Anxious for Nothing Week 4

Talk it Over 4/26/20

Recap: This week we learned how to CALM our hearts by Meditation.  Biblical meditation is not a mystical concept at all…instead it has to do with what we purpose to think about.  In Philippians 4:8 the apostle Paul gives us a good list to start with for biblical meditation. Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, etc…We also observed in the book of Joshua, God’s instructions to meditate on God’s Word day and night as the instruction that God’s favor would go with the people of Israel.  Pastor Josh made this observation: Is it possible that the outcome of the mental battle predicts the outcome of the physical battle?

Scripture Reference: Philippians 4:8

Icebreaker: Are you a planner or are you more spontaneous?

Discussion Starter: What is the best and worst trait you inherited from your parents?

Focus Questions:

  1. We all experience anxiety – a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease – from time to time. What is a situation that caused you anxiety?
  2. Where do you think negative thoughts come from and what is their purpose?
  3. Do you believe we have controls over our thoughts? Or do you feel we are more or less at the mercy of whatever comes to our mind?
  4. What are some practical and tangible ways we can deal with a negative thought? (I.e., Catch the thought then say out loud “no thanks, I choose not to engage in these negative thoughts.”; Reframe the thought in a positive way and state that outloud; Start writing out what is good and true; Stop in your tracks and pray, etc.)
  5. We are clearly directed to “meditate on God’s Word” – but what does that look like to you? Where do you meditate on His Word? How long does it take you? What do you do while you’re doing it?
  6. How can the easy accessibility of the Bible (online, apps, etc.) distract us from taking time to meditate on God’s Word? Why is it important to have a physical Bible and read it with no distractions?
  7. Why would we want to ask questions like “Why is this passage important?” “What do I need to know?” “What does it say about God?” “What does it say about me?” when we meditate on God’s Word? Why is just reading the passage not enough? 
  8. What are some things you spend time doing that are not true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy? (I.e., tv, movies, news, social media, relationships, habits)How are these things adding to your anxiety and negative thoughts? Are you ready to remove these things completely? Or would you rather convince yourself they’re not that bad or you just need to limit things a little bit?

 

Digging Deeper:

Care to go deeper into the series and questions? Here are some helpful thoughts and readings to continue to bring the sermon with you throughout the week. 

We started this series of CALM with celebrating, asking, listing, and now finally meditating. They are all verbs-things we have to do, but they are so much more than a task to check off. All of these action items hold the key to life and death: words (Proverbs 18:21). In John 1 Jesus Himself is referred to as the Word. Everything came into being through Him as Genesis supports with God speaking time, life, and the world into existence. God didn’t leave us a statue to remind us how much He loves and wants to reveal Himself to us, He left us words. Jesus didn’t slap demons out of people, He spoke them out (Mat. 8:28-34). He didn’t stop people from stoning a woman for adultery by beating them with a stick, He wrote words in the sand (John 8:1-11). He didn’t escape His boat being destroyed on the Sea of Galilee in a horrific storm by paddling faster, He spoke (Mark 4:35-41). All these examples and countless more solidify that words truly are the most powerful tools in the seen and unseen world.

God and us are not the only ones to know this power though. They were the first weapon of choice by the enemy and unfortunately succeeded in that battle. Satan didn’t stop there though. No, he was just beginning his war on words. He fights it every single day in our 30,000+ thoughts by causing 75 to 98 percent of mental, physical, and behavioral illnesses to come from our thought life*. He’s not kidding around and he’s out to destroy us from the inside out. It’s time we fight back.

So he can throw words, lies, fiery darts at us. Awesome. Cute otter cuddly feeling leaves the picture right about now and we feel overwhelmed, helpless, and exposed. But God gave us something from the beginning that yes, got us in trouble, but is now an incredible tool in this war-the ability to choose what and who we are going to believe. To understand how to fight we need to go back to the garden where words and thoughts were the first things to cause our downfall.

Three sentences occur in Genesis that prove words can change the seen and unseen world. It’s interesting that in the third chapter Satan begins the most epic battle of all time by slightly changing the wording of God’s command, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”. He wasn’t questioning God, he was testing Eve to see if she truly knew His Word. Finding the hole in her armor. She misquotes God in the following verse saying,”We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ God didn’t say that. He said if they ate of it they would die (Genesis 2:17). So Satan jumps on this gap in Eve’s knowledge of His Word and actually mixes the truth with a lie now that he sees the exposed area of her armor. “You will not surely die.” Truth. Eve will not die if she touches the fruit and he knows that if she finds out she won’t die by touching it then she will eat it. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The lie is that Eve will become equivalent to God, but it’s masterfully mixed in with a whole lot of truth. Eve still has a choice to abruptly end this conversation and walk away, but Satan’s words convince her to change her entire perspective of the fruit as a deadly thing into something that is “good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom”. She touches it and doesn’t die so the snake must be right and she can eat it! A decision is made and God’s stopwatch to sending Jesus to make this wrong decision right begins echoing in Heaven.

It’s interesting that in 1 Peter 5:8 our “adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”and yet his first appearance is as a smooth talking snake. He’s not usually abrupt as seen in Job 1 & 2.  He didn’t run up to God and demand that Job be destroyed; he slyly questioned, caused room for doubt for all onlookers of their conversation. That’s all he can do right? Make a lie get so close to truth that it must be right, ask questions to change our perspective of a situation so our pride is filled and God is wrong, or confirm lies we’ve heard throughout our lives with the words of others. He doesn’t need to do more to destroy you than find your weak areas of armor in knowing God’s truth. He just starts the ball rolling with some words and his job is done. He knows we will keep swinging at pop up gophers if our perspective says they are the real issue instead of him who’s whispering the questions and lies. We are no longer a threat to the population of Hell rising because we aren’t fighting him, we’re fighting ourselves like a dog chasing our own tail or we’re fighting God Himself in our doubts.

