Are you a worrier? Some of us are such natural born worriers that we worry if we don’t have something to worry about.
It is estimated that nearly 40 million adults in America suffer from some kind of anxiety disorder. A certain amount of anxiety is normal whenever we encounter a stressful situation; however, we cannot allow that anxiety and worry to control us. According to one medical resource, anxiety disorders can cause our body to produce abnormal amounts of stress hormones which will boost the body’s production of blood sugar and triglycerides which can lead to illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. Often we worry about something that might harm us, when in reality it could be the effects of our anxiety that does us the most damage.
Jesus spoke often on the subject of worry and stress. Listen to a part of one of His sermons.
Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. NIV
What is Jesus saying?
1. Worry isn’t productive
You can’t add a single hour to your life by worrying about it. Possibly you might take an hour off of your life by worrying. Worrying about a problem doesn’t solve the problem. Worrying might actually keep us from finding a solution. Worrying isn’t productive.
2. Worry says to God, “You don’t care”
Jesus said that the nonbelievers worry about who’s going to take care of them. Believers should trust in their heavenly Father. Perhaps you will remember some of my message from last week when the disciples were in the terrible storm at sea and Jesus was asleep in the back of the boat. The Bible says that the disciples awoke Jesus by saying, “Master, don’t you care if we drown?” That’s the way we feel sometimes, isn’t it? A storm comes into our lives and the first thing that pops into our mind is that God doesn’t care. If He did care, He wouldn’t let this happen. I have no doubt that Satan puts a lot of those thoughts into our minds. If he doesn’t put them there, he sure plays off of them.
What are we supposed to do with our worry and cares? Consider this great story from the Old Testament.
2 Chronicles 20:1 It came to pass after this also, that the children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and with them other beside the Ammonites, came against Jehoshaphat to battle. 2 Then there came some that told Jehoshaphat, saying, There cometh a great multitude against thee from beyond the sea on this side Syria; and, behold, they be in Haz-a-zon Tamar, which is Engedi.
Rather than worrying about our problems, we are to take them to God and ask for His help. Peter tells us-
1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
As the old song says, “Take your burdens to the Lord and leave them there.”
I. The Power of Prayer
A. The Temptation to Worry
Don’t you just love those people who think it’s their job to always remind you of all the problems? “I don’t know if you know it or not, but you’re in bad trouble.” As I think about this, my mind goes to the story of Job. As you well know, Job was a leading player in a spiritual contest between God and Satan. Satan said that if God stopped blessing Job, he would turn against God. God said he wouldn’t. And so the battle began. First Satan took away Job’s possessions; yet Job remained strong. Then Satan took away Job’s family and still Job remained focused. Even when Satan took away Job’s health, the Bible says, “In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” Job continued to pass the test. Finally Satan pulled one last card from up his sleeve. Satan sent Job’s friends to him to give him some spiritual advice. Though Job remained strong after the loss of everything he owned and loved, he nearly gave up because of the negative words of his friends.
Some men came to Jehoshaphat and said, “A great army is marching against Jerusalem.” What should Jehoshaphat have done with that bit of information? It would have been foolish to ignore it. God was allowing this army to come against him and therefore the Lord was expecting some kind of reaction from Jehoshaphat.
Notice Jehoshaphat’s first reaction.
2 Chronicles 20:3 And Jehoshaphat feared…
His first reaction was fear. That’s normal. Jesus prayed for the cup to pass from Him. Paul prayed for the thorn to be removed. It’s only normal to at first react with some fear and anxiety. But then, after we have had time to step back from the problem and process it, what should we do? What should be our reaction after we’ve had a little time to get past our human emotions? Notice what the Bible says Jehoshaphat did.
B. The Determination to Trust God
2 Chronicles 20:3 And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD…
I use the phrase ‘determination to trust God’ because sometimes that’s just what it takes – grit and determination. Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”(Job 13:35) If you put that verse in its original context, you will see that Job was saying, “Though it might look like God is against me, I will still trust Him to do what is right.” One of my favorite lines in a song says, “When you can’t trace His hand, trust His heart.” Sometimes all we can do at the moment is trust in the goodness of God, and that He will always do what is right.
Sometimes trusting God is a battle; it’s war; it’s a fight against Satan and the forces of evil who are doing everything they can to cause us to fear and panic. During such times the believer has two great weapons. His first weapon is the power of prayer.
2 Chronicles 20:3 And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. 4 And Judah gathered themselves together, to ask help of the LORD: even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.
The Apostle Paul believed in the power of prayer to win out in the war against worry.
