Thursday, September 19, 2013

How do we fend off anxiety?

Preamble:  This entry is adapted from a comment I made on a US pastor’s blog entry.

In a matter of degree, perhaps, all of us exhibit it, anxiety.  Scripture paints for us, for our lives, a picture of growth and development, a picture of on-going overcoming on our part, and lastly, a picture of dependant on God even as we are NOT to be complacent, presumptuous, prideful, and unteachable.  And so, it is NOT surprising that almost all, if NOT all of us, do exhibit some degree of anxiety, although the goal is to be devoid of anxiety, as far as possible or be of peace {and joy} (we are still growing; NOT arrived).

The overly grace’s perspective
Be careful of preachers and teachers (overly grace ones, mostly) who hold out to you that you should believe that the works of the Lord on the Cross got to be perfect, and so, once “you are saved”, you too, are perfect – new creation, perfect in righteousness. The correct theology should be along the line that we are saved, being saved, and hope to be saved, eventually.  No, the phrase in Scripture, “He who overcomes” is NOT simply another way of saying a believer.  It is you and I are believers, and we still need to live an overcoming life.  Such lingos as “we are just to bask in grace” are ridiculous.   

The warning is this: if you go with such doctrine, my belief, keeping to the topic, is that you run the risk that such indoctrination prepare you NOT, to deal with more challenging troubles that will inevitably come your way (troubles do come our way – John 16:33 – quoted below).

Perfection is referred to intent
I am NOT saying the works of the Lord on the Cross is NOT perfect; it is, but perfection has to be measured against what were the intents (of God), in the first place.  Not every aspect of the redemptive works of Jesus is completed in us the moment we are saved (converted).  The entire salvation is a process, a journey of being refined by God, so that, at end of it all, we be Christ-like, and so, are able to stay and live in the presence of God in Heaven.  Through it all, there necessarily be responsibility and accountability on our part, man, even as God knows how and when to do His part.

The works of Christ Jesus on the Cross was prefect, but God did NOT intend that on entry into salvation, we are to be for the rest of our lives, free from troubles.  In the words of the Lord, Himself:

John 16:33 – "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Fallen world; troubles inevitable
We are in this world, a fallen world in a fallen state; how can we be of no troubles or challenges? (rhetorical!)  We are still in the domain of Satan; this fallen world is the domain where Satan perpetuates his evil intent to get men counted with him, away from God.  So, we are NOT only facing challenges thrown at us by flesh and blood, but by the snares of evil principalities.  Putting it in a metaphorical manner, God has given you and I, access to Him and His invincibility to be overcomers, but has NOT made us invincible of ourselves - to everything, including anxieties.  We still need to be properly hooked up to the Grand Master and tap from him. As a side, “given us by God” does NOT necessarily mean “you have it in your hand; there, you can see it and touch it”. The Lord is the Grand Master; we, the disciples, and we have to learn from and be discipled by the Master.  No one instantly, becomes as nearly good as the Grand Master.  Jesus Himself when He walked as a man, Scripture recorded this for us, that He too needed to grow:

Luke 2:52 - And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

How big and good is your God?
Who do you want to follow, holding him as your Grand Master?  Any men worthy of that place for you?  Any deities?  Any forces?  Who would you follow unquestioned?  One who is completely trustworthy to be righteous, and completely capable.  Now if you have identified and believed God is the one, don’t waiver. Rather, taste and see that God is good; NOT testing, but tasting.

Ps 34:8 (NIV) - Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
Ps 34:8 (KJV) - O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.

The Hebrew word, chacah (H2620), from the Strong’s Lexicon can mean take refuge or trusting or having hope.  If we look at the KJV count of how it was used, 35 times it was used as trust, 1 time as taking refuge, and 1 time as having hope. 

Grow your faith and so, trust, in God
Trusting God is so very important. Heb 11:6 said that without faith, it is impossible to please God.  In the exercise of faith, we necessarily need to trust God.  Just as for faith, that we need to grow it over time, our trust in God needs to be developed over time.  Some people progress faster, some slower, but all have to progress; and in it all, we need to be subject to God’s direction by His Spirit, and His timing, working with God and NOT against God; and His Word is the base we work from.  This is why, I discourage preachers to teach that general faith comes from God (supernatural or extraordinary faith as in the gift of faith, may come from God, but we are to grow in faith, generally).

