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Category: Emotional Discipleship (Page 1 of 2)

The Practice of Calmness (Philippians 4:6, Part 1 / The Seven Practices of Peace series)

God wants you to be calm. The devil wants you to be upset. God wants you to still, the devil wants you to agitated. God wants you to experience inner peace, the devil wants you to experience inner turmoil. God wants you to be calm, composed, and relaxed. The devil wants you to be nervous, uptight, tense, and restless.

Because of this God has given you seven weapons to help you manage your anxieties. They are all found in Philippians 4:4-9.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all people. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things. As for the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (NASB)

Out of those six verses, we see the seven practices of peace. We are looking at practice #4: The Practice of Calmness.

Do you have a hard time relaxing and being calm? Do you ever feel like you must be doing something all the time, or you do nothing because you are trying to escape something? That’s what anxiety does. It will cause you to be busy and doing all the time or it will cause you to shut down and avoid what needs to be done.

Job experienced something similar. He had some legitimate reasons to be stressed out and emotionally exhausted. The Sabeans stole all his donkeys and oxen (Job 1:13-15). A strange fire killed all his livestock and the servants who were attending them (v. 16). Then the Chaldeans raided his camels and took them all and killed the servants (v.17). Finally, he was told that a powerful wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house where all his children were eating. It collapsed on them, and they all died (v.19).

Job’s response to that was deep grief and he worshipped God (v. 20). To make things even worse he developed boils and sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head (Job 2:7). Job was experiencing physical pain and emotional pain. His world had been turned upside down. God’s Word says that “Throughout all this Job did not sin in what he said” (2:10). Then he had three friends who came to stay with him to comfort him and encourage him. He opens up to them and tells them how he feels and what he is thinking and how he is struggling through all this (Job 3). When Job gets to the end of his speech, he says this, “I cannot relax or be calm; I have no rest, for turmoil has come” (v.26, CSB).

Your life may not be as traumatic as Job’s, but you can relate to his statement, “I cannot relax or be calm” and “I have no rest.” Because of your anxiety you find it difficult to relax, be calm, and truly rest. Your internal engine seems to be running at a high rpm. You seem to feel uneasy most of the time and you may not know why. You find yourself overly concerned about things, checking things over and over. You may not feel good enough, worthy enough, or that no one really likes you. You struggle with your inner critic, the shoulder giants, expectations, and the routines of life. For whatever reason, you cannot relax and be calm. You feel wound up most of the time. If that’s you in any degree, then today’s message is for you.

When you are calm, you are composed. When you are composed, you are able to focus and be present to do what God wants you to do and to bless people the way God wants you to bless them. This is one reason why God’s Word says, “Do not be anxious about anything” (Philip. 4:6, NASB). I define anxiety as the feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about a real or perceived upcoming event or current situation. God is saying you do not have to live your life worrying about everything, nervous about what might happen, or be uneasy about what is currently happening. You can be calm, still, and at peace. You do not have to be anxious about anything.

Jesus had something significant to say about this Matthew 6:25-34.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matt. 6:25-34, ESV)

There is a lot of divine truth about anxiety, peace, and faith in that teaching by Jesus. I want you to notice that Jesus mentioned anxiety six times and three of those times He specifically commanded, do not be anxious. There are a lot of things people worry about in their life. Some worry about food, water, clothes, or what might happen tomorrow. The very basics of life. Others worry about their children, marriage, finances, or health. Some people get stressed out over their job, their house, cleaning, clutter, cooking, car, or their yard. We can become unnecessarily nervous about a lot of things. Jesus says, Do not be anxious about your life and Paul says, Do not be anxious about anything.

The word anxious (merimnao) means to distract, to divide, and to pull in different directions. It’s that nagging feeling of apprehension, that relentlessness of uneasiness, or that brooding fear and worry that doesn’t seem to go away. You are overly concerned or agitated about something that should not hold your attention so severely. When you get like this you feel distracted. You can’t focus on what or who you need to concentrate on. You feel divided between two things: what you need to do and what your anxiety wants you to do. Because of this you feel pulled in different directions. It’s like there is a tug of war going on inside of you, and your anxiety is winning.

