Anxiety is Sin

April 22, 2016

Hello Church,

I pray this letter finds you well and that you are reveling in the reality of God’s all-sufficient grace given through our Supreme Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. How would you describe our world? If you had to depict the current cultural climate in one word what would it be? You might choose words like immoral, independent, tolerant, depressed, frustrated, bitter, or even angry. While all of these words could be used to paint an accurate portrait of the world in which we live, there is another reality that undeniably inundates all of our lives in one way or another. Sadly, the invisible shackles of this debilitating experience have our world enslaved and subtly seek to imprison the lives of all believers. I am talking about the reality of anxiety. Walking through life along a path of worry, and having the anxious heart that comes with it, is a real issue for many people. I am not talking about the natural and healthy fear that keeps you from walking too close to the edge of the cliff. We are talking about the anxiety and fear that overtakes your life, clouds your sight, and controls your mind, so that you cannot think about or do anything but worry.

Church, you know that life is hard and often filled with personal pain, emotional disappointment, relational division, and familial disasters. You also know that as believers we travel a trail often marked by uncertainty. We often struggle to see or know what is around the next bend or how God is going to bring His good out of the current tragedy of my life. Thus, every believer faces this fact every day in some way; will he trust or will he worry! While I long to preach on this most important topic, and know I will in the future, I am compelled to say a few words about it today to further help equip us as we seek to live as those marked by a lively faith and not an anxious heart, as those driven by trust in God and not worry for this world or anything in it. I am confident that I will not be able to say all that needs to be said on this topic today, so let me start by explaining a few critical truths about anxiety, and then I will give you some Scriptures for dealing with it.

Anxiety is Sin

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First, Jesus Christ made it explicitly clear that worry and anxiety are sin when He commanded against it using the word for anxiety six different times in one passage alone (Mt 6:25-34). Furthermore, personal fear is a byproduct of anxiety, and Jesus commanded against that multiple times in the Gospels (Mt 10:31; Lk12:7). Paul makes the command to be anxious for nothing undeniably clear (Phil 4:6), and Peter demands of the suffering saints to whom he wrote that they stop holding onto their concerns and cast them at the feet of Christ (1 Pet 5:7). Now, let me explain the two reasons why anxiety is a sin: first, because it flows from distrust in God (Mt 6:24-34). The opposite of trust and faith is worry and anxiety. Yet, the Bible calls us to live by faith (Prov 3:5-6; Hab 2:4; Rom 1:17). The second reason anxiety is a sin is because it is a lack of acceptance of God’s perfect providence in my life (Mt 6:25-34; 7:7-11; 10:29-31; Rom 8:28-30). God has promised and will provide all of our needs and has orchestrated all the events of this world, including those surrounding your personal life for His glory (Eph 1:11). The question is not what will He do, but how will I respond to all that God is doing (Job 1:20-22).

Anxiety is Answered in the Scriptures

Second, let me say it with all the passion that I can, God’s Word gives us answers to this most troubling problem of anxiety. The Bible declares the blessing that in Christ we can have complete and lasting peace no matter the problems we might face (Rom 5:1-5)! What a blessing to know that God controls all of life including every detail for His glory and the good of those who love Him (Rom 8:28-30)! How encouraging to know that my life is hidden in Christ (Col 3:1-4) and held in the Father’s hand so that nothing can happen to me without His sovereign permission and sufficient protection (Jn 10:27-30)! How encouraging amidst the temptation of anxiety to know that I am never alone, that nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ (Rom 8:31-39)! Below you will find a few more verses and how to use them in fighting against anxiety. I pray these will be helpful in both pointing you to the sufficient Scriptures, and helping you lean more on the Lord and less on your feelings.

1. Matt 6:25-34: This passage gives clear commands about not worrying and why, because God will provide all our needs! This passage exclaims both God’s personal faithfulness and great sovereign orchestration over everything, including small birds and minuscule flowers. If God demonstrates such tender loving care for flowers and birds, how much will He care for man who is the crown jewel of His creation? Moreover, this passage gives a very clear command and helpful tool in dealing with anxiety as you learn to focus on, strive for, and seek the Kingdom of God. This helps turn your eyes away from this world and all its worries as you look to the Lord and revel in all His glory!

2. Phil 4:6-7: Clear command about not being anxious and what to do when you are feeling anxious. Pray to God and bring Him your concerns trusting He knows best, and rejoice because He does! Prayer is one of the greatest weapons against worry as you go to God in total dependence, which further helps destroy anxiety that flows from a sense of independence. Rejoicing is another way to fight against anxiety as you praise God for who He is and what He has already done in and through Christ. This helps you focus on the awesome facts of God and salvation, and not the fickle feelings that often surround our world and life circumstances. Knowing God’s Word, Praying to God, Rejoicing in God, leads to Trusting in Him, which will ultimately bring peace that will guard your heart, your thoughts, and thus your feelings.

