What Is the Christian Way to Deal with Anxiety? [sermon]

2018-08-07T22:56:02+00:00Sermons|

Sermon on John 16:25-33

Peace is not just a longing of the 70’s. It is a daily desire for all of us. We strive to overcome our busyness or relational strife so that we can have peace. Jesus offered us peace that is founded in His nature. He is peace and has overcome the world (John 16:33). In this message we identify specific ways the peace of Christ can cure our anxiety.

Watch the Message Here:

Sermon Outline:

Anxiety fails to acknowledge that the Father cares for me and is in complete control.

Only God possesses perfect peace (vv. 25-28).

Knowledge of God without application will lead to pride, not peace.

Only God can give perfect peace (vv. 29-30).

To Experience the peace of God, we must have genuine humility and utter desperation.

Only God has overcome the world (vv. 31-33).

Sermon Action Items:

  • Memorize “Father, I thank you that I have nothing to fear. You will keep me safe” (Isa. 8:13 NLT)
  • Evaluate my life to see where I am not accepting the peace God offers
  • Ask a friend to point out areas of my life where they see I have peace and joy
  • Read the farewell discourse in John 13-16 in its entirety

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Sermon Transcript:

I once met a lady in Chicago in the homeless shelter as I traveled out on Sunday nights to preach a service to those who resided there. There was one woman was a hypochondriac, worrying constantly about germs. I remember her saying, “Preacher, wash your hands and say your prayers because Jesus and germs are everywhere.”

We all long for peace, be it from war or from viruses, yet we are plagued worry. This week I entitled my message, “The Promise of Perpetual Peace.” I want to show you that peace is not the absence of all that is bad, but rather that it is the presence of God in our life.

Anxiety is the new depression. What Prozac was for the previous 20 years, Xanex is for this present time. We have moved from down and depressed to stressed and anxious. Truth is, anxiety is real… but it almost always lies to you. However, anxiety doesn’t have to win, even it tells you it will.

Anxiety manifests itself in a multitude of ways: feeling distressed, uneasy, worried, upset, fearful, apprehensive, agitated, fretful, restless, nervous, and fidgety, to name just a few. Fear can be a symptom of anxiety, or the cause of it. Fear and anxiety are different yet interrelated. Dr. Archibald Hart said, “The difference between fear and anxiety is that fear is usually caused by tangible objects or threats. Anxiety picks up where fear leaves off and is mostly directed toward imaginedor unrealized objects or conditions. Anxiety is more vague yet more pervasive.”[i].

I will be honest and tell you that anxiety has had a timeshare on the property of my heart and finds its sneaky ways to intrude on me weekly, if not daily. Anxiety is senseless because it fails to acknowledge that God the Father cares for me and is in complete control. Anxiety accomplishes nothing useful on its own. It serves no purpose unless we turn our worry and fear into a desire to grow our faith. We can choose to remain an anxious mess or we can allow our anxiety to be a promoter for greater trust in God.

The Pervasive Problem with Anxiety

Sarah Fader, a thirty-seven-year-old social media consultant in Brooklyn, made it clear that anxiety is no long a problem for some but a generalized disorder for all. She texted her friend about coming to visit, but when she didn’t write back quickly, Sarah started to get uneasy. Sarah posted on Twitter to her sixteen thousand-plus followers: “I don’t hear from my friend for a day — my thought, they don’t want to be my friend anymore.” She appended the hashtag #ThisIsWhatAnxietyFeelsLike.

Her hashtag became as viral and the feeling of anxiety itself. Thousands of people were soon sharing their own examples under the same hashtag; some were retweeted more than a thousand times. Ms. Fader struck a nerve. If you think about it, I am sure you could chime in using the same hashtag right now about something in your life. Why? Because we are all human and feel worked up about something nearly all the time.[ii]

The New York Timesreported that our society has moved from being depressed to being anxious. The news source said, “Prozac Nation Is Now the United States of Xanax.”[iii]Anxiety disorders are the number one mental disorder in America, affecting 40 million adults in the United States age eighteen and older, or 18.1 percent of the population every year.[iv]According to data from the National Institute of Mental Health, some 38 percent of girls ages thirteen through seventeen, and 26 percent of boys, have an anxiety disorder. On college campuses, anxiety is running well ahead of depression as the most common mental health concern. The number of Google searches related to anxiety has doubled in the last five years, according to Google Trends.[v]

[The origin of Anxiety — Genesis 3]

When Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden after their rebellion against God, they lost direct experience with God’s Presence and were removed from a home of abundance and security, and the joy of perpetual harmony with one another and the world. In other words, they were cast into a new and frightening reality of a world created by sin, a world of anxiety and sorrow. Although God continues to work on people’s behalf, it is difficult for us to recognize His presence and accept His provision in a world fractured by distrust and self-love. As a result, many people look to false sources of joy and peace, only to be left bitterly disappointed and empty.

