Key teaching: Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you 1 Peter 5:7 NIV
Are you feeling stressed and overtaken by worries and ‘fear thoughts’? We all find ourselves in that battle from time to time. Have you felt depressed recently? Of course you have, and that, for most people, is an easier question. Fears and anxieties are part of the same ‘battle of the mind’. Here are three quite straightforward things you can practice, that will send them back where they came from. There’s nothing at all wrong in asking for prayer from your pastor or friends, but it’s even better to grow in the authority you have as a believer, and learn to use it for yourself.
You'll soon encounter someone else who is struggling with fears and anxieties and apparent impossibilities that lead to depression and hopelessness. How will you help them? By using your own story to give their faith a lift, and coaching them with these Bible truths and principles.
You might start with reading the story of Jesus being tested by the devil in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11) and how He used the truth of God's word, saying "It is written..." to defeat each lying suggestion. We are going to learn that we can use the same principle in coming against our fears and anxieties whenever they arise.
1. Take hold of the truth
First, get a fresh input of God’s truth, which will leave less room for all the other stuff! Read the following Scriptures slowly and prayerfully, and also listen – allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the word and speak to you through them. (All New International Version unless indicated otherwise).
I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings until the disaster has passed.
You have been a refuge for the poor… for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm.
I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go… I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you.
The eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms.
Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand (and read also verses 11-13).
Even to your old age… I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
These are God’s thoughts, which are true. As you put them alongside the ‘fear thoughts’, which are not true, the choice of which to believe becomes more clear.
Of course the devil will plant thoughts in your mind telling you that you have messed up, there is no hope and everything in your life is collapsing, which ‘proves’ it. That is his job! The enemy is very practised at presenting this argument, but it doesn’t make it true – in fact, quite the opposite. This is where the real battle is taking place, in your mind, but you always have a choice as to what you believe. The truth is that God is for you, and not against you, and Romans 8:28 spells that out. God is not just for you if you fulfil certain criteria. He is FOR you! However it looks and feels to you, He is at work bringing good out of it.
Let's put Romans 8:31 and 8:28 together in a way which makes the logic a little more clear:
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?... 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.
Let God think His thoughts through you, and allow His peace and His patience to take charge of your mind.
2. Speak out the truth
Even more powerful than reading and starting to memorise verses like the ones above, is the practice of speaking them out. This is declaring God's truth to the heavenlies, where there is a battle going on in parallel to the thought battle you are experiencing. It is a form of praying out loud, with the emphasis on 'saying' rather than 'asking'.
You may find a strange resistance to doing it at first. It feels foolish. But press through and and pray – another word would be 'declare' – your prayer. Don't be surprised if the sense of heaviness and the anxiety are intense at first and then lift off quite quickly once you start.
Paul teaches that the weapons of warfare that we use are spiritual weapons. What does he mean? We are not to take up arms physically against the people who are causing us stress and anxiety, but in a different way we take up a spiritual position against the cause of it from spiritual beings. These are unseen but not unreal; they are at work manipulating the very people who become 'difficult people' to us.
2 Cor. 10:3-4 NLT
We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments.
How we do it is so simple we often overlook it because we think a more complex solution would be better. Simple is good. It is using the word of God as the sword of the Spirit. How do words become an offensive weapon? You speak them out loud, with whatever level of faith you have (it will grow!) Who hears? Probably no one in sight, but there's a whole audience listening that you cannot see, and you are about to become a very scary person to them.
16 Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
"Can I actually do this?" you may be asking. All the hundreds of reasons that disqualify you from taking a stand as a person of faith in a spiritual battle are running through your head. But if you have received and trusted Jesus, if you can call Him your Lord and also Saviour, you are His! Your authority becomes His authority. And the other stuff... it was real enough on your timeline, but Jesus took that to the Cross with Him and deleted the timeline for you.
The Bible tells you that your status is that of a child of God, no less, and that carries a lot of "don't argue" privileges.
1 John 3:1
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
You are God's child and also Jesus' disciple, in the exact same line as the first 12 disciples who heard Jesus tell Peter especially, but us all effectively, the following:
18 [Jesus said:] "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
19 "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Jesus reiterated this in Matt. 18:18
[Jesus said:] "Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
So you can speak with authority, use the sword of the Spirit and say a resounding "NO!" to fear and timidity and all anxious feelings:
2 Tim 1:6-7
6 ...Fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,
7 for God gave us a spirit, NOT of fear, but of power and love and self-control.
3. Live in the truth
It is said that all the various "fear not" and "do not be afraid" sayings in the Bible add up to 365 – one for every day of the year. You might have to repeat one in a leap year... Whatever that adds up to, surely it teaches us that we are to trust God and keep our fear for Him (in which case awe would be a better word). He loves us and values us and is concerned for us even in the details of our lives. But He also wants to grow us in faith and in confidently living His way. We teach our children things and expect them to have a go. It's the same with our heavenly Father.
Anxieties and fears will come knocking at the door, but now you have a 1-2-3 Bible-grounded response:
1. Take hold of the truth
2. Speak out the truth, and
3. Live in the truth – the truth that God loves you, saw His Son die for you and gave you His Holy Spirit to teach you and coach you in living His Way.