Did you know that about nineteen million Americans struggle with anxiety? Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States today. I work at NewPointe Community Church and have talked with many people that struggle with anxiety. Many struggle to the point that they can’t have healthy relationships, can’t keep steady employment and have multiple health problems.
Anxiety and worry go hand in hand. Worry is focused negative thinking, which can lead to anxiety which is the unpleasant sense of apprehension that comes with physical symptoms like sweaty palms, shallow breathing, rapid heart rate and general nervousness. Often worry and anxiety come from stress, it could be relational stress, financial stress, work stress, family stress. When a person is in constant stress their body produces way to much adrenaline and other chemicals that cause those physical symptoms. Over time anxiety gets worse and worse and our thinking begins to drive the anxiety.
For many people worry has simply become a mental habit. They automatically see events in their lives in terms of worse-case scenarios. Anxiety is often triggered by lies we believe and focus on in a negative way. The worrier will lie awake at night going through all kinds of what-if scenarios.
To overcome anxiety a person needs to deal with the root cause of the worry and anxiety. What lies are you believing about yourself, God and the world around you? The best way to identify lies we are believing is by reading truth. That is why I keep eleven truth statements in my desk drawer. I read through these on a regular basis and hand them out to people that are struggling with worry. These eleven statements come from the Bible. I often prescribe this to people by asking them to read these eleven truth statements out loud once a day for two weeks. What that does, is it brings your focus to something good and positive and true, even if it’s only a short period of time. If you can do that for 3-4 weeks it becomes a habit and can start to change the way we think.
To overcome anxiety you must develop new healthy habits for dealing with stress. Meditation is also focused thinking, but is focused on what is good. Meditating on Scripture is a great way to deal with stress. Prayer has also been proven to actually lower your blood pressure and reduce stress.
Philippians 4:6-7 says “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.”
In Mathew 6 Jesus teaches about freedom from anxiety. In verse 25 Jesus says, “Therefore I say unto you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on.” Again in verse 34 Jesus says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.” In other words, live in the present and don’t worry about the future which you can’t control or the past that you can’t change. Jesus is encouraging us to pray and give thanks instead of worrying. An attitude of gratitude and thanksgiving relaxes the body and calms the mind.
1 Peter 5:7 says “Give all your worries to him, because he cares about you.”
Compassion has a way of turning peoples heads. The level of compassion to help the people of Haiti has been amazing. In times of crisis most people are willing to step up and try to help make a difference. The efforts in Haiti have been amazing as we continue to hear stories of people giving their time, talents and treasure to help. I am sure we will hear some truly amazing stories in the months ahead.
Jesus said this about the church, “You are the light of the world, a city on a hill cannot be hidden.” Jesus was saying that there is one force in this world that can shed life giving light on a dark and hurting world. Who was in Haiti before this tragedy? Many churches and Christian organizations were there trying to make a difference in peoples lives. The church is made up of people that are called by Jesus to love other people. That love for people is the motivator for churches to reach out and help people. That is why there were people on the ground with the people of Haiti trying to encourage and equip them.
So here is the question, how bright is your light shining. Is your bulb wattage at 25? 40? 60? or 150?
Showing compassion to the world is what we were called to do. We are not called to judge this world, but to love those in this world just like Jesus did. When we show unconditional love to a broken world it gets people’s attention. True compassion is unusual. Acts of compassion are not just giving money, although money is often needed. Compassion is helping people in need through relief, rehabilitation and development. If we never get to developing people, we are not showing true compassion. Relief is often the first step, but the real compassion comes in rehabilitation and development. That takes time and energy to help people become what God intended them to be.
Here are three reasons we should get involved personally in acts of compassion.
Being compassionate requires action. If you just think about helping, cry about a tragedy or talk about how awful something is, you are not compassionate. Compassion happens when something is done to help another person in need. When you do that little extra to show love and respect for a less fortunate person. I hope that everyone that reads this Blog post will pray for God to give them an opportunity to show compassion in a real way this week.
One of the Scriptures that I memorized years ago is Philippians 4:11-13 “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
True contentment is usually learned in the hard times of life, when our financial security is shaken a bit. It’s amazing to me how little we can live on when things get tight. Paul is saying that true contentment, or lack of it, does not come from the circumstances we find ourselves in; true contentment comes from Jesus who gives us strength. Because Paul put his trust and faith in Jesus, he was able to experience a deep peace no matter what life threw at him.
His identity did not come from what he owned or what goals he was able to achieve. Instead it came from his relationship with God, who loves him (And Us), so much he sent His son Jesus.
Here are a few questions to ponder about your level of contentment:
When our treasure is in our relationship with Christ, we are free from the bondage of pursuing things and allowing circumstance to dictate our level of contentment.
Here is a final word from God on contentment:
“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we will take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith.” 1Timothy 6:6-12.
God-centered contentment guards us from becoming prisoners of what we own or the kind of lifestyle we desire. It also protects us from the temptations and mistakes that can cause all kinds of grief in our lives.
Over the past several weeks my wife has been cleaning stuff out of our house. We have accumulated a bunch of stuff that really we don’t need. It is so easy to allow things to build up in our closets and spare bedrooms. If you have every watched the show “Hoarders” on A&E you have seen how extreme some people can get with hoarding and accumulating stuff. When you watch a show like that it makes you sad for those people, but it is a reminder that we too can allow things around us to get out of control.
