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Dr. Rick Mandl - June 13, 2020

Think About What You Think About

Sermon Manuscript: Anxious For Nothing Message 4- The Perspective Of Praise

Sermon preached by Dr. Rick Mand, Eagle Rock Baptist Church, June 13 & 14, 2020

 

Hey church family, it’s good to be with you as we come together for worship today. My name is Rick, I’m one of the pastors here and over the last few weeks we’ve been in a sermon series called Anxious for nothing. This phrase is taken from Philippians 4:4-7 which is the key passage we’ve been looking at and what it says is... “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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 4:4-7).

 

As we wrap up this series we are going to look at the importance of thinking about, what you think about. Philippians 4:7 ends with the promise that when we are anxious for nothing, but instead pray about everything, the result of that is going to be that... the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds. Our minds are important to God. Luke 10:27 tells us that... We are to love God with all of our minds. Romans 12 tells us that... A renewed mind leads to transformation. Colossians 3 tells us that we are to... Set our minds on things above, not earthly things Philippians 2 tells us to... have the same mindset as Christ. And also that we’re to be... working together with one mind and purpose. -

 

So, if our minds are important to God... Then we need to be careful what we put into them. Have you ever heard the saying, “You are what you eat?” That’s true in a lot of areas, not the least of which is our mind. And that’s why we need to think about what we feed it, particularly when it comes to the area of being anxious. Because as we’ve seen during series, anxiety is the number one health issue among women... It’s the number two issue for men, second only to drugs and alcohol. It might actually be the number one health issue for men, we just have a harder time admitting it.

 

We all get anxious. The latest statistics say that 40 million adult Americans admit to struggling with anxiety. We spend more than 48 billion dollars a year treating anxiety. If you have teenagers, you know that, that demographic is seeing the sharpest rise in anxiety. A recent survey looked at the top problems that teenagers see among their peers. Bullying, Drug Addiction, Alcohol and Poverty were not at the top of the list... But 70% identified anxiety and depression as the number one problem they see among teenagers. But we know it’s not a problem limited to teenagers. Our entire society, every age group, every demographic struggles with anxiety. And there are a lot of reasons... I believe a lot of it has to do with what we allow into our mind. Which is why we need to Think About What We Think About.

           

We can’t control every thought that comes into our minds, but we can control what we allow to stay there. Thoughts can be like a stray cat, if you feed them they will keep coming around. So, what should we avoid feeding? I think there are at least three areas where a big “Don’t feed the animals” sign should be posted.

 

The first thing we shouldn’t feed our mind is fear. We shouldn’t feed our minds fear... In fact think of it this way... Don’t feed fear, feed faith. If you’ve been with us throughout this series, you know that I’ve said that there is a relationship between... Fear & Anxiety. There’s a relationship... These two things are cousins, but not twins. What I mean by that is... Fear sees a threat and reacts. Anxiety imagines a threat and can’t move. Fear in and of itself, is not necessarily a bad thing. It can keep us from trouble. For example, when our girls were little, a healthy fear of their mom probably helped motivate them to make wise decisions. They weren’t really afraid of me because I’m just a big teddy bear. Their mom however, that was another story. The fear of getting a ticket and having our insurance rates go up might cause us to watch our speed on the freeway. The fear of bankruptcy might keep us from going too far into debt. The fear of losing our job might motivate us to be conscientious employees. The fear of being killed might make me think twice before playing chicken with an oncoming train. The fear of breaking my neck might help me stay on the bunny slopes, rather than the triple black diamond run if I’m a beginning skier. The fear of being eaten alive might keep me from trying to play with a tiger at the zoo. We want children to develop a healthy fear of adults they do not know or who may not be safe. Fear is a God-given emotion which can help us stay out of danger.

 

However, fear can also be paralyzing if it grows into a phobia, and if you are dealing with a phobia, you may need to pursue getting professional help to deal with it. When I say, “Don’t feed fear... The type of fear I’m talking about is not the kind that keeps you safe... I’m talking about the kind of fear that makes you anxious, the kind of fear that keeps you up at night. It is based in our imaginations, more than in our actual circumstances. It is the fear that is fed by what might happen, by all of the what-ifs that steal into our thoughts and rob us of our peace. When this is the type of fear we are dealing with, we should not feed it.