One simple rule of thumb of interpreting Bible for me is this:  God does NOT ask of you to be possessed of a thing, if you have no part to play, and it is that He has to give it to you.  God’s prescriptions exhort men, NOT Himself.  So, simply, it is NOT you just sit there in the chair on the beach and bask, and God is to give you the faith or trust He ask of you. Imagine, if it were so, you are perfectly right to tell God in His face, “NOT my fault-what, you did NOT give-what, so, I don’t have-what; your fault-what, God!” I am NOT saying it is impossible that God gives while you do nothing, but we must understand we are still needing growing and developing, and overall, God is working towards that end, that we grow and develop (if you are of the doctrine that once saved, you are arrived, there is no meeting possible, of our views).

Faith and trust grow from a relationship & personal experiences
Christianity is relationship-based thing; when Jesus said (John 10:14), “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep knows me”, the “know” there, the Greek word is “ginosko”, and it is one of the several “know” words of the Greek.  It has the connotation of knowing from PERSONAL experience, implicitly meaning there is a relationship.

The shepherd and sheep metaphor
Although everyone’s journey may be different, there is no short-cut; each needs to walk with the Lord to know (ginosko) the Lord.  The picture of the shepherd and sheep is a good one; the sheep got to be led by the shepherd; move with the shepherd, learning to trust and trust, the shepherd. 

For one thing, the sheep needs necessarily be where the shepherd is.  It is the same with us; we need to be where the Lord is found.  Strange thing to say (God is everywhere!)?  No, for example, the Lord is NOT found in evil; so, don’t go there.  Putting it in another way, don’t expect God to be with you in your evil; you cannot expect Him to join you or help you in your evil, can you!  The theological jargon is: we are to abide in the Lord, and the Lord in us.  When we abide in the Lord, we are where the Lord is, and we are in agreement with the Lord. 

Trouble, trouble, …
When the sheep is with the shepherd and a big bad wolf comes to harm the sheep, what would a good and able shepherd do?  Yes, he will fend off the enemy.  But before that, it is possible, the shepherd noted the particular sheep strayed, and let the coming of the enemy to teach the sheep before he would fend off the enemy.  If the sheep does NOT learn, in one time, the shepherd may teach again with another incident.  That too, can be how, we are refined by God; we keep straying, and the Lord keeps having to teach us, over and over again, and rescuing us again and again, until we know how to stay within the confine of His righteousness. 

In the whole process, we learn to accept and trust the Lord’s ways for us.

Situations of anxiety
Why do people get anxious?  Here are some of the common reasons:
1.      They have done wrong and they are mindful of there are consequences against them, already arrived or are coming.
2.      They are facing unknown(s). 
3.      They are mindful of their capacity and resource inadequacy to confront.
4.      They cannot depend on another or anyone.
5.      They have developed a “kiasu” mentality.
6.      They are attacked directly, spiritually (by demonic spirit).

Anxiety because of trouble from wrongdoing/sin
If you and I don’t want to be anxious, firstly, we have to try NOT to do wrong or sin.  For example, if you are got caught on camera bribing a government official; you did wrong, and you could be persecuted.  Now that can cause you to be anxious.  Don’t listen to people who tell you that if you try or effort, that is works and is frowned by God, they are WRONG; you and I have to try NOT to sin (Bondages need God’s coming in, but it does NOT necessarily mean you have no part to play).

But we do sin, of course!  Still we have to try NOT to; and when we do sin, we (1) may have to face the consequence, unless you are let off, and (2) we need to repent and ask for forgiveness, from (a) God, and (b) men, if possible. 

