Psalm 46:1 – God says, “Be still and know that I am God.”
There were times when my kids were little that they would get so upset, that they would have a really hard time calming themselves down. They would have all this upset energy, sometimes manifesting in anger or tears. I remember a few of these moments, just sitting down with them and holding them tight. They’d be wanting to escape for the first few seconds, but I would just hold them. And whisper a prayer to God in their ear. If they wanted to hear what I was saying they had to BE STILL and BE QUIET. Gradually they’d just melt into my arms and relax.
This verse reminds me of this. Sometimes I think we are just so active, or so upset, or so anxious, or so troubled, or so stressed, that we just CAN’T FEEL OR HEAR GOD. And God wants to “wrap his arms around us” if we could just manage to be still and be quiet. Even for a few moments.
Yesterday was a day like this for me. I was so upset about some things that were really stressing me about this Friday’s event. I want it to be amazing, and I was just letting worry get the best of me. In the moment I was thinking, “it’s way easier to talk about peace when you are AT PEACE – but it’s way harder to practice trusting God for peace when you are actually very stressed.”
It was a journey yesterday. As I’d get my mind worked up, I would pray. I started with a basic prayer of surrender, “OK God – I’m going to trust you. I don’t have to control this. Please help. I give this event to you.”
By the end of the day I was praying more proactive prayers I noticed, “God I pray that people would come to this event who need you in their lives! I pray that we’d meet them and they’d feel welcomed and join us on Sunday!”
I felt the progression throughout the day as I continued to make the conscious effort to STILL my thoughts. BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD. Say that to yourself today. Allow those words to seep into your heart and spirit like dye through a cloth. Soak in the reality that he is with you and he is good. Be still. Even just for a moment. A realize he is with you.
God I choose to be still. (breathe…..breathe…..wait…..) Thank you that you are with me.
James 5:17 – Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
I woke up cranky.
There was no real reason. I just woke up cranky. Has that ever happened to you? It’s like you are wearing glasses that dim the world around you. I was easily frustrated. I felt annoyed. I felt slightly depressed, and a little sad too.
I knew it was because of stress honestly. I was stressed – and that was leaking out as a foul mood.
This is not how I want to live my life. And I was faced with a decision. Do you ever know what to do to help yourself, but you choose not to do it because you just would rather wallow than work on it? This was me for half the day.
Then I finally changed my perspective. I asked a few people for prayer. This began to change everything for me. Just the sheer act of opening up started to crack the foul mood. And then the power of prayer! Prayer is powerful, as this verse tells us, and when we are weak we need to ask for prayer so his healing and strength can fill us!
This is not something that comes easily, trust me I know! But this is one of the most powerful ways for us to combat stress, anxiety, depression – really anything.
So when was the last time you asked for some prayer?
Jesus please help me to choose you over wallowing! I pray that when I am stressed and anxious, you would remind me to seek you. And that your peace and strength would fill my heart and mind.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV)
We are always planning! In fact, these very acts can consume our existence. If we do not stop and just breathe, we’ll over-commit, say “YES” to everything and become weary. God clearly states He knows the plans. But what kind of plans are they? We like to think we know the right ones, the kind that will bring us the most happiness. Let’s consider the desires of Jesus. We actually don’t know the best route, but He does. Think of a plant rooted in good soil. What happens when that very plant is watered and fed according to its unique needs? How about just the right sunlight? With the appropriate conditions, the plant will bloom, flourish, and thrive.
These are the promises of Jesus. He has a future for us if we believe in Him and develop a relationship with Him. Jesus encourages us to meet Him where we are, and pray without ceasing. He says He will listen. How important is it to find an active listener? There is no one who will listen like Jesus. Let’s consider creating conditions conducive to thriving in Christ. Those conditions begin with the decision to follow Him, to give Him our whole heart, and to love others as He loves them. Jesus has exciting plans for our lives, and He’s only one call away!
Jesus I pray you will guide us in your way. Soften our hearts so we can focus on you. Increase our faith that we might share your love with others and be a light in the lives of those who need direction and purpose.
Lamentations 3:21-23 — “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Last night, for the first time in a long time, I battled an old foe of mine – anxiety about falling asleep. Maybe I drank coffee at small group and that was a bad idea. Maybe I have too much on my mind that I need to get done today. Maybe going away this weekend AND NEXT has me stressed about getting all my stuff done for church. Whatever the reasons, I began to slip towards not having control of my anxious thoughts – and thus not sleeping.
