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The Off Color series provides valuable insight to help us master our emotions and not allow emotions to master us. Pastor Philip calls believers to engage their emotions properly and to enjoy God’s goodness in all circumstances of life.
More From This Series
Let’s take our Bible. I want to begin a series called Off Color. We’re going to look at unwelcome emotions and how to deal with them. We’re going to look at anxiety today and next Sunday. We’re going to look at depression the Sunday after that, and then we’ll work our way through anger and guilt and envy and indecision.
So, turn to Philippians chapter 4. Stand in honor of God’s Word. Follow along as I read. Philippians 4:4–9, a message I’ve called “Don’t Be Scared.” You’ll see why both this morning and next time. Philippians 4:4–9:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 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 understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of a good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”
So reads God’s Word. You may be seated.
I like the story that’s centered on a Promise Keeper’s conference in Detroit several years ago. One of the keynote speakers was an African American minister, Raleigh Washington. I love what he said—so memorable, so pertinent. Here’s what he said, addressing the issue of race: “When I was born, I was black. When I grew up, I was still black. When I go out in the cold, I’m still black. When I go out in the sun, I get blacker. When I’m sick, I’m black. When I die, I’ll still be black. But I found out that when white people are born, they’re pink. When they grow up, they become white. When they go out in the cold, they become blue. When they stay out in the sun, they turn red. When they’re sick, they turn green. When they die, they turn purple. And yet they have the audacity to call me colored.”
That’s a great point. We need to hear it. It’s funny, and it’s factual. Skin changes color, and the changes in color usually happen because something is going on in the body. For example, a person may look yellow because of liver problems, might be slightly blue because of breathing problems, may be bruised because of blood disorders, pink or red because of skin sensitivity to sunlight. The skin registers a measure and gives us an index into a person’s health. In fact, there’s a growing awareness of this in the medical world, where color awareness is now being looked at in a patient’s health assessment.
I told you as I was telegraphing this series over the last couple of weeks that when I wasn’t feeling that well, it would often register in my skin color how I looked, and my mum would say, “You know what? You need to stay home from school today. Your color is off.” I would go, “Yippie! Yay yay. You’ll find me on the couch, Mother, if you want to bring something in for me to eat.” Okay, or, “Philip, you’re not a good color.” We get that.
Color awareness: an index to health assessment. In addition to physical symptoms, interestingly, we have also associated certain colors with certain moods and emotions. In fact, today colors are being studied to observe how they affect our moods—bright colors and dark colors. In fact, when my father is out here in California, he always reminds me of the blessing it is to live under a blue sky. It brightens the soul. It lifts the spirit. Color affects our moods, and color represents our moods. We’ve always associated the color red with inflamed emotion—anger, frustration.
We’ve associated colors with certain moods. So, it got me thinking one day, and I wrote this outline down. For years, I’ve been wanting to preach a series called Off Color: Dealing with Unwelcome Emotions. So, starting today and across the next slot of weeks, we’re going to look at white with fear, blue with depression, green with envy, black with guilt, red with anger, and gray with indecision. Those colors represent certain ugly or unwelcome emotions: fear, depression, envy, guilt, anger, indecision.
Now, before we get into the heart of that, let me quickly say something about emotion. Certainly, it almost deserves a message in and of itself, but if I can give you a brief biblical perspective on emotion, the first thing I would say categorically is that emotions are God-given. We don’t need to flee from emotions or be frightened by emotions. Now, we will all express it in different ways and in different levels. One day my daughter Beth said to me, “Dad, you have no emotions.” Well, I said, “Between you, your mom, and your two sisters, you be thankful. Somebody needs to keep their head straight in the house, right?” But the point is this: some of us are more emotional than others. That’s fine; it’ll express itself, but you know what? You never want to deny emotion flat out, because it’s part of your humanity. It’s part of your psyche. It’s part of who you are as a created being of God. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have them.
