|Publisher:||Tyndale House Publishers|
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About the Author
Attorney Mark Hitchcock thought his career was set after graduating from law school. But after what Mark calls a "clear call to full-time ministry," he changed course and went to Dallas Theological Seminary, completing a master's and a PhD, Since 1991, Mark has authored numerous books, serves as senior pastor of Faith Bible Church, and is associate professor of Bible exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary. Mark and his wife, Cheryl, live in Edmond, Oklahoma, with their children and grandchildren.
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USE THE 46 DEFENSE
Most news ... could carry a universal headline to get our attention: YOU SHOULD BE WORRIED.
GARY S TOKES
One of the greatest defenses in NFL history was that of the 1985 Chicago Bears. They employed a defensive scheme known as the "46 defense," developed in 1981 by defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan. Armed with this scheme and some great talent, they throttled and terrorized offenses across the league, reaching their zenith in 1985. The pressure they applied, led by middle linebacker Mike Singletary, was reckless and relentless. The '85 Bears struck fear into the hearts of opposing quarterbacks, blazing a trail of devastation through the NFL. Their domination was so overwhelming that "during one three-game stretch, the Bears scored more points on defense than they allowed, and they're the only team in history to post back-to-back shutouts in the playoffs."
The 46 defense is legendary. None has ever been better.
As our world becomes more volatile and uncertain, wouldn't it be nice to have that kind of spiritual defense against the mounting cares, stresses, and worries of life? Wouldn't it be comforting to have an impenetrable wall that holds back the fear and fretting that floods our minds with anxious thoughts?
The truth is that God has given his people a "46 defense" against the cares, worries, and anxieties we face. It's a 46 defense that's better known even than that of the '85 Bears.
It's Philippians 4:6. (We'll look at another famous 46 defense — Psalm 46 — in chapter 7.)
The "Philippians 4:6" defense is renowned. It shuts down opposing offenses. They have no chance against it. It's a failsafe formula against worry and stress:
Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
Philippi a n s 4 : 6 - 7
In anxious times, with worry on the offensive, more and more people are using it. Amazon tracks information about the most highlighted passages in their e-books. This list of what people highlight or annotate sheds light on what people find interesting, important, or valuable. According to Amazon, the verse in the Bible that is most frequently highlighted is not a traditionally familiar one like Psalm 23, John 3:16, or the Lord's Prayer — it is Philippians 4:6-7.2 Apparently, it has become "America's go-to passage of Scripture."
This shouldn't surprise us, because by all accounts, the United States is the most anxious nation in the world. Ironically, one of the world's wealthiest nations is also the most worried.
We live in a world of cascading crises. The world and its troubles and trials seem to be getting worse.
Jesus told us this would happen. In his famous sermon about the end times, just a few days before his death, Jesus outlined the signs of his coming and concluded by warning about the worries of life that can overwhelm us. Jesus said, "Watch out! Don't let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don't let that day catch you unaware, like a trap. For that day will come upon everyone living on the earth" (Luke 21:34-35, emphasis added).
Jesus said that the "worries of this life" in the final days will get so strong and will dull our hearts to such an extent that we might lose our hope and expectation of his coming if we allow them to go unchecked.
The worries of this life produce anxious days and sleepless nights. They distract us. They threaten our spiritual survival in these last days. Jesus said they're traps that dull our hearts and leave us unprepared for his coming. We can't thrive spiritually at the same time our hearts are weighed down with worry. But let's face it: maybe only a few of us worry none of the time, most of us worry some of the time, and some of us worry all the time.
Worry is a national addiction. You could even call it a plague. "Anxiety has become the number one mental health issue in North America. It's estimated that one third of the North American adult population experiences anxiety unwellness issues."
Part of the explanation for the surge of worry is our constant connection to everything that's going on all over the world. Through 24-7 cable news, the Internet, and smart-phones, we instantly know about nuclear threats, child kidnappings, famines, disasters, riots, economic problems, and on and on and on. The daily load of bad news can overwhelm us. Before means of mass communication, people lived mostly secluded lives. News traveled slowly, and sometimes not at all. How things have changed. Immediate access to world news threatens to crush us with stress and worry.
When Jesus spoke of the end times and the worries of this life, he knew that these worries would grow to the point that people are paralyzed and trapped. We all sense that anxiety is increasing and intensifying as the end draws near. We're anxious about all kinds of things:
> World problems and politics
> Our health
> Our finances and the economy
> Our children or grandchildren
> Our marriages
> Our choices
> What has happened
> What could happen
Sometimes we even get worried that we don't have anything to worry about.