I used my strategies to cope and an hour or so later I was able to fall asleep. So now it is today – and I face the inevitable Second Battle. Here’s a highlight reel:
“Tonight’s going to be worse.”
“You aren’t as far along as you thought you were.”
“You’ll never be free of this.”
Not to mention the small surges of anxiety that spike through my system now and again, unbidden and certainly unwanted.
So it’s time to reach out, and not in. I will ask for prayer. I will talk about it. I will not isolate and feel bad about myself. I will not listen to the thoughts about being a failure, being stuck, or regressing. And I will go to God.
See, the Second Battle is just as important as the Battle last night. And this beautiful poetic piece of Scripture from Lamentations is a good one to hold onto today. “His mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning.” God knows what I need this morning. And his mercy is here for me. His mercy is here to combat my fears, to combat the lies, to combat the discouragement, and to combat the hopelessness.
If you are in a similar place this morning, you are not alone 🙂 Take time to meditate on God’s mercy that he created, just for you, just for today. This isn’t left over mercy – no – he knew where you’d be (where I’d be) right now, today. And he is offering fresh, brand new mercy, tailor made for the situation you find yourself in.
Go out there and tackle that Second Battle with God’s mercy filling your heart.
God I pray that you would not allow me to isolate when I feel that I’ve taken a step back in my journey through anxiety and fear. Help me not to give up and become discouraged. I pray for your new mercy to flood my heart today. Right now. Thank you Jesus.
Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.”
Patience. It doesn’t come naturally to me. Does it to you? Think of some of your least favorite things: sitting in traffic, waiting in line at a store, waiting for a table at a restaurant…I could go on! I genuinely dislike waiting. And I KNOW that I’m supposed to find some spiritual deeper meaning in it, but I just struggle to.
And yet God in his wisdom often asks us to wait doesn’t he? I like this passage from Isaiah – it sounds really encouraging. “say to those who fearful hearts, be strong!” That is, until you read further. The nation of Israel at this moment is in a time of waiting. They are waiting for God’s deliverance. And this waiting isn’t pleasant. And so the prophet is saying – be strong “he will come to save you.” Not “he is here to save you.” But “he will come.”
In other words, “Say to those who are fearful…wait!”
While I do hate waiting, there IS hope in these words isn’t there? The hope is this: help is coming. You won’t be alone anymore. You won’t be out numbered anymore. God IS COMING to save you.
So if you are in a time of waiting for God to help you, take heart, have hope. God is coming. He will come to save you. In that promise – in that hope – you can find strength in the waiting.
Jesus I pray that when I feel like giving up, you would give me strength to keep pressing on, believing that you are coming to bring your salvation and healing to my life.
Do not be anxious about 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, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
You’ve heard the expression, “rose colored glasses.” It refers to a person who views everything in life through an optimistic lens. (Depending on your personality you are either thinking, “I love those kind of people!” or “Those people drive me crazy!”)
What if we switched that? What if instead of optimism, we began to view life through a lens of gratitude?
I love how this verse takes us from anxiety to gratitude. In every situation we are to bring our prayers to him WITH THANKSGIVING. What does this mean for you? How would this affect your prayers? How would praying with gratitude in mind, change how you feel about the situation?
Anxious moments are, by definition, ones where we usually aren’t focused on the good God is doing in our lives. We tend to become fixated on the issue, the problem, the obstacle, or the fear. Praying with thanksgiving puts our hearts and minds in a different state. It changes our focus. It forces our eyes to get off our problem, and off of ourselves. It shifts our attention to good, to God, to things He has done, and is doing in our lives.
“Even though I’m worried about _____________, thank you that I see you doing _________________ in my life.”
Eden has been struggling with being homesick at school. It’s a point of daily prayer in our house. But as I pray, can I also say “Thank you God that she is making friends. Thank you that she has a really kind teacher who is willing to work with us. Thank you for the guidance counselor who is helping make a plan with us. Thank you that she is safe, and loved, and cared for. Thank you that overcoming this will produce character an strength in her.” And so on.
Viewing our issues through a lens of gratitude changes how we see them. And that’s something to be grateful for!
Jesus, it’s not always easy, but even in my struggles help me to see with gratitude. Open my eyes to see you working in my life, and open my heart to connect with you through gratitude.
Ephesians 2:13-15 “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.”
