Joshua plays with so many talented teammates at Madison Academy. He was one of ten Mustangs players who were recently named to the All-Area team and, honestly, we had several others who could have easily been on this list. This group is well coached and they love playing for each other. As for Joshua, I am so proud of the way he works hard and does whatever he can to help this team. We still have some more baseball to play this week against a tough opponent. Go Mustangs!
In addition, a good friend of mine put together this video highlighting some of the big moments this year. I want to archive it here, but I hope we have another video to make in a couple of weeks celebrating this team’s pursuit of a “blue map” (state championship).
Today was a busy day for our crew. It was Academic Awards Day at school and here’s a rundown of their accolades:
Jackson was honored with Principal’s List, maintaining an average of 90 or higher in all of his classes this year. He’s finishing up middle school on a high note and ready for freshman year in the fall.
Joshua was chosen as one of Madison Academy’s “Students of Distinction,” which is also an honor. It reflects qualities such as Christian character, positive attitude, citizenship, leadership, work ethic, and notable extracurricular success. This says a lot about the way Joshua’s peers and teachers view him.
And Abby Kate was honored with President’s List, which means she maintained an average of 95 or higher in all of her classes this year. She also received the award for highest average in Spanish II; Mu Alpha Theta, which is an advanced math honor; and she was also recognized as a Student of Distinction. I make a lot of posts about the boys and their success on the track and the baseball field. But Abby Kate’s singular focus at this point in her life is her academic success. She has big plans that include a lot of medical training and she’s taking this part of her academic career very seriously. And Sunny and I couldn’t be any prouder of her! Way to go, Abby Kate!
We are SO proud of the hard work these children have put into their classes this year.
Joshua took the mound last night in a critical game two in our second round playoff series. We fought hard in game one but came up short by a score of 4-3. So in the best-of-three series, our backs were against the wall. We needed to win last night in order to force a winner-take-all game three today.
Joshua had a great game, both on the mound and at the plate. He threw a complete game, allowing a single earned run with zero walks and three strikeouts. He also drove in the game-winning run with an RBI double in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Here’s what AL.com had to say about the game:
Video of the RBI double:
And the final out of the game. (The other team had been mouthing off to him throughout the whole game. He saved his reaction until the final out.)
The decisive game three is today. Let’s go Mustangs!
It’s really easy to confuse joy and happiness. But there are actually some important differences between the two. There’s really not a lot in the Bible about happiness, which is kind of surprising given how the pursuit of happiness seems to be the driving force in many people’s lives today. But the biblical writers focus more on joy.
One reason for this is because happiness is an emotion, whereas joy is an attitude or a disposition. I asked my co-worker, Doug Smith, about this since he’s a licensed marriage and family therapist. Doug gave me some great insight on the difference between happiness and joy. He said, “Happiness is an emotional response we naturally experience when things go our way. But joy is an attitude that can be placed alongside any emotional response.”
That means that happiness has more to do with our circumstances. You do well on a job interview or a chemistry test; your favorite team wins the game. These good outcomes make us happy. But joy runs deeper because it isn’t based on our circumstances. Joy is a mindset that is constant, even if you bomb the job interview or the chemistry test. Those things won’t make you happy — not at all. But we can choose to have a joyful mindset no matter what happens. That choice is ever before us.
And according to our key text for this week, that’s one of the biblical keys for overcoming anxiety.
Philippians 4 says, Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! God’s prescription for anxiety treatment begins with a double dose of choosing joy. Think about it: God wouldn’t tell us to do something if we were incapable of making the choice to obey. So this means that in any situation, we can choose the way of joy. You find this message repeated elsewhere in the scriptures:
1 Peter 1:6, In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
James 1:2, Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…
We’re not told to be happy in these circumstances, only that we are to be joyful.
And the source of our joy is key — Paul says, Rejoice in the Lord. That’s a command that is found eleven times in the Old Testament and Paul repeats it here in Philippians. To rejoice in the Lord is to joyfully trust Him even when fear is doing its worst in us. When it feels as if anxiety is choking us to death, THAT is the moment for doubling down on the promises of God. Greek scholars note that Paul is essentially saying, “continually, habitually rejoice in the Lord.” Paul is telling us we need to make a habit of intentionally choosing joy — of rejoicing in the Lord when our anxiety peaks.
So when you feel that anxiety threatening to choke you, choose to rejoice in the Lord. If things are spinning out of control, try telling yourself, “So what; I have Jesus.” And see if that helps with your anxiety.
