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While my back was out for most of last week, I did a lot of reading. I came across an old Discipleship Journal from November/December 2003. There was one of the best articles I have ever read in it-- about giving up worries, and letting God have our concerns. Now, you have probably heard sermons on this...but this truly shares things in a beautiful and easy to understand manner. The fabulous author of this article is Mr. Mike Bechtle. At the time that this article was published, Mr. Bechtle was a free lance writer. Some of the material has been deleted, but not added to. I sincerely believe that his story, and the information provided is still very clear. Here we go... Enjoy!
"I felt defeated. Worry took up a lot of my time, as job concerns, a mortgage, church demands, family issues---especially teenagers--all took their toll. I had tried to quit worrying. I read articles, had conversations over coffee (worrying weather my budget would allow a latte instead of a plain decaf), and determined to handle my concerns differently. Each time, my resolution worked--for a while. Soon, however, the old patterns reappeared, and my thoughts became more concerned with the situation than the solution. Like yo-yo dieting, I would stop worrying only to sink back deeper than before. I worried even when there was nothing concrete to worry about. It had become a habit.
Try, Try Again
I'd memorized Phil. 4:6-7 as a child and listened to countless sermons on the passage.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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." Philippians 4:6-7
The passage was usually summarized like this:
1. Worry is a choice (And we're not supposed to choose it.)
2. We should bring everything to God in prayer.
3. God will give us peace.
So when the tires on our family car were as thin as balloons, but we couldn't yet afford to replace them, I decided to try the formula once again as a counter to my twin worries of finances and safety. Based on this, I chose not to worry about the car. I prayed about my concerns. I asked God for peace.
But peace didn't come, and soon I began to worry again. Why didn't it work? If the instructions were true, I could only see two conclusions: Either I wasn't doing my part (stop worrying, start praying), or God wasn't doing His part (provide peace).
My theology told me God doesn't lie, so I figured He would do His part. That left me. I must not have been trying hard enough. Now I really felt guilty. I felt helpless.
Missing the Obvious
I re-read Philippians 4:6-7 to see what I had missed. I looked at each word carefully, trying to discover what I was doing wrong. Then by accident, my eyes wandered on to Verses 8 and 9:
"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." Philippians 4:8-9
Verses 6 and 7 tell me what NOT to do; Verses 8 and 9 tell me what to do INSTEAD. I can care for my mind by providing the right thoughts. Reading Philippians 4:8-9 was like reading an ingredient list! It told me exactly which thoughts to plant to grow a peaceful mind, thoughts that were:
true: consistent with God and His Word
noble: worthy of respect
right: just and Holy
pure: morally clean
lovely: pleasing and gracious
admirable: highly regarded
excellent: top quality
praiseworthy: deserving of high recognition
But what if this didn't work either? I was comforted to see that God's instruction included a promise: God's peace will stand guard--not only over our hearts, but over our minds. "The peace of God...will guard your hearts and your minds." Verse 7.
I had asked God to free me from worrying about money for those tires. When my thoughts slipped back to worry, I consciously focused on what was true: God promised to supply all our needs and had been faithful to do so in the past.
"For even if the mountains walk away and the hills fall to pieces,
My love won't walk away from you, My covenant commitment of peace won't fall apart." The God who has compassion on you says so."
I worried about my family members' safety when they were out alone at night. So I asked God to protect them and focused on what was true and pure. God loved them more than I did and never left them alone. That allowed me to make good choices about things. As my thoughts became more peaceful, worry became a trigger that reminded me to analyze my thinking. Whenever I recognized anxiety, I filtered my thoughts through the grid of Philippians 4:8-9.
Do I still worry? Yes. But now I have practical, Biblical tools for replacing those thoughts. When we fill our minds with what matters most, our minds are not at the mercy of what matters least." ~Mike Bechtle
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