Trying to Live Where We Are Not!

Group of friends at a restaurant with all people on the table occupied with cellphones

I once heard Dr. Tony Evans say something to this effect: He said that most people are being crucified between two thieves: The regrets of yesterday and the anxieties of tomorrow! When we attempt to live our lives, burdened with yesterday’s regrets and/or tomorrow’s worries, we sacrifice the present day! Attempting to live life in this manner is stressful because it is a vain attempt to live where we are not!

Trying to live in the past is an impossible feat! It’s like trying to drink milk that has spilled on the floor! It’s like trying to stand in the same molecules of water in a river that is flowing! It’s like trying to cash a check that has already been cashed! NO! Yesterday is spilled milk! Yesterday is water under the bridge! Yesterday is a cancelled check! There is nothing, absolutely nothing we can do to re-live yesterday! Many people are stuck because they stubbornly refuse to let-go of yesterday. But whether it’s yesterday’s regrets or even yesterday’s victories; yesterday is gone and we will never live yesterday again!

But just as attempting to re-live yesterday is an impossible feat, so is attempting to live tomorrow before tomorrow comes! Now, we can prepare for tomorrow, but we can’t live tomorrow today! We can ‘prepare’ to cross the bridge, but we can’t actually cross the bridge until we get to the bridge! In a sense, ‘tomorrow’ will always be a day that we will never live! Why? Because, when we get to ‘tomorrow’ it will no longer be tomorrow; it will be; ‘today!’

Realistically and practically speaking; yesterday and tomorrow are actually days that have no real substance! Let me show you what I’m talking about! When we were experiencing ‘yesterday’ it wasn’t yesterday, it was today! As stated earlier, when we get to ‘tomorrow’ it will not be tomorrow, it will be today! Therefore, the only day we can actually live in and do anything with, is ‘today!’ Yesterday is a cancelled check and tomorrow is just a promissory note! The only day that we can ‘spend’ is today!

That is why the attempts to live in yesterday and tomorrow are so fruitless and in many ways; detrimental! First of all, it is an impossibility, because we can’t live where we are not! Secondly, it is detrimental, because when we attempt to live in yesterday or tomorrow, we sacrifice and waste today! In fact, many of the regrets of yesterday and the anxieties of tomorrow are caused by the neglect of the present day! We don’t do what we should do in the present and that is what causes the regrets of yesterday and the fears of tomorrow! If we learn to discipline ourselves to ‘live in the moment,’ our lives would be less stressful because the ‘moment’ is the only time we can actually live!

But, in addition to trying to live where we are not, in regard to yesterday and tomorrow, there is an addition stress of trying to live in a ‘place’ where we are not! Have you ever witnessed or been part of a conversation in which a person standing in your presence is preoccupied with a conversation or even a game on their smartphone? You hear them say something, but when you respond, they tell you that they weren’t talking to you but rather the other person on the phone! The crazy thing about it is that, more often than not, just as they neglect to give their full attention to the people who are standing right in front of them for a conversation with the person on the phone, when they are standing in front of the person on the phone, they do the same thing to them by talking to someone on the phone! They are ‘here’ but they are not really ‘here!’ They are trying to live where they are not!

Have you ever been to a restaurant and notice two people or even a group of people sitting together at a table, but each and every person is preoccupied with their phone? They are present, but they are not really present! They are together, but they are not really together! Why? Because they are trying to live where they are not!

May I make a radical suggestion that just might make life a little less stressful? Instead of trying to re-live yesterday or pre-live tomorrow, why not just focus on the present moment! Focus on the only time you can actually live; the present moment! Now, I know what it is like to be worried about tomorrow! But it’s a fruitless activity! You see, when we worry, that breeds frustration. And when we are frustrated, it shuts down our ability to think clearly. Let’s just supposed that your electricity is going to be cut off tomorrow. Instead of being consumed with worry and bemoaning over what it is going to be like without electricity tomorrow, focus on what you have and what you can do right now! What can you do? You can go buy some ice and a cooler to store your food when the refrigerator will not be on! You can go to store and buy candles, flashlights, or lanterns for alternative lighting when the electricity is cut off! You can also just choose to simply ‘enjoy’ and take advantage of the hours of electricity that you have left! Finish reading the book! Wash a load of clothes! Take advantage of the electricity you ‘now’ have with an attitude of gratitude! Who knows, by tomorrow, a means to pay the bill that you hadn’t thought of before may materialize? You might be able to work out an extension with the power company. At lot of things could happen between now and tomorrow! So, the best thing to do is not cause additional stress by trying to live tomorrow today! Live today to the fullest and allow tomorrow to take care of itself!

