Written by Rich Atkinson
Over the last couple of months the Lord has been talking to me about worry and anxiety and the schemes of the enemy. I felt to share what he has been teaching me so I hope this article will help you too.
At the end of my recent trip to Australia I met an American lad called John at Sydney Airport, John was heading back to Japan to continue his work with a church in Tokyo and I had noticed him because he had ‘Phil 4:13’ tattooed on his wrist, “I can do all things in Him that strengthens me.”
We talked for a while and John really encouraged me in confirming some things that the Lord had been talking to me about. We parted company and I took my seat on my flight still with Philippians 4 v 13 buzzing around in my head, prompting me to read the chapter as I flew.
The verse that jumped out at me was verse 6 and in particular the first line, “Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanks giving, continue to make your wants known to God.” I immediately then remembered Matthew 6 v 25 – 34, where Jesus tells us specifically not to worry and that “Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to his life.”(v27) We all have worried at different points in our lives and sadly some people carry worry like a familiar friend. How many times do we hear the phrase “Oh he’s or she is a real worrier!”
Situations that cause us to worry can be as ‘in your face’ as a seriously sick child or just a little nagging doubt. The latter only needs to be the tiniest nag, as small as a piece of grit in your shoe. It might not be enough to cripple you but it’s a nag that’ll ruin your walk. How many times though have we taken our shoes off to remove the ‘Rock of Gibraltar’ only to find that we actually need a microscope to observe the cause of our pain?
Anyhow back to Sydney, I had been battling my own ‘stone in the shoe’ worry; I’ll unpack the story.
Whilst packing for my trip I had packed a shirt that needed a pair of cufflinks, the cufflinks I normally wear with this shirt belonged to my father and I love them. I debated as to whether I should take them or not. Whilst in Perth I decided to wear the shirt and as it was too hot to wear the sleeves down I rolled them up, no cufflinks required, fine!
After nearly 3 weeks in Perth, Gordon and I headed to Sydney and after a few days I realised that my rucksack had come to the end of it’s life and needed replacing, so I bought a new one, checked all the pockets of my old rucksack and threw it into a bin in George Street in the centre of Sydney. I was delighted with my new purchase and quite happy.
Then it started, the voice in my head, “Your dad’s cufflinks were in the inside pocket of the rucksack you threw away.” I wasn’t sure, but after a while suspected that the ‘voice’ was probably right. I was initially cross with myself but resisted the urge to curse myself for being so stupid! However a ‘sadness’ did come over me as I began to believe that I had thrown away Dad’s cufflinks. I concluded that there was nothing I could do and sadly ‘that was that’ – though they could be at home, “though probably not” the voice in my head retorted.
For the next 8 days I battled with the possibility that I had thrown away something I valued so highly and that I needed to be more careful and organised next time and not so stupid, again these were things I thought and resisted speaking out, though sadly I’m not always this disciplined.
I have had a number of items that I have lost, miraculously returned to me including a memory stick that I lost on a tropical island in Malaysia; it was found and amazingly returned to me long after I had returned to the U.K. But I concluded that it was probably a ‘stretch too far’, even for the Lord, to return the cufflinks. Check out my ungodly beliefs! (I did repent.)
Upon my return home I checked the draw where I normally keep the cufflinks……….only to find that both cufflinks were where I had left them and they had never actually been to Australia!
Worry robs you of the now, it steals the moment, distracts you from your present circumstance. Paul Wakely put it this way, “it stops you kicking the leaves in the park Rich.” In other words it stops you being carefree, it stops you being childlike if you will.
My trip to Australia was truly amazing in its inception and execution, God was so kind to both Gordon and myself and we can both testify that it was absolutely raining blessings – Yet the enemy was trying to steal the enjoyment of the ‘now’ from me.
Some worries consistently show up in the same situations, suggesting that they have a ‘root’ and had you been with me you probably would not have of known, principally because they often happened when I was alone or I did my best to hide it.
