How To Defeat Anxiety

Title: How To Defeat Anxiety

Bible Book: Psalms 37 : 1-9

Author: J. Gerald Harris

Subject: Worry; Anxiety; Peace



The world is full of worriers. Some are occasional worriers. Some are chronic worriers. But I doubt if there are any of us who are able to escape the woes of worry altogether.

An anxious housewife in Nebraska said, “I have so many problems that if something terrible happened to e, it would be at least two weeks before I could get around to worrying about it.”

I heard about this man who was in the restroom of an airport, looking in the mirror. He was paying special attention to his hairline. A fellow walked up to him and said, “Are you all right?”

And the man said, “There is always something to worry about. If I keep losing my hair at the present rate, I will be completely baldheaded in six months.”

The other man said, “Well, why worry if you hair falls out. Suppose it ached and you had to have it pulled like teeth.”

Then I heard about this poor old man who worried so much about his debts that the hair began to fall out of his wig.

Somebody said the best way to live a long life is to get someone else to do the worrying for you. Now, when you worry, what do you do? Some folks who worry pace the floor, others wring their hands. Worry drives some people to talk incessantly. Others will retreat into a season of silence. Some people will vent their anxiety by becoming gluttons. Others will starve themselves almost into oblivion. Some worriers prefer the noise of a crowd. Other prefer the serenity of solitude.

Vance Havner said that worry is like a rocking chair. It will give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.

George Mueller said, “The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith. The beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.”

Phil Marquart, a medical doctor, said, “Blessed is the man who is too busy to worry in the daytime and too sleepy to worry at night.”

Adrian Rogers, in his book, The Secret of Supernatural Living, says, “Worry is the opposite of faith. Worry is an insult to God. Worrying is like one who says, ‘God I don’t think you can handle this one.’”

Now, in the past two weeks we have talked about the causes and the consequences, first of depression, and then of fear. This morning I’m going to be talking about just how to defeat anxiety. I want to ask Dr. Ken Rutledge to come and help me sort of set the stage for the rest of the message.

(Interview Dr. Rutledge.)

All right, the Bible tells us how we can have freedom from worry. There are five things in Psalm 37 denoting God’s cure for anxiety. He lists them 1-2-3-4-5, and then in Psalm 37:37 He says, “…for the end of that man is peace.”

Now, in verse 3 we find the first word that will help us to defeat anxiety. The psalmist says…

I. “Trust In The Lord, and Do Good...”

Some of you are saying, “Well, pastor, I am trusting in the Lord. I am a Christian. I believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Savior.” Well, that is not what this verse is talking about. This verse is not talking about trusting Christ for salvation. I believe this verse is saying, “trust in the Lord” to people who already know God. This whole Psalm 37 is not written to unsaved people to get them saved. It is written to saved people to get them to have perfect trust in the Lord, and to have peace in their hearts and minds.

We are to look at this entire verse 3. There is a beautiful promise here (read). Perhaps some of you are worried over debt. Perhaps you are worried over pleasing your boss, or not being able to successfully complete some assignment. Perhaps you worry because there are just not enough hours in the day to get done what needs to be done. Some of you may even be worried because you don’t know where the next meal is coming from. Well, this verse has a promise for those who have such worries. It says, “so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.”

In another Psalm, David said, “Once I was young and now I am old, but I have never seen the righteous forsaken, nor God’s children begging bread.” So the third verse of Psalm 37 is a verse with a promise. But I want you to notice that it is conditional. David said, “Trust in the Lord, and good…(then) shalt thou dwell in the land, and (then) thou shalt be fed.”

Occasionally I hear somebody say, “Well, I believe all the promises of God.” Now, I don’t know how many promises there are, but I read somewhere that there are 3000 promises in the Bible. I find that people who are saved will read the Bible and take the promises of God, which are spread out all through the Bible, and they think the promises of God are a bunch of spiritual handouts. And to them it’s like going to a smorgasbord. You say, “I want some of that salad, and I want a piece of that chicken. I don’t want any of those anchovies, and I don’t like those dark, ripe olives. I don’t want any of that. I don’t want any of those beans. I would like some of that strawberry pie.” And you go by and pick out what you want.