Paul says, Be anxious for nothing. And in the next breath, he’s talking about prayer. That tells me that prayer is one of the keys for overcoming anxiety.
According to the New International Greek Testament Commentary, this verse could literally be translated: Stop worrying and start praying. Pretty good advice. Prayer is simply another way of expressing our trust in God. I think that explains the biblical emphasis on praying in all circumstances.
In Ephesians 6:18, Paul writes, And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. This passage occurs in the context of Paul’s teaching about spiritual warfare, which is why this same verse is translated this way in The Message: Prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters.
Here we see the wisdom of God at work. God’s prescription against anxiety includes the intentional habit of prayer.
Doug tells me that a lot of research in the counseling world is now affirming some of the same things we find throughout God’s Word: the importance of finding your meaning in a story that’s greater than yourself; the efficacy of practices like fasting and expressing gratitude — which is essentially prayer. But biblical teaching shows us that prayer is much more than simply a therapeutic remedy. In Ephesians 6, it’s an act of spiritual warfare. Prayer is a weapon God gives us battle our anxieties.
Prayer is the most reliable path to peace. In my life, that’s been true. When I feel anxiety coming on strong, nothing brings peace to my anxious heart like time spent in prayer with the Lord. As we’ve said, it’s those times when things feel as if they’re spinning out of control that our anxiety is at its worst. But that time in prayer helps remind me that God is in control. You know, God is great at crisis management. He’s far better at it than I am. And prayer is just a simple reminder of that.
Our passage today stresses the link between prayer and peace. When we stop worrying and start praying, it says that the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds in Christ.
I want you to picture yourself when anxiety is doing its worst in you. Maybe you have a short fuse when this happens or you tend to medicate your stress with overeating or TV binges or something else. Your mind is always divided between what you’re supposed to be doing and the worry that overwhelms you. Your thoughts are constantly fixated on the “What if” scenarios that enslave you to fear. You’re fidgety, you’re exhausted, you’re not sleeping well — whatever that looks like for you, picture it. Hold that image in your mind for a moment.
And then I want you to try and picture a different version of yourself — one that is completely at peace. Instead of expending so much energy worrying about everything, this version of yourself is the most secure person in the room because the peace of God has flooded your heart and your soul. You can breathe deeply; you rest at night in the trusting knowledge that God is in control. You no longer feel the need to be in control all the time. When you feel anxiety bubbling up, you pause and you pray and you experience true joy — because you know that God is truly sovereign.
Doesn’t that sound like a better way to live?
Is it possible that God could transform you into this more peaceful version of yourself by setting you free from the bondage of anxiety?
Could it be that at least some of your anxiety is rooted in something that you need to turn over to the Lord? Are you tired of trying to be in control all the time? Doesn’t it sound liberating to think about turning those concerns and worries over to the One who can truly manage them all?
The way of King Jesus is truly the good life. That’s what it means to be anxious for nothing.
One of the most frequently read passages in the Bible deals with anxiety:
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:4-7, NKJV
Amazon tracks the verses that readers highlight using their Kindle reading app. According to Amazon, Philippians 4:6-7 is the most highlighted verse in the Bible. I think that’s because we have so many reasons to be anxious these days. When we open our Bibles, we have all of these worries and stresses that we’re carrying with us, so we go to God’s Word looking for some guidance. Philippians 4:6-7 is the most highlighted verse because it is God’s definitive word on dealing with anxiety and worry. According to this scripture, God can take us right where we are — with all of our anxieties and worries — and He can lead us to peace, God’s peace that passes understanding. That sounds like really good news to me!
I think it’s important to point out that the Bible never promises a completely anxiety-free life. That’s not what Paul is getting at in Philippians 4. Paul knows as well as anyone that life is filled with stress and worry and concerns — all of which produces some level of anxiety within us. Jesus himself said, In this world, you will have trouble (John 16:33). So a 100% worry-free, trouble-free life is NOT what we’re talking about here.
When Paul says, Be anxious for nothing, he’s saying, “Don’t be controlled by your anxiety.” He’s talking about anxiety that is chronic and perpetual. It’s the kind of anxiety that impairs our ability to function. That kind of anxiety is not what God wants for us — which is why God gives us some instruction on how we can overcome anxiety and keep it from controlling our lives.