It can be the same way in all parts of our lives. If don’t pay attention to our finances we can soon find ourselves deep in debt and struggling to make ends meet. We can find ourselves in a crisis and have no savings to get us through.
How about with our health? It is so easy to allow ourselves to slowly gain pound after pound, inch after inch and soon find ourselves overweight and out of shape. This can bring on other health problems and really complicate our lives.
What about your spiritual life? It is easy to get complacent or off center with our relationship with God. That is why we need to clean house spiritually every once in a while. It is healthy for us to unload all the junk we have accumulated and leave it with God. Allow Him to take the stuff that is holding us back from going deeper with Him. When we clean out the closets and the spare bedrooms, where we tend to hide our stuff, it frees us up to fill it with the good stuff that God wants us to have. Things like peace, joy, kindness, gentleness, patience, love, self-control, compassion, gratefulness and friendship.
So, maybe you need to start by cleaning up your house and throwing out the stuff you don’t need or maybe selling it or giving it away. Maybe you need to bring some order and control to your finances. It could be you need to start working on your health. All of us can work on getting our spiritual houses in order. A great place to start is getting into the Bible on a regular basis. Develop a plan to grow spiritually and try to stay on track. NewPointe has a great resource coming to help people develop a spiritual growth plan. It’s called Monvee, an online spiritual formation tool that we are a part of. Check it out and ask me about it sometime.
Anger is an emotion that all of us have had to deal with. It may have been growing up in your home with an angry parent. Maybe you have had an angry boss or co-worker. Maybe it was a friend or a relative. It may have been you ex-wife or ex-husband. It also was you and me. Everyone experiences some degree of anger in our lives.
The more I talk to people the more I am seeing this as an emotion that is in most people just under the surface waiting for an opportunity to come out. Nothing is wrong with the emotion of anger per se. What is damaging is how we express anger – for example, in violent actions against another person that causes injury to property or the person.
The Bible has a number of passages that directly deal with anger. In Ephesians 4:26, 27 it says “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” What Paul is saying there is that we need to deal with our anger immediately in a way that builds relationships rather than destroys them. If we nurse our anger, we will give Satan an opportunity to divide us and destroy the relationship.
When we bottle up any emotion it does not die. Emotions that become trapped inside us seek a way to express themselves. That is because emotions like anger were created to be expressed and felt. When we refuse to feel those emotions and express them in healthy ways we risk physical illness, pain, emotional damage, relational damage and psychological problems.
When we bury emotions we are burying a living thing. It would be like pouring water into a bucket. The water is our negative emotions and at some point the water will overflow the bucket and get everything around it wet.
One way to temporarily control anger is to take a time out. When you become angry and are ready to respond in a way that may damage another person emotionally or physically, take a time out. Refocus and collect your thoughts, pray and ask God to help you in that moment not to sin. You can also take several slow deep breaths, which will diffuse your anger. Deep breathing promotes relaxation and reduces stress.
Are you angry with someone right now? What can you do to resolve your issue with that person? Don’t let the day end without starting the process of mending and working on that relationship. The best way to work on your anger is to practice forgiveness. Not just verbally, but through prayer with God involved. Most of the time God also wants us to go to that person and resolve the real issue. The emotional root of anger can be pulled up when you forgive from your heart and share your true feelings in a loving way. You also need to make sure you are dealing with the real issues and not just the stuff on the surface. You may need some help to dig down and figure that out, but it’s worth the digging and the dirt.
Don’t you just hate it when you hit a pothole? If your like me you know exactly where they are on your commute to work everyday. This morning I hit everyone of them on my way into work. Then I hit a big one on the way home tonight. Why does that happen? I know where they are, yet on some days I hit them and other days I am well prepared and avoid them. I think what happens for me is I am often distracted. This morning it was the ice and snow. Other mornings, I am thinking about my day and what I need to do when I get to work. Other days I notice a cat in a field or a hawk on a tree limb. When I get distracted I forget about those stupid potholes. When I hit the pothole, it brings me back to reality and I beat myself up for not paying attention.
We all have potholes in our life as well. We know they are there and some days we do a good job of avoiding them and not hitting them. Other days we get distracted and all of a sudden we hit a pothole and then another. That can start a downward spiral that leads to further distraction and all of a sudden we are way off tract.
Our enemy knows what our potholes are and how to distract us so that we run over them. Sometimes we even hit that really big one that you think will make your car fall apart. That big Pothole is the one that gets us in trouble if we are not on guard. When we stay focused on God and our relationship with Him we can avoid those nasty potholes of life. God gives us many clear instructions on how to stay away from those potholes and stay on the right path. When we get onto the wrong roads is when we start hitting the potholes that can take us out.
Guard your heart, stay on the right path and look to God for your direction. God can even fill in those potholes that we seem to hit everyday if we allow him to. If you have some regular potholes that you hit all the time, ask God to fill them for you. Ask Him to pave over them and bring smooth roads to your life.
Here are five disciplines I plan on working on in 2010. These five disciplines were practiced by Jesus while He was here on earth. As I start a new year I am working on both physical and spiritual disciplines. So here are my Fab Five Spiritual Disciplines:
If I can implement these five things into my life, My relationship with Jesus Christ will take a big step forward. It will also improve all the relationships in my life and make me a much better leader. Join me in this growth journey. Maybe its just one of these, maybe its all five. Maybe its your own five. The important thing is that you have a plan of action, because without action all this is meaningless.