Many people take the Bible and the promises in the Bible and they make a smorgasbord out of it. They go through the Bible and they pick out the promises that are easy to believe. They will have a promise that means a lot to them when the sun is shining and the birds are singing and they think they don’t have an enemy in the world and everything is rosy. But I want you to know that practically every promise of God is conditional.

The conditions to claiming the promise in verse 3 is “trust in the Lord, and do good.” When I think about trusting the Lord, I always think of George Mueller.

George Mueller was the man who had the orphanage ministry in Bristol, England, in the first part of the nineteenth century. What a man of faith he was. He determined early in his ministry that he never ask anybody for a penny to help support his orphanage. There were two reasons for this. Number one, he said, “If you ever ask a man for anything it would take your eyes away from God and put your eyes upon man.”

Secondly, he said, “It would turn the minds of his helpers away from depending solely upon the Lord.”

This man of God had staked everything upon one great experiment – he had set himself to prove that the prayer, which resorts to God, only will bring help in every crisis.

There was one occasion when he was out of supplies; out of food, out of everything. To meet the needs of hundreds of boys and girls who were orphans, all he had was 27 cents. He was contacted by a wealthy man who asked him to give a statement of his needs at the orphanage. George Mueller said, “I don’t not state my needs to man. I state my needs only to God.”

That man went home, prayed about what he should do, and gave exactly what Mueller needed.

In July of 1845 George Mueller gave his testimony, and this is what he said: For seven years our funds have been so exhausted that we have rarely been able to plan more than one meal at a time. Yet I have been only once tried in spirit, and that was on September 18, 1838.”

What a man of faith; trusting the Lord for every meal, every loaf of bread, every pound of cheese. George Mueller prayed and put his faith in God. God amazingly, marvelously, gloriously, supernaturally provided for every need.

Now, I would like to see us do that in this church, just continually pray, asking God to meet needs; asking God to empower us for ministry; asking God to give us an evangelistic zeal, a missionary spirit.

I want you to notice the second part of the condition. The psalmist says, “Trust in the Lord, and do good.” You say, “What does that mean?” James, in his epistle, says that “faith without works is dead.” I believe you pray and exercise faith as if it all depended upon God, then you work as if it all depended upon you. You see, I believe that we are meant to be co-laborers with God. We trust god to do His part, and we obey God to do our part. It’s a matter of trusting and obeying.

I heard about this young man who went out west to apply for a job as a ranch hand. When he met the foreman of the ranch, the foreman asked him, “What kind of work do you do?”

The young man said,” I can sleep well on a story night.”

The foreman was puzzled by the strange answer of the young man, but he needed help badly. He hired him anyway. A few nights later a storm swept across the prairie. The foreman arose hastily and began to worry about the effects of the storm. He found the windmill properly adjusted to ride out the storm. He found the gate tied with and extra rope. He found a tarpaulin tied securely over the haystack and pegged down tightly. The horses had been moved from the corral to the barn and the door was secured with great care. When the foreman reached the bunkhouse, he found the newly hired hand sound asleep. Then he understood the meaning of the young man’s words when he said, “I can sleep well on a stormy night.”

You see, you don’t have to worry when you trust in the Lord and do good. Now, if we’re to defeat our anxiety, the second thing that we are to do is found in verse 4.

II. II. “Delight Thyself Also in the Lord”

Look at the fourth verse of our text (read). Now, I have done a lot of serious heart thinking about this statement. What does it mean to “delight thyself in the Lord?” This verse does not mean that you can ask for and anticipate receiving anything your selfish heart may desire. It means that if the Lord is your delight, He will give you desires that are new and beautiful. Your desires will originate with the Lord.