Philippians 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
Many of your translations say: “Do not be anxious…”, or “Do not worry….” The King James used the word ‘careful.’ The word ‘careful’ comes from two words: care and full. To be careful is to be full of care. Jesus used this word when He said, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things…” (LK 10:41) David helps us to understand what it means to be troubled and full of care.
Psalm 42:5 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me?
To be ‘cast down’ means that we’re down in the dumps. We’ve lost heart. ‘Why art thou disquieted’ means to be deeply troubled or agitated. In another place this word is used as “in an uproar.” It’s also translated as: loud, clamorous, raging, and tumultuous. You get the picture. To be trouble and full of care is to be totally discouraged and upset.
Sometimes our first reactions to a storm may be panic or fear. But after we have had some time to step back and process it, our fear should begin to be replaced with our faith.
Philippians 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
Paul tells us that instead of panicking, we should pray. How should we pray?
1. We Should Come Near to God
What did Jehoshaphat do when he heard the news that there were enemy armies marching towards Jerusalem? The Bible says that he and all the people of the land began to pray. Jehoshaphat began to fast as he prayed and he encouraged the people to do the same. The Bible says that people left their homes and came to Jerusalem in order to gather together for prayer.
2 Chronicles 20:13 – And all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.
Entire families gathered together in front of the Temple to pray. Imagine what might happen if all the Christian families in America would gather together and pray. Imagine thousands of families, perhaps even a million or more, gathered together and on their knees before God in Washington, D.C.; and rather than protesting, they were praying. What would happen? How would God respond to such humility and obedience?
Do you know why Jehoshaphat and all the people of Judah were praying? They were claiming a promise God made to King Solomon.
2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14 is a part of promise that God made to Solomon and His people, that during a time of crisis, if the people would turn from their sins and back to God, God would respond by working in their behalf.
I remember one time in my life when this came close to happening. It was on a Wednesday evening, September 12, 2001. It was the day after 9/11. It was in a moment when we were not sure what was going to happen to us and our country. That was without a doubt the largest crowd we ever had on a Wednesday night.
How should we pray during a time of trouble? We should near to God, and we should come clean with God.
2. We Should Clean With God
2 Chronicles 20:5 And Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court, 6 And said, O LORD God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? And rulest not thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? And in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee?
There were three important parts to Jehoshaphat’s prayer:
1. You Alone Are ‘the One True’ God
“…art not thou God in heaven? And rulest not thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? And in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee?”
2. You Alone Are ‘Our Only’ God
2 Chronicles 20:7 Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend forever? 8 And they dwelt therein, and have built thee a sanctuary therein for thy name, saying, 9 If, when evil cometh upon us, as the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house, and in thy presence, (for thy name is in this house,) and cry unto thee in our affliction, then thou wilt hear and help.
Note once again that Jehoshaphat is claiming the promise God made to Solomon. “When evil comes upon us… if we will cry unto thee in our affliction…then thou wilt hear and help.”
3. You Alone Are ‘Our Only’ Hope
‘Casting all your care upon God’ literally means – placing it upon His shoulders. “Here it is God. I can’t handle it on my own. I need You to help me.” Jehoshaphat prayed:
2 Chronicles 20:10 And now, behold, the children of Ammon and Moab and mount Seir, whom thou wouldest not let Israel invade, when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them, and destroyed them not; 11 Behold, I say, how they reward us, to come to cast us out of thy possession, which thou hast given us to inherit. 12 O our God, wilt thou not judge them? For we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee.
“God, we don’t know what to do. We have no might or strength to defend ourselves against our enemies. We are completely dependent upon you to save us.”
That’s the kind of praying that God responds to. Desperate prayer that has no other option other than God and His desire to be gracious. Paul writes –
Philippians 4:6 Be careful (anxious) for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God…
The word ‘supplication’ means specific prayers for specific needs. It means getting real with God. How real should we get with our Lord? Won’t He be disappointed with us if we really tell Him what we are thinking and how we feel? Doesn’t He expect us to handle some of it on our own, without bothering Him for His help?”
Jesus told two stories about two individuals who refused to stop asking for help until they got what they needed. One was a man who went to his friend’s house at midnight and banged on the door until the friend got up and gave him a loaf of bread. The other was a widow who went to a judge and wouldn’t leave until the judge acted on her behalf.
When Jesus told these parables He used a word that tells us a whole lot about how we should approach the throne of heaven whenever we have a need. The King James calls it ‘importunity.’ Importunity refers to an unashamed, bold persistence that will not stop until it receives what it needs. Jesus said that we should – “Ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking – until we get what we need. Jesus said that it is those who receive answers to their prayers.