The Bible talks about the Spirit being angry. The Bible talks about the Spirit being grieved. Adam had emotion before the Fall, which means it was good. In and of themselves, emotions are not sinful. Now, they can be twisted and tainted by our sin nature, and they can become sinful. But just as a baseline, emotions are beneficial and beautiful—God-given. In fact, Robert Kellemen, in a wonderful little booklet on anxiety, says this: “The psalmist understood this. In the classic passage describing God’s utmost care in creating us, Psalm 139, emotionality is the one aspect of our inner personality specifically referenced.” Remember verse 13 of Psalm 139? “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” That term “inmost being” refers to one’s kidneys in the Hebrew.
If you study Semitic languages and Near Eastern history and vocabulary, you’ll see that those in the Near East associated kidneys, loins, the stomach, bowels, and the womb with various feelings. That’s why in Old King James, when you get to 1 John 3, it translates the literal Greek as the “bowels of compassion.” Because we feel in our guts, don’t we? That’s why we talk about butterflies in our stomach.
Those of the Semitic languages and in the Near Eastern world are not the only ones who have associated a certain part of our anatomy with emotion. Robert Kellemen says this: “Emotions are our God-given capacity to experience our world and to subjectively respond to those experiences. This capacity includes the ability to internally react and experience a full-range of both positive (pleasant) and negative (painful) inner feelings.” Someone else said this, “It is certainly true that our faith is not to be based on our feelings—but equally true that if our faith is not accompanied by feelings, it is suspect.”
So, the point is that God has given us emotions. Read your Bible, and you’ll find a spectrum of emotions on display. Study the life of Jesus, and you’ll find a variety of emotions.
So, our expression of emotion can be healthy, holy, and helpful—right? Because God created us with emotions, when properly expressed, they reflect the creation and image of God in us, and they reflect the purpose and glory of God.
But, while certain expressions of emotion can be healthy, holy, and helpful—given the fact that you and I are fallen, given the fact that we believe in total depravity, which simply means that every part of our body and faculty has been messed up with sin—the danger is expressing emotions selfishly and sinfully. That’s possible. That’s why I’ve purposefully titled this series Dealing with Unwelcome Emotions. It’s not that we don’t welcome emotion, but emotions tainted and twisted by sin can become unwelcome when they become godless fear, anxiety, when they become unrighteous anger, when they become guilt and envy.
So, we want to start this series this morning. We want to look at a biblical theology on how to handle unwelcome emotions. And the good news is—through the hope of the gospel, through the sufficient instruction of God’s Word, through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit, through means of grace and active participation on your part and my part, putting off and putting on—we can show these ugly, unwelcome emotions the back door. I’m not saying it’ll happen overnight. I’m not saying they won’t fight to come back in the front door. It’ll be a struggle. I’m not sure we’ll have complete, ongoing victory, but we can get to a place of victory within that battle that allows us to live purposefully and passionately and productively.
We don’t have to be held hostage by negative, abusive emotions that cloud our judgments, sadden our hearts, fracture our focus, drain our energy, and impede our spiritual progress. If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature, and the old passes away—but only to be held captive by emotions of anger, guilt, envy, anxiety, or fear. Jesus said in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” In Jesus you can overcome, too, right? According to 1 John 5:4, our faith is the faith that “overcomes the world,” because our faith is attached to a person living in us through the presence of the Holy Spirit who overcame the world. Don’t be a victim to your circumstances. Don’t be a prisoner to your emotions. Live in the birthright, privileges, and pleasures of the gospel.
The Word of God is sufficient to guide us and instruct us on how God made us, how sin has marred us, and how we live righteously. We have the indwelling power and presence of the Holy Spirit. I came across a little phrase the other day that I wrote down for your benefit: “The gospel is a gift that comes with batteries included.” Have you ever bought a gift for your children, and you wake up on Christmas morning to realize there are no batteries included? This is a gift that comes with batteries included. What God asks you to do in the commandments and imperatives of the Word of God, He will empower you to do. You are able—not in yourself, but in the grace of God. You must actively put off ugly emotions by means of gospel empowered effort.
So, let’s look at this first unwelcome emotion: anxiety. Let’s make a start this morning; we’ll pick it up next Sunday morning. We’re really going to spend most of this morning on diagnosis. Sadly, we won’t get to prescription until next week. So, I’m going to make you feel really bad, and you’ll have to come back next week to feel a lot better.