I am so grateful for the resources we have for treating chronic anxiety. If you’re dealing with persistent anxiety, I think it’s really important to talk to your doctor or a therapist. There is absolutely no shame in talking to a health-care professional or utilizing some medication for your anxiety. It doesn’t make you less of a Christian. I think these are great resources for helping us to find greater mental and emotional health.
But it would also be incorrect to imply that anxiety is ONLY mental and emotional issue. No, there is a spiritual component to anxiety as well, which is important for us to recognize in order to treat anxiety holistically. And we find some wonderful spiritual guidance for dealing with our anxiety in our passage today.
For many of us, anxiety begins to mount when we feel as if our circumstances are spinning out of control. That’s the worst feeling in the world; some of you know what I’m talking about because you’re living through that kind of anxiety right now. But there is some good news in this scripture. God tells us that there are some choices we can make whenever we are feeling anxious. And there is real power at work whenever we make these choices.
Even when things feel like they’re spinning out of control, we can always choose two things:
We can choose to be joyful.
We can choose to be prayerful.
These two choices are part of the biblical prescription against anxiety. We can take action against our anxiety when we choose joy and when we choose prayer.
According to a recent study, Americans are the most anxious people in the world. Research that was conducted across fourteen different nations revealed that Americans were significantly more anxious than people living in other countries. According to Google Trends, the number of web searches in this country that include the word “anxiety” has doubled in the last ten years. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that in a given year, approximately fifty million Americans will feel the effects of a panic attack or another anxiety disorder. And this data was collected prior to COVID and all the turmoil of the past few years. With all that we have lived through since then, there’s good reason to assume that the numbers on panic attacks and anxiety are even higher today.
This is why we’re kicking off a new series at Mayfair this month entitled, Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World. We want to spend some time reflecting on anxiety from a biblical perspective. When it comes to this topic, we really need some wisdom and guidance from the Lord.
Just take some personal inventor. What is the anxiety level in your life right now? On a scale of 1-10, what grade would you give your anxiety right now? I wonder how we would characterize our emotional state right now.
Everyone experiences anxiety. It’s not a disease or something that only impacts certain people. Anxiety is an automatic response to the circumstances of life and it can be found at every stage of life:
Young parents experience anxiety as they think about raising their children, as they think about that child’s development.
Our students are overwhelmed by anxiety over making good grades, doing well in their extracurricular activities, and the college application process.
As we grow older, we face anxiety as a result of pressure at work, financial stress, declining health, the prospect of death … it never ends.
Everyone experiences anxiety to some degree and for some of us, it is a daily struggle. That’s why I believe it is important for us to talk openly about anxiety without making people feel shame. Anxiety is not necessarily caused by a lack of faith in God or a weak prayer life or a lack of Bible study. There may be times when our anxiety stems from these causes, but often times it just isn’t the case. You’re not a bad person or a bad Christian if you struggle with anxiety.
One of the root words for anxiety is a word that means “to squeeze tightly” or “to choke.” And that’s a good description for the way anxiety works. As you know, anxiety occurs when the stresses and circumstances of life threaten to choke the life out of us. Research has shown the link between anxiety and muscle tension When we go through some kind of anxiety-inducing event, we will often experience this physiologically in the form of tension in our neck and shoulders, sometimes a narrowing of our vision. And in some cases, we even feel this as a weight sitting on our chest. It all comes back to this idea that stress and anxiety are choking us, weighing heavily on us.
Everyone experiences anxiety. What differs is our response to it.
Some people manage their anxiety by indulging themselves with some sort of distraction, whether it’s overeating or binging on Netflix.
Other go the other direction and withdraw; they stop eating and avoid being around others.
Some people deal with their anxiety by becoming overly critical of others. You’ve probably known someone who does this.
Still others deal with their anxiety in a more positive way by going to the gym to work out.
“Retail therapy” is popular in some circles, going out and buying yourself a little something whenever you’re feeling down. (If “retail therapy” is a thing, then I’d have to endorse “gunpowder therapy” as another suitable way of relieving stress!)
Sometimes anxiety can feel so overwhelming that we just feel immobilized. We find that we can’t do much of anything.
Here’s some good news: in God’s Word, the Lord has quite a bit to say about overcoming anxiety. Anxiety is nothing new; in fact, it’s been around for a long time. And thankfully, God’s Word is filled with wisdom on how to deal with it.
That’s the aim of this series — hearing godly wisdom for dealing with our anxiety.