By Dermot Cottuli

Last week I spoke on having faith for the future and we specifically looked at the issue of money, as running out of money, was identified as the number one personal fear facing individuals in 2015. It wasn’t the only fear polarising people’s thinking last year, according to a survey conducted by The Chapman University.


As you can see on the slide there were other things that were were even more worrying for people. What struck me was how the things that are causing people anxiety today weren’t even a consideration when I was a kid growing up. I know that this might come as a surprise to the younger generation but I was alive before the internet and things like cyber-terrorism, corporate and government tracking of personal information, identity theft and credit card fraud weren’t on anyone’s radar back when I was growing up. What also concerned me when looking at the list of fears were the number of them that were completely out of my control. 9 out of the 10 top fears were things that I had no control over. If you want to ratchet up a person’s feelings of anxiety and insecurity simply place them in a situation where they have no control over the outcome and where the potential outcome is something that they’re afraid of.

Worry and anxiety seem to be on the increase in society at a time where the perfect life is being held up as attainable by anyone with a social media account. Life is easier than it was 100 years ago and yet the number of people on medication for anxiety related illnesses has never been higher.

John Lubbock

“A day of worry is more tiring than a week of work.”

You only have to do a quick search online and you turn up dozens of titles such as:

  • How our society breeds anxiety, depression and dysfunction.
  • Living with anxiety: Britain’s silent epidemic!
  • The Decline of Play and Rise in Children’s Mental Disorders.
  • Why are anxiety disorders among women on the rise?
  • Are we in the midst of an anxiety disorder?
  • Anxiety disorders are sharply on the rise!
  • The Rise of Anxiety in Teens: How did we get here?

Some people have called anxiety the Disease of the 21st Century; and on an anecdotal level, it’s easy to understand how someone might think anxiety worthy of the title. We’ve all experienced it at one time or another – that horrible feeling when the whole world seems to be crashing down upon us.

On its own, anxiety is a normal part of life, tied in with our fight or flight response. But for some, anxiety strikes at the most unexpected of times. It makes us imagine that things in our life, or what’s happening right now, are far worse than they really are — and the effects can be quite debilitating. Anxiety can result in fear, uncertainty, circular and racing thoughts, and the avoidance of certain behaviours and social situations. It can affect our ability to function normally, and even convince us that we’re losing our minds. And frustratingly, it often gets mixed-up with — and even leads to — other related psychological conditions, like substance abuse and personality difficulties.

Anxiety has without question become a fixture of modern life. Reported levels of anxiety have been on the rise since the end of World War II, and there’s evidence that anxiety disorders now constitute the most prevalent mental health problems worldwide.

Typically, anxiety disorders are treated with a combination of talk therapy, like cognitive behavioural therapy, and an antidepressant medication.

CBT works by teaching people to challenge the negative voices in their head. The assumption here is that the negative voices aren’t telling us the truth and we need to replace them with a new conversation that brings inner peace rather than turmoil.


“Living a life without stress is less about changing your environment and more about changing your outlook.”

This is where I start to get excited 🙂 One of the things that I noticed when I was at Uni was how often the research in educational theory, psychology and sociology mirrored what the Bible had already said 1000’s of years ago. When I was younger I believed that if God was real and the Bible was a true account of the words He’s spoken down through history to mankind, then I should be able to find wisdom for my daily life in the 21st century. I’ve held that belief for the past 30 years and haven’t had it proven wrong even once.

Jesus made a very interesting statement in John chapter 8. He went straight to the heart of most of the issues that we struggle with – the stuff that goes on between our ears, when he said:

John 8:31-32

“You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Where does the process that Jesus was talking about, of being set free, take place? In our minds – you will “know” the truth and the “knowing” of that truth will set you free. Where was that truth to be found? In his teachings, in the things that Jesus taught, about life, both temporal and eternal.

It always encourages me when I see how much the Bible deals with the natural stuff that we all struggle with – some people mistakenly think that the Bible only deals with spiritual matters and science is where we need to turn to to understand how our natural selves work. Nothing could be further from the truth. God deals with every area, spiritual, physical, intellectual and emotional. It’s why the church has the best recovery rate for people struggling with addictions – we don’t just deal with behaviour and cognitive processes, even though they are very important, but also the deeper issues of the heart and our spirituality. But at the same time the Bible doesn’t overlook behaviour and the way you think. In fact there’s a statement in the Bible about your thinking that is quite amazing, when you think about it. 🙂

Romans 12:2

Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.