We hear more and more about anxiety attacks, panic attacks, and people just generally being stressed out. Antianxiety drugs regularly appear on the top ten list of prescription medications in the United States. Many people have turned worry into a lifestyle, a fulltime job. Life is consumed with worry and fear.
This reminds me of a story I heard about a woman who for many years had trouble sleeping because she worried about burglars. One night her husband heard a noise in the house, so he went downstairs to investigate. When he got there, he found a burglar and said, "I'm pleased to see you. Will you please come upstairs? My wife has been waiting ten years to meet you."
It's far too easy for worry to become a way of life and for us even to find ourselves worrying about the same things for years. But for God's people, life shouldn't be that way. A real burglar can steal from you once, but worry can steal from you night after night for years.
As the stresses of life multiply in these last days, how can we win over worry? How can we bury worry before worry buries us? What's the spiritual survival strategy?
We have to employ the Philippians 4:6 defense.
And this defense is strikingly simple. The antidote to anxiety is thankful prayer. To state it more fully: we experience God's peace instead of worry when we pray with thankfulness.
We can't worry and pray at the same time.
The three simple parts of this strategy come from the three key words in this passage.
> The Problem: Worry
> The Prescription: Prayer
> The Promise: Peace
THE PROBLEM: WORRY
Philippians 4:6 begins with four sweeping words: "Don't worry about anything," or as some translations say, "Be anxious for nothing."
It doesn't say,
> "Be anxious for less"
> "Be anxious for a few things"
> "Be anxious for only one hour a day"
> "Be anxious for only the big things"
It says, "Be anxious for nothing." "Don't worry about anything." It's categorical. God's people are never to worry — period. About anything.
The word worryin the original Greek (merimnao) literally means "to be divided into parts." To worry or be anxious is to have a distracted, divided mind — a mind torn down the middle and pulled in different directions. The worried mind is restless, filled with tension, and unsettled, like a flag twisting in the wind. It's a mind fighting on two fronts. The English word worry comes from an old English word that means "to strangle." This is a fitting image, because we all know how worry strangles and squeezes the peace and enjoyment out of life. Sometimes anxiety can get to the point that the worrier actually feels short of breath.
Worrying is having your mind torn between the real and the possible. Worry feeds on the what-ifs of life. It's a stream of thoughts focused on fear of what might happen. I once heard someone say that worry pulls tomorrow's cloud over today's sunshine. The worrier lives in the past and the future, spending life crucified between two thieves that rob the present of its joy and vitality. Helmut Thielicke aptly describes worry as "wandering in times not our own."
Jesus confronted worry in his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5–7. Interestingly, one-seventh of Jesus' famous sermon is about worry. That's fascinating and instructive. Here is the Master's wisdom on worry:
That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life — whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn't life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren't you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
So don't worry about these things, saying, "What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?" These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today.
There's a lot here to unpack, but we'll just look at this passage briefly. Jesus uses the word worry five times (verses 25, 27, 28, 31, 34). He tells us three simple things about worry. First, worry is fruitless. It doesn't do any good. As Jesus said, "Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?" We see the worthlessness of worry in that most of the things we worry about never happen. We expend countless hours exhausting our emotions on events that never materialize.
Sometimes people will say or think something like "I know worry works because when I worry about something, it doesn't happen." But that doesn't mean the worry worked. It simply proves that most things we worry about never happen. Like Vance Havner once said, "Worry is like sitting in a rocking chair. It will give you something to do, but it won't get you anywhere." It doesn't produce a thing. Fretting is a lot of work for nothing.
A recent study discovered that "85 percent of what subjects worried about never happened, and with the 15 percent that did happen, 79 percent of subjects discovered either they could handle the difficulty better than expected, or the difficulty taught them a lesson worth learning. This means that 97 percent of what you worry over is not much more than a fearful mind punishing you with exaggerations and misperceptions."
Worry doesn't do any good — and results in a great deal of bad.
Second, worry is faithless. Jesus put his finger on the core issue when he said, "Why do you have so little faith?" Worry brings our weak faith to the surface. Many of us believe God can take care of the "Sweet By and By," but we have trouble trusting him with the "Nasty Now and Now." We trust him for heaven but not for earth.
Worry is the opposite of trust. It's a failure to trust God to take care of us. Worry has been described as the stepchild of unbelief. We can dress it up and disguise it however we want to, but worry is nothing but lack of trust in God to meet our needs in his perfect time.
Third, Jesus says worry is fatherless. When we worry, we act as if we have no Father who cares for our needs and yearns to meet them. Jesus says, "Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs." Worry diminishes our heavenly Father's loving care for us. Think of how our worry must make God feel. When he sees us worried and afraid, we aren't trusting him. He is our Father, but we choose to live like we're orphans when we worry and fret.
