The promises of God are one of the sweetest things in life that God has given us to enjoy. However, we cannot merely know them, we have to apply them to our life. Sometimes I wonder, what does it mean to “apply” God’s promises, things that often seem so abstract that I have no clue what to do. I’d like to give you a formula for taking holding of God’s promises. This formula is not new, nor is it original to me. In fact, I realized a few weeks ago I’ve been doing this for a long time without ever knowing I was following this formula. It wasn’t until one of the older gentlemen in my small group shared his process with everyone that I realized I was actually following a well-trodden formula for laying hold of God’s promises. Listing out the process has been extremely helpful in times when I need to grab a hold of God’s promises. So here is the process:
- Acknowledge Your Need
- Believe God and His Promise
- Circulate His Promise
I will illustrate each step with a personal situation in my own life dealing with anxiety while utilizing God’s promise in Philippians 4:6-7:
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.
A few years back I was involved in a very serious car accident on Thanksgiving Day. I was on the highway when cars in front of me suddenly slammed on their brakes. All of the cars stopped but none of them hit each other, and I didn’t hit the car in front of me, but I came very close. Right as I realized I just dodged a bullet, I was suddenly rear ended by an SUV at almost 60mph. My car was crushed and sandwiched between two SUVs. It was completely destroyed. Thankfully my only injury was a laceration to the back of the head that healed in a few weeks. But afterwards I became very anxious about driving, especially when people slammed on their brakes. It got to the point where I was terrified before I left the house because I had to face the unknown anytime I got on the road. I knew about the promises in Philippians 4, but I never applied it to my anxiety. After I began doing this, I was able to drive again without gripping fear, although to be honest there are times when I still struggle against the promises.
Step A, acknowledge to God that I had a problem with anxiety and fear, and ultimately, a lack of trust in him. The promise in Philippians that the peace of God would come upon me had a condition. I had to tell God my problem. That the first step. Step B assumes a knowledge of God’s promises, so just acknowledging our need isn’t enough. I had to know the promise in Philippians. Before my accident, I knew that God was sovereign and he was the one that ultimately controls everything but now I had to apply. He controlled all the cars and people on the roads, even ordaining my accident. So if he wanted me to crash again, then I knew it would be for his glory and my good. That began to give me tremendous peace, because I knew God was in control now I began to experientially believe it. And because God always keeps his promises, I knew that he would give me peace. I began to believe in God and his promise. It wasn’t easy, but what helped me believe God was just studying his character in the Scriptures. What I found: He always keeps his word.
To be honest, I didn’t feel peaceful at first. It took time. And that’s where Step C comes in: circulate his promise. We must meditate on his promises. Learn what it entails. Study and pray on it. Read about other Christians, contemporary and past, and their dealings with this same promise. Talk to other Christians about your issue and God’s promises. Preach the promise to yourself, like David did so many times in the Psalms. I let this promise circulate in my mind and soul, throughout my daily life, so much so that when my anxiety crept back in, I immediately repeated all three steps without thinking about each one. They came naturally to mind. I tell God I’m anxious and ask for his help. I believe in his goodness and faithfulness to give me his peace, then I think about why I can trust and rely on him. I know he will do what’s best for me and I can let go of trying to control situations I can’t control. And now my anxiety is gone.
Some astute readers will notice that some of these steps are interchangeable or don’t always occur in the order I’ve listed. For example, I was thinking or circulating God’s promise in my mind before I really believed it. The point is, these three steps serve as a practical liturgy for disciplining your heart and mind to apply God’s promises to your life. I want to caution against trying to do these steps in your own effort. Even our efforts to apply his promises require God’s grace and help. Plead with him for both and don’t miss out on the joy of depending on God’s promises.
Tim Nargi is a writer with a desire to teach church history and theology. He wants to bring Christians closer to Christ and help instill a daily hunger for the Word and the Church. He also writes fiction novels and plans to produce documentaries dealing with religious freedom and church history. He lives in Colonial Williamsburg with his wife Larisa.