Dr. Jim Berg has served as dean of students at Bob Jones University since 1981.  He has taught thousands in seminars on leadership development and biblical counseling and has authored a handbook for new Christians, Basics for Believers, published by BJU Press.


In addition to their responsibilities at BJU, he and his wife, Pat, a member of the BJU faculty, frequently speak at couples’ conferences and retreats in churches and camps across America.  The Bergs have three daughters.


Basics for Worried Believers is one of a series of messages, written by Dr. Jim Berg.  Individual pamphlets, which address such issues as Basics for Angry Believers, Depressed Believers, Hurting Believers, Pressured Believers, and Worried Believers, are available from the Bob Jones Campus Store, Greenville, South Carolina.


Before you begin to read Dr. Berg’ s message, take a few minutes in prayer that the Holy Spirit will enlighten and open your heart to the Biblical principles, Dr. Berg will share, as found in God’s Word- the Bible- the only Book which offers a true Message of Hope.


Basics for Worried Believers


by Dr. Jim Berg


Susan, the Professional Worrier


“Pastor, I’m really honored to be on the deacon board, but I didn’t realize how much it would affect Susan.  She was already a ‘professional worrier.’  The recent cutbacks at my work have her concerned about my job security in the days ahead.  Besides our financial future, she worries constantly about her health.  Every magazine article or news story about some disease puts her into a tailspin.  She starts worrying that she might be getting that disease.  About six months ago she started having severe stomach aches, but the doctor said they were stress-related and told her to take antacids to counteract the problem.  She worries now she might have an ulcer.”


“Susan is really excited about my new position as a deacon, but she now worries about whether she can be ‘good enough’ to be a deacon’s wife.  She suspects, as I do, that her worry is behind most of her physical problems.  She doesn’t feel she can be a credit to my ministry as a deacon when she ‘doesn’t have her act together’, as she puts it.  She didn’t even come to church last Wednesday night because she thought she might have to leave during the service because of her stomach problems.  Also, about two months ago she started having trouble sleeping at nights; she is getting so discouraged and I might say real tired!”


“You know how much she loves the Lord and wants to serve Him.  She loves teaching the third grade girls in Sunday School and is great with our own preschoolers.  She is a wonderful mother!  What can I do to help her, Pastor?”


Many Christians struggle with worries similar to Susan’s.  If you are one of them, you can begin to loosen the stranglehold of worry by learning the reasons that you worry in the first place.  You can begin practicing God’s solutions to worry and become a useful servant for God and can experience peace in your own heart.  Pastor Douglas told Bill that God has something to say about Susan’s problems.  In fact, God through His Word, has addressed every problem that can interfere with a believers ability to serve God and accurately reflect His nature. (II Peter 1:3)


We Worry Because We Have the Wrong Concerns and Priorities


The things that worry you are the things that are the most important to you. Our anxieties reveal our priorities.  We never worry about things that are important to us. Make a list of your worries and ask yourself.  “Are the things I worry about priorities to God?”  For example, most of us worry about what we will wear from our priority to be accepted by others.  We want to have a certain kind of clothing to impress others or bolster our sagging pride.  God condemns this priority (II Corinthians 12:10) and says that this kind of “fear of man” will be a trap to defeat us (Proverbs 29:25).  He reminds us of His priorities in Matthew 6:24-34 and even teaches us in this passage how to view clothing.


In a similar manner, many of our financial “worries” have come because we purchased things to satisfy our lusts (strong desires).  We worry about things where we will get the money to pay our debts.  God is concerned, however, about when we will change our value system. (I Timothy 6:6-11).  Before we can overcome the sinful habit of worry in cases like these, we must be ready to repent of sinful priorities that lead to trouble in the first place.


We Worry Because We Handle Our Legitimate Concerns the Wrong Way


If the concerns we have are priorities to God, He has already instructed us how to go about dealing with them.  For example, a godly parent may be concerned about a wayward child.  Proverbs gives abundant instruction on how to respond to someone who has chosen the ways of  “foolishness” instead of the paths of wisdom.


Another example of a legitimate care was Paul’s concern about the condition of churches (II Corinthians 11:28).  He did something about it- God’s way.  He visited them, prayed for them, wrote letters to them rebuking and instructing them and sent messengers to minister to them.


There is a Bible way to handle any concern that is a concern to God.  The problem is often we are so unfamiliar with the Scriptures that we do not know what God has said.  We, therefore, “lean… to [our] own understanding” (Proverbs 3: 6) and end up worrying and fretting about our concerns.


We Worry Because We Depend on the Wrong Person


The one we turn to when we have a problem is the one we trust most to help.  If you call a friend every day to rehash your problem, you reveal that you believe your friend can help – even if all he has to offer is a listening ear.  You are dependent upon your friend for relief.


If you keep your thought to yourself and constantly repeat them in your mind, you reveal that you have the answer to your problem.  You are dependent upon yourself for the solution.


If, on the other hand, you discuss your concerns with God and seek His thoughts about your concerns, you reveal that you believe He has the solution to your problem.  You are dependent upon God.


How Do I Start Changing?


The King James Version translates the Greek word for anxiety and worry as “careful,” “care” and “take thought.”  The word itself means to “divide.”  A sinful “care” or worry, then is something that divides the heart (double-mindedness; serving two masters) and distracts it from God.  Paul’s legitimate concerns drove him to God in prayer, service and dependence.  Sinful worry drives us from God and His Word; it separates from the most important things.  See the example of Martha in Luke 10: 38 – 42


Think about the things which “divide” your attention and distract your heart from God.  [Take a few moments now to reflect on the things, which may distract your heart from God and list those concerns on a separate piece of paper.]