We live under the canopy of God's fatherly care. In Matthew 6:26-30, there's an argument from the lesser to the greater. God loves his children more than his pets. If God cares for birds, he will care for us.
We are his children through faith in Jesus Christ. God is our Father — and he's a perfect father. We can trust him to care for us at all times, even during these dark days.
With worry comes a host of unwanted results. Robert J. Morgan vividly outlines some of the consequences of an anxious outlook: "When worry barges into our brains, it brings along a gang of accomplices — discouragement, fear, exhaustion, despair, anguish, hopelessness, pain, obsession, distraction, foreboding, irritation, impatience — none of which are friends of the Holy Spirit."
Anxiety saps your strength, leaving you spent and stressed out. Worry slowly drains our strength and focus. As the old saying goes, "Worry doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but it empties today of its strength."
It's not wrong to think about the future and to make plans. The book of Proverbs tells us in various ways that planning is wise. I love to plan and think about the future. It's fine and even faithful to think about tomorrow, as long as we submit our plans to the Lord, but it's never right to worry about the future.
At one point during his presidency, the people around Abraham Lincoln were anxious about coming events. In response to their worries, Lincoln told this story:
Many years ago, when I was a young lawyer, and Illinois was little settled, except on her southern border, I, with other lawyers, used to ride the circuit; journeying with the judge from county-seat to county-seat in quest of business. Once, after a long spell of pouring rain, which had flooded the whole country, transforming small creeks into rivers, we were often stopped by these swollen streams, which we with difficulty crossed. Still ahead of us was Fox River, larger than all the rest; and we could not help saying to each other, "If these streams give us so much trouble, how shall we get over Fox River?" Darkness fell before we had reached that stream; and we all stopped at a log tavern, had our horses put out, and resolved to pass the night. Here we were right glad to fall in with the Methodist Presiding Elder of the circuit, who rode it in all weather, knew all its ways, and could tell us all about Fox River. So we all gathered around him, and asked him if he knew about the crossing of Fox River. "O yes," he replied, "I know all about Fox River. I have crossed it often, and understand it well; but I have one fixed rule with regard to Fox River: I never cross it till I reach it."
Far too many believers are wearing themselves out crossing the Fox River long before they reach it. Wait until you get there.
The Bible makes an important distinction between what we might call "good worry" and "bad worry."
Philippians 4:6 says, "Don't worry about anything." Clearly this is sinful worry. But in Philippians 2:20, the apostle Paul lauds his friend Timothy when he says, "I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare." The phrase "genuinely cares" translates the same Greek word used for "worry" in Philippians 4:6. So there is a kind of care that's applauded and appropriate that we could call "concern" and another inappropriate form we could call "anxiety."
There are many good things to be concerned about. Our marriages. Our children. Our aged parents. Our own spiritual lives. The spiritual condition of our family and friends. The future and welfare of our nation. We all have genuine, legitimate concerns. There are many good things that should burden us — things we should care about. But genuine concern can quickly degenerate into godless worry or what Jesus called the "worries of this life."
We all know what it feels like to be concerned about something and suddenly feel our mind being pulled in different directions. Our thoughts become restless and distracted, and sleep evades us. We're tense and unsettled and feel like we're being pulled apart. We can feel the surge of uneasiness. We're moving from concern to worry — from "good" worry to "godless" worry.
The Bible is clear that we aren't to worry about anything. But how do we shake the worries of life?
THE PRESCRIPTION: PRAYER
In Philippians 4:6, the word "instead" (or "but" in some translations) appears right after the words "Don't worry about anything," drawing a sharp contrast. After the word "instead" we have God's prescription for worry: "Pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done." The antidote to anxiety is to pray about everything.
Three different Greek words for "prayer" are found in this verse. The first one is a general word for prayer in which we give adoration, worship, and devotion to God. The second term focuses on our needs and connotes the idea of dependence or a desperate cry arising from need. The third word refers to precise petitions or specific requests.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The End Times Survival Guide"
Copyright © 2018 Mark Hitchcock.
Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction Ultimate Survivor vii
Chapter 1 Use the 46 Defense 1
Chapter 2 Run For Your Life 21
Chapter 3 Make a Good Connection 39
Chapter 4 Put on Your Armor 61
Chapter 5 Keep Pushing 81
Chapter 6 Do the Best Things in the Worst Times 103
Chapter 7 Find Your Fraidy Hole 121
Chapter 8 Remain Under the Influence 143
Chapter 9 Tune in to Heaven's Frequency 163
Chapter 10 Wake Up 183
About the Author 213