Throw Off the Weight
About the Guest
- Kyle Idleman's sermons on dealing with anxiety. https://www.southeastchristian.org/sermons/on-edge
Pastor Kyle Idleman talks about the value of persevering under trial. So many people are ready to give up, but Idleman encourages the fainthearted to replace the lies they believe with the promises of God
Throw Off the Weight
Bob: One of the things that leads to discouragement/that causes us to give up and to quit is when we face anxiety in our lives. Here’s Pastor Kyle Idleman.
Kyle: You know, whether it’s financial anxiety or relationship anxiety, part of what causes us to give up is we feel very isolated and alone. I think, oftentimes, there is someone in your life—where, if you would say to them: “Our marriage is in trouble and it’s not getting better. We need help,”—that you likely have someone in your life, who would help you.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, August 13th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. When you’re in a situation, where you need to hang on and not give up, there’s some additional advice you need; and that is, “Don’t try to go it alone.” We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. So, as we’ve been having a conversation about persevering this week, my mind went to 1 Thessalonians 5, where Paul says we are to admonish the idle; we’re to encourage the fainthearted and to help the weak. I thought, “All three of those are methods of encouragement.” Even admonishing idle people is encouraging them: “You can be better than you are. You can accomplish more than your accomplishing.”
Dave: It sounds like a parenting passage. [Laughter]
Bob: Well, yes; it sounds like teenagers are involved here—doesn’t it?—when you talk about the idle.
Ann: I think that is true though. Some of us need that kind of kick to get us going. I remember I had quit gymnastics for the first time after ten years. I was all excited, because I was in practice six days a week. [After quitting] I would come home from school, and I’d put in a movie—I was like, “This is the life!”
My dad came home early and he said, “What are you doing?” I said, “I’ve been working hard for years, and it’s time I get to relax.” He said: “This is your last day of relaxation. Get out of the house and get a job.” [Laughter] I was so determined; it kind of kicked me—like, “I’ll show him.” I went and got a job that night, and I needed that. Some people are motivated by a challenge.
Bob: The reason we’re talking about perseverance and not giving up in the face of adversity and trials is because, if you’re married, you’ll go through seasons, where you’re going to have to draw from the fuel tank of perseverance.
Dave: I’m just glad Ann and I have never gone through a season like that. [Laughter]
Bob: I think we’ve heard testimony that’s to the opposite on that. Or, if you’re parents—
Bob: —you’re going to go through seasons, raising the kids, where you’re going to go, “I don’t know if this is working,” and you become fainthearted. You’re ready to give up; you go into idle and think, “I’m just going to go passive on this deal.” We need voices around us/we need people around us, who tell us, “Don’t give up.”
Ann: It’s so encouraging to hear parents that have been there; and they say, “Oh we’ve gone through that”; or a marriage that has struggled. I think that’s why Dave and I share our struggles—is because someone will say: “Oh, I’m so hopeful. You guys were so bad, but you made it.” It’s encouraging to hear those stories.
Dave: Think about this: “Of all the things you want said at your funeral, for me, this is in the top five.”
Dave: Oh, I think so. I would want them to remember: “He never quit. He just kept persevering through the hard times.” Wouldn’t you want that said?
Bob: Abs—I mean, who wouldn’t?
Ann: I want it said; I don’t want to go through it. [Laughter]
Bob: Kyle Idleman is joining us this week to talk about this. Kyle, welcome back.
Kyle: Thank you. Good to be back.
Bob: Your book, Don’t Give Up—the subtitle: Faith That Gives You the Confidence to Keep Believing and the Courage to Keep Going. Do you find, in pastoral ministry—you’re the senior pastor at Southeast Christian Church; a huge church in Louisville, Kentucky; one of the ten biggest churches in America—do you find that people, who are coming to church, week in and week out, are fainthearted people?