For example, if you delight yourself in the Lord, it means that you will delight yourself in His word. The longer I live and the more I think about it, the more I realize that there is nothing in this world more sweet and more precious to the heart of a Christian than the word of God.

To delight yourself in the Lord means to delight in His word. The reason I know that is because Psalm 1 talks about the blessed man, the godly man. And it says, “his delight is in the law of the Lord.”

Let me ask you something. How much do you delight in the word of God? What is the highlight of your day? Reading the Bible or reading the newspaper? Let me tell you something. Satan is not afraid of the Bible with dust on it. Someone has said, “Study the Bible to be wise. Believe it to be saved. Practice it to be holy.”

So, to delight yourself in the Lord, I am absolutely positive, means to delight yourself in His word.

Then Psalm 40:8 says, “I delight to do thy will, O my God.” Now, you’re not going to delight yourself in the will of God unless you’re willing to do His will. Let me ask you something. Are you willing to do the will of God? Some of you may be anxious because you have put your will before the will of God. That has caused great frustration in your life.It may be God’s will for some of you to go to the mission field. It may be God’s will for some of you to enter the ministry. It may be God’s will for some of you to teach Sunday school in this church. It may be God’s will for some of you to sing in the choir. I believe that it is God’s will for you to get involved in personal witnessing. It may be God’s will for you to get involved in the intercessory prayer ministry.

So, in order to delight yourself in the Lord, you’re going to have to delight yourself in His word, and you’re going to have to delight yourself in His will. Let me also say that you’re going to have to delight yourself in His work. Do you know what God is working to do in this world today? He is at work to comfort our hearts and our souls. In Psalm 94:19 the scripture says, “In the multitude of my thoughts within me they comforts delight my soul.” When I think of my loving heavenly Father and what He has done for me, I realize that He has been so good to me. Sometimes we have a tendency to think of the conflicts and the burdens and the disappointments, but God says to think of the blessings. The psalmist said, “thy comforts delight my soul.” In other words, his soul delighted in the comforting work of God.

So, dear friend, if the Lord is your delight; if you delight in His word; if you delight in His will; if you delight in His works of comfort, then He will give you the desires of your heart. He will replace those desires that create frustration and anxiety with new desires and beautiful desires. Your desires will originate with the Lord.

III. “Commit Thy Way Unto The Lord”

Now, this third prescription is found in verse 5 of our text. The psalmist says, “Commit thy way unto the Lord.” Then he adds, “trust also in him.”

Several years ago I was preaching in a revival in another state and a certain woman had accepted the responsibility for getting me to the church on time. She was a very large and had a large car which she filled with a large number of friends. I was required to squeeze into the back seat in less space than it takes for me. We took off down the highway at a terrifying pace and shot straight through a stop sign. I tell, you, I was frightened out of my baptistic, evangelical mind. I would have gotten awfully anxious about that whole situation, but there simply was not room for it in the back seat of that car.

The main problem was the lady insisted on talking face to face with me at the same time she was driving. Since I was huddled in the back seat, you understand that this meant that she couldn’t concentrate on me and the road. Unfortunately, she chose me.

Now, by stepping into he car I committed myself to he driving. But I can assure you that after the first one hundred yards; I didn’t trust her at all. Sometimes in the Christian life you will find that commitment to Jesus Christ may also wear thin when unwanted things happen. But David exhorts us to “commit our way unto the Lord, and trust also in him” – no matter what happens, trust Him!

Have you ever read extensively in the Book of Job? You ought to take it sometimes and read it slowly and carefully and just think about it. His oxen, his asses, his sheep, his cattle were destroyed. His camels were taken away. His servants were murdered. His sons and daughters were killed by a tornado. Job himself was covered from head to foot with boils. His friends came to him and they turned out to be more of a liability than as asset. But in all of that, do you know what Job said? He said, “I do not care if God slays me. I’m just going to keep on trusting.” Now, that is what it means to commit your way to the Lord.

