March 17, 2006

Intimacy’s greatest enemy is one that slips in under the guise of everyday life. Often, this enemy attacks subtly and without warning, especially when we seek to draw into deeper intimacy with God. It wears many disguises, and plagues men and women, young and old, and increasingly, young children, adolescents, and teens. The enemy is anxiety. It is cunning and sly, and masquerades in several ways. Its quest is to destroy intimacy, not only with the Lord, but with others, too. Who among us doesn’t crave a closer walk with the Lord—a walk in His perfect timing, plan, and purpose? How wonderful it is just to enjoy a close fellowship with the Spirit of God and other brothers and sisters in the Lord. The spirit of anxiety victimizes us by plundering our closeness to the Lord, thereby robbing us of the peace and joy that’s found in intimacy with the Lord. It frequently catches us unaware, or disguises itself as addiction, or physical or emotional ailments. It is the Father’s will that we walk and live in close relationship with Him. Exposing and becoming free from the spirit of anxiety will release us into a greater revelation of who God is and who we are in Him and draw us closer than ever to the Father. Exposing Anxiety Anxiety affects emotions and can cause excessive anger, fear, paranoia, depression, or lethargy. It also causes a range of physical ailments, including heart problems, panic attacks, heart palpitations, headaches, eating disorders, and addictions such as sexual, smoking, drugs, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, junk food, computer, and television. It’s discernable by a host of symptoms: an inability to focus, moodiness, dissatisfaction, indecisiveness, the constant need for distractions (noise, radio, television), thrill-seeking (i.e. fast and reckless driving), excessive jealousy, envy, laziness, procrastination, a constant lack of peace, greediness, argumentativeness, stinginess, constant fidgeting, need to control, busyness, unfaithfulness, or a divided heart. Sometimes it manifests as a constant feeling of being short-changed, an inability to be “in the moment,” and being goal-oriented rather than journey-oriented. It can be marked by the inability of a person to enjoy friends, family, and life in general, and sadly, even the Lord. If you or a loved one is plagued by any of these symptoms, it’s possible you’re under attack by the spirit of anxiety. The Spirit of Anxiety Hinders our Walk I remember when I first received the Holy Spirit and felt a call to ministry. I desperately wanted to have the touch of God strongly on my life and ministry. So I sought those I felt had a generous portion of the Holy Spirit on their lives, and I went on a quest to study their habits and discover their methods. How did people like Aimee Semple McPherson, William Wade Harris, John G. Lake, Carlos Annacondia, Dr. Yonggi Cho, and Benny Hinn get where they got to in Christ? These people stood out from their contemporaries and exhibited an incredible tangible anointing of the Lord on their lives. Simply put, they were and are all history makers of their time. They all had or have different ministries and callings—the tapestries of their lives different from one another—but they were woven with one common thread: Each spoke of the hours spent in prayer, worship, and intimacy with the Lord. They sought Him in private, and He blessed them in public. What they have or had is available to everyone in the body of Christ today. Yes, we all have or will have different ministry platforms, and the anointing will manifest differently on everyone, but we all have access to the throne of grace. We all come in under the blood of Jesus. We all have communion with the same Holy Spirit. Anxiety is an Enemy Stronghold So then why do some flourish and others falter? It does indeed seem that some have a direct-line to heaven, while others are on hold. I believe the spirit of anxiety distances us from the Lord and our walk with Him. The Bible says, “whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23), so if we are walking in anxiety, fear, or depression, we need to recognize them as strongholds of the enemy and deal with them accordingly. I believe when we recognize the spirit of anxiety is at work, we can address it, break it by the power of the Spirit, and begin to walk in a new realm of faith, trust, and intimacy with the Lord. So we looked earlier at its symptoms, but what is anxiety? More importantly how do we break free from this barrier to intimacy? Webster’s dictionary defines anxiety as a state of uncertainty; disturbance of the mind regarding uncertain events. Let’s delve into “the state of uncertainty” first, and then we’ll look at the latter half of the definition. “STATE OF UNCERTAINTY” VS SURETY Intimacy with the Lord brings a sense of surety and peace. It’s not the kind of surety associated with the self-made man or woman or the captain-of-industry type who pulls themselves up by their bootstraps and knows who they are and where they’re going. That is a type of false confidence and trust based on one’s own abilities rather than on trusting the Lord. Certain movements in the body of Christ have followed this kind of thinking. They have a façade of Christianese to make it sound churchy, but it is the same mentality: “Brother just repeat these Scriptures twenty times a day,” or “if you have faith you can get yourself out of the jam you’re in—just speak it out!” It sounds great, but the reality is that the dependence comes back to oneself. The surety I’m talking about is not surety in one’s self, but the kind of surety that a child with a loving parent feels. A small child in loving home may not know where they are going or what they are going to do, but they usually don’t care. They just know their mom or dad is with them. Their parents have taken care of them so far, so they have no reason to frantically ask ”Where are we going?” or “What’s going to happen?” Orphan Mindset Unfortunately, many have had less than ideal upbringings. Probably more, than not, have been