What needs to happen is, your mind, heart, and soul need to become calm, still, and at ease. How does that happen? God’s Word sheds light on this.

Be Searching

First, you need to be searching. Let’s start with what Jesus said. He teaches that instead of being anxious about everything you should seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matt. 6:33, ESV). 

The word seek (zeteo) means to try to learn where something is. It has the idea of attempting to learn something by careful investigation or searching. This word also comes with a desire. Make sure you have a desire for God’s kingdom more than even the basics of this world. You are searching to understand God’s kingdom because you have a desire for God’s kingdom.

God’s Word does not say, “seek for the kingdom of God.” That’s what Jesus would have said if He was speaking to unbelievers. He was addressing those who were already kingdom citizens. He is telling them to make the interests of God’s kingdom their priority. Seek first the kingdom of God. Make God’s kingdom, God’s truth, God’s values, God’s mission, and God’s authority your primary desire.

To make God’s kingdom first (proton) you put it at the top of the list, it’s the most important and prominent thing in your life. It means first in time, place, order, and importance. It is the dominant concern of your life. When your earthly concerns are dominant you will become stressed out over them. When God’s kingdom is dominant it changes the way you see the things that are creating anxiety in your life.

Jesus also says you should seek God’s righteousness. This refers to doing things the right way, the way God wants you to do them. You treat your enemies right, your spouse right, and your kids right. You treat your boss and the company you work for right. You treat yourself right. You want to do things the right way, God’s way. The way you do that is to make God’s Word a priority. This is why God’s Word says in 2 Timothy 3:16, All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (NLT). God’s Word will teach you what is right.   

It’s like Jesus is saying, I have told you not to worry about and be anxious about things like food, clothing, and shelter. Those things are important, but they are not as important as you may think. What’s really important is the kingdom of God. Instead of focusing on earthly concerns, put that energy into the seeking, understanding, and promoting the kingdom of God.” 

Jesus says that if you will make God’s kingdom and doing what is right in His eyes the priority in your life then all these things will be added to you. All the things you need to pursue God’s kingdom and to live the kind of life God wants you to live will be added to you. Whatever food you need, clothes you need, shelter you need or any other needs that you require to accomplish God’s kingdom and righteousness in your life He will provide. Wherever God guides, He provides. This is what Psalm 84 is telling you, “The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right” (v. 11, NLT). Once you fully embrace God’s kingdom and righteousness you will be able to manage your anxiety more successfully instead of your anxiety managing you.

When you pursue God’s kingdom and righteousness you discover yourself becoming more aware, calm, and present to represent God, do what God wants you to do, and minister to the people God has placed in your life.

Be Growing

If you want to experience kingdom calmness you will need to seek God’s kingdom and His rule over your life more than anything else. You need to be searching, but number two… you need to be growing.

Look carefully at what Peter says in 2 Peter 1:2, May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord (2 Peter 1:2, NLT). As your knowledge of God grows, deepens, and becomes more precise you will experience more and more peace. You will be more calm in more situations. There is something about having a growing intimate knowledge of God that helps you stay calm.

I love the way The Message paraphrases Jeremiah 17:7-8. Take a look at this.

“But blessed is the man who trusts me, God, the woman who sticks with God. They’re like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers— never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf, serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season.” (Msg)

God’s Word mentions “droughts.” There are all kinds of droughts, and we are familiar with droughts that involve long periods of no rain. A drought is defined as “a prolonged or chronic shortage or lack of something expected or desired.” You can have a financial drought where there is a prolonged shortage of financial income. You can have a health drought where there is a prolonged lack of health. There can also be droughts in a marriage where there is a prolonged shortage of love, compassion, understanding or affection. There can also be a companion drought where you have long periods of time where you feel lonely, alone, or without friends or someone special.