I recognised though that God was highlighting the fact that He wanted to help me deal with any worries or fears that were nagging me in certain situations and to ‘recognise the thief’ when he was in my neighbourhood. For a while now I have been taking on fear directly – the moment I detect fear ‘going off’ in me I ask the Lord what the cause is, is it a past hurt resurfacing or possibly the demonic?. I usually now praise and rejoice and often quickly find the fear lifts.
When I returned from Australia I went out for one of my usual prayer walks and this thought crossed my mind, “Does God worry?” of course not I concluded! And in particular did the Father worry about the Son whilst He was on the Earth? No, there’s no record of it.
I was then reminded of a recent preach I’d heard by a South African, Dr Caroline Leaf who is an eminent brain scientist and a born again believer. Dr Leaf was preaching about the detrimental effects that negativity has on the brain and body. She explains that our choice of reaction to any given situation offers us the opportunity to ‘collapse’ fear or not, chemically into our brain and bodies and that choice is always ours. She also made this statement quoting Moira Copeland regarding fearing for our children.
“The fear for your children is the beginning of their destruction.”
I then felt the Lord rearrange this statement. And said, “When you worry over your children you add to the bars of their captivity.”
Two very powerful statements! The second caused me in particular to pick through my relationship with my mum and realise that it was true, her worries and fears, spoken and unspoken had held me prisoner until Jesus had started to set this captive free.
My daughter Holly is currently on a trip around the world and I’ve realised that the line between good practical advice and me expressing my fears over her is a thin one.
At this point I was also reminded of the father in the prodigal son story who did not give his son a list of do’s and don’ts as he walked out the door with his inheritance. It would have been easy for the father to express his fears for his son, to his son, as he was leaving.
Bill Johnson points out that if Jesus has all power and the devil has none then the only way the devil can gain power is by us giving it to him. Worry is a work of the enemy and it only gains power if we buy into it.
In his recent preach ‘The War in Your Head’ Bill Johnson tackles what we believe and every stronghold that raises itself against the knowledge of Christ.
2 Corinthians 10 v 4-5 says this.
4. For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], But they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds.
5. [Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasoning’s and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed one). AMP
In the context of the above passage Bill points out that;
“These strongholds are basically thought patterns that war against the knowledge of God, these are ideas and ideals that are in conflict with what God says. The enemy actually inhabits these realms of thought.
A stronghold is where an army will rest so that they can go out from there and do exploits, so it’s a resting place. It’s where the enemy hides safely in the thought life, not in the imagination in the sense that you are imagining this but the reality is in the ‘broken thoughts’ of people, inconsistent with the knowledge of God. It’s where the enemy is concealed and safe to hide and from there he works to kill, steal and destroy.”
“We can’t afford to entertain thoughts about ourselves that He (God) doesn’t think about us, the moment we do we entertain a lie and we actually ‘war’ against the purposes of God in our life. When we dwell and feed on those things that are contrary to His word over us we actually war against, that’s why the Bible says ‘the mind set on the flesh is death’, it cannot obey God, so the mind, the mind that is contrary to God sets us up for failure.”
When we feed and agree with our worries we raise them up as strongholds against the word of God and thus the devil “who” has no power, (because Jesus has all power) can only gain power by us handing him ours. The Lord explained it like this to me. “When you start agreeing with the devil Rich you cross no-man’s-land get into his trench and start shooting at your own side.” The enemy’s rifles are useless without our ammunition of agreement.
Worry and anxiety are human and demonic in nature, they do not in any way represent the Kingdom of Heaven and I have no doubt that I will be tested in these areas again but I am getting better at recognising ‘when the thief is in my neighbourhood’ and I am much more reluctant to hand the power Jesus won for me on the cross to the enemy than I have been in the past.
Phillipians 4 v 6 (NIV) says: Do not to worry about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Really, however, the above verse needs to be read with the promise of verse 7 attached.
Phillipians 4 v 7: And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Lord, In my battles with worry help me fulfil verse 6 that I may receive the promise of verse 7.
Hope this helps