Anxiety snuck up on me.
I didn’t even know I struggled with anxiety until my therapist pointed it out to me, a couple of years ago. I believed I had just become really good at always being prepared. I spent years of my life obsessively playing and replaying scenarios. I lived my life in constant fear and I could be completely deflated by any sort of interaction gone wrong. There was so much energy wasted worrying about the unlikely hypotheticals. I hadn’t been living.
In my life one of the biggest things that have effected my anxiety is my sense of worth. It can be as simple as a day I am feeling down or it can be as complicated as issues related to my own self-worth. No matter how much God’s love for me and my value in Him had been preached, spoken, or even prayed about, it was hard to feel worthy of the things He has done for me.
For years I had not felt worthy of His love. I couldn’t trust that the things He had for me were good and it kept perpetuating this endless cycle of anxiety and lack of self-worth. All the anxiety I kept feeling always circled back to the way I felt about myself and the ways I viewed God. I was raised in a Christian home and I knew all the rhetoric about the love of God. It all felt empty.
But, if you don’t understand God’s love and pursuit of you, how can you live fully in His rest?
Graham Cooke says in his book series, Letters from God, “Beloved, I do not see anything wrong with you! I only see what is missing from your experience of Me, and I am totally committed to giving you that encounter and experience.” I love what Cooke says because that message can help us keep our perspective clean and really precise. God is already working on our behalf. I think trying to overcome anxiety without asking God to change the way we see ourselves in Him can be a fruitless cycle.
In Ephesians 2:13-15 it says, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. “
Jesus, himself, connects us to His peace by the sacrifice He made for us. There are no dividing lines, but we are one with Jesus and HE IS PEACE.
I grew fed up with the endless cycle of anxiety. My heart cried out from the depths and I asked God to change me. God answered, but not in a one-time answer to my prayer. It was a slow, intentional process of getting into places where I didn’t know I needed Him. God was working on changing the way I saw myself, but also He was changing the way I saw Him. I started looking at myself through His perspective, and I really began seeing myself. I starting learning about the character and nature of God. I began truly understanding His loving kindness towards me, as an individual.
Cooke talks about stepping into a perspective of peace. I think that it can be as simple as asking God to help realign you to His perspective. I believe that when we ask God to help us on this journey, He always delivers. The journey that God takes us on, is always a good one.
Thank you that you are a God of peace. Thank you that you are always at work in our lives connecting and realigning us to who you really are. Thank you for all you are doing in our hearts and that you are continually at work reconnecting us to who you made us to be. Amen.
Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know the I am God.”
What does it really mean to “be still”? In an ever-changing and incredibly busy world, it is difficult to remember to be present and soak in the moments. At times, we make it much more challenging for ourselves. We have our work responsibilities, our in-home priorities, and then we say “yes” to many social-related activities, and thus overextend ourselves.
When time is devoted to quiet moments, the rewards are BIG. So what did Jesus mean when he told us to “be still”, and take it one step further, acknowledge that He is God? It takes intention to stop moving. It takes courage to trust Jesus will show you His will even through the chaos and the storms. Committing at least thirty minutes to quiet time with Him is a really good place to start. It not only takes bravery to face our fears, our concerns, our worries, but also to chill, to listen, to digest His words and His promises. Sometimes we have to tell ourselves, He is God, and He knows best.
These peaceful moments could be combined with music, a cup of joe, a comfy chair, the sounds of nature outside, your favorite coffee shop, or even in your car between appointments. Have a consultation with the absolute best advice-giver.
Jesus I pray you will guide us toward a balanced schedule, one with you at its focus. Thank you for your promise to take care of us and to provide for us in ways we cannot imagine. Lead us to calm. Help us to find peaceful times with you so we can fully know and trust our next steps.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Today I want to encourage you. Part of your identity as a follower of Jesus is this: YOU ARE AN OVERCOMER. In fact, you are more than an overcomer.
Even if you don’t feel like it today, even if you feel beat down and like you are barely getting by, this is part of your identity that you can embrace. Even if you feel you are losing the battle with anxiety. Even if a decision is staring you in the face, or something at work is just overwhelming you. This is still true.
See – being an overcomer means you must have SOMETHING TO OVERCOME. So the very fact that you are facing down something that feels too much for you, that is simply setting the stage for you and God to partner together in overcoming. The stage is set. The question is, will we shrink back? Or step up?