 

Let me give you a couple of examples... If you are anxious about your teenager driving - you should not read every article you can find about car accidents involving teenage drivers. If you are worried about getting cancer because one of your parents had cancer - you should not do constant google searches for cancer symptoms. If you find it difficult to get to sleep because you are worried someone will break into your house - don’t spend your evenings watching crime shows. So if we shouldn’t feed this type of fear, what should we feed? We should feed faith. Faith in the God who created us, and who loved us enough to send His Son to die for us. Look at these words of David from Psalm 56:3 “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.” Don’t feed your fear. Feed your faith by looking at the ways that God has worked to protect His people in the past. Fill your mind with the stories of Gideon, David and Goliath, and Moses crossing the Red Sea. Read how God used Esther… Rescued Daniel from the lions... And provided for Ruth.

 

Remind yourself that these people didn’t know what God was going to do... They didn’t know that they would be protected and provided for. Do you remember when Esther was planning to go before the king to plead for the lives of her people? She undoubtedly was afraid, and she didn’t know what the outcome was going to be. She said, “...though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die.” She went, knowing full well, that the result of going to see the king when you had not been summoned, was most likely death. But what did she do before she went? She fed her faith.

 

Look at the first part of that verse. Esther prepared for her visit to the king by saying... “Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die.” In the Bible, fasting and praying often go hand in hand. Those three days of fasting, were three days of feeding Esther’s faith. Those three days of fasting - knowing that others were fasting with her - were feeding her faith, not her fear, and so she was able to face, approaching the king even though she didn’t know what the outcome would be. Let the example of men and women from the scripture encourage and inspire you in your walk with God. When it comes to “Thinking about what you think about… Don’t feed your fear, feed your faith. And then secondly...

           

Don’t feed bitterness, feed forgiveness. Take a look at Hebrews 12:14-15. Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. Don’t let bitterness take root, and don’t let it grow up, instead make every effort to be at peace. When we let bitterness take root… When we feed bitterness... We are failing to recognize and act on the grace God has extended to us, by failing to extend that grace to others. When bitterness takes root, when we feed it so that it grows, it has consequences which aren’t good and can be far reaching. Part of the reason for this is that bitterness doesn’t travel alone. It travels in a pack. Ephesians 4:31 names the other members of the gang. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” When we don’t deal with bitterness, it grows into rage and anger. If we don’t deal with the anger it grows into fighting. We begin to speak badly of the person we are bitter toward  - that’s SLANDER. If that goes unchecked, we can begin to think about doing harm or at least wishing harm to the other person - that’s MALICE.

 

We see this played out in the life of the twin brothers, Jacob and Esau. We find their story in Genesis chapters 25-27. Jacob and Esau were twin boys born to Isaac and Rebekah... You may remember that Isaac was the son of Abraham and Sarah. Esau was the older twin, and as such, he was entitled to a larger portion of the inheritance when his father died. But one day, when Esau came in from the field, where he had been hunting, he was famished. His brother Jacob had made some stew, and Esau asked him for some. Jacob said he would give him a bowl of stew in exchange for his brother’s birthright. Esau decided that since he was famished, and felt like he was going to die of hunger, his birthright was of no use to him, so he agreed to give it to Jacob for a bowl of stew. ALSO, as the older twin, Esau was entitled to his father’s blessing.

 

One day, when his father, Isaac was old, and unable to see very well. He called his son Esau to his side and asked him to go out and hunt some wild game, and then prepare a savory dish of it for his father, so that Isaac could eat and then bless Esau. Esau went out to do what his father asked. Esau’s mother, Rebekah, heard what Isaac had said to Esau. But Rebekah was partial to Jacob, and she wanted him to get the blessing. So she instructed Jacob to kill a goat and bring it to her. She prepared a savory dish from the goat meat and told Jacob to take it to his father and pretend to be his brother Esau. Rebekah even went so far as to dress Jacob in Esau’s robe, and to put some of the goat skin on the exposed parts of Jacob’s skin because his brother Esau was hairy, and Jacob wasn’t. Jacob took the dish to Isaac, and at first, Isaac was suspicious, he asked Jacob who he was and Jacob said, “I am Esau.” Isaac was still suspicious, and asked Jacob to come closer, he smelled his clothes and felt his arms. He said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” So Isaac ate and then gave Jacob the blessing that was due to Esau.