It is still possible to get peace back, even if you still need to face the consequence.  Peace comes back when you get back in agreement with God, and for that, the repenting, confession and asking for forgiveness from God are a MUST.  We need to acknowledge we have been wrong and ask God to help us to face the consequence when we have to face it.  Of course, you cannot undo what has been done, although restitution is possible in some cases, but peace can come back to you when you get back right and in agreement with God, to handle the aftermath.  Commonly, we do sin again and again, but we should be improving, and our recovery of peace, more expedient.  When we sin again and again, yes, anxiety does get repeated again and again, until we have learnt how NOT to let sin take a hold on us.  These words from the Cain and Abel story come to mind, and are to be borne in mind:

But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." (Gen 4:7b)

Anxiety from unknowns and uncertainties
I will talk about points 2-4, together; we face unknowns, some common to all, some specific to us, but may NOT be applicable or less severe, to others.  The “trick” to this is to catch hold of how big our God is, that He is the Omni-God, knows all, can do all, love us NOT with a haphazard love but a predictable love of “love unto righteousness”.  Nothing can surprise God, nothing can overwhelm God, and nothing can stump God; and if God is with you, who or what can be against you, and prevail still, ultimately?  A rhetorical question, of course.

Anxiety from kiasu-ness
The “kiasu” mentality – This is a colloquial word used in Singapore; it means “fear of losing {out}”. In Singapore, meritocracy is overwhelmingly embraced; people are drummed to be highly competitive from infancy, even!  Many people do this - always compare, and compare with those having more, more successful, higher in status and prestige.  When we do that often, we are welcoming anxiety!  No, I am suggesting people be like an ostrich, hide the head in the sand, oblivious to what goes on, including how well or unwell people are doing materially or otherwise.  We are NOT converted to be Robinson Crusoe – live like him, alone on an island.  But the Word does teach us to embrace godliness with contentment (1 Tim 6:6-11).  This does NOT mean that people have to be mediocre in what they do, and we do have to embrace the text – 1 Tim 6:6-11.

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. (1 Tim 6:6-11)

Anxiety from direct demonic oppression
The last point above, about being attacked spiritually by demonic spirit – this is NOT fictional.  Anxiety is common for people demonised or demon-possessed.  The understanding is simple:  Jesus, the Prince of Peace, comes to give peace.  This peace is had when we are in agreement with God.  When you are in agreement with God, you are in agreement with the Spirit of Christ or the Holy Spirit, and the peace (and joy) in and of the Spirit who indwells every believer, will be felt by you.  Satan comes to do the contrary; John 10:10 said that Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy.  One of the prime things he steals is men’s peace, or we say he gives you anxiety, the opposite of what Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, gives (peace).  How to prevent this?  In short, staying in the Word and living righteous, is the best prevention.

Anxiety is like a friend, just walk right in!
My US pastor friend, in his blog, said that the anxieties, "they are like friends who come over to your house without ever knocking on the door. They just walk in knowing they will be welcomed." Do you welcome them? If you don't welcome them, will they still just walk right in? Is there a way to keep them off?

I know the Word, but they still walk right in!
I also infer that he meant, "I know the Lord's words on this, but they still walk right in!" Without knowledge we will perish (Hosea 4:6); ignorant is not necessarily bliss! But mere knowledge also does not necessarily mean we won't perish. 

For example, we know dengue can kill, and mosquitoes are carriers; that is knowledge, but if we are living in a dengue zone, and we do nothing to rid of, stagnant waters in our home, that knowledge does not help. The mosquitoes that breed in the stagnant waters in your home would sting you and you could contract dengue fever, and you could suffer tremendously, if not death. Well, you may not deliberately welcome the mosquitoes or dengue, but you did not say no to them either.  Only when we apply the knowledge by getting rid of the stagnant waters, do we actually make an attempt to fend off dengue. So, you want to fend off anxiety? You have to apply the knowledge from the Word, in your life, in order that you can be of peace most of the time, if not all the time, or fend off, anxiety.

Mental knowledge isn’t enough
Most of us don't get beyond the possessing of mental knowledge of the Word; this just isn't enough.  We go back to the dengue case, many of us simply push the buck back to the authority, the municipal services; this authority has to see to it, we need not lift a finger, to fend off anxiety, oop, I mean, dengue!  Isn't it true, many of us do the same to God, passing the buck to God, absolving ourselves of responsibility and accountability, not recognizing there is the "our part" that we must play. 

