the Lord, because He cares for you.” And the burdens are cares. It’s the picture of a, like a nine or ten-year-old boy coming home on Friday and he’s got his backpack and he takes his backpack and he throws it to the corner and goes, “Wow! No homework! Weekend!” Literally, and you know what? He doesn’t go and just go, “Oh, I wonder if I’ve got something due later.” He’s eight years old! He just takes it off, there’s no homework, man, it’s going to be fun. That’s the picture of casting all your burdens on the Lord – why? He really cares for you.
You give your problems, your struggles, and anxiety to a personal God who is in control, who is all-wise, who is loving, who is powerful. And you are the object of His affection.
And in Philippians chapter 4, verses 6 and 7, he will give you a specific game plan that every time anxiety comes and knocks on the door of your heart, this game plan will teach you that prayer can answer the door and you can run into your Father’s arms and God will give peace.
You are going to learn that every time anxiety knocks on the door of your heart, that you literally can let prayer answer it and then run into your Father’s arms. You’re going to learn – do I need to say it again?
I want you to read the text silently as I read it out loud. Command, “Do not be anxious about anything,” second command, “but in every situation by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your requests to God.” Promise, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Now, if you’re a little bit new, we study the Bible together and so, one of the questions we always ask before we make application is: what does it actually say? And by that, you need to make some observations. The Word of God is living and active, sharper than a two-edged sword. And it’s truth.
The second question is after “what does it say?” well, what does it actually mean? What did it mean to its first century hearers and what does it mean to us? And then the last question that is most important is: so, God, what do You want me to do? How do I put this into practice?
So often, at least when I study, I will outline the text. What I have laid out here for – I call it a “mechanical outline.” Just like when you study a poem or study Shakespeare and you want to grammatically see what is happening in it.
So, what I have done is I have taken it in the original language and I have just literally put in order so you can see the grammar. You don’t need to know the original language, but in this particular case it is interesting that he takes a word completely out of order to make his point.
So, notice, just when I lay it, the first command is: “Nothing be anxious about.” If you have a pen, put a little arrow and write, “negative command” in your notes. In other words, we are commanded, literally, it’s: stop being anxious. Stop worrying. It’s not just a little thing. It eats up your soul. It ruins your emotions. It thwarts your relationships. It chokes the life out of you. Stop worrying.
And if it’s a command, that means there has got to be power and a way to obey this command. Notice the positive command: “But in everything,” he is going to give us four specific words for prayer. After the “everything,” put an arrow, put “positive command.” In everything, by prayer, petition, with thanksgiving, the requests of you be made known unto God.”
There are four words in the New Testament for prayer. All four of them are right here. Here’s what I want you to know: when anxiety knocks on the door of your heart, let prayer answer it. But not just any kind of prayer. He is going to give you a very clear, using all four words, there is a specific way to pray that, when you are anxious, when you are fearful, when the stomach acid starts, when you are awake and can’t fall back to sleep, when you have these scenarios where you’re projecting into the future how terrible and what is going to happen and at your job, and your kids aren’t going to turn out right, and this is going to happen, and your marriage will never get better, and this thing at work is never going to change, and the health issue is always going to go from bad to worse – once you start down that track, there is a kind and there is a way to pray that the Spirit of God will go, Whoo. Hush.
In fact, notice what the promise is. The promise is that when you pray, petition, with thanksgiving, and you make your requests known to God, the peace of God that is beyond human understanding, will guard your heart and your thoughts, or literally, your minds – circle the word guard.
If you have ever seen the little commercial – I like this commercial – it’s the one where the guy is in the bank and the robbers come in and everyone is on the floor and the lady looks up and says, “Do something!” He goes, “Oh, I’m not a security guard. I’m a security monitor. I’m just monitoring. There’s a problem here.”
That’s this word. He says: when you pray like this, the Spirit of God that gives you a sense of peace and calm will literally guard the deepest parts of your life and your thinking. And, in fact, what we are going to learn is there are times when you lose your peace, when you realize there is something wrong, that actually, it’s like the red light on the dashboard of the car and what it tells you is that there is something wrong under the hood.
When you lose your peace, there is something about your abiding in Christ, your focus, your mind, your trust is off of Christ and on to something else and your loss of peace is like – and it says He will act as like an arbitrator, a monitor, so that you can get back in line.
With that, let’s get to the application. Negatively, there’s a command. We have looked at them negatively and positively. You’ll notice there are four key words that it’s the “how,” and there’s the promise, which is the “why.”