           

Let’s read what happened next: “As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and almost before Jacob had left his father, Esau returned from his hunt. Esau prepared a delicious meal and brought it to his father. Then he said, “Sit up, my father, and eat my wild game so you can give me your blessing.” “But Isaac asked him, “Who are you?” Esau replied, “It’s your son, your firstborn son, Esau." Isaac began to tremble uncontrollably and said, “Then who just served me wild game? I have already eaten it, and I blessed him just before you came. And yes, that blessing must stand!” “When Esau heard his father’s words, he let out a loud and bitter cry. “Oh my father, what about me? Bless me, too!” he begged. But Isaac said, “Your brother was here, and he tricked me. He has taken away your blessing.” We read the result in verse 41. Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” Esau’s bitterness grew into anger which grew into malice. Jacob had to flee for his life, and it would be years before the brothers would meet again. When we are hurt, it is natural to feel anger and we have to process those feelings? So how do we know if we start to feed bitterness.

 

Here are 3 quick tests:

  1. Am I keeping the incident on instant replay and Rehashing it over and over in my mind? If you are, you’re feeding bitterness.
  1. Am I keeping a list? If I am saying to myself, "And they did this yesterday, and this last week, and this last month, and this last year, and on and on and on and on...  then I am feeding bitterness.
  1. Am I trying to recruit others to my side? If I am telling others about how I have been wronged… If I become defensive when they don't agree with me, and thrilled when they jump on the bandwagon, then I am feeding bitterness.

           

So what do I do instead? Feed forgiveness. Ephesians 4:32 says... “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). The root of bitterness, can only be dug out of the soil of our heart, by forgiveness. Just as we have received forgiveness from God, so we are to extend forgiveness to others. Look at Psalm 103 verse 10. “God does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10). God has not dealt with us according to our sins or rewarded us according to our iniquities. Forgiveness is not earned or deserved. It is an act of Mercy toward those who have harmed us. Forgiveness does not mean that trust is restored or that the relationship goes right back to being what it was before. Sin has consequences in how it affects relationships. But lack of forgiveness ultimately harms us.

 

The root of bitterness is a poison root and it spreads. It affects our outlook on life. It affects our other relationships. It can even affect our ability to experience God's forgiveness in our own lives. The way that we feed forgiveness is to regularly remind ourselves of how much God has forgiven us. We don't deserve salvation. We don't deserve a relationship with Christ. We don't deserve the ability to come to God in prayer. All these things are possible only because God has forgiven us through Christ. That forgiveness did not come easily or cheaply, it was paid for by the blood of Jesus on the cross. We need to remind ourselves of this. We need to never take for granted what our own forgiveness cost God. As we think about what we're thinking about, what we are allowing our minds to dwell on, we need to feed faith, not fear, we need to not to feed bitterness, but rather to feed forgiveness.

           

Finally, as we think about what we think about, we need to feed hope rather than feeding despair. We live in a time where many people are feeling hopeless, where many people are feeling despair. Our world has been turned upside down by Covid-19, and we are regularly reminded that life may never go back to the way that it was. Many of us have been separated from our loved ones and from our support systems. We have also been surrounded by images of man’s inhumanity to man, of the brokenness of this world and its systems, of the inequalities that exist and the discrimination that takes place against people solely because of the color of their skin. This is not a new issue, and because of that it can seem like an impossible problem to solve. It can seem like there is no hope.

           

That’s not true! Yet often we feed despair by immersing ourselves in media whether it is mainstream news media, or social media. We read about statistics and death rates and incidences of brutality. We focus exclusively on bad news, and we withdraw from the company of those who try to encourage us, or who attempt to lift us up. At times we even refused to be comforted. There are real problems in the world, and it is not helpful to stick our heads in the sand and pretend they don't exist. But rather than feed despair, we need to be intentional about feeding hope. I'm NOT talking about just taking a happy view of life. I'm NOT talking about the power of positive thinking. I'm talking about the hope that comes from a relationship with the Creator and sustainer of the universe, through his son Jesus Christ.

 

Recently in our video devotions we looked at the most stark example in the Bible of feeding hope rather than despair. It comes from the life of the prophet Jeremiah, as he records his own feelings in Lamentations chapter 3. Jeremiah was God’s messenger to the people of Israel who were under the oppressive rule of the Babylonians. The situation was desperate, and we get a glimpse of that desperation as we read Jeremiah’s words. “I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of the Lord’s wrath. He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light; indeed, he has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long. He has made my skin and my flesh grow old and has broken my bones.” “He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship. He has made me dwell in darkness like those long dead. He has walled me in so I cannot escape; he has weighed me down with chains. Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer.” Can you feel Jeremiah’s despair?