God’s response to the world’s dilemma of unrest is beautifully captured in Isaiah 55:1-3, 6-7, and John 6:57-58 and 7:37-38. To those thirsty for true satisfaction and hungry for real life, the Lord says, “Come to the waters, those who have no money; come, buy and eat!”  In the same way, Jesus offers Himself as true food and His blood as true drink, proclaiming that faith in Him is the only way to satisfy and sustain the soul. God is intent on glorifying Himself through delivering us from the lies of the world. We hear this in Jesus’ words, “If anyone thirsts let him come to Me!”  The response of the gospel to sin-laden and weary souls is “COME,” “Come to God and find forgiveness from sin, rest from striving, lasting joy, and unconquerable peace.”

To experience true peace through intimacy with God, we must come before Him in genuine humility and utter desperation. We do not say, “God, I need you,” but shout from the depths of our soul, “God, you are all I need!”

Please find John 16:25-33 in your Bibles. We are on page 902in the Bibles in front of you. You can also follow along on the app or on the back of the bulletin. As you find it, let me remind you what we talked about last week.

[Recap of the birth analogy]

Jesus is giving some final words of hope to His disciples before leaving them. He tells them to have hope and perpetual joy in the fact that He will ascend and be at with the Father, and they too will ascend and have victory over death. And that we have security in the fact that Jesus hears us from Heaven. But he used the analogy of childbirth to say that sometimes joy requires a journey through sorrow first. There were confused by several things He said, so we pick up as he provides clarity for them to make clear His perpetual joy and peace:

 [25] “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. [26] In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; [27] for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. [28] I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

Although Jesus has already spoken clearly of the Father elsewhere in John, He is now promising that the nature and character of the Father will be even more clearly revealed. Jesus is have told them twice that they can ask in His Name (meaning in His will) and it will be given, but not because Jesus has to convince the Father to love us, but because HE DOES LOVE US. Don’t miss verse 27 — “the Father himself loves you” and if you need proof, look at your love and believe in me. By believing in me, you have the Father’s love on your side. No longer servant, but friend.

Where Anxiety goes off course is when it [Anxiety] fails to acknowledge that the Father cares for me and is in complete control. He loves us and is sovereignly working out His will for us. He is all-powerful and all-present and all-knowledgeable and totally eternal; therefore, you and I can trust He is totally present for those who believe. Jesus’ is the foundation of our peace.

Carolina at the 4thof July Parade

On Wednesday we joined the annual neighborhood bike parade. It was the first time that my four-year-old was able to ride her bike and not be pushed in a stroller. The entire way she just kept saying, dad, don’t let go of me. Please don’t let go. She was doing great and even has the breaking thing down, but if I removed my hand from her shoulder she freaked out.

As we strolled down the parade, I said to her, ya, know, sometimes we say to God, “Please don’t let go…” and He promises to never let go. There are times we won’t feel Him, but that doesn’t mean that He has let go… He is still right by our side. While this may have been more for me than her, it was an opportunity to live our Deuteronomy 6:7 and teach her about God as we went along the road. But He is so faithful—and I don’t always feel Him— but I can have peace to know He is present and always keeping to His promise to never let go.

Anxiety creeps in when I fail to remember that He is in control and that He cares for me and is working all things out for His glory and my good. My own stress, or feeling like it is solely my responsibility to manage my life can often keep me from trusting Him.

Peace Starts with Trust

The only way to have the peace of God as you lead your company or department, as you teach those kids, meet those quotes, lead that meeting or hit that deadline is to acknowledge that God is God and you are not. It starts with trusting Him and then tapping into His power to fulfill what is in front of you.

It reminds me of Jeremiah 17:7–8, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

He mentions a shrub in the dessertprior to this passage, saying that if we do not trust, we are shallow bearing no fruit, anemic in our faith and therefore anemic in our fruit.

This was unlike the redwoodsof California I saw a few weeks ago. These are massive trees, known as Sequoia trees, planted in the valleys and by streams, soaking up the water, remaining green year round and not anxious or fearful of drought. Jerimiah admonishes us to not be like a trustless shrub, but a firmly rooted tree because we are accessing the true source of all peace.

The truth is thatonly God possesses perfect peace(vv. 25-28). His message in these three verses is one of invitation and mobilization: come to me, I will take you to the Father and He will give you what is necessary for you, no matter what you face. To not accept this invitation and strive on your own is ignorance and pride.