3. 1 Pet 5:6-7: Clear command on how we must cast our cares, worries, and concerns upon the Lord because He truly cares for us and knows how to best protect and provide for us. This verse is in the context of humility. Thus, when anxiety hits, humility is greatly needed so that we run to Christ and not our own ingenuity or intelligence in dealing with our worries or problems. Often times we wrestle with anxiety because we do not know what to do. However, the Bible commands us to stop wrestling with our concerns and start casting them upon the only One who truly knows what to do and has all the power to do it!

4. 2 Cor 12:9: A great verse and passage to help in dealing with worry, problems, and pain. Paul was facing the potential onslaught of great anxiety as his persistent problem, “A thorn in the flesh,” would not go away, and it was causing him great pain. What would he do about? He took it to God in prayer (previous two verses), and God reassured Paul of His sufficient grace that would hold Paul and help Paul through all that Paul would face! In Christ, every believer has that same sufficient grace to deal with anything life hands us as we surrender all that we are and all that we have to Christ. A life that has real peace amidst real pressure and anxiety is one that has learned, and continues to learn, how to live in and through Christ rather than in our own strength (2 Cor 12:10)!

5. Rom 8:28: One of the most comforting Scriptures in all the Bible for the believer. This verse is set in a context of suffering and pain. Thus, all true believers have hope when all seems hopeless that God is always at work for His ultimate glory and our final good. What a blessing!

6. Rom 8:35-39: One of the biggest lies of anxiety is that you are alone. Yet, for the believer the Bible declares emphatically that nothing can separate us from the Love of God in Christ…NOTHING! Facing and fighting anxiety is learning to focus on the facts of Scripture and not the feelings that inundate my life!

7. Ps 73:23-26: Another lie of anxiety is that God is not enough and that we need something more than He can offer. However, the truth of God’s Word redirects our fickle hearts as we learn that God is all I need, and as I follow and run to Him for refuge, I have all that could ever be! This is a great passage as Asaph was anxious over the prosperity of the wicked and almost slipped away in great despair, but he rested in God’s personal care and good providence. This reality of who God is as a personal protector and provider gave him great comfort amidst his great concern.

8. Ps 94:18-19: Here the Psalmist, like Asaph before, was anxious over the fact that the wicked have yet to be judged, but the righteous continue to be abused. He cries out to the Lord “How long O Lord!” However, when his foot was about to slip, he remembered the steadfast love of the Lord and the sovereign providence of God that actually was holding him and protecting him from slipping! Then he cries out with great praise “When the cares of my heart are many, Your consolations cheer my soul.” The God of that Psalmist is the same God of every believer in Jesus Christ, and thus we find the same comfort in our personal cares knowing that He will never leave us nor forsake us and will always take care of us (Heb 13:5)!

9. Ps 121:1-2: This is a great Psalm and one I will often read while visiting someone in the hospital. Why? Because the promise of this passage(vss.3,6-8) rest upon the unchanging character (vs.4) and power of God who made heaven and earth (vss.1-2). There is nothing I need that God cannot supply! If He who made the heavens and the earth by simply saying a word is the same God who watches over my life (Gen 1:1; Heb 1:3), how much more can He supply what is lacking in my life or deal with whatever is buffeting my life!

9. Lam 3:21-24: Here is one of the greatest passages on suffering and anxiety as Jeremiah was so anxious over the destruction of Jerusalem, which was happening before his very eyes, he was about to have a complete nervous and life breakdown (3:20). He had lost all hope for living life (3:16-18). What would he do? He remembered the Lord and all His loving kindness that no one could take away no matter how bad it seemed! Jeremiah learned to focus on the Lord, and though he was losing, and had already lost a lot in the world, he did not, nor would he ever, lose the love and faithfulness of his God!

10: Col 3:2: I end with a verse from Colossians because that is where we are as a church, and I thought it would be fitting. As I have explained multiple times Sunday mornings while preaching the context of this letter, it is set in a context of potentially great anxiety. Structural demise of their city because of the earthquake; financial demise of their city because of the new road that took commerce away from their city; spiritual demise as false teachers were now teaching that Christ was not enough, which meant they really did not have complete hope as they were lacking something! Yet, what Paul does is help them get their eyes off of themselves and the false teachers and look to the supreme and sufficient Christ! The massive truth of chapters 1-2 have direct application and correlation in how all believers should live their lives in a world marked by much anxiety.

Therefore, in chapter three Paul gives this simple command that has profound implications when dealing with anxiety, worry, stress, and many other issues this life can bring! So many of our struggles in this life are byproducts of not letting go of this life and living for the life to come! Often times we have our hearts in this world while trying to put our feet in the world to come, heaven. Yet, this verse and many others teach us to do the opposite. We are supposed to have our hearts, desires, minds, and even our passion in the eternal, heavenly, world to come where Christ is, while we live out our days to the glory of God in this temporal world that is fleeting and fading. An eternal perspective is one of the greatest weapons against anxiety (2 Cor 4:16-18)!

I hope this was as helpful for you in dealing with the worry that assaults your life as it was for me in dealing with all of my ungodly fear. Please know that I look forward to worshipping with you on Sunday as we grow together in the grace and knowledge of Christ. We will be considering the heart of the servant Paul and will be learning many good lessons on what true Christ-like service looks like.

Praising God for His Sustaining Providence,

Pastor Matt

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