hurt, abused, molested, neglected, or uncared for by parents, teachers, police, and clergy. From our experience with bad authority figures, we have cultivated an atmosphere of distrust. Instead of learning to trust in what should be “safe-havens” like the home or the church, we have learned to be wary and skeptical. Instead of trusting that provision and love would be ever-present, there has been a need to “Look out for yourself because no one else will look out for you,” or “Get all you can now because there might not be enough later.” Then, we receive Christ and carry the same mentality into our life with Him. We wonder if ministers can be trusted because “We’ve been hurt before”; we wonder if the Lord will meet our needs because we have lived for so long under a spirit of lack. We can trust Him with salvation, and we can trust Him for healing, but is He faithful to care for my future, my everyday needs, and my heart’s desires? I remember hearing Heidi Baker share a story about her experience with orphans. She told us that every time she brings orphans off the streets of Mozambique the same things happen. The children either eat so much that they become sick, or when they’re given something, say soap to shower with, they steal it. Sadly, many return to life on the streets and in the garbage dumps. They were of the orphan mindset and didn’t get it. They didn’t understand that the provision was there, that they wouldn’t have to beg, go hungry, or steal, and that the only “catch” was a few normal rules. Their basic needs were covered. Heidi and Rolland Baker have given their lives to see children live . . . sound familiar? They left country, home, and family to see that these children would be loved and taken care of. They have poured out their lives for these precious ones and simply desire to love them. Officially, once taken in, the children were no longer orphans. However, sadly, while technically their status had changed, their young hearts and minds hadn’t. They’d only known abuse, abandonment, and hunger and didn’t know how to receive the Baker’s care and love. It’s not difficult to see the parallel with these orphans and so many in the body of Christ today. Jesus made a “special trip” to earth to save us. He came from heaven, suffered, and died so that we might have life and that more abundantly. But so many of us, while we are technically beloved sons and daughters of the King, act like beggars and thieves, grabbing and moaning, stealing and conniving, trying to get what the Lord wants to freely release to us. We are sons and daughters but operate under an orphan spirit and mentality, and this opens wide the gate for an anxious spirit to come in and take residence in our hearts and minds. “DISTURBANCE OF THE MIND” Circumstances or Jesus? Choose Your Focus Our past, colors our present, making us anxious when we should walk in perfect peace, and our past perverts our standing with the Lord. It creates a gap in our relationship with Him, when all the while, we have a legal right under the blood covenant to have close fellowship with God. We can never receive salvation until we know that Jesus is Savior. We can never receive healing until we know Jesus is a healer. We can never receive the spirit of adoption and sonship until we recognize our position as children of the most High God who is a loving Father that deeply cares for us. When our attention is circumstance-focused rather that Jesus-focused, or when we give our thoughts over to what is happening around us instead of Who is living in us, we become disturbed in our mind. The events of life will always provide consistent challenges to our faith. When we face those challenges with trust in Him, they propel us to greater intimacy with Him and therefore ultimately into our destiny in Christ. When we face those challenges with a carnal mind, considering only what is taking place in the natural, we will be stuck in a particular stage needing to go through a similar challenge again until we overcome that area of testing. When we look at our circumstances and become disturbed in the mind because of uncertain events, we are easily led into sin. Often anxious people self-medicate with drugs, food, tobacco, or alcohol: “Well I just need to take the edge off….” This might be because of uncertain events at work, in the family, in ministry, or in finances, present or future. Fear and Anxiety Replace Trust and Intimacy Fear and anxiety replaces trust and intimacy, leaving room for the devil to have his will in one’s life. Fear is the devil’s perversion of faith. Fear is faith that the devil’s word and plan will come to pass. Perhaps one of the most tragic examples of this in Scripture takes place with Israel’s first king. God anointed and chose Saul to become king of Israel (1 Sam. 10:24) and bestowed on Saul an incredible prophetic gifting. Saul's career as the king of Israel was one of contrasts though. He was a man of great stature, and certainly looked like a king—he fit the image in the eyes of the people. But the very first time we meet Saul in the Bible he’s a farmer’s son looking for some lost donkeys, and again we’re given another meek image of him when the time comes for him to ascend the throne and he is hiding (1 Sam. 10:22). However, tthe Lord gave him a great prophet (Samuel) to speak into his life (1 Sam. 10:6–11), and he experienced great success in battle. Saul was faithful and trusted the Lord, and God’s blessing was on Saul’s life and kingdom. Saul was given every assurance of God's presence and guidance—if he would only be true and loyal to God’s direction and plan. Unfortunately, the trust relationship was disrupted. Let me pause here to say that it is very common for people who come from humble beginnings and are raised up to a high place to become insecure and anxious. Success brings a completely new world: new people, new environment, new situations, and often people feel more comfortable in their original surroundings. They might feel outclassed or that they are undeserving or incapable. This often happens to those in government and ministry. Like