Confession time: I'm a compulsive worrier. It's true. I wish I wasn't a worrier, but that's how my mind works. I probably can't count the hours I've lost in the past month worrying about the next few years of my life. Do I go to college next year or do I travel for a few years on a Life Action Revival Team? (The Travel Teams are a ministry run by Life Action Ministries, the same ministry that runs the camp I go to each summer. They travel around the country holding revival summits at churches, staying for four days to two weeks.) I've also wasted a lot of time worrying about finding my future wife. But seriously, I'm sixteen; finding her shouldn't really even be on my radar for a few years. My mind is prone to anxiety and worry and those things are deadly diseases that damage my faith and trust in God. So what do I do? I pray, and I read Scripture.
I want to share some verses that have helped me. Philippians 4:6-8 has changed the way I think. It says, "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." Let me repeat that: "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." Could there be a more helpful verse to a worrier! The Bible says to not worry about anything. To a guy who worries, that's stops me in my tracks. It also tells me that the peace of God is better than knowledge anyway. In other words, it's better to put my trust in God and rely on Him then to know everything for myself and thus not need to rely on God. And what's more, the antidote to anxiety is the peace of God. Why? Because His peace guards my heart and mind against anxiety. It stands guard and defends me.
My good friend Charity at Life Action, after hearing me share my struggle with worrying, handed me a piece of notebook paper, on which she had written, "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. ~ Remember: Godly thoughts = hope." At first, I wasn't really sure why she thought this verse would help. I mean, it doesn't talk about worrying or stressing out or putting your trust in God... right? Or does it? It took me a while to understand what she meant. She was talking all about hope. It's why she wrote it in bold and underlined it. Hope. But what's the big deal about hope? It doesn't disappoint us. How is that possible? Because God poured out his love to us, but not only did He pour out His love into us, He poured it into our hearts, but not only did He pour His love into our hearts, He does it through the Holy Spirit. How intense, how major, how powerful, how revolutionary is that!
Okay okay. Maybe I'm moving too fast. Do you feel like you missed something? It all comes down to one verse. This is the verse that has engraved itself in my heart and in my mind. This is the verse that should be the motto of every single Christian around the world. It's the verse that should be our mindset, our vision, our reason for living. It's what gives me the strength to fight every day. It's what gives me fire to keep going. It's what gives me motivation to obey Him. It's what allows me to love others. It's my sunshine on a rainy day. It's the light at the end of the tunnel. This is the verse that encourages me when I'm discouraged. When I feel like a failure, I remember this verse. This verse is my lifesaver. It's what I cling to with desperation. And you should to. Because it's 1 John 4:4 and it says "the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." Greater is He that is in you than he that is in this world. What lives in us? What did God, in love, pour into our hearts? The Holy Spirit. It's all about the Holy Spirit. Life and death, eternity and hell, love and hate, right or wrong, Godliness or Godlessness, they all depend on the Spirit. I hope you don't doubt the Spirit's importance, because according to Romans 8:9, "if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." That verse itself is a huge statement. If this verse is true (and it's Scripture, so we know that it is irrefutable), then salvation comes solely through the Spirit. A person is only saved if the Spirit lives inside him or her.
But it gets so much better. According to Romans 8:6, "the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace..." Life and peace. Which means the mind controlled by the flesh is death and sin, to which Romans 8:8-9 agree because they say "the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God." So the Spirit is the key because it is our salvation, it us brings life and peace, and without it, we are God's enemies.
Romans 8:9-11 has even more to offer: "You [that is, Christians], however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you." So now we now that we Christians aren't controlled by flesh but by His Spirit. Thank God! Amen! The "catch" is that if the Spirit does live in us (which we all know we have to have the Spirit; the alternative is simply not something I ever want but thankfully my name is written in the Book of Life... but that's another topic), our bodies are dead. Why? Because of sin (verse 9). Yet because of righteousness, our spirits are alive. Of course, these terms aren't literal... yet. Often, when a writer in the New Testament refers to "life" or "death", they are not referring to the earthly state of existence but the eternal one. That's why a mind controlled by sin is death, because it doesn't have the Spirit and it cannot please God, so thus it will spend eternity separate from God and instead be tormented endlessly for eternity, which is referred to in the New Testament as the second death. So when Paul refers our bodies being dead, he only means that by the time Satan is in his place and all Christians are living in heaven, our current bodies will be long gone and we will have new ones. I believe Paul also wrote about that matter, but for sake of time, that'll have to wait for another post. Back to Romans 8:9-11.
Romans 8:11 says "the Spirit... raised Jesus from the dead..." Wow. I don't know about you, but whatever power raised someone from the dead, after they had been buried three days, and after they were sealed in a tomb, that has to be some power. Here's where we, you and I, come in. That same Spirit "is living in you!" That's why John wrote, "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in this world." Because the Spirit lives in us, and the Spirit raised Jesus from the dead! (Now that's only one thing on the Spirit's endless and infinite resume, but my point is made.) And Romans 8:11 is also the tie-in to our bodies being dead and our spirits being alive: "He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you." This is really powerful stuff, isn't it? See, I told you Romans is amazing! "He who raised Christ from the dead" is the Spirit, and the Spirit will give our mortal bodies life! You have to have the Spirit to be considered saved; why? Because without it, we wouldn't be able to live in heaven because of our mortal bodies! Our mortal bodies are weak and ravaged by sin. They won't last for eternity. That's why we need immortal ones. But we have to let our current bodies die so we can step into our immortal bodies. Does this make sense?
It all comes back to the Spirit. Everything comes back to Him. The Spirit. The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Christ. It's why Jesus told us, "Do not worry about your life... Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
It's all about the Spirit. And to a guy who worries a lot, having the living, almighty God, a God who loves you, who is faithful, who is trustworthy, who promises to never leave or forsake you... living with a God like that inside you is a great stress-reducer :)