When Anxious . . .

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”  (Philippians 4:4-5)

These two verses lead into the famous text on being anxious for nothing, rather releasing our problems and pressures to God, trusting Him to give us peace which surpasses all comprehension.  We all face storms in life, some minor, some major.  And we all tend to quickly become anxious. Worry is a natural human reaction, BUT God has called His followers to react differently, super-naturally.  What does that look like?

First, rejoice in the Lord.  Rejoice means to find your delight in God, to find your joy in Him at all times.  Notice it doesn’t say to simply rejoice or to rejoice in circumstances.  If we focus on our circumstances, we worry, but if we focus on our Almighty, Sovereign God, we find joy and peace.  We must choose to transfer our focus from the “storms of life” to our God.  When we rejoice in the Lord, we are reminding ourselves that God is in control, not us, and that leads to a deep-down confidence in Him which in turns brings strength and hope.

Second, let your gentleness be seen by others.  Gentleness means staying calm, not over-reacting to people or circumstances.  It’s the person who doesn’t push to get their way or always correct others or try to control situations.  Gentleness is not weakness, it’s strength.  Anyone can react and retaliate and prove rightness, but it takes a strong, Spirit-filled, person to restrain emotions and demonstrate self-control and gentleness.

Robert Morgan relates a story about John Wooden, who was one of the most revered basketball coaches in the nation. Coach Wooden credited much of his success to his father. He said, for example, that once when he was a boy, he watched his father deal with a certain situation. Scattered around the farmland near the Wooden home in Indiana were gravel pits. The county would pay local farmers to take teams of mules or horses into the pits and haul out loads of gravel. Some pits were deeper than others, and sometimes it was hard for a team to pull a wagon filled with gravel out through the wet sand and steep incline. One steamy summer day, wrote Wooden, a young farmer was trying to get his team of horses to pull a fully loaded wagon out of the pit. He was whipping and cursing those beautiful plow horses, who were frothing at the mouth, stomping, and pulling back from him. “Dad watched for a while and then went over and said to the farmer, ‘Let me take ‘em for you….’ First Dad started talking to the horses, almost whispering to them, and stroking their noses with a soft touch. Then he walked between them, holding their bridles and bits while he continued talking—very calmly and gently—as they settled down. Gradually he stepped out in front of them and gave a little whistle to start them moving forward while he guided the reigns. Within moments, those two big plow horses pulled the wagon out of the gravel pit as easy as could be. As if they were happy to do it.” John Wooden said, “I’ve never forgotten what I saw him do and how he did it. Over the years I’ve seen a lot of leaders act like that angry young farmer who lost control…. So much more can usually be accomplished by Dad’s calm, confident, and steady approach.”  A gentle spirit reduces anxiety, reveals Christ to others, and pleases the Lord.  

Third, remember the Lord is near.  Knowing God is near enables us to rejoice in Him, and show a gentle, confident attitude to others.  During Stalin’s regime in Russia, Christians were persecuted.  One day, the secret police came and discovered a group of believers gathered in worship. The police counted, and said, “There are 30 Christians in this place,” as he made his list. And, one of the Christians, who was very bold, said, “No, there are not 30 here; there are 31 here.” He was talking about the Lord Jesus.

The next time you face a difficult situation, rather than worry, choose to:
— Rejoice in God, knowing He is sovereign over all things.
— Demonstrate gentleness and confidence in God.
— Remember God is present with you everywhere, every moment.

Jeff Wilson

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