Last Thursday, I had the privilege of joining Mike Slater live on AM600 KOGO. The main question that we discussed was, "How Can Faith In God Help Anxiety?" At Skyline Church, we’ve experienced a heightened community response due to COVID19. It seems that now more than ever, people are asking God legitimate questions. People are realizing that they aren’t in control as much as they thought and that can lead to anxiety. It’s in moments like 9/11, or in this case, a worldwide pandemic, where people storm churches in search of answers (of course now they're not storming physically, but they are storming the churches by watching online). Sadly, as was the case of 9/11 as soon as they arrived they began to remember why they left the church in the first place. Whether it's the way the message was conveyed or the lack of a welcoming atmosphere by the "churchy" people. That’s why our slogan at Skyline Church is: No perfect people allowed! We know there are always going to be hypocrites, to which we say, “Welcome!” Regardless of who you are, where you’ve been, or what you’ve done, “You matter to God and you matter to us.” Our heart is to help people.
In some cases, events like 9/11 or COVID don’t always help someone’s spiritual walk. We have to be wise about how we convey “the church” because the message of God has not changed. However, we do have to change our methods to address a changing culture. And I believe that problems present opportunities. Church doesn’t look like it did 50 years ago, especially with services moving online. God’s desire that no (person) should perish (2 Peter 3:9) is finally widely available in an unthreatening space … your living room.
People in our community are facing real problems with real anxiety. This is why we’ve set out to read through the book of Philippians in a daily 3-5 minute devotional that you can watch called, Today Matters. In this book we learn how to experience joy regardless of the circumstances, because the Apostle Paul is in a Roman jail as he writes to the Philippian church, yet he’s conveying a positive message. He has A LOT of problems, you want an example of someone who should be full of anxiety, it would be the Apostle Paul, yet he’s talking about how much he loves the people and how much joy he has AND he lists why he has that joy!
Even though we are in the middle of a difficult time, there are some advantages. One of the advantages is helping our community get back to the foundational habits of our faith. These habits that we’re developing during this time are going to carry us forward whenever we return to "normal" whatever that new normal looks like. All of our habits are broken right now. Let’s make some new ones or get back to some good ones! It’s easy to binge on Netflix, Ben and Jerry's and not exercise, and we begin to develop poor habits. But God has a different plan for you and me in this season.
In the midst of uncertainty and anxiety, it’s natural for us to lose our joy. But I want to suggest something so elementary that you might laugh at its simplicity. Obviously there’s a lot of negativity swirling out there and we’re conditioned to complain. But the reality is that you have to be grateful to have joy. You don’t know anyone who is ungrateful and happy. The two go together. Gratitude is the key to joy! And this is why Paul could have joy even in Jail. So as easy as it sounds, I want to encourage you to write down things you’re grateful for. As many as you can! Take as much time as you want or need; 5, 10, 50 minutes. It’s a simple and old school practice but it works! No one wants to be around a sour puss Christian. If you're a Christian, the Bible tells us to "Be Joyful Always." So if that's the case then inform your face! I’m not talking “pollyanna” (fake) joy, I’m talking about regardless of your circumstances, regardless of what’s temporary, take up joy by being grateful.
You may have heard that the Bible says, "do not fear" or "fear not," 365 times. That’s one verse on overcoming your anxiety everyday of the year! In my blog last week, we talked about the alternative to worry. Worrying is thinking a negative thought over and over again. Let me say this again, if you know how to worry, you know how to meditate. I want to encourage you to choose one of the thousands of promises in the Bible and think on that verse over and over instead of that negative thought. As you do that, you'll notice your anxiety subsiding. The Bible says it doesn’t make sense to worry. Worry weighs us down (Proverbs 12:25).
There are few practices with a greater return. Why hesitate? It’s so elementary but we shrug it off. Like the Apostle Paul, start writing down what you're thankful for. You may not be in a Roman jail, but it probably feels a bit like jail being confined like we are. Here's a suggestion on how to begin: It may start as simply as food, breath, shelter, toilet paper, etc ... But remember how simplistic Jesus was compared to the Pharisees. It's not about the complexity of the Gospel that gives us joy, it's about the simplicity of it. In order to do this, we just need to snap out of it! Don’t sleep walk through life. Turn off Netflix, write down some things you’re grateful for, and open your Bible to a promise you can cling to. I promise that these habits will change your life for the better. You will feel joy coming in and anxiety going out.
We hope to see you this Sunday as we continue to do church differently online. You can join us for our new sermon series at SkylineChurch.org at 9AM, 10:30AM, 3PM, and 5PM.