David says, “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” In other words, the Lord is saying, “Don’t try to deal with the adversities and the frustrations of your life yourself. Just trust me and I will handle your case.”

IV. “Rest In the Lord”

This part of the prescription is found in the first past of verse 7 of our text. Do you remember what Jesus said in Matthew 11:28? He said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

It is amazing how restless we can become. Most of us are not content to handle one day at a time. We reflect upon the problems of the past and we borrow trouble from the future. The combination of past, present, and future problems creates all kinds of restlessness and anxiety.

You remember what Jesus said? Jesus said, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.”

Nearly everyone can carry the problems of one single day without breaking under the load. But far too many people try to carry the worries of the future along with the burdens of today.

Don’t take tomorrow to bed with you. Someone said, “Why worry about the future? Between the bomb and pollution, there may not be any.” The real problem is that more people worry about the future than prepare for it.

One lady said, “Don’t tell me that worry doesn’t do any good. I know better. The things I worry about don’t happen.”

But the story is told of William Jennings Bryan, the great orator, who is his early years traveled across the state making speeches against the Republican candidate for governor. The only problem was that Bryan’s candidate lost and the Republican candidate won.

As fate would have it, however, William Jennings Bryan accepted the invitation to speak at a certain university, and he was to share the same platform with the newly elected governor. And still more embarrassing was the fact that the governor was to introduce him. As William Jennings Bryan thought about that speaking engagement, and as he thought about the governor introducing him, and as he thought about all of the campaign speeches that he had made for the governor’s opponent, and as he thought about all of the mud slinging that had taken place during the campaign, he wondered if the governor would be resentful over those hostile campaign speeches.

Well, the day came for William Jennings Bryan to make his speech. The newly elected governor was there to make the introduction. As the governor stood to introduce him, he said, “I want to introduce that well known figure in this state, W.J. Bryan.” Then he turned to Bryan, grasped his hand warmly, pulled him close and whispered, “Quick. Do you speak, sing or dance?”

William Jennings Bryan said, “I worried about that situation for two months, but the governor had never even heard of me.”

I’m reminded of a little bird that flew into a certain apartment and wanted to get out. It dashed itself against the ceiling and the wall, and here and there.

It fluttered and pounded itself against the four walls. There was only one way out, and that was the way that it came in. The bird couldn’t find it. Finally, battered and worn and tried, it fell on the window sill. In a moment it realized that that was the way out, but it couldn’t find it until it wore itself completely out. Isn’t it a shame that Christians have to wear themselves out in complete restlessness before they can find rest in the Lord. Our Psalm says, “Rest in the Lord…for in the end of that man is peace.”

V. “Wait On the Lord”

Now, the fifth and final part of the prescription for defeating anxiety is found in verse 7, and repeated again in verse 34. No doubt some of you are ready to say, “This business of waiting sounds good, but how do you expect me to sit back with all of this frustration and anxiety and take all the abuse that I have to take without any kind of reaction?”

Now, I agree that that would be a natural response; that that is what makes it so interesting. It is a spiritual response that we must make. Instead of handling the thing yourself, what we must do is learn to trust god to work on our behalf. You just wait, and you become content to believe that God will ultimately work things out.

The Bible says, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

You see, I can wait on the Lord because I really know how this thing is going to turn out. Satan is not going to win. Evil is not going to be victorious. Wickedness is not going to end up on the throne. But Christ is going to reign triumphant. We’re going to reign with Him.

By the same token, we do not have to worry about how this life is going to end for us. When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, we can be assured that right will be on the throne and wrong will be on the scaffold. We can be sure that “all things work together for good to those who love God, and to those who are called according to His purpose.” You see, those who wait upon the Lord waste no time. And those who wait upon Him will be vindicated in the end. So you want to know how to win over worry. “Trust in the Lord, and do good. Delight yourself in the Lord. Commit you way to the Lord. Rest in the Lord. Wait patiently upon Him.” And do you see that it says down there in the last part of verse 37. It says, “for the end of that man is peace.” Amen.

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