We’re going to look at this emotion, and we’re going to see what it is and its ill effects. But let’s be honest: it’s a real emotion, and it’s corrupting the church, and it’s crippling the culture. In fact, someone said that our anxiety, or fear, is the official emotion of our age.
In his book Be Anxious for Nothing, Max Lucado says this: “According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders are reaching epidemic proportions. In a given year”—and remember, this was written pre-COVID; it’s off the charts right now—“nearly fifty million Americans will feel the effects of a panic attack, phobias, or other anxiety disorders. Our chests will tighten. We’ll feel dizzy and light-headed. We’ll fear crowds and avoid people. Anxiety disorders in the United States are the ‘number one mental health problem among . . . women and are second only to alcohol and drug abuse among men.’ ‘The United States is now the most anxious nation in the world.’ (Congratulations to us!) The land of the Stars and Stripes has become the country of stress and strife. This is a costly achievement. ‘Stress-related ailments cost the nation $300 billion every year in medical bills and lost productivity, while our usage of sedative drugs keeps skyrocketing; just between 1997 and 2004, Americans more than doubled their spending on anti-anxiety medications like Xanax and Valium, from $900 million to $2.1 billion.’”
That’s scary. That is scary. And it’s getting scarier with COVID, politics, internal division, and a poor economy. Gary Collins puts it this way: “Chaotic overscheduling, worry over tests, the disappearance of family routines or stability, endless exposure to disturbing information, lack of close connections, constant change, insecurity, information overload, pressures from peers, and the fading of clear moral guidelines all combine to raise anxiety levels in young people. . . . Constant reminders about the ongoing activity of terrorists around the world have heightened our insecurities and led to what has been called ‘the new anxiety.’” We are living through “the new anxiety,” and now you put COVID on top of that. So, we need to deal with this.
For the time that remains this morning, I want to try and walk you through a definition. We’ll talk a little bit about its sources and its effects, and then we’ll stop there and pick it up next week. As I said, this is going to clarify the issue and talk about the streams that flow into this malady of anxiety and fear.
Number one, let me define its meaning. We’re really not going to get to an exposition of Philippians 4:4–9. We’ll keep that for next week, but I’m going to build up to that. Let’s define its meaning, because Paul tells us here in Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing.” That is an imperative and a command. We are forbidden to worry. It must cease. In fact, the Greek here gives the impression that they were in the middle of worrying and that they had to stop right now. It’s the same with Jesus’ command in Matthew chapter 6, where He says to not give any thought to tomorrow, or, “Do not worry about tomorrow.”
Well, let’s first of all define its meaning. Worry comes when you and I subtract God from the equation and try to carry life’s burden alone. When we subtract God from the equation of life, our minds become divided and distracted with fear, frustration, and foreboding. In fact, the Greek word here in Philippians 4:6 is a word that means to be torn or pulled in different directions. It means to be concerned, and it really means to be overly concerned to a point of distraction—to a point where you’re upset and emotionally paralyzed.
So, that’s our word. It’s like a man being drawn and quartered mentally. Worry pulls the mind apart, leaving it divided and distracted, which results in a chronic condition of spiritual instability and ineffectiveness. James kind of picks it up a little bit, right? If your mind is whirling around worries, it’s divided; it’s distracted. A double-minded man is what? “Unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8). Worry doesn’t allow you to focus on the attributes of God, the promises of Scripture, the things that will give you hope and bring fortitude and confidence to you. The worrier trusts God and then doesn’t trust God.
Within the anxious heart and mind, a game of mental ping pong is played between fear and faith. The anxious mind bats things back and forth and cannot decide what to do and whom to believe. The anxious mind looks momentarily to God for peace, but then it’s dragged away to focus on the pressing problem to a point of mental exhaustion and spiritual paralysis. Just keep that image in mind. It’s hard. This Greek word means “divided.” Worry divides your mind so it’s not focused alone on God, the grace that He offers, the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome challenging circumstances. You’re there for a moment, and then you’re somewhere else. You subtract God, which adds to your worry. That’s a basic and broad definition.