In your notes where it says “negatively,” I would like you to write: stop worrying about anything. Part of how our minds work, we see it, we say it, we write it, it sticks. I just saw a study by Harvard University recently that talked about those graduates that actually wrote down their goals were eighty percent more likely to succeed.
I want you to write down: stop worrying. Don’t just sit here and listen. You’re not passive. This is about your life today in this moment.
Second, where it says, “positive command,” I want you to write: pray about everything. Because we are going to – here’s the thing – some of us have practiced being anxious most of our lives. We learned it from our parents, almost everyone does it, we think that what you do when you worry is you take a pill for this, a pill for that. When you feel uptight, we will turn on the TV.
For others, when you lose your peace, you go shopping. For others, it has been really tough and you’re uptight about things and you wonder and, so, one glass of wine made you feel a little bit better and about three makes you feel a lot better.
Some of you had a prescription for some back pain and when you get uptight now, you actually take some of those pills, even though your back pain was months ago gone and better.
For others, some of us, it’s maybe a little bit more healthy, you just work. The moment you feel anxious, you just start working because you feel like you’re in control. At the heart of anxiety is life is out of control and I can’t handle this, so you do something that gives you pseudo-peace.
For many of us, it’s just a trip to the refrigerator when we’re not really in need of calories, but there is something about a bag of chips, a bag of popcorn, some chocolate that just makes you feel better, for what? Right? Fifteen to thirty minutes.
There are all kinds of ways that we address our anxiety – most of them aren’t very helpful. And then when we do a lot of those things, some of you log on and surf, some of you spend mindless hours, not because you want to or need to, because it’s just a distraction.
Is there something wrong, inherently, with doing some of those things? Absolutely not. But when I am doing that because what I am really trying to do is get my mind off of this gnawing anxiety, you’re not letting the peace of Christ rule in your heart and in your mind.
My confession is – my anxiety – ESPN. Somehow, watching other people play games makes me feel better for a half hour. Or get into my work or go work out. Bad, evil? I don’t think so. But when I do it, instead of letting prayer answer the door and let God work in my life and my heart, neither wise nor profitable.
Now, what I want you to see is that prayer answers the door, but it’s a very specific kind of prayer.
Like you, I have lots of challenges with anxiety. I think we all do.
And I think God would say, Okay, I want to teach you a way to pray. Because I have felt very anxious and, Oh God, help, help, help! God, God, God! And then I just pick up the backpack and put the burdens right back on.
So, I want to walk through these four specific words. You practice this and you do not have to be anxious.
The first word is prayer. It’s the most common word of the New Testament: in prayer. And it’s the idea of turning in the moment you feel anxious, it’s turning my thoughts and my feelings upward. It’s getting an upward focus. It’s adoration. It’s pausing and recognizing: wait a second. In the midst of these struggles right now, I want to get my focus on: who is God? Worship.
I actually have more than a few struggles with anxiety. I tend to juggle a few more balls than I can really juggle, trying to accomplish more than I am really capable of. And as a result of that, I don’t know about you, but you can wake up and if you wake up and as you’re waking up, the first thoughts in your mind are, What about this? And what about that meeting? And what about this? And one of my kids over here.
And then if you get up out of bed, wash your face, and if you pick up your phone, Oh my gosh. DOW is down seventy-seven points and I’ll just check my email while I’m walking to make coffee. Oh my gosh. You know what you’re setting yourself up for? Disaster. The first thing you need to do in the morning, every morning, either Psalm 23 or the Lord’s Prayer.
Before I get out of bed I realize, God, if I don’t see life through Your lens, I am going to be in trouble, because I know this life is going to bring more challenges, just the ones I know about – they are more than I can handle.
And it’s interesting, when Jesus taught His disciples to pray, what did He say? “When you pray, say, ‘Our Father,’” oh. So, in the midst of all the craziness of the world, the One who created all that there is, the One who sent His Son to die for you and rise from the dead, the One who is the sovereign King who is all-wise, all-powerful, and all-knowing of every circumstance real, possible, and potential – He is your Papa? And say to Him, “…who art in heaven.”
You’re not pulled into this or that, You are the Creator. You’re in control. Holy is Your name. I can know a hundred percent of the time that God will never lie to me, God is always going to be pure, His intentions…
So, it’s this moment where you pause and you get a high, clear view of God. When anxiety knocks at the door of your heart, let prayer answer it. And the first prayer is worship and adoration.