Rejoice in the Lord Always (Session One, Anxious for Nothing)

Editor’s note: There’s a good reason that Max Lucado is called “America’s Pastor.” He has his finger on the pulse of the nation and words of healing and hope to share. Anxious thoughts can take over our minds if we don’t heed the Word of God and stay in command of our own thinking. If you could use some more calm, we invite you to get some wonderful free resources based on Max Lucado’s brand-new book, Anxious for Nothing. We’re giving away 12 FREE Prayers for When You Are Anxious, Max’s C.A.L.M. guide, and a beautiful printable of Philippians 4:6-7 (“Do not be anxious about anything…”). Get your free downloads right here. With Max’s help and God’s loving guidance, we hope that these free resources will help you work through seasons of struggle and times of worry. 

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Welcome to Session One of the Anxious for Nothing Bible Study Curriculum.

We can’t run the world, but we can entrust it to God. Peace is within reach, not for lack of problems, but for the presence of a sovereign Lord. Rather than rehearse the chaos of the world, we can choose to rejoice in the Lord’s sovereignty.

Opening Reflection

by Max’s daughter, Jenna Lucado Bishop

When I (Jenna) was growing up, my dad had school drop-off duty. And without fail, every morning as he slowed the car to a stop and we hurriedly unbuckled our seat belts, grabbed our backpacks, and threw open the doors, he would give the same exhortation: “Girls, have a good day. Laugh a lot. Learn a lot. And don’t forget who gave it to ya.”

I never thought much about the phrase growing up. My sisters and I would just robotically say it with him and then quickly yell, “Okay, Dad!” before slamming the car doors shut.

Laugh, learn, remember.

As a young girl I naturally did just that. Laughing came easily. Learning was fun. Remembering God as the Giver of my day? It wasn’t always on my mind, but I never doubted God was with me and cared for me.

But then I started to grow up. And with growing up came more responsibility. And with more responsibility came anxiety. It wasn’t long before homework hours lengthened, friends hurt me, and I hurt them. Pretty soon I was taking my SATs, learning how to interview for jobs, paying bills. Marriage brought deep joy, but also deep struggles. Cancer invaded the family, and my heroes in life passed away. Babies were born — yet another level of worry.

The older I got, the less I naturally lived my dad’s exhortation to laugh, learn, and remember. The serious struggles of life squelched laughter. The joy of learning turned into pressure to achieve. And remembering God? The anxieties of life pushed out thoughts of Him.

That’s why it’s hard for me to accept Paul’s words in Philippians 4:4,

Rejoice in the Lord always.

Always? How are we supposed to do that with the pain and anxiety of life?

In this session, we will see that rejoicing in the Lord does not mean we are in a constant state of excitement. We don’t have to carry a guitar around and sing worship songs all day. It’s not about plastering on a fake smile as we walk through a dark time. No, rejoicing in the Lord always is about a deep remembering.

Remembering that the Lord is here, always.
Remembering that the Lord is in control, always. Remembering that the Lord is not only the giver of your day but also the ordainer of every minute inside of it, always. Remembering that amidst the pressures, pain, and anxiety in life, He is sovereign, always.
As we remember, I have an inkling we may discover the carefree child we used to be. Laughing a lot more. Learning a lot more. And not forgetting who is with us through it all.

Talk About It

To get things started, discuss one of the following questions:

  • What interested you about this study? What do you hope to learn, and how do you hope to change because of it?

or

  • Describe someone in your life who embodies what it means to “rejoice in the Lord always.” What does this person do or say to exude a heart with this attitude toward God?

Hearing the Word

Read Philippians 4:4-8 aloud as a group. This will be the theme passage for the next five sessions, so try to look at these words with new eyes and an open heart. Then read it again silently, circling or underlining words that stand out to you.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy —  think about such things.

Turn to the person next to you and take turns sharing your answers to the following questions:

What was one thing that stood out to you from the passage?

Why do these words stand out to you, and what fresh insight do they bring?

What does “rejoicing in the Lord” mean? In your life, have you found it difficult or natural to rejoice in the Lord? Why?

Watch the Session One Video:

Video Teaching Notes

Play the video segment for session one. As you watch, use the following outline to record any thoughts or concepts that stand out to you.

Anxiety is not so much the onslaught of a storm as the continual threat that one is coming. It’s a big heap of “what ifs.”

The word anxiety actually comes from a Latin root that means “to choke” or “to squeeze.” Its strong grip interrupts your sleep, chokes your energy, and harms your overall well-being.

Anxiety is a close cousin to fear, but the two are not twins. Fear sees a threat, while anxiety imagines one.