Maybe another way to put it is: Worry is excess concern minus a calming trust in God. The reason I use the phrase “excess concern” is because this forbidding of anxiety is not a prohibition against concern and care. In fact, Paul will use this exact word in Philippians 2:20, and it’s very similar. He’ll use the same Greek word now positively, and he talks about Timothy’s concern for them, Timothy’s care for them. In fact, he’ll use it in 2 Corinthians 11:28 of his own care and concern for the churches, which he carried on a daily basis.
So, we’ve got to start back. We’ve defined it, but let’s make a distinction in the middle of the definition. This is not a prohibition to good concern. This is a prohibition to excess concern minus the calming trust of God. It’s important that we distinguish that because we don’t want you to read “be anxious for nothing” as in que sera, sera—whatever will be, will be. I don’t need to go to work today. I don’t need to worry about the bills. Jesus says not to worry. I know that’s stretched to a point of ridiculousness, but the point is that’s not what it’s saying.
It’s not saying don’t worry in a good sense. If you’re a mother, be concerned about the health of your child, the hygiene of your home. If you’re a father, be concerned about the financial and physical well being and spiritual well being of your family. If you’re an engineer, go back over those numbers. I don’t want the bridge collapsing. I want the plane staying up in the air.
Go back over the numbers. Check them. That’s all good. That’s proper. That’s personal responsibility. That’s not what’s being forbidden. Excess concern is being forbidden. Worry, anxiety to the point of distraction where you are no longer exhibiting the peace of God that passes all understanding. You’re now in paralysis. You’re now immobilized. You’re now in a state of frenzy. How can you tell the difference? I’m not sure, to be honest, in a definitive sense, but I think I’ve a good guess at it.
In fact, when I spoke on this back in Emmanuel Baptist in Ohio, I got a letter from a young mother in the church where she shared her struggle “to keep her good worries from going bad.” She got the point. “Pastor, I know I need to be concerned, but I tend to be excessively concerned, and I don’t think that’s a good example to my children. And it certainly doesn’t bring peace to the home—” and all of that.
Here’s maybe something that might help. We have crossed the line between legitimate and illegitimate concern if worry is dividing the mind, leading to fear and a paralysis of the will. You and I will have a good idea that our concerns are moving in the wrong direction when they become debilitating, distracting. When our concern is healthy in nature, we will be able to manage it by God’s grace rather than be managed by it. When our concern is healthy, we will still be able to function as we live by faith in God. Wasn’t it Lloyd-Jones that said, “Faith is a refusal to panic.”
That’s worry defined. Having defined its meaning, let’s describe its sources. This probably deserves a sermon in itself, but since it’s not going to get one, let’s just deal with it briefly. I think there are several factors—probably more than the three I’ll give, but these are easy to get to, and I think you’ll identify with these quickly. I think there can be physical factors—your health, your wellness. There can be circumstantial factors—outside pressures working their way in. And there can be spiritual factors.
Let me give you a couple of examples. Let’s just talk about physical factors. When Elijah is in the dumps, depressed and anxious, God puts him to sleep for a couple of nights and feeds him some good food. Maybe angel bread, who knows. Angel cake. But here’s the issue: Back in Kings, there seems to be an inference that—when Elijah runs out of fear of Jezebel, having faced 850 prophets on the heights of Carmel—there’s got to be an element of exhaustion. He’s physically depleted, which makes it harder for him to fight. I think there was a physical component in Elijah’s depression and anxiety.
Moses may be the same. When he gets all upset and anxious when he’s administering the needs of the tribes, his father-in-law, Jethro, comes along and says, “You know what, buddy? You need to delegate. You need a team of guys to spread the load, or there’s going to be a breakdown.”
I think there are circumstantial factors. In fact, in Matthew 6, when Jesus forbids His disciples to worry, what are they worried about? Well, they’ve left their nets and their business. They’ve kind of gone out on a plank, so to speak, for the gospel. They have no steady income, so what about food and clothes, Jesus? Getting a little worried about that. That was circumstantial.
Read the Psalms, and you’ll hear David’s cry and his anxiety and his fear about his enemies that are surrounding him and circumstances that are closing in on him.