You may be in a season of drought in your life. When you are in a season of drought you will be tempted to become nervous, worried, anxious, restless, and impatient. However, God’s Word has something to say to you if you are in a drought in your life.

One thing God says is, “Blessed is the man who trusts” God and blessed is “the woman who sticks with” God during a time of drought. If you want to experience the blessings of God in your life, then you will need to trust Him and stick with Him through the droughts of life. Rely on God and hang tight with God.

As you trust God and stick with God through your personal drought here is what is going to happen. God’s Word says you will be “like trees replanted in Eden,putting down roots near the rivers.” Sometimes you need to be replanted. From time to time you will hear me say or pray asking God to realign our thinkings and lives under God’s will and authority. Being replanted is the same thing. Sometimes we plant ourselves in bad ground and we need to replant ourselves into good ground. When you trust God and stick with God you are replanting yourself with God.

Now watch this. When you trust God, stick with God, and replant and realign yourself with God something incredible happens. God’s Word goes on to say that you will not have a “worry through the hottest of summers” and you will not “drop a leaf.” When your drought is at its peak you will not worry or fear. On top of that you will not “drop a leaf.” Meaning, you will not fall apart. You will keep it together.

Because of all this, you will be “serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season.” When you are living through a heat wave and a drought in life, everything around you looks like it’s dying. But for those who know and trust God they will be “calm” and fruitful even though everything around them is drying up and dying.

I think one of the reasons why we struggle with trusting God and sticking with God and experiencing His peace is because we are too busy. We have to get up and get ourselves ready, get the kids ready, drop them off at school, get to work, pick up the kids after school, go shopping, get supper ready, clean the house, take care of the yard, pay bills, do laundry, repair the car, go to family functions and a host of other things that are a part of life. Somewhere in all that we forget God and don’t think about Him or His kingdom. For some that creates anxiety.

In addition to the business of your personal life, there is chaos in your world. In Psalm 46, the Psalmist talks about trouble, earthquakes, tidal waves, and nations being in conflict. For some, those things create anxiety in their life whether they are a part of it or just hear about it. At the end of all this chaos, trouble, and business the Psalmist says, Be still, and know that I am God! (v. 10, NLT). Not only does the knowledge of God help you to be calm, but being calm also helps you to know God.

One more thing before we move on. The knowledge of God creates greater understanding about life, people, and situations. This is why God’s Word says in Proverbs 14:17, “Someone with a quick temper does foolish things, but someone with understanding remains calm” (Proverbs 14:17, NCV). The greater your knowledge and understanding that comes from God the greater you can remain calm when everything or everyone around you is wanting you to become agitated, frustrated, or panicked. Instead, you can be aware, calm, and present.

Conclusion

God wants you to be calm. The devil wants you to be upset. God wants you to still, the devil wants you to be agitated. God wants you to experience inner peace, the devil wants you to experience inner turmoil. God wants you to be calm, composed, and relaxed. The devil wants you to be nervous, uptight, tense, and restless.

Listen to what Jesus said in John 14:27, “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (NLT). Peace of mind and a calm heart starts with a relationship with Jesus.

 

The Practice of Awareness (Philippians 4:5, Part 3)

If you are not careful, you can be so busy doing life that you don’t even notice the presence of God in your life. This is what happened to a man named Jacob. Jacob lived a life on the fast track doing business deals and making lots of money. He was on the go. Going from one thing to another. One night God caught up with Jacob in a dream. Jacob woke up from the dream and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” (Genesis 28:16, NLT). Continue reading

The Practice of Joy (Philippians 4:4)

God wants you to be joyful! The devil wants you to be ungrateful, unkind, cold, distant, unfriendly, and unpleasant. God wants you to be full of joy, while the devil wants you to be full of discontentment, dissatisfaction, irritation, and anger. When you are in a state of joy, you are more aware, calm, and present for God and others. When you have joy, it is easier to care about others. When you have a lack of joy you are more concerned about you.

