How often do we see commercials on television about energy drinks that portray individuals of vastly different energy levels? On the one hand, the person who does not partake of the sugary elixir of life is tired, bored, worried, and sluggish – weighed down by projects that need to be done, regrets about a lack of energy, and burdened by his or her desire to do something more with life. On the other hand, the person who utilizes the energy drink is seen water skiing, snowboarding, kayaking, running a marathon, climbing mountains, or accomplishing just about any and every grand task imaginable. But is this a true view of life? Is this how we are supposed to live? It interesting that the Bible does not actually use the word “energy” but it does explain some concepts related to it. We are told to “work heartily” (Colossians 3:23), “rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16), “pray without ceasing” (5:17), “be diligent” (Ephesians 4:3, Romans 12:11), to be “fervent in spirit” (Romans 12:11), and “labor earnestly” (Colossians 4:12). And at the same time, we are warned in the Bible about activities that can sap our energy. Mark 4:18-19 says, “And others are the ones on whom the seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, and the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” Here it becomes very clear that when we allow the worries of the world to steal our energy and divert us from working hard for the Lord, it is a disappointment to Him and destructive to us spiritually.
We shall see from the Bible that we do not need energy drinks to motivate us to work heartily for God. We are given naturally all the energy we need to do great and exciting things in the kingdom – it is only by allowing sin, fear, and worry into our souls that we lose the drive to accomplish what the Lord has given us to do. So what are the impediments to productive, energetic Christian living? And how do we deal with all of the things that worry us and try to choke the word of God from our souls?
Get Rid Of Worry
There should be no room in the Christian mind for worry and doubt. Consider 1 Peter 5:6-8, which states, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” We must learn to trust God with all of our anxieties, or else those things will lead to our ruin. There are just so many things that we have absolutely no control over in this world, that to worry about all of them is a burden that no person was designed to bear. And when we do unnecessarily carry worries around, it brings a spiritual stench that the mighty predator can smell for miles. The soul weighed down by worries is a perfect target for Satan, just as a lion never wastes her time hunting the healthy, energetic members of a herd. So how serious is God when He commands us to cast “all” our anxieties on Him? Does He actually mean it? How seriously do we take verses like Philippians 4:7? And do we actually worry about nothing, and pray about everything? It is disturbing that so many Christians will quote this verse yet never live by it. We always want to find another way of relief without fully turning to God, as if the Lord is our last option. It seems like we spend so much time trying to deal with spiritual problems from a physical perspective that we never just give those problems to God! We try to cure depression with medication, when 2 Corinthians 7:6 says that God comforts the depressed. We try to cure sadness with distraction, when sometimes healthy expression of that most sorrowful of emotions is what we need. We try to drink energy drinks to make our lives feel more exciting and vibrant, when the message of the Gospel is the most exciting stimulant available to mankind. The Lord wants to be our first option for anxiety, depression, sadness, and sorrow. He wants us to drop our burdens on His lap. He wants us to pray about our jobs, our children, our health, our education, our congregation, our relationships, and our financial situations. He wants us to pray about everything, and He means it. And if there is anything in your life that is giving you anxiety, no matter how trite you might think it is, give it to God – anxiety is a sin just as much as anything else, especially when we consider that it is a direct command to be anxious for nothing.
There are too many things beyond our control, so why worry about problems that we can do nothing to prevent or change? Instead, we ought to devote ourselves to the release of productive energy by staying busy with things that we can change. Spiritual and mental energy are a lot like the physical energy of a house. Ideally, a house devotes its energy to heating, lighting, running electrical appliances, and other activities, just as the Christian ought to using its energy for study, prayer, meditation, good works, kind deeds, and love. Anxiety, if we take the analogy a little further, is similar to a poorly sealed window in a home. As long as that window remains unsealed, the productive energy of a house is wasted and the toll on the occupants becomes more and more heavy. Who knows how much spiritual energy is lost when we let anxiety into our lives. Some of us, to be sure, have our souls so poorly protected from anxiety that we are more akin to a house with one of its walls knocked over!
Instead of wasting our time and energy on worries, we should seek godly, productive outlets. We ought to look for every opportunity to get busy with next required action in life. This could be to make dinner, read to our children, visit that new neighbor, take a meal to someone in need, or prepare for Sunday Bible class. There is always something that needs to be done, and letting ourselves waste feeling anxious about the vain things of this life is no way for a Christian to live. I like what one writer said, “When my husband died and this kept woman was hired for her first paying job in 20 years, managing a café, I felt anxious and insecure until my mother said the following: ‘Look at it this way, your goal is to make a decent sandwich’” (“Invisible Monkeys”, World Magazine, August 26, 2006, p. 51). Worry will keep one from accomplishing concrete goals, and staying busy with good, honest, righteous activities is one way to dispel anxiety.
Mental Traffic Jams
One of the greatest causes of mental traffic jams is to leave things unfinished or undecided. We tend to worry about things the most when they are incomplete – and the same is true of what we believe is the best way to approach a problem. It is dangerous to refuse to make a decision or take a stand, because that will only lead to more anxiety (who we may disappoint, who’s feelings will get hurt, what others will think about us, what side of an argument we will take). Instead of taking a firm stand on anything, many people just believe nothing and are faced with great uncertainty in life. Because they are not convicted, many potential Christians remain unconverted. Because they do not want to hurt others, many of us never decide what we believe on tough, divisive issues. So instead of dealing with the problem and facing difficult situations, we skirt the issue and hide from it, only to remain just as anxious as before. Does indecision leave anybody feeling content? Certainly not!
