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Worry: How can it be overcome?

Gary Googe Apr 07

As someone has said, “Worry is like a rocking chair… it gives you something to do, but it’s not getting you anywhere.”  But what does the Bible have to say about it?  Can it be overcome? The temptation to worry and worry itself is certainly something everyone has to deal with.  Therefore, in addressing it, let’s begin by looking at some basic questions about it.

Question #1:  What is worry?

Dictionaries define it as the mental activity of problems or unpleasant things that may happen in a way that makes us feel unhappy and frightened.  It is also defined as mental distress or agitation resulting from concern usually about something impending or anticipated.  Another word for it is anxiety.

Question #2:  Is worry a sin?

It is because it always expresses a lack of faith in our Lord.  Furthermore, it is a violation of a command of God.  The passage we’re about to look at tells us not only not to worry, but what we are promised if we’ll earnestly make our requests known to God in prayer.

Philippians 4:6-7 

Be careful for nothing [stop worrying about even one thing]; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. [Emphasis added]

Question #3:  What should our first step be to combat worry?

Prayer is always a good place to start.  We find that we are told to make prayer something that is ongoing in our lives.

I Thessalonians 5:17   

17 Pray without ceasing. [Emphasis added]          

As believers, we have to realize that we have access to God for prayer at all times.  Those prayers don’t need to be whining and complaining sessions, but times of thanksgiving and appreciation for the fact that we have an omnipotent God to help us with all our concerns.  Note the very next verse in that same passage.

18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. [Emphasis added]

Yes, it says, “in every thing!”  That’s because there’s no situation too big for God to address.  Furthermore, He’s in a position to turn the situation, whatever it is, for our blessing.  But please understand that we don’t need to be looking to God to “fix” the outcomes of our foolish decisions and actions.  That’s where more instruction comes into play.  We are to spend time daily learning from the word of God so we can become wise in our decision-making.  So many of the things that stimulate worry come because of our own bad decisions.  It is comforting to know that through the acquisition and application of God’s wisdom a lot of suffering can be avoided.  Furthermore, God’s word will direct us in how to deal effectively with many situations.

Question #4:  What should our attitude be in our praying?

Thanksgiving! Again, we go to our Philippians passage for the answer.

Philippians 4:6

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. [Emphasis added]

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep [guard] your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. [Emphasis added]

Worry is such a common problem that we find the apostle Paul addressing it in his first letter to the Thessalonians.

I Thessalonians 5:18

18 In every thing [every situation or circumstance] give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. [Emphasis added]

Question #5:  How is it possible to give thanks in all things?

Until we grow spiritually, we will always underestimate the power and influence of God in our lives.  We just don’t realize how involved God is in all our circumstances.  As responsive believers who are looking to Him for help and guidance, we can gain some knowledge that will prove to be extremely helpful in addressing worry and a lot of other things.  But the bottom line is always going to be that we are to know, and rest assured that God will work it all out for our good.  This next passage informs us of this wonderful promise and more.

Romans 8:28

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. [Emphasis added]

Now, going back to Philippians 4:6-7, please notice what this passage didn’t say.  It didn’t tell us that we’ll get whatever answer we’re desiring in our prayers.  Did it? No, it did not! But you will find passages of Scripture in the Bible that promise that the one praying will get whatever they request in prayer.  This leads us into our next question.

Question #7:  Aren’t we promised in Scripture that we will get whatever we ask for in prayer?

Let’s look at several passages that do make such a promise.  This first one was given by our Lord during His earthly ministry.

Matthew 21:22

22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.[Emphasis added]

Please notice that no conditions at all are set forth.  Question:  Have you seen such a response from God in your own prayer life thus far? No, you have not!  I can answer that for you.  Have you seen anyone else getting “whatsoever” they ask in prayer? Same answer! No, you have not.  Let’s look at another passage that makes a similar promise.  This one is in the book of Luke where he’s giving his account of our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount.

Luke 11:9-10

And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. [Emphasis added]

And here’s still another one in the writings of the apostle John with similar prayer promises.

John 14:13-14

13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

14If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. [Emphasis added]

Don’t some people claim that the reason such prayers are not answered today is to do with the lack of faith in the one praying? But how much faith did Christ say was needed for effectiveness in prayer?

Matthew 17:20

20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed (1-2 millimeters in size), ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

Question #8:  If there’s no one today getting everything they ask for in prayer, what is the problem?

The problem is that these promises were not given to us as members of the Body of Christ in the present Dispensation of The Grace of God.  They were given to believing Israel in the previous Dispensation of Law.  They were given during a time when the promised and prophesied Kingdom was being offered to Israel as something near at hand.  No such promises are given anywhere in the writings of our apostle, the apostle Paul.  Such promises were given to Israel and only to Israel.