In this passage, Paul asks a series of rhetorical questions:
- If God is for us, who can be against us?
- Who will bring a charge against those whom God has chosen?
- Who then is the one who condemns?
- Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
The answer to all of those: no one.
This is why you can overcome. Because you don’t face these obstacles alone. God in you, God through you, God with you.
So you can do this. Remind yourself of your identity in Christ. You can face the struggle today. You can face the hurdle, the obstacle, the fear, the problem – with confidence in God and in yourself. And no one can say otherwise.
God I pray you’d help me to align my heart with the truth that you have made me, and are making me, MORE than an overcomer!
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.
Honestly, this story has always made me laugh. Can you imagine being Moses in this situation? In case you are unfamiliar with what’s going on – here’s the synopsis: After a long struggle, Pharoah (the leader of Egypt) has finally released the nation of Israel from captivity and slavery (of 100’s of years). They have begun to march as a nation away from Egypt to the Promised Land, when Pharoah changes his mind and pursues them with his army. Israel is not an army at this point, so they are no match. And they are at the edge of the Red Sea (where God has led them). So they are stuck – sitting ducks. The people begin to complain – “Moses what did you do to us? At least in Egypt we weren’t going to die!”
So Moses prays, and God says this! “Moses – why are you crying out to me – YOU DO SOMETHING?” Really God?
What are we supposed to do with this story?
Here’s one thing I think we can learn from this. God is not asking us, as his followers, to just sit back and ask him to do everything for us. God has always been interested in a partnership with us. In fact, it could be argued that the whole narrative arc from Genesis to Revelation is about God’s work to restore the partnership he originally intended.
So in my view, God is not being a jerk to Moses in this story. No. He is saying “Moses – rise up! Lead these people!”
So how does this apply to overcoming fear?
While I believe in praying at all times, and asking for God’s strength, peace, and help, I also believe God wants us to do our part! God has created us with gifts, abilities, talents, and wisdom that he wants us to use! When we are facing down fear or anxiety, we need to rise up in the power God has already given us, while ALSO praying.
Now you might say, I don’t feel like I have much power in me – I feel unable, defeated, and incapable sometimes. Sure, I get that. BUT – sometimes the times we feel weakest are the very times we need to rise up. Don’t you think Moses was feeling pretty desperate and weak? I think that’s why God was essentially like a coach – “You can do it! C’mon let’s go!”
Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that we are strong. Sometimes we need to SPEAK TO OURSELVES and say – “I can do this. RISE UP!”
There are times when I am backstage before preaching and I’m feeling NOTHING like strong, able, and ready. I feel inept. Afraid. Aware of my weakness. And I pray. BUT I ALSO tell myself TRUTH – “This is what God has called you to do. You can do this. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Stop being intimidated by the task at hand. Give it your all. No apologies. No insecurity. Rise up and go for it. Leave it all out there. 100% effort.” And then trust God TO DO HIS PART!
OK that was long, BUT, I think it’s important. In what ways do you need to tell yourself RISE UP today?
Jesus I pray that you would strengthen my resolve and my confidence, so I can partner with you and stand up in life!
1 Peter 5:7
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
It’s a powerful word isn’t it? If you are a parent, or have ever had a parent, you know how powerful this word is! It is the word that ends all arguments. BECAUSE! But why? BECAUSE! Enough said.
All joking aside, in this verse it actually IS a powerful word. Why can we cast all our anxiety on him? BECAUSE — he cares for you.
Could you do me a favor? Could you say that to yourself today? Maybe like 5 times right now? Just take a break – pause – and say “He cares for me. He cares for me. He cares for me. He cares for me. He cares for me.“
How much do you believe that? How far into your heart has that truth penetrated? The God of all things, the creator and sustainer of the universe, cares for you. Individually. Just you. He cares about your thoughts, and your fears, and your dreams, and your weaknesses, and….everything about you. Nothing too big, or too small.
“For God so loved the world….” — LOVE FOR YOU drove Jesus to give up his life on the cross.
So next time I am feeling anxious, or you are feeling fearful, let’s remember this simple word. BECAUSE. I can take all my worry, care, anxiety, and fear to Jesus BECAUSE he actually, literally, profoundly, unconditionally, cares for ME.
Jesus I pray that you would show me, once again, how much you care for me. Let me experience and know your great love in my life.