· One of the greatest benefits of Bible study is that the Scriptures force us to make a decision on things. It settles issues and dispels doubts (Ephesians 4:14, Colossians 1:23).
· Equally, one of the dangers of procrastination or mental shelving is that the mind never really lets go of things that remain in the “undecided” category. We may become hobbyists, obsessed with pursuing the answer to one problem in life, forever anxious of the possibility that if we take a stand on something, someone will disagree.
· God’s advice in this realm is to get off the fence and make a decision, just as it is stated in 1 Kings 18:21, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions?” In this scenario, Elijah forces the people listening to make a decision about God – either follow Him or follow Baal; you cannot have both or neither.
Resolve What Is Bugging You
Another powerful impediment to a productive Christian life is allowing regrets to continue bothering us. Is it bugging you, for example, that you have not read your Bible for three or four weeks? Well, either live with the gnawing discomfort or take action to deal with the situation. Does it bug you that you have not been to church more than one or two times in a month? Instead of fretting over the mistakes you have made, resolve to do better in the future. Ask a brother or sister who you trust to help you with your problem. Say to yourself and to this confidant, “The next time I miss church, I want you to call me and give me a very hard time. Don’t hold back, even if I get upset.” We all need to realize that the things that are bugging us will continue to do so until we take decisive action to take care of them. You will never feel like a good Christians until you come to church all the time, or read your Bible frequently, or talk to that family member or neighbor about the Gospel. And who knows how much energy we waste by not resolving these issues!
View Your Life From Different Heights
Perhaps what is stealing the most energy from your otherwise productive Christian life is the fact that you view your problems from ground level, incessantly concerned about the petty matters that trouble you. Instead of seeing things from ground level, try looking at your problems from 50,000 feet. This is similar to what we find in the Old Testament, in 2 Kings 6. In this story, the Syrians set out to capture the prophet Elisha because he has been giving the locations and movements of their troops to the Israelites. They surround the city of Dothan and Elisha’s servant panics, saying, “What shall we do?” In response, the prophets states, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (6:16). He then prays that the servant would be able to see what he sees, and it is revealed that a massive army of chariots and horses and angels has surrounded them, ready to fight for God at any moment. As Christians, we need to remember that we cannot always see how God is helping us when we focus too hard on the little problems of this world. We become blind to all of the blessings, and the power of God. It is just as Paul writes, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
From the ground, my problems might seems overwhelming, but from 50,000 feet, they become insignificant, and certainly manageable. With things in the proper perspective, we remember:
· I am a child of God;
· I have a good husband or wife;
· I have good kids who are learning about God;
· I have real friends in the church;
· If I die today, I will go to heaven (Philippians 1:21-23);
· I have every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3);
· I actually know who I am and why I am alive (Ecclesiastes 12:13), as well as what my purpose is (Acts 17:26-28).
At the ground level, though, everything just seems more difficult, more worrisome. It is exhausting to look at life from this perspective, because it takes very little to weigh us down. All we see are:
· Unexpected bill;
· The economy;
· Thing in the house that need fixing;
· Natural disasters that we have to worry about;
· Food poisoning;
· Political unrest;
· Gas prices;
· Car troubles;
· College tuition;
· Retirement costs;
· The cost of insuring teenage children;
· Neighbors with a noisy dog.
Have A Mental Garage Sale
Maybe it is time for all of us to have mental garage sales. We need to get rid of all the junk that clutters our minds and prevents us from living more fulfilling, happy Christian lives. This is not an option, too! It is not our right to retain things that are unbefitting a follower of Jesus Christ – and God is like a spouse who never lets us keep all of the ugly, rotten things in the garage that everybody else can tell is worthless, but we refuse to throw out. Even Paul makes it clear that this is necessary, as he writes, “Let us cleanse ourselves from a;; defilement of flesh and spirit” (2 Corinthians 7:1); and “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). We have to understand that there are some very specific ideas in the Bible about what should be kept and what should be tossed in this mental garage sale. It is the time for al of us, especially those suffering from depression, waywardness, listlessness, and procrastination, to clean out our minds and make room for the Gospel. That is what makes life worth living – that is what makes life more beautiful. Here are a few thoughts that need to be labeled with a “5 cents o.b.o.” sticker:
· Thoughts of worthlessness (Galatians 2:20). You are important to God and to those in the church, and you do not have to wallow in self-pity;
· Thought of abandonment and loneliness (Hebrews 13:5). Find purpose in Jesus Christ and in the work of the church – do not alienate yourself from other Christians;
· Thoughts of quitting (Galatians 6:9);
· Thought of being deprived and unblessed – sorry, this does not stand up, no matter how miserable you might be;
· Excuses, excuses, excuses – No more “Oh, I can’t do it” (Philippians 4:13);
· Lack of contentment (Philippians 4:11);
· Attitudes such as “Whatever”, “What’s the use of trying”, “It won’t work, anyway”, “It really doesn’t matter”, or “Who cares” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14);
· “I always have to do it all by myself” (Philippians 4:13);
· “It’s not fair” (Philippians 1:15).