Examine your list of worries and [then on the same piece of paper] write out the priorities of your life that your worries reveal. If these priorities are God’s priorities, then He will have already addressed how to deal with them in His Word.  Begin immediately to find the Scripture passages that tell you God’s way of handling that legitimate concern.  Write the references to those passages next to the concern on your list.


If they are not His priorities then they must be confessed and forsaken (Proverbs 28:13).


What Do I Do Next?


Philippians 4: 6-9 gives God’s plan for handling worries. Paul starts this passage with a command, “Be careful for nothing.”  This simply means, “Don’t worry about anything!”  Disobedience to this command is a sin.  After the command Paul gives three steps to peace, the opposite of anxiety.


Step 1 – Pray Right


Paul tells us to pray about everything that concerns us (v.6).  He intends for us to do more than simply rattle off a list of worries to God, however.  He says we must begin our prayers with thanksgiving.  This “Gratitude Test” reveals the true condition of the believer’s heart.  God’s priority for us is our growth in Christlikeness (Romans 8:28-29; Ephesians 4:13).  He intends to use every hardship and need to propel us to that end.  If we do not have this growth as our priority, we will not be thankful for the struggle we are in now.  A believer who is grateful for the opportunity to grow will, as he petitions God, find God’s indescribable peace begin to post a sentry over his heart:  “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep (guard) your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7


Step 2 – Think Right


The “Thought Test” (v.8) says to check your thought to see if they are:

True – accurate, true to fact

Honest- honorable, worthy

Just- right, appropriate

Pure-uncontaminated, undefiled

Lovely-pleasing, agreeable

Of Good Report-gracious, fair-sounding

Virtuous-demonstrating excellence, moral goodness



Of course, brooding and fearful worries do not pass the “Thought Test.”  Anxious thoughts often include other unbiblical moods and attitudes-self-pity, bitterness, anger, envy, and despair.


Notice how in the Psalms David meditates upon God and His promises when he is concerned about his own safety and well being.  You can read almost any Psalm (try starting with Psalm 2) and see David’s concern about his enemy or about his loneliness.  Then notice how quickly David turns his thought to God’s nature and His promises.  It is not long before David is praising God in the middle of his trial.


Why don’t we find ourselves doing this more often?  The answer is simple-we don’t know much about God.  We have not memorized and meditated on many (if any) Psalms or other passages of Scripture that teach us about God’s nature and His promises.  Sometimes Christians say, “But I’m not any good at meditating!”  That is not true, especially for a worrier.  A worrier is a master at meditating!  Meditation simply means taking an idea and thinking of all its applications and implications for your life.  A worrier does that all the time- only with the wrong thoughts.  He needs to first repent of sinful worry and then, practice the same thing with God’s thoughts.


Choose some passages to meditate upon and [on a separate piece of paper list the selected verses]

Start meditating upon them right away.  If you do not have a personal strategy for meditating on God’s Word, [please refer to the MAP method found at the end of this message].  For more information on meditation and developing a renewed mind, see the pamphlet, Basics for Pressured Believers.”


Step 3 – Do Right


Paul ends this discussion of worry by telling us, “those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (v9).


He says, do the things that you have learned (you must be studying God’s Word), and received (you can’t be doubting that God’s ways really works).  You see, freedom from worry and care comes no other way.  We must think as God thinks (Isaiah 56: 6-11) and then do right.


What does God mean when He says, “Get busy ‘doing right?”  Well, you have prayed with gratitude.  You have been memorizing and meditating on God’s Word.  Now while you were waiting for God to answer the prayer, what is there that you ought to be doing instead of worrying?  Should you be studying?  Taking care of the kids?  Answering the mail on your desk?  Vacuuming the house?  Following up another sales lead?  Playing with your children?  Sleeping at night?


Susan needed to learn that when she is in bed she should be sleeping, not trying to solve problems by worrying.  If she lies awake, she should pray with gratitude, review her meditations of God’s nature and His promises.  She may initially wake up often when she begins this new approach.  But it will not be long before she is sleeping well again as she handles her worry in a biblical way.


Win the War of Worry


You probably get the idea by now.  Proverbs 12:25 says “Heaviness [anxiety] in the heart of a man maketh it stoop: but a good word [and what word can be better than God’s Word?] maketh it glad.”  You can win the war of worry, but you must also do it God’s way.  A fretful, anxious believer is a poor advertisement for God.  His behavior shows that he believes that God is powerless or unconcerned.  He thinks, therefore, that he must try to solve his problems on his own.


David shares the secret of worry free-living in Psalm 55:22:  “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”


Peter recalls this passage and under inspiration of God, rephrases parts of it:  “casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)


This is the advice Bill gave to Susan, thanks to a pastor who knew God’s way of handling worry.  You to can be free from worry if you follow God’s plan for peace- pray right, think right and do right.


Develop a personal strategy for meditating on God’s Word by visiting the area available on this web site called:


Developing a Renewed Mind: Using the MAP Method of Meditation


To view Dr. Bergs most recent publications and audio-media resources please click here www.jimberg.com



Dr. Jim Berg may be contacted via Jberg@bju.edu


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