Do not be anxious about 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, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
If you were in church this past week, you heard me speak on this verse. In any teaching, your scope of the topic you are covering is limited by time. What I mean is – you can’t cover EVERYTHING about ANY subject in 30 minutes. As a consequence it is possible to oversimplify some issues and thus communicate messages you don’t intend to communicate. So this week, as I talked about the power of prayer to combat fear and anxiety, some of you may have walked away feeling/wondering this:
I’ve tried praying, and my anxiety persists. Does that make me a bad a Christian? Have I done something to disqualify me from what Christian is talking about?
This is what I would say if we could sit down and talk about it (over coffee of course!). No – unequivocally – this does not mean you are a bad Christian. Prayer is not magic. It is not some incantation we say just the right way and we get just what we want, when we want it. And moreover, if you don’t pray it just right (like a magical spell) then you don’t get what you want.
Here is what I believe to be true about this verse: In all situations, when we face fear and anxiety, we can pray and invite God into our lives – into that specific situation – and ask for and receive his peace. I believe he will give us peace. How we experience this, is where the confusion can happen. I don’t believe this means we are instantly overwhelmed with this amazing sense of peace and everything is in life is better. Sometimes, sure, but not always. Sometimes, because God loves us, in his wisdom he leads us TOWARDS that peace through a process that is a partnership.
For example, what if in his wisdom, he “gives us his peace” when we become vulnerable and ask for prayer from someone else? What if in his wisdom, God knows just answering our prayer for peace will not solve the root issue, and so the way he “gives us his peace” is to lead us to counseling? What if he knows that what our soul really needs is rest, so he leads us to set up a more healthy lifestyle of rest? What if he knows we need continued prayer – not a “one time shot in the dark and hope for the best prayer,” but a lifestyle of connection to the heart of God for our lives – and therein lies his peace?
For me, I would say that the promise of this verse, then, is realized in at least three ways:
- I think when we pray, he does begin to work peace into our hearts. Even when I can’t see this happening initially I trust that he is doing this in my heart, and often I do sense the beginning of a lessening of anxiety. As I quiet myself and pray and focus on Jesus, my anxiety does begin to lessen – but it isn’t always completely resolved in that moment.
- Just the act helps – there is evidence that just the act of meditation (of which prayer is a form of) begins to lessen our anxiety. Prayer, simply put, is good for us.
- God leads us to other steps to find that peace we are praying for (as I outlined above).
So, there may be times when you pray this and you feel it “doesn’t work.” But be encouraged – God often works behind the scenes, over time, and in ways that are “higher than our ways.”
I will also add one more thought here. Some of us struggle with anxiety disorders. Prayer, again, is a central tool to help those of us (myself included) who fall into this category. HOWEVER, prayer most often will not be enough (unless God heals you outright, which certainly can and does happen). For us, we need to ADD TO OUR PRAYERS, counseling, accountability, sleep, exercise, etc etc – and even medication if your doctor thinks that is appropriate.
OK – this was a long one. Sorry! But I felt like we needed to talk a little more in depth.
Jesus I invite your peace into my heart. Help me to generate a lifestyle of praying for this on a regular basis, so I can raise the base level of my anxiety by the gift of prayer and the power of your peace.
1 John 4:4
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
Have you ever played a game with a kid? What do you do? Usually (if you are nice) you hold back a little right? I remember letting my kids beat me in all sorts of athletic games. As they got older and better, I would allow myself to play harder. This used to make my son Elliot really mad. He really wanted me to play my hardest. If I did, I had absolutely no concern that he would beat me.
Why? Because the skill in me was just greater than the skill in him. Now, of course, that is no longer true – and even when I try my hardest he beats me 🙂
This is a great picture of what this verse tells us about the spiritual reality of being a follower of Jesus. When we face anxiety, fear, and worry – this is one of those promises of God we need to hold onto. God in us is greater! Greater than our fear. Greater than our worry. Greater than our weakness.
This is one the amazing benefits of being a follower of Jesus! When we face hardship, trial, or stress of any kind – we can call out to Jesus who fills us with strength, wisdom, and peace. Jesus told us that when he left he would send us the Holy Spirit to “help” us and “fill” us in his absence. We can, at any point, in any day, in any circumstance, DRAW ON the power of the Holy Spirit that lives inside every believer.
