Dealing with Anxiety and Fear

Philippians 4:6-9

Discipleship Skills Part 3 –November 15, 2020

               Over the past couple of weeks, I have been trying to give you some discipleship skills. These are practices that you can use to connect to God, accessing his power and grace for your life. The last two Sundays I have talked about different ways to pray the word of God and we practiced in service. I gave you the tools, including the cheat sheet on the my blog on the Asbury website to be able to do those things on your own. Many of you have told me how meaningful practicing these skills have been for you.

               This morning I want to give you another skill. I want to give you a skill to deal with fear and anxiety in a way that allows you to connect to God and find peace in him. We are not going to practice this skill during this time because in order to do that I would have to do something that is fear and anxiety inducing – and then we would practice calming our fear and anxiety. So, no I am not going to create anxiety in you – so we can practice how to deal with it. Many of you deal with anxiety enough. After all we are living in the middle of a pandemic.


               If you are taking the abide study with me, then you will have heard some of this before. It is a modified “STAR” skill. But as Peter said, it is good that I remind you of these things and this will be a good review for you.


               I know so many good people who struggle with anxiety and fear. We are human so it is natural and normal to feel fear and anxiety. But when fear and anxiety get to a certain level it starts to steer our lives. And when we start to live out of our fear and anxiety, we tend to make decisions that are neither healthy nor good.

               Here is what I have noticed is that he levels of anxiety seem to have spiraled upward over the last couple of decades. This is especially true of kids, youth and young adults. I think this has to do with social media and how we are validated by how many likes our posts get. When you are in high school and just trying to figure out who you are, and you are already asking the question, do people like me – and along comes this all pervasive creature that addicts you to affirming likes then it is bound to cause anxiety when our own reality doesn’t live up to others online presence.

               Of course, it is an illusion. We  compare our ordinary life to someone else’s highlight reel, and of course the comparison will be unfavorable. But it takes maturity to understand that, and not let it affect how you think of yourself.

               But it is not only kids that struggle with anxiety and fear. We live in the information age. It is an age where negative stories sell more than positive stories. It is an age where, if you look at many news stories, they tell you about what could go wrong. I saw a headline last week that a huge asteroid could hit the earth in the next 50 year. And if we start to be anxious about everything that we are told could happen to us – our anxiety is going to go through the roof.

               So, the question is, how can we deal with our anxiety? Paul, writing to the Philippians said this.

Philippians 4:6–9 (NIV)

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

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

               In an age of anxiety, we need a peace that transcends our understanding. We need the God of peace to be with us. But how do we practice that?

               I have seen this verse used poorly. It says don’t be anxious, or don’t worry – so people take that as a command – I’m just going to stop worrying. If you have ever been really anxious, then you know that telling yourself not to be anxious doesn’t help. But what is worse is that these people go on to just to relabel their anxiety. I’m not worried I’m concerned. I’m not anxious, I’m stressed. Again, not helpful. Calling the same emotion by a different name doesn’t change the reality of what you are feeling.

               The whole point of these verses is that when you are feeling fear or anxiety that you need to change your focus so that you can access what God has for you. The question is, how do you do that. Faith isn’t about the absence of fear it is about choosing to act in faith even if we fear. So how to we step into faith.

               This morning let me teach an acrostic. You know how sailors use to sail by the stars. Well I want to teach you how to navigate your anxiety and fear but the use of the word STAR. Except you are going to be a pirate and highjack your anxiety. So, this is a pirate’s star. Which sounds like Staaar.

               So, what do you do if you are feeling fearful or anxious, or by the way, this will work if you are feeling angry. The first thing you need to do is being at the beginning of star. The “S”. “S” stands for Stop.

               Just stop. Don’t try to fix the problem, or the person, or the situation. When we get overwhelmed, our brains don’t function as well so our ability to make good choices, think creatively, and connect with other is diminished. Our ability to connect to God is hindered. So, instead spiraling in on the problem and how to fix it and what might happen. Stop.

               I think this may be the hardest one of them all to do. Because, especially if you are use to going down the anxiety trail – it is really easy to get into those downhill ruts. So, as soon as you see yourself going there Stop.

What does the “S” stand for? – Stop.

               The next letter in the word star is “T.” It stands for take a breather and calm down.

Psalm 131:2 (NIV)

But I have calmed and quieted myself,

Psalm 46:10

Be still an know that I am God.

               Take a breath. Quiet yourself. You may have to do this literally. Take a breath. Just breathe. You may have to physically remove yourself from a situation for a few moments. But just take a breath. Calm yourself down. Don’t focus on the problem – just breath.

“S” stands for – Stop

“T” stands for Take a breath

“A” stand for acknowledge what you are feeling.