Then there are spiritual factors. When we look at guilt, we’re going to see that unresolved guilt—guilt that hasn’t been submitted to the par of Jesus’ blood and the redemption of Jesus’ cross—shows up in physical, psychological facts and effects. In Psalm 32, David talks about his bones being sore and his body being tired, and he’s all anxious. His anxiety had a spiritual component to it. He hadn’t repented and gotten right with God.
It could also be satanic oppression. Why is Saul melancholic? Well, the factor is that the Lord allows an evil spirit to oppress him, and he becomes depressed as he’s oppressed. That’s not a justification for demons under your bed or under your pillow or beneath your mattress. Only God is omniscient. Only God is omnipresent. Only God is omnipotent. But, it is a recognition that the devil is real and that spiritual oppression can take place. We wrestle not against flesh and blood. There may be a physical factor, and there may be a circumstantial factor, but there can well be a spiritual factor to a person’s fear and depression and anxiety.
So, we have defined its meaning, and we have described its sources. Now, before I leave that, I just want to take a minute to come back to this idea of physical factors, because it leads to a practical and a pastoral question: the role of medicine in dealing with anxiety. I don’t want to scare up more rabbits than I can shoot here, but I do want to address it briefly. I’m going to let others articulate it better than I can, so I’m going to stick to a few long quotes that I think will give us some clarification here.
Here’s what I want you to think about. Number one, you and I as whole beings are made up of two constituent parts. Right? Our body and our spirit. The immaterial part and the material part. The body and the spirit, the material and the immaterial. Or, as Paul puts it: the outer man and the inner man. We’ve got to recognize that those two things together, those two realities together, make up who we are.
Many years ago, I read something that was really helpful. I read that the body and soul live in such close quarters that they pass on each other’s diseases, or they catch each other’s colds. What does that mean? It means that there can be physical factors in your anxiety or your depression, and there can be spiritual factors in your depression and your health. It’s complicated to pull those together because they live in such close quarters. But when we are sick, when we are physically depleted, if something is going wrong in our body, let’s admit that it’s a fight to be spiritual.
I think Jesus recognized something of that. Remember, His disciples are sleeping; they’re physically tired when they should have been what? Watching and praying lest they enter into temptation. What does Jesus say? “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41). I’m not sure the word “flesh” there needs to be overly spiritualized, you know? They were sleeping. They were falling down on the job, physically speaking.
Conversely, as I’ve mentioned with Psalm 32:3–4, sin, guilt, and spiritual weakness can have physical and psychological effects. David’s unresolved guilt over his sin with Bathsheba made his bones sore, made him cry a lot, because he wasn’t right with God, and his body was registering that. How interesting. The spiritual affecting the physical; the physical affecting the spiritual.
So, I want to put that down as a baseline. At least that helps us to acknowledge that there may be a place and certainly could be a place for medication in dealing with anxiety if there’s a physical component to it, if there’s a health issue that causes your mind to race or your heart to race.
Paul Tautges, who’s an ACBC counselor, has something helpful here, I think, in a little book on anxiety. He says this: “The relationship between the body and soul is complex, and respecting medical counsel is wise. For some people, using a symptom-relieving medication for a limited time may help them to get control of their escalated emotional state. Others may find that the benefits of medication do not offset its side effects—or even that it has significant downsides.”
In fact, he goes on to talk about the fact that at a particular time and season in his life, where he was suffering heightened anxiety, he was recommended a medication, and for him it didn’t work. The side effects were worse than the symptoms, and he got off it quickly. But then he acknowledges a counselor friend of his, Bob Somerville, who has found medication helpful. In fact, Bob says this: “The medicine helped stabilize me so that I could think rationally and apply biblical principles to my situation.”
Paul Tautges goes on: “Mental fog often accompanies severe anxiety. Therefore, any decision that you make concerning the use or non-use of medication must be well informed, humbly bathed in prayer and clothed in counsel, and under the guidance and supervision of your personal physician.”
One other quote from Robert Kellemen, from another helpful little booklet on anxiety: “It is important to realize that every emotion involves a complex interaction between body and soul. It is dangerous to assume that all emotional struggles can be directly changed by strictly ‘spiritual means.’ We must remain sensitive to physical factors and organic issues that affect people’s lives. It is wrong to place extra burdens on those who suffer emotionally by suggesting that all they need to do is surrender to God to make their struggles go away.”
