I was struck recently with the words in James 1:21: “…receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” As I meditated on this verse and others related to the power of God’s Word, I was encouraged. Some key words in James 1:21 are:
- Receive: To give ear to, embrace, makes one’s own
- Implanted: Planted by nature (in this case by the new nature brought about by regeneration) or others’ instruction
- Able: Capable of, powerful to
- Save: To rescue from destruction, heal
- Souls: Life; seat of feelings, desires, affections, thoughts, purposes
God is telling us that his Word, implanted in our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit, is able to save our lives and heal our souls.
Victory In Anxiety
One of the things that often wars against our souls is anxiety—the sense that we are in danger and must protect, defend, and save ourselves. Anxiety is often saying that deep down we don’t believe there is a wise, all-powerful, loving God in control of our lives and so we must control them. The problem is that we know we can’t really control our lives and that simply increases the anxiety. James explains to us that God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit can gradually transform and save us from the enemies of our souls, including anxiety.
Bob Kellemen gives a helpful perspective on fighting anxiety. Sometimes God gives us victory over anxiety through his Spirit-implanted Word: i.e. anxious thoughts and feelings go away. But he often gives us victory in anxiety: i.e. we may continue to experience them to some extent but are increasingly less ruled by them (Anxiety: Anatomy and Cure, P&R Books, 2012). This perspective brings about a realistic hope for growing in overcoming anxiety. As one who struggles with anxiety, I know that “realistic hope” is exactly what we need.
As we look at what God says in Philippians to help us fight anxiety, keep in mind that it is the “implanted” Word that is powerful to save and heal. While the primary responsibility for implanting the Word is with the Holy Spirit, we have a part to play as well. Our responsibility is to:
- Meditate on Scriptural truth continually (Joshua 1: 8-10)
- Pray over it that the Holy Spirit will implant it deep in your heart and bring it to fruition (Ephesians 1: 15-19)
- Believe and speak it (2 Corinthians 4: 13)
- Live it out through “faith working through love” (Galatians 5: 6)
With Paul in Philippians
Paul’s truths and identity statements in Philippians are a powerful arsenal for the Holy Spirit to use in helping us find victory in anxiety. Here is a list of such truths from Philippians that you can use in your battle against anxiety. As you read and reflect on them, ask the Holy Spirit to save and transform by implanting these words deep in your heart and then to give you opportunities to share them with others. You might want to journal your reflections, experiences, and prayers.
- 1:1—You are a saint: one set apart from the world, flesh, and devil for God’s glory
- 1:2—God offers you grace and peace through the gospel
- 1:3-5—Through faith in Jesus you are partners in gospel life and ministry
- 1:6—God has begun a transforming work in you, is working in your life now, and will complete it when you see Jesus
- 1:7—You are a partaker of God’s undeserved favor and transforming power along with Paul and all believers
- 1:8—Jesus Christ himself has great affection for you
- 1:9-10—It is God’s will to glorify himself as your love, purity, and righteousness grow
- 1:21—Your life now is defined by Christ and your dying will bring the fulfillment of all your deepest desires in him
- 1:29—Your faith in Christ and sufferings for his sake are gifts of God to you
- 2:1—Through faith in Christ you have his encouragement, comfort, participation in the Spirit, affection, and sympathy
- 2:8-11—God has exalted Jesus above all others for your eternal worship and delight
- 2:13—God works in you to desire and do what pleases him
- 2:14—You shine as a light for Christ in the world
- 3:3—We are the real circumcision who worship by the Spirit, glory in Christ, and put no confidence in the flesh
- 3:7-11—Knowing Christ and receiving the righteousness he gives us are so precious it is worth losing everything else for
- 3:20—Heaven is where you belong and are headed to
- 3:21—Jesus will transform your lowly body to be like his glorious body by his omnipotent power
- 4:1—In Christ you are loved and desired, a beloved brother or sister
- 4:5-7—The Lord is near you to give you peace in Christ as you ask with thanksgiving
- 4:11-13—It is possible to learn to be content and strong in the Lord in every situation
- 4:19—God has promised to supply every need you will ever have through Christ
Two closing thoughts about using these truths from Philippians to battle anxiety: First, think relational not just cognitive. The above bullet points are not “magic bullets” to use to make anxiety disappear. Think of them as conversation points to talk to the Lord about. David Powlison once said that you can’t merely reason your way out of anxiety, but you can relate (to the Lord) your way through it.
Second, remember that you are saved by Jesus’ righteousness, not your own. Your being accepted and beloved by the Lord depends not on your overcoming anxiety but on Jesus’ perfect life, death, and resurrection on your behalf. Forgetting the truth of justification by faith alone could subtly turn battling anxiety into a “work” and actually increase it.
May God enable us by His Word and Spirit to more and more fully experience Paul’s words in Philippians 4: 4-7 to the glory of God:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Join the Conversation:
What does “realistic hope” in fighting anxiety look like for you? How can you help others take hold of this realistic hope?