(Moving from Worrier to Warrior)
I am writing today to those who have been plagued for most of their lives by worries and fears.
Some worries are obvious to others (such as germaphobia or a fear of flying), while others may plague the secret places of the mind (e.g., concerns about falling into poverty or failing publicly). In any form, anxieties can haunt every waking moment (and even dreams), causing sweaty palms, a racing heartbeat, or exhaustion from fighting those ever-present fears.
Chances are good that you know someone like that, and to be honest, chances are actually very good that you could point to some anxiety in your own life that flits at the edge of your consciousness like a mosquito threatening to land and draw blood.
Jesus addressed the futility of giving in to worry when He said, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Luke 12:25). We know in our hearts that He is right, of course, and yet. . .we still do it.
Here’s the thing:
There is a dark core to all worry. In fact, worrying is meditating on a future in which God does not keep His word!
- I know that God has promised to never leave me or forsake me, but what if He leaves me?
- I know that God has promised that He would never permit us to be tempted beyond what we can bear, but what if I am tempted so badly that I can’t resist?
- I know that God has promised that He who began a good work in me will carry it out until the day of Christ, but what if He gets tired of me?
- I know that God has promised to meet all my needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus, but what if my needs aren’t met after all? What will I do then?
Do you see the pattern? All worry really boils down to meditating on a future in which God doesn’t keep His Word after all! But such a future does not exist. God has never broken His Word, and you will certainly not be the first person in the history of the world who causes God to violate His own integrity.
Choosing to continue to worry is actually a sin because it slanders God by disbelieving His promises.
OK, I get it. None of us get up in the morning intending to disbelieve God by worrying. But it isn’t enough to just tell ourselves, “Stop worrying!” How EXACTLY do we stop worrying?
To answer that question, I must talk to you about pirates.
It is said that in the region of Cilicia, about 50 years before the apostle Paul was born, there existed bands of pirates who would swoop down from the hills on unsuspecting ships passing through the narrow channels and, boarding them from their own boats, would kill and pillage. The local authorities would try to intercept the pirates on their boats, but they never succeeded because at the first sign of trouble the pirates would ditch their little boarding vessels and retreat to high mountain fortresses where they held fortifications that could not be overtaken. From these strongholds they could continue harassing and robbing those passing by until they decided to return to the waters and start raiding again. This continued until Rome finally had its fill of these lawless bands and sent the brilliant Roman general Pompey to deal with them.
Pompey used a strategy which had not been used by the Romans up to this point. Instead of trying to catch them “in the act of piracy” in the endless bays and waterways of the area, he marched his armies in and proceeded directly to surround their mountaintop strongholds. He told the pirates, “If you come out peaceably, we will demolish your fortress, take you captive, and lead you away from here; but I promise that your lives will be spared!” (That was the new and controversial part; Rome had never shown any leniency). But Pompey also warned them that if they insisted on holding out in their high places, he would tear them down and kill every rebel within those walls. And he meant it!
With this two-pronged strategy of demolishing the strongholds, taking the pirates captive, and leading them out of the area entirely, the region of Cilicia was rescued from the influence of pirates. The Apostle Paul would have known this history very well because it happened in the very region where he was born and raised, for he was Saul of Tarsus, a city in the region of Cilicia.
That is why when Paul looked at the mental arguments, foolish viewpoints, and wrong thinking that plague us again and again and steal our victory and joy, towering over our thinking so that they cannot be rooted out, Paul took a page from Pompey’s history when he declared war on all such things. He declared, “We demolish arguments (the Greek verb that we translate as “demolish” means to pull something down to destroy it, just as they pulled down the mountain fortresses of the pirates), and we also demolish every high place (because this is what the word translated as “pretension” really means). And we take captive (literally the Greek word means, “to take at spear-point”) every thought to bring it into obedience to Christ.”
Can you see how this relates to our worries and anxieties?
Since worries are thoughts that displease God by questioning His faithfulness, God wants us to move from worrier to warrior.
Worry is a passive act in which we sit and let thoughts wreak havoc on us. But warring against those thoughts moves us from passive to aggressive. We begin to take authority over our thought lives by saying, “Enough! I am going to hunt down every single one of those lies that I have been telling myself, and I am going to wither it with the truth of God’s Word until it has lost its power. Worry, come out with your hands up!”
Our minds entertain thousands of thoughts every single day, and the Holy Spirit teaches us through this passage in 2 Corinthians 10:5 that we have a responsibility to discipline our thought life so that we do not dwell on things that would displease the Lord.
Did you know that you have a responsibility to firmly train your inner thought life? Paul put it this way: “We demolish arguments, and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Your thought life, if left untrained, will plague you all your life, bringing you worries and anxieties at those very moments when you are beginning to feel joy and peace.
But worry is not ONE BIG thing; it is a COLLECTION of many SMALL things—wrong thoughts which can be torn down one by one as we expose them to the truth of God’s Word.
The call of God on your life, brothers and sisters, is a call to holiness, and part of holiness is bringing your thought life into obedience to Christ. We know that already with certain thoughts like lust or bitterness, but worry is just as great a threat. Rather than letting it steal your joy for the rest of your life, ask the Holy Spirit to help transform you from worrier to warrior, demolishing that wall of worry brick by brick by learning every one of God’s promises and using them to tear down that wall.
If you can relate to Gideon, hiding in the winepress because of his worries and anxieties, remember how the angel of God greeted him in Judges 6:12: “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior!” And because Gideon decided to believe God, he conquered his fears and won a great victory. The Lord is also with YOU, friend; and because you know that is true, you also can do as Gideon did: you can be transformed from worrier to warrior!