We have been taught the Christian life is one of peace. When we don’t have peace, we assume the problem is within us, which leads us to feel guilty. But while the presence of anxiety is unavoidable, the prison of anxiety is optional.

When Paul writes to “be anxious for nothing,” he is referring to an ongoing state. His words could be translated, “Don’t let anything in life leave you perpetually in angst and breathless.”

Paul’s prescription for anxiety is a call to “rejoice in the Lord.” This is not a call to a feeling but to a decision.

The sovereignty of God refers to His perfect governing over all things. God works in and through every detail of his creation to accomplish His divine purpose. We have the astounding privilege to be a part of this perfect plan.

To rejoice in the Lord, we must have a deep belief in His sovereignty over our lives. The more we believe in His control, the more we relinquish our control.

Bible Study and Group Discussion

Take a few minutes with your group members to discuss what you just watched and explore these concepts in Scripture.

  1. Before everyone shares in the large group, turn to one or two people next to you and finish this sentence: “After watching the video, one question I now have is…”
  2. Stress-related ailments cost the United States billions of dollars every year. Why do you think the nation leading much of the world in infrastructure, education, democracy, and more is also leading the world in anxiety? Why would Americans suffer from anxiety more than people of lesser developed countries?
  3. Scripture includes many verses that can bring comfort and peace to the worried heart. Read Psalm 56:3; Matthew 6:25-34; and 1 Peter 5:6-8. What prescription does each passage give for anxiety?
  4. How does the world teach us to cope with anxiety? How does the world’s solution for anxiety differ from God’s solution?
  5. Eugene Peterson says, “[The fact] that God followers don’t get preferential treatment in life always comes as a surprise.”2 Have you ever expected special treatment from God? If so, how did it affect your relationship with him when you experienced hard times?
  6. Read 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 aloud. What trials did Paul face? 
Now read 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, where Paul talks about a constant trial God would not take away. What is God’s response to Paul’s prayer in verse 9? 
How does God display His strength when we are feeling weak or anxious?
  7. The first prescription Paul gives for anxiety is this: “Rejoice in the Lord always.” Hundreds of years before Paul wrote his letter, the prophet Habakkuk wrote similar words. Read Habakkuk 3:17-19. How does Habakkuk describe God in these verses? 
What names does Habakkuk use for God? 
Why does Habakkuk say he can rejoice in God though the fig trees wither and crops fail?
  8. If you want to rejoice in God regardless of your circumstances, it is crucial that you learn to trust in His sovereignty. What prevents you from trusting in the sovereignty of God? How does trusting in God’s sovereignty affect the way you perceive life’s trials?

Group Activity

For this activity, each participant will need a sheet of paper, a pen, and an envelope.

In today’s session, Max described the difference between fear and anxiety. Fear sees a threat, while anxiety imagines one. Fear screams, “Get out!” Anxiety ponders, “What if?” Take a minute to write down three “what ifs” that are causing you anxiety — three worries that are weighing you down. Once you are finished, fold up the piece of paper and tuck it away in the envelope. Write your name on the outside of the envelope and give it to your group leader. At the end of this study, the group leader will pass out the individual envelopes so you can reevaluate the list and see how God has brought supernatural peace to these anxious places in your heart.

Closing Prayer

Wrap up this time by talking to the Father. Your group may want to begin the prayer time by reading aloud Isaiah 45:9-12, a powerful passage about the sovereignty of God:

Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground.

Does the clay say to the potter, “What are you making?”

Does your work say,“The potter has no hands”?

Woe to the one who says to a father, “What have you begotten?”

or to a mother,“What have you brought to birth?”

is is what the Lord says — the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker:

Concerning things to come,do you question Me about My children,or give Me orders about the work of My hands?

It is I who made the earthand created mankind on it.

My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts.

Now take some time to pray for one another. Split up into groups of two or three or circle up and pray for the person next to you. Here are a few suggestions of ways to pray for one another:

  • Ask the Lord to give you a deeper trust in His sovereignty so you can rejoice in Him no matter what circumstances come your way.
  • Use the passage you just read in Isaiah 45:9-12 and declare its promises and/or truth over the person you are praying for. (Insert the person’s name into the verse, or simply ask that the truth of this verse would be true in his or her life.)
  • Ask the Lord to overwhelm the anxious thoughts you each wrote down earlier with the supernatural peace He promises in Philippians 4:7.

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Max Lucado

More than 100 million readers have found comfort in the writings of Max Lucado. He ministers at the Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, where he lives with his wife, Denalyn, and a sweet but misbehaving mutt, Andy.

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