           

He finishes his lament with these words... My soul has been rejected from peace; I have forgotten happiness. So I say, “My strength has perished and so has my hope from the Lord” (Lamentations 3:17-18). Jeremiah says, “My hope is gone.” And if that is where you find yourself today, I encourage you to do what Jeremiah did. He made a choice... He made a choice to focus on who God is. He made a choice to hold on to what he knew to be true. His CIRCUMSTANCES did not change, but his FOCUS did. Listen to his words: This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. What was it that he recalled? What was it that he chose to think about? What he chose to think about was the character of God. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” We feed hope when, like Jeremiah, we focus on the character of God.

           

We also feed hope when we focus on eternity. Listen to this quote by pastor Tim Keller: How you experience your present, is completely shaped by what you believe your ultimate future to be. Let me read that to you again... How you experience your present, is completely shaped by what you believe your ultimate future to be. That is a profound truth which we see clearly illustrated in the life of the Apostle Paul. Look at what he wrote to the church at Corinth. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

 

In order to truly understand this passage, we need to remember what Paul’s light and momentary troubles were. Here are some of the things he wrote describing his circumstances in 1 Corinthians 4... To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; where we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things.” In 2 Corinthians 7 he told us... "For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within" (2 Corinthians 7:5). In 2 Corinthians 11 he writes... “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”

           

I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like “light and momentary troubles” to me! Yet in the midst of all this, Paul was not despairing, because he focused on the eternal. His present was shaped by what he believed his eternal future to be. This can be true of us as well. We can experience our present circumstances with hope, when we are confident that our future is secure in Christ. We can experience our present circumstances, even difficult ones, with joy when we know that we will spend eternity with God. We can experience our present circumstances with perseverance when we are able to trust that what we are going through has a purpose, and that, in the span of eternity, this is only a very short portion of our life. If you are a follower of Jesus, I would encourage you to feed hope by focusing on the character of God, and by looking at life through the perspective of your eternal destiny.

 

If you are not a follower of Jesus, if you do not have an eternity with God through which to filter your present circumstances. I urge you to make today the day that you put your trust in what Jesus did for you on the cross. The Bible says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ). Believing in Jesus gives us eternal life. It allows us to feed faith, forgiveness, and hope. You can come to Jesus today by simply talking to God and saying, “I don’t pretend to understand it all, but I want to respond to what I do what I do understand... I believe Jesus Christ is God, and that he left heaven and came to earth, and died a cross, to what I could not do for myself... To settle my the debt I owed to God, so I could be forgiven. He paid a debt he didn’t owe... So I could receive a gift, I don’t deserve... And I want to accept that gift today. You pray that prayer, and God will meet you right where you are, and lead you forward on an adventure of faith.

 

The key passage we’ve been looking at over the last few weeks has been Philippians 4:4-7, but I want to finish out today’s message by looking at the next verse. "Finally, brothers and sisters, 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" (Philippians 4:8). Fill your mind with these things. Meditate on these things. If you and I want to walk a better direction, then we need to download a new playlist – get some true, noble, right, pure, lovely, stuff in here. If you can influence thinking you can influence behavior, Scripture says as a person thinks in their heart, so they are. What makes you and me the way we are is the way we think. True change always begins in our mind. I’m not talking about the power of positive thinking, but I what I am talking about is that negative thoughts cannot lead to a positive life. If you put batteries upside down in a flashlight, no lights are coming on. And the people who really shine are the people who consistently fill their minds with good things.

 

I encourage you to memorize Philippians 4:8. Write it on an index card and attach it to your television. Use it as a screensaver on your computer or your phone. Think about what you think about... Be careful what you feed your mind... NASCAR drivers are very careful what kind of fuel they put in their high-performance racecars. PILOTS are pretty selective about what kind of fuel goes into their jets. ATHLETES are very disciplined about what type of fuel goes into their bodies. CHOOSY Moms choose Jif... Okay, maybe that one not so much, but my point is many of us forget that same principle when it comes to our minds. God cares about our mind. He cares about what we think about. And if He cares about it, we should too.

 

Do you want to live - anxious for nothing??? Filter what you think about through the truth of God’s Word. Filter what you feed your mind through the criteria found in Philippians 4:8. What we put in our mind affects how we live and affects how we see the world. Let's ask the Holy Spirit to bring to our attention those things that we need to stop feeding on so we can have minds and lives that are pleasing to our heavenly father. Would you pray with me... Father thank you for reminding us that even though we can’t control every thought that comes into our mind, we can control what we allow to stay there. Help us focus on those things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable - excellent and worthy of praise – toward the end that we’d be growing more and more to look like the one we came to worship. We ask it In Jesus Name– Amen

 

 

From Series: "Anxious For Nothing"

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