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     Sermons | Passionate worship

    This sermon was preached by the Rev. Keith Cardwell at Swift Presbyterian Church.

    Feb. 9, 2020 | Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

    Don’t Be Anxious! Really?
    Philippians 4:6–7

    ■ Sixth sermon in the 2020 Vision series


     S TRESS CAN CAUSE blurred vision.

    Last month, we looked at spiritual eyesight. This month, we’re looking at the physical and emotional concerns that bring blurred vision. Stress is a function of the demands placed on us and our ability to meet them.

    Our eyes are an extension of our brain, so whatever affects the various parts of our brain can interfere with our vision. Demands that cause stress often come from outside sources but also can come from within, often related to what we think we should be doing versus what we’re actually able to do.

    Everyone experiences stress from time to time. There are different types of stress — all of which carry physical and mental health risks. Some people may cope with stress more effectively and recover from stressful events more quickly than others.

    † † †

    WHETHER IN GOOD TIMES OR BAD, most people say that stress interferes at least moderately with their lives. Even children.

    I used to scoff at the idea that children have stress. My response was something like, “You think things are stressful now, wait until you’re an adult with a family and a job.” But the reality is that our children are living with stress. In preschoolers, separation from parents can cause anxiety. Many kids are too busy to have time to play creatively or relax after school.

    As kids get older, academic and social pressures create stress. Bullying is a real problem that youth can’t get away from with 24/7 internet. Children might be stressed from being overscheduled.

    † † †

    SO HOW DO WE — adults, parents, children — deal with stress in a biblical manner? Philippians 4:6: “Do not worry about anything.” I used to think of this as something like the contemporary slogan, “Suck it up, buttercup.” I just need to summon more faith, and I can achieve this anxiety-free life Paul talks about. But I fail miserably at that.

    Stress can be debilitating, and Christians are not immune to stress. Some stress is imposed on us suddenly — illness or job loss. Some stress is traumatic — natural disasters, war.

    Immediately after telling us not to worry about anything, Paul tells us how this can happen. It is not a human achievement at all. It is a gift from God that we access through constant prayer. Prayer and petition. Present your concerns to God. Freedom from anxiety comes only through prayerful, grateful acknowledgment of our dependence on God.

    Sometimes all we can pray is “God, I need your help just to get through the day.” Or “Take this burden from me, or at least give me the strength to persevere. My strength is insufficient.”

    To overcome our stress, to know the peace of Christ, comes only from God’s presence and comfort. I need God to bring peace to my soul.

    † † †

    SOME STRESS IS ROUTINE — family, work, school. When we bring our stress and anxiety to God, when we pray and lift up our petitions, when we become dependent on God, the answer to prayer might well require change. A conversion, so to speak.

    We’d think a prayer is a waste of breath to pray, “God, I don’t want to get drunk any more, but I’m not going to change my drinking habits.” The same with praying for God to release us from stress, while refusing to address causes of stress in our lives. It might be to remove ourselves from the stressful situation — change jobs, drop someone as a friend, seek counseling, or simplify family life. It might require a change of attitude toward others.

    † † †

    SINCE STRESS IS PRACTICALLY A GIVEN in our lives, learning how to reduce its effects on our bodies, minds and our eyes is paramount. God who created us, put our bodies into action, provides natural ways to reduce stress and anxiety in our lives.

    ■ Prayer and meditating on Scripture is a great way to relieve stress. In stressful times it might be a brief prayer repeated over and over. “Calm my spirit, Lord.” “Prince of peace, bring me peace.”

    ■ Exercise. I have been really stressed this week. When I get that way, I want to stay in bed and when I’m up I just mope around. Sometimes I get shortness of breath. That’s the way I was yesterday morning. Lisa suggested I take the dogs for a walk. I walked for about 30 minutes. It was beneficial.

    ■ Get eight hours of sleep. Most of us are sleep deprived — especially our children.

    ■ Eat a healthy diet. When I am stressed I want to eat everything in the house. Maybe even a bag of carrots and a container of hummus. (which is good in moderation)

    ■ Spend time outdoors.

    ■ Do deep-breathing exercises.

    ■ Relax (take a bath, read, put together a puzzle, write a journal entry, listen to soft, slow music).

    ■ Inventory our lives. What must stay, what can go from our schedules.

    † † †

    AND REMEMBER THIS: We are not in this journey alone. There is your church family to walk with you — literally and figuratively. If you have difficulty managing stress and it impedes your ability to carry out your normal daily activities (like getting to work on time), see a doctor or therapist. There’s nothing bad, wrong, unfaithful with that. Doctors, therapists, counselors can be God’s answer to prayers and petitions.

    Perhaps a prayer and petition to bring into the presence of God is this:

    “God, I’m stressed. Through your grace, help me identify the cause. Then with your Holy Spirit, guide me to find ways to address this stress. Until then, send your peace that passes all understanding.”

    — Keith Cardwell   

    «Present your concerns to God. Freedom from anxiety comes only through prayerful, grateful acknowledgment of our dependence on God.»


    ►This is the Word of God for the people of God:

    Philippians 4:6–7
    Holy Bible, New International Version

    6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

    — This is the Word of the Lord.
    — Thanks be to God.

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    23208 Swift Church Road
    Foley, AL 36535
    Phone: (251) 943-8367