So, we have a battle plan to make. We have missions to fulfill. Lives to save. Joy to be spread because someone died for us to be free and to not return to a yolk of slavery (Galatians 5:1). 

First, we HAVE to pick up the sword of the Spirit aka the Bible. There is no substitute. There are no pastors, teachers, mentors, parents, podcasts, books, conferences, churches, friends…nothing that is going to replace the Bible’s impact in your life. All of those listed are incredible tools to understand it and navigate it, but they do not replace it. Meditate on it with post it notes around the house, wood signs, phone apps, anything, but get the Word in your most popular visual areas. Those verses become the filter through which you put the emotions you’re feeling. We have to identify the emotion to start tracing back where this is coming from. Who told us that? (Gen. 3:11).Here’s an example-

My daughter, who’s 5, will run with an emotion like it’s rock solid truth so to help her I abruptly ask a few simple questions. One, what is making you feel this way? Two, do those things you listed have the power of truth? Three, you may be feeling this, but what is the truth you should act on? So, with the first question I add validity to her emotions because stuffing events that affect her is a very damaging practice. Second, I begin to filter that list creating the emotion through what she knows of the Scripture. The items on the list that are not what the Bible says can now be identified; the lie is having light shown on it. Some may feel there is shame or embarrassment in this step when in reality, 100% of the time there is freedom in seeing that something is a lie. The final step is the actual renewing of her mind to become like Christ (1 Cor. 2:16). By being able to filter truth from lies using the Word, she is strengthened in her choices of how to move forward and her perspectives change on the situation. Her mind is renewed (Romans 12:2).

Second, pick up that helmet of salvation and know you are worthy to put it on. Your identity is tied in that helmet. You are the one that Jesus came for, the one God roars from Heaven and reaches down to take hold of and place in a spacious place because He delights in you (Psalm 18). Romans 8:1 confirms that shame is not our helmet by saying, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We can protect our minds because we are saved and now have the ability, through our salvation, to be free! If you don’t feel that freedom at the heart level….ask. Ask God to reveal it to you through His Word, other people, or experiences. Specifically ask for His intervention in this area of your life. 

Finally, pick up your shield of faith. At the beginning, it’ll feel heavy, cumbersome, or even embarrassing. Your testimony will build your faith and to construct a testimony you have to remember what God has done for you and brought you out of or to. Think back and find Him in the story. Start your search with that list of thankfulness as that will bring His presence in different situations to light where you didn’t see Him before. Who would you be without Him today? Revelation 12:11 tells us that, “They (Christians) triumphed over him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” Many Psalms begin with a negative narrative that just keep spiraling down until the author abruptly stops and refers to how he will remember God’s good works in his life and his people’s (Psalm 77). That abrupt interruption stops the spiral and the rest of the Psalm gives off an aroma of freedom, praise, and strength. The author usually ends with a completely different perspective on his situation compared to his first sentence. 

We were given these tools the moment we confessed with our mouth that Jesus is Lord of our lives (Romans 10:9), but it can take a lifetime to master picking up and using them. In Ephesians 6:13 Paul warns us by saying, “This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.” Give yourself grace yet accountability in being prepared for the attacks to come on your mind. Use the tool of community or mentorship to set up accountability that isn’t shaming, but encouraging your freedom in Christ; lathered in grace and mercy but potent enough to move you toward action in your battles.

Let’s Be Honest….

  1. Where are you with Jesus in knowing your testimony with Him? If you wrote a book about you and Jesus what would it say? Write it out for yourself and the next generation to know what Jesus can do!
  2. Be honest, what percentage are you personally pursuing gaining knowledge about the Bible? What would the next level look like for you to know more of the Word?
  3. God cares where your words come from because He knows their power. He didn’t berate Adam and Eve, He asked them questions. Among others He said, “Who told you that?” (Genesis 3:11). So, ask yourself everyday where that thought spiral is rooting…who is telling you that?
    • Where is what you believe about God coming from, about yourself, about the world?
    • What is the hardest root to dig up that spirals your thoughts quickly? Sets off an emotion the fastest? What’s your battle plan and who are you going to tell for accountability?
  4. What is one thought spiral about another person or situation that you confess you are having a really hard time letting go of due to anger? Validate the emotion. Fill out the Mind Map pdf found below followed by a Name the Lies pdf. When the spiral happens do you feel free or slightly defeated/tired?
  5. Do you have someone in your life that may be farther along in spiritual maturity or Biblical knowledge that can help you remember your freedom and how to walk in it when times are tough? If not, pray and ask God to bring someone.

Credits & Resources:

Get Out of Your Head: Stopping the Spiral of Toxic Thoughts by Jennie Allen

Mind Map to take thoughts captive:

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5c3df22545776e69d96e1e01/t/5e0916cfe3302c0f49cde882/1577653971572/GOOYH+Mind+Map.pdf

Naming the Lies worksheet:

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5c3df22545776e69d96e1e01/t/5e09175c1b797629a190ced9/1577654109422/GOOYH+Naming+the+Lies.pdf

*Dr. Caroline Leaf, Switch on Your Brain Everyday: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015)