Kyle: Yes; I think they are, oftentimes, fainthearted for a couple of different reasons. Sometimes, it is because of a really difficult situation that is happening to them—they don’t control it; it is a circumstance. Other times, they are fainthearted because of a failure. It’s something—it’s not happened to them—it’s something that they have caused to happen, and they are ready to give up on themselves. They just feel like they’ve made too much of a mess of a situation. Both of those require perseverance; both of those require a hope in Someone greater than ourselves.
One of the things that I try to do, as a pastor, is listen to their story and then identify what they’re telling themselves. In the book, I talk about flipping the script—that there is a sense in which, when we are struggling with perseverance, that our tendency is to wake up every morning and read from a script that is defeating; read from a script that says, “I deserve to be happy today”; read from a script, where I’m the victim in this story and—
Bob: “I’m not good enough. I don’t have those talents,” or “…abilities,” or whatever.
Kyle: Yes; and “No one cares. There’s no one who will help me.”
There’s all kinds of ways that the story unfolds; but if you are waking up every day and that’s the script you’re reading from, then you’re going to feel pretty discouraged and you’re going to feel like giving up. If we can identify some of those lies that we believe, and we can replace those with promises in Scripture—so not empty self-talk but if we replace those with promises of what God has said to be true—it can give us strength; it can help us. I think understanding where our source of discouragement is and, then, replacing that discouragement with a specific promise in Scripture—that speaks strength into the situation.
Bob: Your book is anchored around the call to perseverance in Hebrews 12, where it says we’re to run the race. We’re to cast off encumbrances; that’s really—when you’re talking about replacing wrong thinking or unbelief with truth/with promises, that’s the casting off of these things that encumber us/the sins that so easily weigh us down and that cause to become fainthearted or to pull out of the race.
Kyle: Yes; and we don’t think of unbelief necessarily as a sin, but it is. The sin of unbelief is what causes us to give up. We don’t believe that God is who He says He is and He’s going to do what He said He’d do.
I define faith in the book with a story of going to visit my grandma when I was a kid. She would keep her puzzles in Ziploc® bags—I think it had something to do with the great depression; I’m not sure—[Laughter]—that was kind of her go-to answer. But she would work these puzzles and then leave them out for a while; then, instead of putting them back in the box, she would put them in a Ziploc bag and store them in the basement. We would—when there was nothing else to do, we would try to work one of these Ziploc puzzles. If you’ve ever tried to put together a puzzle without a picture on the box, it is really frustrating.
Kyle: I mean, you don’t know what the picture’s going to be; you don’t know how the pieces are going to fit together; you don’t know what you’re working towards. I don’t ever remember finishing one of those puzzles. We’d start them—pour all the pieces out, kind of get going, maybe get a couple of pieces to come together—but we’d always give up; because we didn’t have the picture on the box.
Hebrews talks about that faith is being sure of what we hope for. It’s being certain of what we don’t see. We don’t often see the picture on the box; we don’t often get to see how the pieces are going to fit together—because of that, it’s real easy to give up. We don’t understand how what’s happening to us in a certain situation could possibly be redeemed—that God has this picture in mind. We have a hard time believing that.
Faith is understanding that God has a picture—we don’t know what it is always—but God has a picture. He knows how the pieces are going to fit together, so we stick with it. We keep at it, believing that, even though we can’t see it in the moment, its working toward something.
Ann: Well, you share my favorite verse, which is Hebrews 12:1. I love that because you talk about—and Scripture says, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,”—that is my goal: I want to be free and run free.
I feel like, in our church, with our lives, so many of us—we’re running/we’re entangled by so many things: fear, guilt, shame, anxiety, depression. I talk to so many people, and it feels like they just can’t run because it’s holding them back. You talk, in your book, a little bit about anxiety.
Kyle: In fact, this last week, I was given the report by someone on our staff who handles the web/IT stuff. He showed me, in the last two or three years, a list of sermons that had been the most-listened to sermons—you know, online—you know how you can see how many plays a sermon has had.