God has given you the seven practices of peace to combat your anxieties. We find these in Philippians 4:4-9. Let’s look at God’s Word and take a look at the practice of joy. Continue reading

The Practice of Peace: Introduction, Part 2 (Philippians 4:4-9)

God wants you to experience His peace in the middle of your chaos. He wants to train you how to defend that peace and manage your anxieties, worries, and fears. The devil is going to do everything he can to get you to focus on what stresses you out. Instead of being aware, calm, and present for God and others, the devil wants you to be self-absorbed about your problems, your troubles, your worries, and your fears. He wants you to be overly concerned about your health, stressed out about your finances, worried about your children, fearful about the future, or focused on what’s not right in your nation or overly concerned about what’s happening around the world. Continue reading

The Practice of Peace: Introduction, part 1 (Philippians 4:4-9)

God wants you to have peace in your heart and mind. You will need to defend that peace. It will be a fight. It will take work. The devil, the world, your life and your old sinful nature will try to steal and diminish your sense of awareness, calmness and the ability of being present for God and others. When the Bible talks about defending your peace and managing your anxiety it is spiritual warfare on a very personal level. This is no small thing. This is not something to take lightly. If you are not able to manage your anxieties, worries, or fears then it becomes extremely difficult to focus on what God is saying to you and how to love and bless others. When your anxieties are managing you, it becomes all about you, but when you are able to manage your anxieties, it becomes all about God and about others. Continue reading

Unmanaged Anxiety (Luke 10:38-42, Part 2)

When you are anxious you are thinking about who you should be, but when you are at peace you are thinking about who you actually are. Anxiety says you should be in control. Peace says you are a child of God and He is in control. Anxiety says you should be perfect or at least better. Peace says you are perfect and righteous in the eyes of God because of Christ in you. Anxiety says you should be smarter and have more answers. Peace says you belong to the one who knows everything and He can be trusted. Anxiety says you should be there for everyone. Peace says God is there for everyone and you only need to be there for those who God assigns to you. Anxiety says you should be more accepted by others. Peace says you are accepted by God and not everyone will like you and that’s okay. When you are anxious you are thinking about who you should be, but when you are at peace you are thinking about who you actually are in Christ. Continue reading

Unmanaged Anxiety (Luke 10:38-42, Part 1)

You anxiety is talking to you. Your anxiety is trying to convince you that if you don’t do something then something bad will happen or it will not get done right. You are the only one who can do this. Your anxiety will tell you that you are not good enough and you are not worthy enough and that’s why people leave you. Your anxiety wants you to believe that if you have enough information, knowledge, and wisdom then you will have all the answer then you will be successful and people will like you. Anxiety will work you to death by convincing you that you have to be there for everyone and that you are less of a person if you say no. Anxiety wants you to believe that you must make everyone happy and you need their approval and acceptance to be happy. Continue reading

Recognizing Anxiety

Over the years I’ve had great men and women of God come to me and say, “Pastor, I am a follower of Jesus. I pray, read God’s Word, worship with other believers, and I’m involved in ministry and helping others grow spiritually. I love Jesus. Yet, I struggle with anxiety. I feel worried about things I shouldn’t worry about, and I can’t relax. Is there something wrong with me? I don’t know any other Christians who struggle with discouragement as much as I do. Things can be going great and yet on the inside I feel afraid and anxious. I feel like I’m not in control.” Does that sound like you or someone you know? God is keenly aware that His people struggle with anxiety. One of the first steps in managing anxiety is to recognize it when it is present. The earlier you are able to recognize it the sooner you can apply God’s help to your unique anxiety.[i] Continue reading

Four Spaces of Anxiety

Anxiety exists and spreads in four spaces: the space in you, the space between you and another, the space inside the other, and the space between others. Once you become aware of these four spaces you can begin to manage them. The sooner you can identify them, the sooner you can be calm and present, available to serve and bless others.  Continue reading

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