The antidote for worry and anxiety is truth, not just opinion dressed up as truth but rather truth that’s backed up by the one who is the ultimate truth, the Creator of all things. When we know the truth it will set us free from worry and anxiety and bring a peace into our lives that can’t be moved by circumstance and unexpected setbacks.

I want to give you two examples of truth from God’s word that can bring you peace if you allow it to direct the path your thinking takes.

John 14:1-3

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.

Peace for Eternity. We have the opportunity to face death with a rock solid peace in our hearts that sees us passing from this life to the next with dignity and joy.

If I were to say, “Come and stay with us in Bicheno next week, my in-laws have a shack there and we’ll be staying on the coast for the week.” You’d accept what I said at face value wouldn’t you? Me saying that, would have a lot of credibility because a) you know me and trust me and b) it’s the truth. How do you know it’s the truth? Because our family’s been there numerous times and I’ve posted pictures on FB of the shack which are viewable by anyone who’s a friend of mine on FB. When Jesus is talking to his disciples He’s referencing his track record for honesty and truthfulness as their friend when he says “If this were not so, would I have told you that I’m going to prepare a place for you?” They’ve also seen him on numerous occasions do miracles that could only have been done if God was with Him backing up his actions with supernatural power. No matter how many times you repeat “Come back to life, come back to life.” it’ll have no impact on a dead person unless there’s a higher power than wishful thinking coming in behind your words.

The gospels record 3 times where Jesus brought someone back to life from the dead. One who had just passed away, another who was in a funeral procession on the way to the graveyard and one who had been buried and in the ground for 4 days. His disciples didn’t question Jesus’ statement because they trusted his truthfulness and they had good reason to do so. The fact that the next 3 days would cement the truthfulness of his words for all eternity is for our benefit this morning. That evening he was arrested and the next day he was crucified and then 3 days later he came back to them from the dead just as he had said he would.

No wonder they were all so fearless when facing execution later on in their lives – they weren’t worried by death at all. And their peace wasn’t based on hopeful wishful positive affirmations but rather the truth of Jesus’ physical resurrection from the dead.

John 16:33

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (NLT)

Peace for the here and now

If you were struggling financially and someone told you not to worry because they’d just placed $100,000 into your bank account, how would that make you feel? Would your worry go away? Would it change things for you? Would it be more powerful than someone just telling you “Don’t worry because you know, there’s nothing you can do about it so why worry? Worry is a waste of emotional energy that produces nothing for you except stress. So don’t worry.” Would that statement have as big an impact on your emotional state as someone physically depositing $100,000 into your account? Of course it wouldn’t.

Let’s have a look at what Jesus says:

He says that we have peace in him. He says that in this world we will have trouble (don’t let anyone ever tell you that you live in a fantasy world when you’re trusting in Jesus – he never promised us perfection here on earth but he did promise us a way through it) He then says take heart because He has overcome the world. The veracity of his first statement to help us through the reality of his second statement hinges on the truthfulness of his final statement.

The Bible is written for two audiences. The original audience and a latter audience – you and I. So if you were one of the disciples what do you think would have gone through your mind when Jesus said to take heart, because he had overcome the world? Let’s face it, it’s a pretty big call to make! If I was there when he said that, I’d probably be thinking that I’d never seen Jesus sin in all the time that I’d known him and to me, having travelled with him and seen him when he was tired, hungry and facing criticism by those who should have known better, and still hold it all together would have been powerful. To have witnessed his command over the natural elements and sickness and death and to have seen him defeat the demonic every time we encountered them would have gone a long way toward making me believe that he was telling the truth when he said he’d overcome the world but let’s fast forward it to us, today.

What is it that gives us a rock solid trust in Jesus’ truthfulness? What is it that makes his statement truth rather than grandiose big noting? Do you remember when he made this statement? It was the night he was arrested. The next day he was crucified and three days later he came back to life. Take heart because I have overcome the world! Men and women have achieved incredible feats down through the ages but Jesus is the only one who has come back to life in an historically verifiable way. He’s the only one who’s defeated the last great enemy, that all who walk through on the earth face at the end of their days – death. He’s the only one who has crossed over and then come back. So when he says that if you’re trusting in Him you can have peace regardless of your troubles, because he’s overcome the world, you can totally believe it. The end is settled, you win.

John 16:33

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (NLT)

At the moment we see dimly as through a glass but there’s going to come a day when we will see clearly and when we do we will be so glad that we held onto and trusted in Jesus.