Saul, success proves for some to be as big, if not a greater challenge, as failure. Separation from the Lord Saul was in this very predicament. He had found favor with God. It was a rags-to-riches testimony. He’d gone from a place of obscurity to a place of influence. However, when he came upon challenges in his administration, he gave into the anxious spirit, and where once he was a prophetic king, he turned into a demon-possessed maniac—all because he gave way to the spirit of anxiety. In opening that door, he murdered, and even tried to harm those close to him. It’s so sad to read, in 1 Samuel 13:5-14, the account of Saul’s folly that led him into that anxiety, that caused the sin that ultimately destroyed his intimacy and favor with God. Here, the Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with thirty-thousand chariots and six-thousand horsemen, and people as many as the sand on the seashore. When the men of Israel saw that their situation was critical, and the army hard-pressed, they hid in caves, in thickets, in cliffs, cellars, and pits. Saul waited for Samuel seven days, as Samuel had told him to do, but when Samuel didn’t show, many of Saul’s men scattered. Then Saul openly disregarded the instruction the Lord gave him through the prophet Samuel and, in a state of fear and confusion, rashly ventured to perform the sacred service that only the priests were permitted to render. Saul said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings,” and offered the burnt offering (v.9). This all happened soon after his reign. This was an open disregard for God’s plan, and Samuel said, “What have you done?” (v. 11). Saul tried to explain and justify his actions and told Samuel he felt “compelled” to offer the burnt offering (v. 12b). But Samuel admonished Saul and said that had he kept the commandment of the Lord, God would have established Saul’s kingdom over Israel forever (v. 13). Saul went from a great measure of God’s favor to complete separation from the Lord, simply because a spirit of anxiety entered through Saul’s meditation on the circumstances in his life. If instead Saul had focused on the word and commandments of the Lord, we’d be singing songs about him today as we do of King David. If he’d trusted, instead of taking matters into his own hands, his name, kingdom, and contribution to Israel would be known throughout the world. The spirit of anxiety destroyed his legacy and more importantly his walk with the Lord. How often have we seen this played out in the body of Christ? Sometimes it’s a minister raised up with God’s favor and anointing from a place of obscurity, poverty, or shame. They experience and have deep fellowship and communion with the Holy Spirit and are placed on the world’s stage as an example of God’s work in one’s life. However, with this rise appears new obstacles and new testing, and if their hearts aren’t pure and their affection for the Lord isn’t greater than the opinions of others, they fall. In North America, these stories are common, but it happens everywhere: in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, too. Great leaders and history makers all over the world have suffered the same rise and fall as Saul did, because of “a disturbance in the mind regarding uncertain events.” Peace and focus on the Lord, hours of prayer and worship, and fasting and prayer are sacrificed by secret sin, manipulation of ministry, and prayerlessness. And for probably every major leader, there are multitudes in the body suffering the same fate. They once walked with the Lord, but now “they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature” (Luke 8:14, NIV). GOD’S DESIRE FOR US Many have experienced an “open heaven” over their life because of great intimacy and fellowship with the Lord. God has given us a foretaste of heaven, and of what a daily intimate fellowship with the King of Kings will be like. It is God’s desire that His “will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” And His will is that His children walk in undisturbed peace with Him. Conversely, when the enemy reigns in our lives through anxiety, the miserable torment and excruciating pain of hell is ours to experience as well. While the Lord gives a foretaste of things to come in heaven, so the devil gives a sample of what hell will be like to those who submit to him. I once heard that the worst thing about hell is that it will be complete and utter separation from the Lord. In contrast, heaven is perfect communion and fellowship with the Lord—it’s awesome because God is there. The Abundant Life “Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:5, 6, NASB). Jesus came that we may have abundant life and that we may walk in the freedom and nurture of intimacy and fellowship with the Holy Spirit. With that in mind, it is God’s will and desire that we all walk in freedom from the spirit of anxiety and its consequences. I believe the Lord is bringing a fresh wave of love, freedom, and peace to the church and is calling people out of a place of insecurity to a place of trust. God is calling us out of self-reliance to a place of God-reliance. He is bringing us out of the streets as beggars and orphans and placing the crown of sonship and closeness with the Father. Prayer Would you pray this prayer with me renouncing the spirit of anxiety and accept the Spirit of peace that comes only from the Lord? Father I want to walk in all you have for me. I want to be connected, close, and intimate with You and others. I want to be “anxious for nothing” as Your word calls me to be. Father, in the name of Jesus, I renounce the spirit of anxiety and orphanship, and embrace the spirits of sonship and peace. Lord lead me by Your Spirit to focus on You when circumstances are uncertain, because You are LORD OF ALL! I give my whole heart and life to You and will put my trust and focus on You in each situation. Thank You for the great experiences and adventures I have in You to come! I love You, Lord! Thank you for making me your son or daughter. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7, NASB).