There’s a balance in this, isn’t there? Because there’s a balance in us: body and soul. The solution is always spiritual, but it might need to be married to something physical to help that. We don’t want to be all physical, denying the power of the gospel. We don’t want to be all spiritual and ignoring our humanity and the physical components of life. Jesus said when you’re sick, go to a doctor. Maybe a combination of a doctor and a pastor. It helps.
A lot more should be said on that. Hopefully, I haven’t muddied the waters too much there, but for a few minutes, let’s detail its effects. We’ll only get started on this. As I say, I’m feeding you a lot of salt this morning. Hopefully, you come back this next Sunday thirsty for the prescription. “Pastor, where’s Philippians 4:4–9?” Come back next week, and we’ll get into it, but I’m setting up both the series Off Color: Dealing with Unwelcome Emotions and the sermon, which will be this Sunday and next.
We have defined its meaning. We have described its sources. We will detail its effects—just a few, and then we’ll pick it up next week. When good concern becomes bad worry, it will have an effect on us. When our worry becomes sinful, there are miseries attached to it.
There’s a great quote in the Westminster confession about the effects of sin. Listen to this: “Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, doth, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and the curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal.” There are wages attached to sin, and when you and I sinfully worry, there are miseries attached to it, effects that are negative. I’ve done a list of eight of them, I think. We’ll cover a few here quickly.
Number one: Worry makes us negative. Worried people are negative. They’re always carping, complaining, looking on the dark side of things. They program their mind toward failure because their mind is divided. Instead of focusing on the truths of God’s Word and the attributes of God and the promises of God and all that we have and find in Jesus Christ, their imagination is running wild—divided, distracted, spinning.
Spurgeon, by the way, who struggled with anxiety and depression, said, “The rod of God does not smite us as sharply as the rod of our own imagination does.” When you and I don’t control our imagination, our thoughts become really negative and sour. That’s why next week, when we get into verses 8 and 9, we’re told to meditate upon things that are what? True and lovely and praiseworthy. Why? Because worry has us doing the opposite. Number one: Worry makes us negative.
Number two: Worry makes us lazy. It immobilizes us. It paralyzes us. When our imaginations run wild, we start to scare up a bunch of things that scare us—to a point that some people won’t go out. Look at what COVID has done. Many people are living in abject fear of something that’s manageable and targets a certain section of the community. But you see, we’re being scared by our society and our government. Then our own imagination runs wild. We scare ourselves half to death, and we become lazy.
Listen to Proverbs 22:13. It’s a great verse. Proverbs 22:13: “The lazy man says, ‘There is a lion outside! I shall be slain in the streets!’”
Lou Priolo, in his helpful little booklet on fear, says this: “People who are sinful tend to be lazy because they focus not on their responsibilities but on their fears. That which they fear distracts and even incapacitates them from faithful obedience.”
Listen, here’s a way to remember this. Time’s beat us this morning. When you allow your mind to work overtime—if that’s what you allow to happen and you pursue that—you will work less because you’ll paralyze yourself. You’ll sever the cord between your mind and your heart and your will.
Number three: Worry dishonors and slights God before a watching world. It harms our witness. It damages the gospel because worrying suggests that God can’t be trusted and that He won’t fulfill His promises.
Isn’t that Jesus’ thesis in Matthew 6?
“Hey, Lord, we’re getting a little concerned here. More than concerned, actually.”
Jesus says, “I know that. That’s why you’ve got to stop doing what you’re doing, thinking about tomorrow.”
“Yeah, but, Lord, we left our boats, our income, our nets. We’re now living in itinerant ministry. You know, we’re away from our homes. We’re getting a little concerned about where the next meal is coming from, and in a week or two here, we’re going to need a new wardrobe.”
And Jesus says, “Hold on a minute, guys. Look at the birds. They don’t worry. Your heavenly Father feeds them, doesn’t He? Hey, boys, the meadow we just walked through, turn around and look at those beautiful little daisies and flowers. They won’t last long, but God tacked the green grass carpet down with these beautiful flowers, and they’re of beauty almost surpassing Solomon’s glory. And yet, as beautiful as they are, God takes them. They’re up and down and gone. Are you not more valuable? Is God not more concerned? Of course He is! I want to redeem you with precious blood. All the great and precious promises of God are yours.”