Please bear in mind that even if you don’t believe what I’m saying and what the Scriptures teach, you’ll discover by experience that what I’m saying is true.

After this present Dispensation of Grace is complete, those promises will again be extended to believing Israel.  But until then, we, as members the Body of Christ have our own set of promises, but such prayer promises as these are not included.

Question #9:  What is God’s promise to us today concerning prayer.

We are told in Romans chapter eight that all the suffering on earth will someday be removed.  The curse that was placed on earth at the time of man’s first sin in Genesis will be finally removed.  Meanwhile we are told exactly what we can expect.  Various forms of suffering will always being a part of life until then.

Romans 8:26-28

26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. [Emphasis added]

Volumes have been written about this passage.  But the bottom line is that no matter what suffering comes your way, God will us it for your good.  He doesn’t promise to remove the suffering, but He does promise to make available the inner resources by which to cope with it.

There was a time when the great apostle Paul asked three times that the Lord remove a particular suffering from his life.  But please note what Paul tells us about how this went.  Please also note how Paul responded to the Lord’s answer.

II Corinthians 12:8-9

For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Knowing God is utilizing suffering to your advantage in your relationship with Him is a tremendous blessing.

Question #10:  What then is the key to freedom from worry today?

The key to freedom from worry has always been the same.  It is knowledge and utilization of God’s word in every circumstance.  Therefore, we’re talking about the great advantage that is gained by us when we learn to conduct our lives in the manner directed by God through the teaching He has given us.  Man’s fundamental problem has always been his rejection of the authority of God’s and His word.  That manifested itself in the Garden of Eden and it does the today as well.  Man’s suffering continues because fundamentally he’s a sinner wanting His own independent way.  The first step out of that is salvation by grace through faith in what God has provided in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.  By accepting that by faith as the means to salvation man is placed in a position to gain great blessing from God that he’ll get to enjoy throughout all eternity.

After salvation man’s next step is the process of growing up spiritually.

Question #11:  Did people in former times have some ability by which to address suffering that we don’t have today?

Yes, they were given what is called the baptism IN the Spirit.  That was different from our baptism OF the Spirit that we have today.  They were endued with power.

Luke 24:49

49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.[Emphasis added]

The apostles were given this power earlier on in our Lord’s earthly ministry.

John 20:21-23

21 Then said Jesus to them [the apostles] again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: [Emphasis added]

But on The Day of Pentecost, all those assembled received this special power.

Acts 2:4

And they were allfilled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. [Emphasis added]

This was quite unlike things are for us today.  In our time we are told, literally speaking, to be getting filled with the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 5:18

18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be [getting—present tense] filled with the Spirit; [Emphasis added]

In the coming earthly Kingdom, all God’s people will know His will and do His will.

Isaiah 11:8-9

And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den.

They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. [Emphasis added]

Now let’s go back to Paul’s teaching on all this.

Philippians 4:6-7

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

Notice what he says we can then expect?

And the peace of God, which passeth [Greek word–HUPERECHO—Lit. to have over – to surpass] all understanding [Greek word–NOUS], shall keep [Greek word–PHROUREO—To keep or protect as with a military guard] your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. [Emphasis added]

Question #12:  Can we expect God to ever give us what we request?

Yes! Sometimes God’s people get exactly what they request.  But bear in mind that a no in answer to a prayer request is just as much an answer as a yes.  The comforting thing to know is that however God answers our prayers is going to be exactly what we need, even if it’s not what we want.  Just always remember that God loves us as His people.  His desire for our well-being is even greater than our own.

Always realize that so very much of the suffering that comes our way is by our own doing.   So many of the sources of worry that come our way are self-induced.  We so often bring these things on ourselves.  Decisions, good or bad, always have consequences.  Therefore, we all have what is called volitional responsibility to face.  That’s why God is gracious to warn us about this.

Galatians 6:7-8

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. [Emphasis added]

Therefore, we should work hard at learning God’s word to gain His wisdom for our decision-making.

Psalm 119:104-105

104 Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.

105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. [Emphasis added]

II Timothy 2:15

15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

II Timothy 3:16-17

16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. [Emphasis added]

Romans 15:4

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

Matthew 4:4

But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

I hope you’ll resolve to invest some time every day to read and study God’s word.  It has been provided and preserved for your blessing.  Never be so foolish as to neglect it and somehow thing you don’t have an ongoing need for it.  Everyone does! For not until we check into heaven as believers will the sources for worry no longer be a part of our lives.

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