One of the problems in the church today is that we are overcome by anxiety, which in and off itself is opposite of how God wants His Children to live. Christ is the Prince of Peaceand of the 300 times peace is used in the Bible it is always associated with God’s presence. So why then are we so plagued by worry and fear?

My reasoning is that we know a lot about God, but we do not know how to apply God to our current circumstances. We grow puffed up with what we know or what we think we can do on our own and as a result we forfeit the peace He offers us. I wrote this down: Knowledge of God without application will lead to pride, not peace.

We will never have peace as long as we look at ourselves as we are — or at our history as we have lived it, or at our future as we hope to live it (knowing who we are). There is only one place in all the world where we can have peace: “IN ME,”in Jesus’ faithful, undying friendship with us, in his infallible love for us… “In me you may have peace,” Jesus promises, because who he is and what he has done for us far exceed anything we can be or do for him.[vi]

Ephesians 2:14, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” Peace exists in Christ because we have access to God.

This is not just a ticket to Heaven in the afterlife, but access to God in the present life. Jesus makes the Father known to us, and as He is saying in John, I am going to the Father by way of the cross for you. This then accesses the vault of God for US now! When the nature and character of the Father is revealed, peace prevails.

[29] His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! [30] Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.”

What are they saying/getting? We have no need to question where I peace comes from, now or when you are away from us, all of it comes from God through you. They acknowledge that only God can giveperfect peace(vv. 29-30).

Jesus was not merely giving them knowledge of what the Father would and could do for them, but He was moving them to total trust. He knew what they would face. He knows what we will face. It isn’t until we acknowledge God’s control and return with submission to His mighty hand that we find His heart of peace. To Experience the peace of God, we must have genuine humility and utter desperation. He knew what they would face…

[31] Jesus answered them, “Do you nowbelieve? [32] Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. [33] I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Only God has overcome the world(vv. 31-33). What a powerful and promising statement! You have not overcome the world, and nothing will overcome you — but I have overcome the world, so have peace! I am with you and the Father is with me!

Of the 28 times OVERCOMEis used in the New Testament, at least 21 of those occurrences are within John’s writings: John 16:33; five times in 1 John, and 15 times in Revelation. Of the 15 occurrences in the book of Revelation, it is used ten times to refer to “the one who conquers,” that is believers who overcome temptation, tribulation, even the “beast” himself (cf. Rev. 15:2) through their faith in the Conquering Lamb.

The idea here seems to be that Jesus’ overcoming of the world is a final conquering of the cosmic “rulers and authorities” (Col. 2:15) of evil who have exerted their influence over the world and its systems since the Fall, “disarmed” them, divesting them of their power to eternally destroy His children. He “put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in the cross” (Col. 2:15).  This is the inauguration of the victory given to believers through faith.  We are no longer are slaves to sin and death (cf. Rom. 6), held captive by the “domain of darkness;” now God through Christ has “transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14).

And not only this, but, as revealed in Revelation, Jesus will finally and ultimately conquer Satan and the powers of evil, thereby ushering in His kingdom on the new heavens and new earth.  The overcoming Jesusdescribes in John 16:33, therefore, is both for today and for the future. Today believers overcome sin, temptation, and despair through Christ, knowing that one day they will overcome Satan Himself and the kingdom of darkness through the final victory of Christ. Let’s read verse 33 again (screen):

John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Remembering God’s Faithfulness — like and elephant

According to the Scientific American, elephantsare truly amazing creatures because, although they have dismal eyesight, “they never forget a face.” They use their other senses to store memories of other elephants, locations of food and water sources, and safe territories. In fact, their long memory “is a big part of how elephants survive.”[vii]

It could be said that we are like elephants in that we don’t have great eyesight because we can’t often perceive our present circumstances, and much less our future, accurately. But then, like elephants, it becomes especially important for people to cultivate spiritual memory, a storehouse of God’s faithfulness that fosters an appreciation for our true hope in Christ, an appreciation that can last our entire lives.  When we experience God’s provision or recognize His goodness, we should “study” the experience, record our answers to prayer, rehearse the fulfillment of God’s promises so that we never lose sight of our ultimate hope in Christ. 

[i]Overcoming Anxiety, pg. 9

[ii]NYT article

[iii]ibid

[iv]https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

[v]https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/10/style/anxiety-is-the-new-depression-xanax.html

[vi]Bruner, John: A Commentary, 952.

[vii]James Ritchie, “Fact or Fiction? Elephants Never Forget,” Scientific American, January 12, 2009, accessed May 14, 2018, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/elephants-never-forget/.

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