Cut it out. It’s dishonoring. It’s belittling. We can’t have a worried church professing the love of glorious God in the middle of a worrying world. That doesn’t jive, my friend.
Remember the little poem you heard for many, many years?
Said the Robin to the Sparrow,
“I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so.”
Said the Sparrow to the Robin,
“Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no Heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me.”
Finally, it damages our health. If you go back to the Sermon on the Mount, you’ll see Jesus teaching on this, which no doubt Paul echoes here in Philippians 4. In Matthew 6:27, Jesus says this, “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” There’s a whole debate on whether Jesus is talking about adding to our physical height, while some translations have it adding to our physical days.
Either way, the point is this: Jesus says, “By your worrying, are you adding anything good to your life?” I mean, are you in a better state of health? Are you living more purposefully and powerfully? Of course not. In fact, worry doesn’t add a thing. Worry subtracts your health. Worry immobilizes you and cobbles you in dealing with the very problem you’re worrying over. It doesn’t make you stronger for the situation. It makes you weaker. It kills. It produces ulcers, overeating, irritable bowel syndrome, hypertension, high blood pressure, strokes, and heart attacks.
Listen to this proverb, Proverb 12:25, and we’ll wrap this up. Interesting connection here between the physical and the spiritual. “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.” Anxiety in our heart troubles our spirit, which adversely affects our body.
Some of you know that when I was in the police in Northern Ireland, we were trained in anti-terrorist tactics. Sometimes we were brutally faced with the facts that some of us would either die or be injured on the job. I remember watching a video about some of the tactics the IRA would use and then about how we might deal with a battlefield wound. Say I was shot; here’s what you want to be thinking about, and here’s the actions your comrades need to be taking.
The thing I remember most about that video was a reference to a study done in America among police services that found there were several occasions that police officers in America had died of a gunshot wound that was not life-threatening. They connected the mental thinking of the officer to the outcome. As in, many of them said, “I’m shot. I’m going to die.” They gave up. So they didn’t fight. They didn’t stay strong. It was this mental assumption. “I’m shot. I’m dying.” They get depressed, they get weak, and the body begins to shut down.
So, part of the training was to tell us to be strong and fight. Hopefully, your fellow officers bring hope and comfort in the midst of that wound. I took away from that again the power of the mind, in terms of its effects physiologically and psychologically. You can actually worry yourself to death. Police officers have done it, and the Bible warns us not to do it.
So, we’ll sign off there. Next Sunday morning we’ll come back and do a few more of its effects. Then we’ll look at Philippians 4:4–9, and we’ll see that we, as a remedy for worry, need to rejoice in the Lord—not in our circumstances but in the Lord always. We’re to rest in the sovereignty of God. The word “gentle” there means to surrender one’s rights, to submit, to be at rest in God’s providence. We need to recognize Jesus’ coming back. So, however long we have these struggles with our mind and our heart, they’re not going to last forever.
Relief is on its way, ultimately. We’re to request and turn our problems into prayers. We’re to recount God’s goodness in the past and give thanks, which will give us hope in the present. We’re to reflect on good things and meditate on those. Then we’re to respond by doing and practicing what Paul taught and Paul modeled.
Father, we thank You for our time in the Word on this busy Sunday. We thank You for this handwritten prescription from heaven itself, for our physical well being and our mental peace and our spiritual welfare. Lord, as we work our way through these unwelcome emotions—where our healthy emotions have become unhealthy, and our holy emotions have become unholy, and we’re in the grip of fear, or we’re in the pit of guilt, or we’re imprisoned to depression, or we’re angry with everybody, including You—help us to repent. Help us to be instructed by the Word. Help us to address our body and spirit in the light of the gospel and the revealed Word of God. Help us ultimately to find our greatest resource in the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.
Help us to tuck this word in our hearts so that we may not sin against you with our excessive worry and our undue care. For we pray it all and ask it all in Jesus’ name, amen.