Now, this is not to say that we shouldn’t plan for tomorrow, by all means, no! In fact, sometimes the best use of ‘today’ is to plan for tomorrow! But the point is to make the best use of ‘now’ and not allow the past or the future to prevent us from fully enjoying and taking advantage of the present moment! Give full attention to the people who are in your presence! To do otherwise is not only impractical, it is also downright rude and disrespectful to all three parties; the people in front of you, the person on the phone, and yourself! Starting today, discipline yourself to live where you are: Discipline yourself to consistently live in the ‘here’ and ‘now!’

Mastering Fear and Anxiety

fearThis is the third of the series of sermons I preached some years ago on: Mastering the Emotions.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

John 14:27 KJV

Psychologists tell us we were born with only two fears: The fear of loud noises and the fear of falling! Therefore, if that is the case, all other fears are learned responses from environment or taught by parents and/or other authority figures. Now, there are cases in which fear is good! Fear is needed because it protects us from danger. It is part of our natural “fight or flight response” to our environment. The Bible says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” However, our fear of the Lord should not be a trembling fear of God’s punishment, but rather a reverence and respect for God’s character and nature. In other words, we shouldn’t fear God like a child fears the “boogie-man,” we should fear God in the same manner that a child respects his parents. The Lord desires for us to serve him, not out of fear but out of love! In fact, the Bible says that fear does not even come from God! 2 Timothy 1:7 says: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” So these fears; the fear of falling, the fear of loud noises, the fear that alerts and protects us from danger and harm, and the fear of God are “good” fears that are natural or should be acquired.
In my research, I found over 518 phobias or fears that are officially recognized! There are even such fears as the fear of success, the fear of church, and the fear of preachers, on the list! Our world is so engulfed with fear, that most people think that fear and anxiety are the natural and normal responses to life! But, for the child of God, the one who claims Jesus as Lord and Savior, being controlled and dominate by fear is not normal! Paul said that we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. And if we are to be who God created and called us to be, then we must master fear and anxiety.
Yes! For the Child of God, for the one who knows the Lord, fear should have no dominion in their life! Over and over again, in the Biblical text, God encouraged people not to fear! He did and He does so because fear will keep us from doing what we could, should, and want to do! Fear will hinder us from being and doing all that God created and called us to be and do! Fear is the enemy of our dominion! The ancient Chinese writer, Sun Tze wrote in his treatise: “The Art of War”, that a primary military strategy is to know your enemy. Before you engage in battle, you should learn all you can about your opponent! Well, the emotions of fear and anxiety can be enemies of our potential, therefore we need to know all we can about them and how they operate!
There are several acronyms I found using the letters: F-E-A-R, that will help us to know what fear really is! Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real: Fear paints a picture not supported by reality. Fear is an incorrect response because fear is a reaction, not to evidence that is real, but to evidence that only looks real! We can master fear by understanding that many times things are not always as they appear!
Fear is Failure Expected and Received! There are spiritual laws that govern the universe that are just a real and powerful as the Law of Gravity! Two such laws are the Law of Attraction and the Law of Faith. The Law of Attraction says that we tend to attract the circumstances, people and situations into our lives that are in agreement with our dominant and consistent thoughts. The Law of Faith says that whatever we believe with conviction, whether it be good or bad, positive or negative, it will eventually come to pass and be manifested in our lives. That’s why Paul wrote: “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” The things we constantly think about manifest themselves in our lives! Therefore, we should think good thoughts! That’s why we shouldn’t think about what we don’t want! We should only think about what we do want! The more we think about what we don’t want, the greater the possibility that what we don’t want will show up! In fact, we actually attract it because of the law of attraction! Some Bible scholars think the Law of Attraction may have been a factor in Job’s life because in the midst of his troubles Job said, “The thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and that which I was afraid is come unto me!”