Some of us have given up on praying because we think prayer won’t work. Perhaps the problem is not so much with the powerlessness of prayer, but in our lack of being persistent in our praying. Jesus said that men ought always to pray and not to faint. A prayer-less life is a powerless life.
There are two great weapons that will help us win the war over worry. The first weapon is prayer. The second weapon is praise.
II. The Power of Praise
The Bible says that as they prayed, the Spirit of God came upon a man named Ja-ha-zeil and he said-
2 Chronicles 20:15 …Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow go ye down against them: behold, they come up by the cliff of Ziz; and ye shall find them at the end of the brook, before the wilderness of Jeruel. 17 Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them: for the LORD will be with you.
God interrupted their prayer meeting with a word from heaven. God heard their prayers and responded by giving them His encouragement. John R. Rice, in his book on prayer, said that one of the reasons many Christians do not receive an answer to their prayers is because they do not pray through until God sends His answer. Jacob wrestled with the angel all night until he received his blessing.
Jehoshaphat and the people prayed until God sent them His answer. What was God’s answer? “Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”
18 And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the LORD, worshipping the LORD. 19 And the Levites, of the children of the Kohathites, and of the children of the Korhites, stood up to praise the LORD God of Israel with a loud voice on high.
How do we know when we’ve had a real prayer meeting? How do we know when our prayers have penetrated the enemies’ resistance and made their way to heaven? We know it when our prayers turns to praise. A real prayer meeting eventually turns into a worship service. The Spirit of God came upon a man and through his words, the people knew that God had heard their prayers and that He was going to act on their behalf.
2 Chronicles 20:20 And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.
Jehoshaphat first reminded the people of God’s promise to be with them. “Believe in the LORD your God. Trust in Him and His promise to be with you. It is through your trust in Him that you will find the strength to stand against your enemies.” Then Jehoshaphat did something else that was important.
21 And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth forever.
Jehoshaphat put the choir out in front of the army. Why did he do this? Perhaps for a couple of reasons. Number 1, he wanted to keep in the minds and hearts of the people that God had promised to be with them and to take care of them. Music is very powerful. One lyric from a song has the ability to change the whole atmosphere. Jehoshaphat knew that and so he had the choir to sing, “Praise the LORD; for His mercy endureth forever.” I don’t know if that was the first line, the chorus, or the entire song. I’m sure that it was the theme of the song. What was this song saying? “Praise God that He is always willing to be merciful.”
There’s a second reason for the music. The singing implied that the people were already celebrating the victory. ““God said it, I believe it, that settles it for me!”
2 Chronicles 20:22 And when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten. 23 For the children of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of mount Seir, utterly to slay and destroy them: and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, every one helped to destroy another.
God not only responded by defeating their enemies; the Lord also poured out His blessings upon them.
2 Chronicles 20:24 And when Judah came toward the watch tower in the wilderness, they looked unto the multitude, and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and none escaped. 25 And when Jehoshaphat and his people came to take away the spoil of them, they found among them in abundance both riches with the dead bodies, and precious jewels, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away: and they were three days in gathering of the spoil, it was so much.
Talk about a Romans 8:28 moment when God turns a bad situation into something good. Wow!
Let’s conclude our study by looking once again at Paul’s instructions in Philippians 4.
Philippians 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
What is Paul telling us in this passage?
1) Worry and fear attack our hearts and minds like an enemy army
The phrase ‘shall keep your hearts and minds’ should actually be translated as –“will guard your hearts and your minds.” The army marching against Jehoshaphat is a symbol of worry’s march against us.
2) We must not try to handle worry on our own
The first step to Jehoshaphat finding victory was his admittance that he could not handle this on his own. “For we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee.”
3) Our defense against worry is God’s Supernatural Peace
Paul calls it a peace ‘that passeth all understanding.’ Literally that phrase means – a peace that surpasses anything we could try to accomplish on our own. It’s a peace that could only come from the God of this universe.
4) We experience this supernatural peace when:
a) We share with God all of our heart
That’s what the word ‘supplication’ means. Supplication is specific prayer for specific needs. It’s getting real with God.
b) We praise Him:
i. For all He has done
ii. For all He is going to do
That’s what Paul means by praying with thanksgiving. To thank God while in the storm is a declaration of our faith in Him. Giving thanks to God while in the storm is perhaps our greatest demonstration of faith.
No one can stop the enemy from attacking. As long as we live on this sin-cursed planet, we are going to experience heartache and trouble, and whenever we do, we’re also going to experience the temptation to worry and be afraid. It’s only natural. Yet we do not have to be defeated by worry and fear. Our God is able to do exceedingly above all we can think or even ask.