If I am NOT wrong, many of us, in Singapore, hop from conferences to conferences, lapping it up, whatever that were dished out, but alas, how many of us, actually apply what we have gleaned from conferences and seminars.  Obedience is better than sacrifice applies here too – yah, you made those sacrifices to attend the conferences, but do you obey (put into practice) what you already know of the Word?

Agreement with God NOT just mental assent
I know I talked, above, about agreement with God, and so, it is appropriate, again, to stress that agreement with God that I am talking about is not mental assent.  At the perfect end, it is doing what God wants done, and at the time God has wanted. 

Many believers know Matt 6:33 and can recite it from memory, mentally agreeing with it, but how many actually apply it in their lives? How many actually seek first, the Kingdom of God? Or is it believers (overly grace ones) think that, that they have entered into salvation means they have sought the Kingdom, and so, it is job done, job completed, nothing more to seek!  What about the righteousness bit? I have come across believers who, under the influence of overly grace teaching, said that this verse, Matt 6:33, applies to non-believers, and NOT to believers, on their purported (but wrong) understanding that they are already righteous, max., and forever max., and so, no seeking possible! 

To set the record straight, this text (Matt 6:33) is referring to believers (Want to read a good exposition of Matt 6:33, read this: But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness ...).  Do you practice it, Matt 6:33, or try your best to do so? You and I, have to, you know.

NOT necessarily overnight-lah
What does that verse, verse 34, following it, mean? Verse 34 - “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." The way to look at it, is to read it with v33.   When we actually practise v33, seek His Kingdom and His righteousness, we are in agreement with God, and all we need, God would see to it that we would have them; and when we would do that everyday, we can expect God to do the same - see to it that we will have our needs met each day.  That is why it said there, NOT to be anxious about the next day.  I know some would say, "But I am still anxious about tomorrow, despite trying (not to)!"

A baby does not suddenly able to run; he first goes on four, crawls around, following by standing up, to falling back down, and getting up again, and falling down again, and getting up again, and again and again, and then, taking his first steps, and then falling down and then getting up, and try again, and again, and then, he walks, and then finally, he is able to run. What picture do you get? When it is the right thing to do, bit by bit, we still do, despite setbacks; perseverance and endurance are needed and developed.  Now, if it is the right thing to be done, the babe's father would keep watch with a protective heart, but he may not disrupt the learning process; in fact, he is waiting to see the babe manages walking and then running.  Our God, too, does not want us to give up on doing the right things.  So, don't give up.

Scriptures interprets scripture
1 Pet 5:7 - Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Rest assured, as said in 1 Pet 5:7 above, God cares for you, but the "cast all your anxiety on Him" is less straightforward in that it needs to be interpreted with other scriptures, like these two texts - Matt 6:33-34 and Phil 4:6-7.   What I discern is that we shouldn't be thinking that we could get ourselves carelessly into anxiety, repeatedly, and then each time, could simply claim, "I now cast all my anxiety on the Lord", and expect anxiety is gone, and peace be had.  Yes, it may be possible, the grace of God is at work, but God looks at our heart, and we, ultimately, must come back to be right and in agreement with God. Self-examination is necessary, we must want to come back to wanting to seek His Kingdom and His righteousness; and we got to be practicing Phil 4:6.  What is Phil 4:6?

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Phil 4:6)

Even Phil 4:6 must be understood in the proper light.  The “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.", must be qualified with "they are to be in agreement with God".  It is NOT anything and everything you ask without anxiousness, God must necessarily grant, or His peace would come so that you once again be possessing of peace (and joy) in and of the Spirit.

How do we fend off anxiety or how do we NOT lose peace? Always be in agreement with God.  If we fail, we come back, get back right and in agreement with God. Persist in doing so – the “be in agreement with God”, and “get back right {1 John 1:9}”.  Remember, it is NOT enough, just to be employing mental assent; you and I need to be applying them, practising them, for only in so doing, can we grow, consistent with what is entailed in salvation, which is a process.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions – There is no short-cut; keep doing right, and it will get better.

Comments are welcome here. Alternatively, email them to me @: Or just email me your email address so that I can put you on my blog (new entry) notification list. To go back to blog main page, click here.