In a sense, fear and faith are not really opposites, but in a very real way, they are two sides of the same coin! Fear is a type of faith because, like faith, fear is a conviction and an expectation. The difference is the conviction and expectation is in a negative and unwanted outcome. Fear is the substance of things not hoped for and the evidence of things not seen! Faith is belief directed toward what we want; fear is belief directed toward what we don’t want! We can master fear by simply not thinking about and not focusing our attention on what we don’t want! We can master fear by starving our fears and feeding our faith!
Fear is Forgetting Everything is All Right! The Disciples were fearful in the storm because they forgot Jesus was on board! And even when they remembered he was on board, they forgot who he was! They forgot he was the master of the sea! Yes! We fear because we forget that greater is He that is within us than he that is in the world! We fear because we forget that Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” It is because he has overcome the world that we can overcome the world! We fear because we forget that our Heavenly Father knows what we have need of and He has promised to supply our every need! Yes! My brothers and sisters, we can master fear by simply remembering that no matter how it looks, the Lord says; “Everything is all right!”
Yes! We need to know fear! But not only do we need to know fear, we also need to know how fear operates! We need to know that fear is contagious! Therefore, we need to inoculate ourselves from fear because fear can be passed on and we can be infected with fear from other people! Listen to the instructions the Lord gave Moses to give to the people concerning war in Deuteronomy 20:1-4, 8: “When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the LORD thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And it shall be, when ye are come nigh unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people, And shall say unto them, Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; For the LORD your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you. . . . And the officers shall speak further unto the people, and they shall say, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren’s heart faint as well as his heart.” According to the NLT, the officers said to the people: “Is anyone here afraid or worried? If you are, you may go home before you frighten anyone else!” Contagious fear caused the Children of Israel to spend some 40 years wandering in the wilderness. The report of the ten spies was motivated by fear and it was their fear that infected the multitude, who in turn, rebelled against the expressed command of the Lord to occupy the land! Yes! Fear is like a bad cold! If you hang around fearful people; you will catch it! Therefore, one way we can master fear is by isolating and insulating ourselves from fearful people!
Now, you might have noticed that our subject is “Mastering Fear and Anxiety.” Some people don’t think so, but there is a difference between fear and anxiety. Fear is an emotional response to a known or definite threat, whereas, anxiety is often a response to an imprecise or unknown threat. It comes from the mind’s vision of possible danger. In other words, anxiety comes from our minds thinking of something that could happen! Anxiety is being worried about being fired from your job when there is no concrete evidence of it happening! Anxiety occurs because we focus, not on what is wrong, but on what could go wrong! The difference between fear and anxiety is that you have fear when you’re in a dark alley and you see a man headed in your direction with a knife! Anxiety is when you are in a dark alley and you see a man headed in your direction and you “think” he may have a knife! Fear is when you run a red light and you look in your rear-view mirror and the police is right behind you with his lights on! Anxiety is when you haven’t broken any laws and you are uneasy when you look in your rear-view mirror and the police is right behind you with his lights on! Fear may result from a real threat, but anxiety comes from just the possibility of a threat.
Well, I need to come to a close now! I don’t have to tell you the damage that fear and anxiety can cause. Fear and anxiety can elevate your blood pressure and body temperature. Fear and anxiety can cause fear and panic attacks during which there is severe shortness of breath, causing even further panic, which in turn could lead to strokes and heart attacks! In other words, besides preventing us from doing what we could, should and want to do, uncontrolled fear and anxiety is unhealthy and lethal! But, we can master fear and anxiety! The Bible says that we are to be anxious for nothing! When we’re fearful and anxious, we’re really saying we don’t trust God and that God is a liar! In the text Jesus said: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” The peace Jesus gives is not the absence of conflict, but rather the calmness in the midst of conflict! Peace in the midst of the storm! He said: “Don’t let you heart be trouble, neither let it be afraid!” If we are anxious for nothing, but by prayer and supplication, make our request known to God, the peace that passes all understanding will guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus! It is the peace that comes from the Prince of Peace that gives us the power to master fear and anxiety!