I know that can sound mystical to those of us who are maybe new to following Jesus, or maybe are still investigating his life and teaching. That’s ok if it feels mystical. There certainly is a mystical (I would use the world “spiritual”) quality about the living God. And one of these great spiritual mysteries is that he loves his children enough to actually impart his Spirit into us so we can overcome the trials of this world. In some mysterious way – God’s Spirit dwells IN us. And that same Spirit is meant to empower us, and fill us, and lead us!
So be encouraged! Next time you face down something that is overwhelming you or overpowering you, remember that God in YOU in greater – and call on his help and strength!
Jesus help me to not only remember that your Spirit fills me, but that I can call on you to strengthen me. Even right now, I take a moment to stop what I’m doing, and I ask that you would fill me with your peace. In Jesus name Amen!
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” – John 14:27
Recently a friend came over to my house and taught me how to change the brake pads on my car. I had wanted to learn this for a while, but I simply did not have the expertise, or the confidence, within myself to achieve the desired goal. When he taught me, he essentially GAVE ME his expertise. Then a few months later, my other car needed the same thing, and I was able to do it on my own. I double checked a few things with him, but essentially SOME of his expertise had BECOME my expertise.
When I read this statement of Jesus, I feel the same way. Jesus says that he is wanting to give me his peace. Much like my friend gave me his expertise when I was lacking, Jesus wants to do the same with his peace! The peace I need in life may not always be within me (in fact often it’s not!). So the promise of Jesus here is that we can LOOK TO HIM for his peace!
Think about that.
This is not a peace based on circumstances. This is not a peace based on optimistic blindness to reality. This is not a peace based on avoiding risk or anything fearful. No – this is a supernatural peace. Now don’t be scared by the word – supernatural. We aren’t getting strange here! But God is super (beyond) the natural way of things. He is super-natural. And his peace is the same! His peace in our hearts will often defy what they world expect (and what we would expect) natural peace to accomplish in our lives!
He says he is giving us HIS peace. So what is our job in this? I think our job is to ask! Have you asked God for HIS peace recently? Have you asked him to fill your heart and mind with a peace so pure, so strong, and so freeing that it literally can change your internal outlook without your external circumstances having to change? Now THAT sounds supernatural!
Jesus I ask your for YOUR peace. May your peace fill my heart and mind, and even overflow to those around me.
Proverbs 4:25-26, “Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.”
Perspective is key to positive change. Where is our focus? Is it on our issue and the desired outcome or Jesus? Often times, we think the more we contemplate our every step or every turn, the better our current situation will be. This is not to say careful thought processes are futile, but if our trust and attention is on Jesus, we can experience peace. If we change where our feet are planted, we can find comfort knowing God is controlling our trajectory, not our worry-filled thoughts.
But how do we plant our feet in rich soil? Jesus tells us not to lose heart because he cares for us deeply. Rich soil can be found in caring for others, listening to people, requesting prayer, sharing our burdens, asking Jesus to intervene, reading His words of advice and encouragement, and seeking others for support. The more we engage with God’s community, the more we crave to get to know Him better. Joy and comfort for our souls are found in a trusting relationship with Jesus!
Jesus I pray that you will nudge us when we need the reminder to shift our focus. I pray that you will help us control our thoughts so we can rest in your promises. Place it on our hearts to get to know you more, thus allowing us to see your steadfast work in our lives.
1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.
How does perfect love drive out fear? I’ve been thinking about this verse since we started the series and asking myself this question. I know it sounds really true and really powerful, but how does it work? WHY does it work? And why does it matter to me – how can I take advantage of this principle?
I don’t think I have all the answers, but one way that this is starting to make sense to me is this: fear at its foundation often involves a lack of trust that good will happen in our lives. We lack trust that God will provide, so we fear losing our job. We lack trust that God will protect our kids, so we fear for their safety. Being perfectly loved tells us that HE IS WITH US and loves us as his children, and we can TRUST him in all things. Embracing that you are loved dispels fear because it reminds you that you can trust your heavenly father.
I tend to be a weird combination of a realist and an optimist. I’d love (As a preacher) to just write that first paragraph. It sounds so beautiful and so powerful – LOVE WINS! The problem is, we’ve all been there when our fears have been realized! We HAVE lost our job. Our kids HAVE had bad things happen to them. And so on. So how does love drive out fear, when your fears are realized?
Its an honest question. And the answer isn’t easy. Here’s where I land on this one: Love drives out fear because we trust him in the moment, and we trust him after the moment. Here’s the thing, Jesus didn’t say “trust me I won’t let anything bad happen to you.” He said (as we went over in Day 6) “trust me in ALL things.”
