Attack Anxiety! by John MacArthur
The Apostle Paul identified the problem groups we all will encounter in the church. See whether yourself or others come to mind: “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted [the anxious], help the weak, be patient with all men. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all men” (1 Thes. 5:14–15).
Group number one is “the unruly.” Let’s call them the wayward. They’re never in step. “Get with the program” is a slogan that suits them. When everyone else is moving ahead, they’re going backward. Out of either apathy or rebellion, they’ve gone spiritually AWOL, and they’re not interested in learning or serving.
Group number two is “the fainthearted” —the worriers. They fear the unknown and have no sense of adventure. Their slogan in the church is “We’ve never done it that way before.” They hate change; they love tradition; they want no risk. All the issues of life seem far more than they can bear. They’re usually sad, perpetually worried, sometimes in despair, and often depressed or discouraged. Consequently, they experience none of the thrill that adventure brings.
The third group is “the weak.” These believers are spiritually and morally weak. Because of weak self-discipline, they tend to fall into the same sins over and over. You barely get them up on their feet and dust them off when suddenly they’re back in the same hole again. They find it hard to do God’s will consistently. They embarrass themselves, their church, and their Lord. Thus they require a lot of attention.
The fourth group could be called “the wearisome.” Paul said to “be patient with all men.” Some people we encounter require an extra degree of patience. You can pour your energy into them, and when you look to see how close they might be to the overall goal of Christlikeness (Phil. 3:12–15), they seem further away. Everything distracts them—they are not focused individuals. They’re very exasperating because you make the maximum effort and get the minimum return. They don’t grow at a normal pace.
Group five is the outright wicked. Even though Paul was addressing Christians, he found it necessary to say, “See that p 77 no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another” (v. 15). There are, sad to say, Christians who commit sins against other Christians. They break up marriages. They defile daughters. They steal. They gossip. They slander. They falsely accuse.
If a church is to grow, it must minister to all five groups. This applies to you: Going to church is not just showing up on Sunday morning. The Lord would have you understand these groups of people so that—much more than not being numbered among their ranks—you might use your spiritual gifts to help them. Then they, in turn, will be able to help others. Help a worrier not to worry and your own worries disappear in the process. What’s more, there’s less of a climate of worry in the church. That is an effective way to attack anxiety.
MacArthur, J. (1993). Anxiety Attacked. MacArthur Study Series (75–77). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books. www.gty.org