Philippians 4:6-9 (NIV ) 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. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
This passage of scripture tells us to pray and not worry about anything, and when we do God will give us peace. That sounds great but we need to be able to keep that peace until God answers our prayers. That’s very hard when the things we are trying to not worry about are things that can have very negative impacts on our lives.
We need the help of the Holy Spirit to get our thinking straight. There’s too much going on in that brain of ours. We can’t think two or more things at the same time. When we try to do that we become anxious, we’re being pulled in multiple directions -- toward "good" thoughts or toward "bad" thoughts. We can’t think straight or make a decision we become, anxious, and do nothing.
What we need to do is to start thinking about something other than ourselves and our current situations. When we think about things that are; true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy, the result is praise instead of anxiety and fear.
Max Lucado in his book Anxious For Nothing gives us an example of what happens when we change our thinking.
Think About What You Think About
by Max Lucado
In her short thirteen years Rebecca Taylor has endured more than fifty-five surgeries and medical procedures and approximately one thousand days in the hospital.
Christyn, Rebecca’s mom, talks about her daughter’s health complications with the ease of a surgeon. The vocabulary of most moms includes phrases such as “cafeteria food,” “slumber party,” and “too much time on the phone.” Christyn knows this language, but she’s equally fluent in the vernacular of blood cells, stents, and, most recently, a hemorrhagic stroke.
In her blog she wrote:
This past week’s new land mine was the phrase “possible hemorrhagic stroke,” a phrase I heard dozens of times used by numerous physicians. Over and over and over that phrase filled my mind and consumed my thoughts. It was emotionally crippling.
This past Sunday our preacher, Max Lucado, started a very fitting series on anxiety. We reviewed the familiar Philippians 4:6 verse: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
I presented my requests to the Lord as I had so many times before, but this time, THIS time, I needed more. And so, using Philippians 4:8-9 as a guide, I found my answer:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true...” What was true in my life at this particular moment? The blessing of all family members eating dinner together.
“Whatever is noble.” The blessing of enjoying each other’s presence outside of a hospital room.
“Whatever is right.” The blessing of experiencing my two sons’ daily lives.
“Whatever is pure.” The blessing of all three children laughing and playing with each other.
“Whatever is lovely.” The blessing of watching Rebecca sleep peacefully in her bed at night.
“Whatever is admirable.” The blessing of an honorable team working tirelessly on Rebecca’s care.
“If anything is excellent.” The blessing of watching a miracle unfold.
“Or praiseworthy.” The blessing of worshiping a Lord who is worthy to be praised.
“Think about such things.”
I did. As I meditated on these things, I stopped the dreaded phrase “hemorrhagic stroke” from sucking any joy out of my life. Its power to produce anxiety was now rendered impotent. And when I dwelt on the bountiful blessings in my life happening AT THAT VERY MOMENT, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,” DID guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus. A true, unexpected miracle. Thank You, Lord.
Did you note what Christyn did? The words hemorrhagic stroke hovered over her life like a thundercloud. Yet she stopped the dreaded phrase from sucking joy out of her life.
She did so by practicing thought management. You probably know this, but in case you don’t, I am so thrilled to give you the good news: you can pick what you ponder.
You didn’t select your birthplace or birth date. You didn’t choose your parents or siblings. You don’t determine the weather or the amount of salt in the ocean. There are many things in life over which you have no choice. But the greatest activity of life is well within your dominion.
You can choose what you think about.
For that reason the wise man urges,
Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life. — Proverbs 4:23 NCV
Do you want to be happy tomorrow? Then sow seeds of happiness today. (Count blessings. Memorize Bible verses. Pray. Sing hymns. Spend time with encouraging people.) Do you want to guarantee tomorrow’s misery? Then wallow in a mental mud pit of self-pity or guilt or anxiety today. (Assume the worst. Beat yourself up. Rehearse your regrets. Complain to complainers.) Thoughts have consequences.
Healing from anxiety requires healthy thinking. Your challenge is not your challenge. Your challenge is the way you think about your challenge. Your problem is not your problem; it is the way you look at it.
Satan knows this. The devil is always messing with our minds.