So his love drives out fear because we know he loves us IN THE GOOD AND THE BAD. His love drives our fear because we know we can trust him to care for us just like a father does. I protect my kids and guide my kids, but this world brings pain upon them anyway. And in those moments I drive out their fear with comfort and strength. Our God is the same.
So let his love drive out fear in your life. Let the knowledge that the God of all things LOVES you individually, and is working on your behalf no matter what!
God let me know your love more fully, and trust your guidance more completely.
John 16:33 New International Version (NIV)
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Do you ever wrestle with the fact that there is so much pain and struggle in the world, and yet God is good? This is one of the most difficult issues to struggle with as a follower of Jesus. What I love about Jesus, is he acknowledges this struggle. He comes right out and says — we will have both PEACE and TROUBLE at the same time.
A popular saying in the Vineyard is that we “live in the tension.” What this is referring to is the tension between the reality of how the world is now (TROUBLE) and the reality of what God’s rule and reign in our lives looks like (PEACE). One day, when Jesus returns, there will only be peace. Trouble will cease. But that day is not today. It is also not true that we ONLY have trouble right now. We clearly see God’s hand in our lives on a daily basis – bringing us peace and much, much more.
The time we live in straddles the worst and the best; it straddles the world gripped by trouble with the Kingdom of God filled with peace. And this is our journey. We get to walk in this world, knowing we will have trouble, but also having full confidence that he who has overcome the world can give us peace.
Notice that peace is not found “in the world” – that is where trouble is found. No, peace is found “in Jesus.” So today, let us fix our hearts and our eyes not on the trouble, but on Jesus, and let us find the peace in him.
Jesus I pray that even when I am surrounded by trouble, I would find peace in the one laid down his life to save mine.
Philippians 4:7 (NLT)
Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
This is one of those verses we should probably all memorize. The crux of the verse is that God has a peace that he can give you and I, which just doesn’t make any sense. The way I understand this is this: in situations where we SHOULD NOT be peaceful, God can GIVE US PEACE. Then, we will say (or others will notice) “wow I know it doesn’t make sense given the situation I’m in, but I feel at peace!”
Now of course this isn’t always how it happens, but I do think it is something we can pray and ask God for on a regular – even daily – basis. When we face fear or anxiety or worry – let us remember to reach out to God in prayer and ask in exchange for our anxiety or fear that he would give us HIS peace that exceeds anything we can understand! This peace, not peace we conjure up, but supernatural peace from God – will guard our hearts and minds. It will protect our hearts from worry, and keep our minds from circling thoughts.
So let’s ask God for this peace. Even when we don’t feel it would be possible, let’s ask God to give us his peace that doesn’t make sense!
God I pray for your peace to fill my heart and mind, and keep me in a place of peace and strength, even when my circumstances are not peaceful.
Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)
So do not fear, for I am with you;
Have you ever noticed that scary situations (think haunted houses, scary movies…) are always worse when you are alone? This is ingrained in us at such an early age isn’t it? What’s the first thing you did as a kid when you got scared? You yelled for help from an adult!
This is the power of this promise God makes us. His reason for telling us not to fear, is that he is with us. Whether this is anxiety, or worry, or self doubt – we can battle it with the knowledge that we are not alone. God, who made you and believes in you, in with you.
Now, as a Christian it is easy to misunderstand this. This does not mean that because he is with us, nothing bad will happen to us. We aren’t in a place where God has chosen to exert full control over everything yet. But it does mean that no matter what is happening, or what fear we are facing or living through, GOD IS STILL WITH US.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
This tells us that even when what we feared — even what we feared the most — happens to us, God is still with us.
So no matter what you are fearing today, or what fear you are currently walking through, take comfort, courage, and strength in the knowledge that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
God I pray that you would show me HOW you are with me today.
Ephesians 2:10 English Standard Version (ESV)
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Have you ever seen something that was so amazing – either in its scale or its beauty – that it made you feel like you couldn’t really take it all in? I remember when we visited Zion National Park years ago, I felt that way as I looked up at the cliffs surrounding the creek we were about to hike in. Amazing. Breathtaking. Almost other-worldly.
This is you. And me. I know we can’t see it – but really the pinnacle of God’s creative working, the best of the best out of his ability, is you and me. We are his workmanship (his masterpiece). We have been created for purpose, to do good, to make a difference in the lives of others. He has plans for our lives!