               Name what you are feeling. Now I know for some of the guys in the crowd this might be a challenge. Our range of emotional expression can be  – I feel bad, I feel good, I feel angry. But name what you are feeling. Are you feeling anxious? Are you feeling afraid? Are you feeling angry? Are you feeling hopeless?

               When you identify and label and emotion – it gives you the power to do something with it. Until you label it is just this vague feeling that controls you.

“A” stands for Acknowledge

Now this is where we become pirates. There is another “A.”

“A” stands for accept.

               I put this in, because many people think about emotions in two categories. There are good emotions and bad emotions. It is unhelpful to label your emotions in those categories. There are some emotions that make you feel good and there are others that make you feel bad. But what just because an emotion makes you feel bad, does not mean that is morally bad.

               But some people have been taught that they shouldn’t be angry or they shouldn’t be worried or they shouldn’t … and the list goes on. Your emotions are your emotions. Your emotions are always valid – because that is what you are feeling. Your emotions do not always tell you the truth about the situation you are in. But they are always valid.

               As you are acknowledging what you are feeling. Just take that feeling to God. Don’t worry about the situation yet. Lord you know me better than I do. I acknowledge to you that I am feeling anxious.

               What do you think God’s response is to that? Do you think he says – That surprises me – I didn’t know you felt like that. Common – this is God. He says, I know that is what you are feeling – and I accept you right where you are – but I don’t want to leave you where you are, I have something better for you.

               God takes you right where you are with all the feelings you have. So, will you take yourself right where you are. Tell yourself. – self – it is ok that I am feeling anxious. I don’t want to stay here. But I am here and that is ok. God is with me right now and I am going to trust God to take me from here to where I need to go.

S is for ….

T is for

A is for

A is for

               One more “A” Appreciate and connect to Jesus.

Psalm 100:4

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him and bless his name.

James 1:17 (NIV)

17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…

               Now appreciating something is more than just naming something you are thankful for. It is actually moving your heart towards gratitude. One of the things we can be thankful for is what Jesus has done for us.

               But here is a pro tip – if you can move into a time of appreciating what God has done – in a way that is in direct opposition to what you are anxious about not only does that bring God into the situation, but it becomes a means of spiritual warfare.

               So you stopped, and taken a breath and acknowledged and accepted what you are feeling – now you are appreciating God and what he has done. Now I wish my acrostic worked with another letter – but as you are worshiping – you are going to start to connect to Jesus – you are going to start to pray.

You are starting to move into Philippians 4

Philippians 4:6–7 (NIV)

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

               You have changed the focus. You have calmed yourself down far enough, and brought yourself in the presence of God. You have drawn near to him – and he is right there with you.

               As you are appreciating him, you are connecting with Jesus. Now here is the thing – as you are appreciating and connecting with Jesus about what is going on your temptation is going to be to get your eyes off Jesus and back onto the problem that is causing you anxiety. Don’t do that. God is big enough to handle the problem – as you are connecting with Jesus you are going to bring the problem to him and ask him how he wants you to pray. You are going to ask him what he wants you to do.

               And as you have Stopped and taken a breath and have accepted and acknowledged what you are feeling – and you have moved into a time of appreciating and connecting with Jesus – Jesus is going to be able to give you some ideas about how to go forward.

               Some things you are just going to have to surrender to him, and trust him and move forward with it. With other things, there is something he may show you what to do. You may have to talk with someone, or move in a direction. Sometimes, he will give you some ideas on how to move forward.

               Whatever he shows you as you are connecting to him – the “R” stands for Respond. Respond to what he shows you. As you are obedient to him, you will find his peace sticking with you.


               Now for those of you whose anxiety is really high, you may end up going through this process a couple of times a day. For those of you who are not that anxious – then you will only need to pull this skill out periodically.

               But we are living in anxious times. But the bible tells us that we can have peace that passes all understanding. I want you to know that God wants to walk you into that peace.


Sermon Questions for November 15, 2020

Dealing with Fear and Anxiety

1. What is one thing you are thankful for this week?

2. What are you praying about this week?

Digging In

3. What are some of the things that cause fear and anxiety in our world, and why do they cause anxiety?

4. Read Philippians 4:4-9 What do these verses tell you about God?

5. What do these verses tell you about peace?

6. What do these verses tell you about minds?

7. If you were writing a prescription for peace based on these verses, what would you prescribe? Make sure you define everything so that your patient knows exactly what you are saying?

8. On Sunday, the pastor prescribed the pirate’s star (S.T.A.A.A.R.) to bring God into the middle of our lives when we are feeling anxious. Explain in your own word what it means to practice each part of this acrostic. (The cheat notes can be found in the pastors blog.)

S – Stop

T – Take a breath

A – Acknowledge

A – Accept

A – Appreciate and connect

R – Respond