He comes as a thief, with the sole intention of stealing and killing and destroying. — John 10:10 (Phillips Bible)
He brings only gloom and doom. By the time he was finished with Job, the man was sick and alone. By the time he had done his work in Judas, the disciple had given up on life. The devil is to hope what termites are to an oak; he’ll chew you up from the inside.
He will lead you to a sunless place and leave you there. He seeks to convince you this world has no window, no possibility of light. Exaggerated, overstated, inflated, irrational thoughts are the devil’s specialty.
No one will ever love me. It’s all over for me. Everyone is against me. I’ll never lose weight, get out of debt, or have friends.
What lugubrious, monstrous lies!
No problem is unsolvable. No life is irredeemable. No one’s fate is sealed. No one is unloved or unlovable.
Your challenge is the way you think about your challenge.
But Satan wants us to think we are. He wants to leave us in a swarm of anxious, negative thoughts.
Satan is the master of deceit. But he is not the master of your mind. You have a power he cannot defeat. You have God on your side.
So fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. — Philippians 4:8 NLT
The transliteration of the Greek word, here rendered as fix, is logizomai. Do you see the root of an English word in the Greek one? Yes, logic. Paul’s point is simple: anxiety is best faced with clearheaded, logical thinking.
Turns out that our most valuable weapon against anxiety weighs less than three pounds and sits between our ears. Think about what you think about!
Here is how it works. You receive a call from the doctor’s office. The message is simple and unwelcome. “The doctor has reviewed your tests and would like you to come into the office for a consultation.”
As quickly as you can say “uh-oh,” you have a choice: anxiety or trust.
“I’m in trouble. Why does God let bad things happen to me? Am I being punished? I must have done something wrong.”
“These things never turn out right. My family has a history of tragedy. It’s my turn. I probably have cancer, arthritis, jaundice. Am I going blind? My eyes have been blurry lately. Is this a brain tumor?”
“Who will raise the kids? Who will pay the medical bills? I’m going to die broke and lonely. I’m too young for this tragedy! No one can understand me or help me.”
If you aren’t already sick, you will be by the time you go to the doctor’s office.
Anxiety weighs down the human heart. — Proverbs 12:25 NRSV
But there is a better way.
Before you call your mom, spouse, neighbor, or friend, call on God. Invite him to speak to the problem.
Capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ. — 2 Corinthians 10:5 NCV
Slap handcuffs on the culprit, and march it before the One who has all authority: Jesus Christ.
Jesus, this anxious, negative thought just wormed its way into my mind. Is it from You?
Jesus, who speaks nothing but the truth, says, “No, get away from here, Satan.” And as the discerning, sober-minded air traffic controller of your mind, you refuse to let the thought have the time of day.
Lay claim to every biblical promise you can remember, and set out to learn a few more. Grip them for the life preservers they are. Give Satan no quarter. Give his lies no welcome.
Fasten the belt of truth around your waist. — Ephesians 6:14 NRSV
Resist the urge to exaggerate, overstate, or amplify. Focus on the facts, nothing more. The fact is, the doctor has called. The fact is, his news will be good or bad. For all you know, he may want you to be a poster child of good health. All you can do is pray and trust.
So you do. You enter the doctor’s office, not heavied by worry, but buoyed by faith.
Which do you prefer?
Christyn Taylor discovered calmness. Recently she and her family went back to Rebecca’s doctors in Minnesota. Seven months earlier Rebecca was barely surviving. Now, one day before her thirteenth birthday, Rebecca was vibrant and full of life. She had gained a remarkable thirty pounds. Her health was improving. She was named the hospital’s “walking miracle.”
Christyn wrote: “I watched these interactions with a silent sense of awe. It is easy to praise God during seasons of wellness. But it was during my greatest distress when I felt the Lord’s presence poured upon me. And it was in those heartbreaking moments I learned to trust this God who provided unimaginable strength during unimaginable pain.”
He will help you as well, my friend. Guard your thoughts and trust your Father.
Excerpted with permission fromAnxious for Nothing by Max Lucado, copyright Max Lucado.
This blog is for you! If you have any questions or topics you would like me to address please use the comments section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.