Fear does not acknowledge this. In fact it wars against it. Fear tells us we CAN’T. Fear restricts us. It makes the playing field of our potential as small as possible. But when you and I grasp this truth – that we have a purpose, an inherent divine purpose – we must fight against the narrowing of our potential, and receive God’s BIG plan for our lives. God wants to stretch our capacity for imagining how he can use us. Fear wants to limit it. God wants to increase our expectation of ourselves. Fear wants to teach us to expect little from ourselves and from life.
Today, remember this – you were made for more. You were made for more than fear tells you. More than fear will ever let you experience if you follow it!
Jesus I pray that you would give me a great appreciation for the greatness you see in me! And help me to stop listening to fears restrictive thinking about me!
2 Timothy 1:7 (AGAIN!)
God did not give us a spirit that makes us afraid but a spirit of power and love and self-control (in some translations: sound mind).
Yes I know I used this verse yesterday – but it’s so good! Let’s talk about it again! You know when people look at kids and they say, “You got your eyes from your mom!” or “Your sense of humor – that comes from your dad!” Well, as a parent, there are also times where I’ve said (or at least thought), “Where in the world did they get that?!?!” Like when my kids were younger and they shied away from competition – I was thinking, “Who’s kids ARE these??”
This is what I was thinking about yesterday after I wrote the last encouragement. “God DID NOT GIVE us a spirit that makes us afraid” — So WHERE DID WE GET IT FROM??? If God didn’t GIVE us a spirit of fear – then when we embrace fear, when we embrace anxiety, or worry – we are choosing to TAKE fear upon ourselves. Rather than RECEIVE what God gives us (love, power, and peace of mind) we are TAKING fear upon myself and suffering the consequences!
I find this to be so true in my life. When I am really struggling with anxiety, it is so obviously not what God has for me. It is NOT a gift from him. And I am clearly not RECEIVING what he DOES have for me. Instead, I have (often because of my lack of trust IN him) taken fear ONTO myself.
Realizing this gives me hope! One tool I can use to overcome fear and anxiety is to say to myself – “This is not from God, I’m going to PUT IT BACK DOWN, and receive what he wants to give me – love, power, and peace of mind.” Instead of carrying the weight of anxiety, I can choose (using the many tools I use) to put it down. It is a great reminder for me – This isn’t from God! God doesn’t give a spirit that makes me afraid. So I must have gotten this from somewhere else! TIME TO PUT IT DOWN.
God I pray that today if I encounter anxiety or fear, I would realize that it is not from you. You didn’t give it to me. So I don’t want to keep it. Help me to daily lay it back down, and take up your peace and love instead.
2 Timothy 1:7 New Century Version (NCV)
God did not give us a spirit that makes us afraid but a spirit of power and love and self-control.
Have you ever been intimidated? Maybe it was a situation at work, or at school, or in a social situation? Intimidation is when we feel smaller, and the issue (or the person) in front of us feels bigger (and better, stronger, etc). This happens to us when we forget ourselves – we forget who God has made us to be, forget our abilities, forget our talents — essentially we forget that we have anything to offer in that situation. We give into fear, and forget who God has made us to be.
Timothy was a young leader learning from Paul and he had forgotten who he was. People were challenging him and he was obviously struggling with timidity and fear. At other points Paul had reminded timothy of his faith (2 Tim 1:5) , encouraged him to follow Paul’s guidance (1 Tim 1:13), and challenged him to not let people look down on him because of his youth (1 Tim 4:12).
This theme is continued in this verse where he reminds Timothy about who he is in Jesus. “God did not give [you] a spirit that makes [you] afraid but a spirit of power and love and self-control.” Timothy, in Jesus, does not need to be afraid. Fear does not come from God. It is not who God has made him to be. God has given him more powerful forces than fear. He has given him love. He has given him power. And he has given him self control.
So today be encouraged – maybe even say this to yourself when you deal with fear, anxiety, or worry. “I have not been given a spirit of fear. The Spirit I have been given is far more powerful than any fear or worry I face today.”
God has more for you, more for all of us, than fear. He has given us a spirit – His Spirit – who by love, power, and self control can enable us to face our fears with bravery.
Today, God I ask that you would remind me throughout the day that fear is not from you. And help me to receive your love to overcome it!