He asked me: “Guess what it is? Guess what it is?” I started thinking through all the sermon series that I’ve done over the last number of years. I didn’t really have any idea. By an almost two-to-one margin, the number one and number two were anxiety. I had done a two-week series on anxiety and that had, by far, been the most listened-to message, which tells me, as a pastor: “This is a weight that is a lot bigger deal than maybe I’ve realized in people’s lives,”—that they are carrying this anxiety.
The problem with anxiety—it’s like running a race, where you can’t breathe. It’s difficult to persevere when it feels like there’s this weight on your chest, so learning to cast our anxieties on God in a way that gives us freedom. One of the ways I’ve tried to help people with this is by learning how to pray in a way that gives us strength. What I stumbled onto, as a pastor praying with all kinds of people, is that, when people pray about their anxiety, they typically—and I did this as well; I saw it in myself—they’ll typically pray by telling God all about what’s wrong in their lives. If you sit down; you pray with somebody—about a certain situation, or person, a relationship that’s difficult—the entire prayer will be: “God, here’s the problem…”
Ann: “Here’s my list.”
Kyle: “Here’s my list”; yes. “Here’s everything that needs to change,”—the emphasis is on the struggle.
As I was reading through the Psalms—this is true, certainly, in Nehemiah as well—there is a shift that, oftentimes, takes place in the prayers of David, where he begins by telling God about his anxieties; but then, he switches; and he starts telling his anxieties about God—that’s a much different kind of prayer.
This is what happens, oftentimes, when we worship. We are recognizing who God is and putting our struggles/our anxieties in perspective. If I can learn to pray in such a way, where I’m not just telling God about my anxieties, but I’m telling my anxieties about God, it gives me endurance; it gives me perseverance; it’s oxygen that helps me keep running.
Ann: What’s that look like? What’s an example? How would you pray that?
Kyle: As a father of three teenagers, it is very easy for me to pray for them in this way—where I am telling God about every challenge they have, everything I need Him to do, to fix whatever is going on in their lives, what needs to be adjusted in their life or in their attitude.
It’s easy for me to pray from that perspective rather than to pray and by you know: “God, thank You that You’re allowing her to go through this now, so that we get to speak into some of these things,” “Thank you for the way You have redeemed this situation in her faith,” “I believe, God, You’re going to draw him closer to You because of the struggle that he’s going through.” “God, I’m praying that You’ll bring a friend. I’m believing that You’re going to bring a friend into their life that’s going to help them through this time.” It doesn’t matter—praying for them in a way that is not—does not express defeat but expresses a faith.
Ann: —and hope.
Kyle: —and hope, and it’s true. This is how God works: “This is what He’s done for me. It’s what He’s done for all of us.”
Bob: I love how you put it. Instead of talking, exclusively, to God about your anxieties; talk to your anxieties about God.
Ann: That’s powerful; isn’t it?
Bob: It was—I think it was Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who said: “Our biggest problem is that we spend too much time listening to our self,” and “We should spend more time talking to our self, and telling our self what is true.” We’re asking our soul, “Why are we so downcast?” and then just listening instead of what David says—now, he’s instructing us all: “Put your faith in God. Trust in Him. He’s reliable. He’s dependable. You can count on Him, and there’s victory in doing that.” It’s a part of how we throw off the encumbrance of anxiety and bring ourselves back. We tell ourselves the truth in the face of the lies and the unbelief that are guiding our lives.
Kyle: One of the things I think people really underestimate, when it comes to the burdens they bear, is they underestimate the people around them who would help if they asked. I’ve really just become convinced that, whether it’s a financial anxiety or relationship anxiety, part of what causes us to give up is we feel very isolated and alone. I think, oftentimes, more often than not, there is someone in your life where—if you would say to them: “Our marriage is in trouble, and it’s not getting better. We need help,”—that you, likely, have someone in your life who would help you.
Bob: But we’re embarrassed; we’re ashamed. We feel vulnerable to say that, and so we just keep it to ourselves until it’s collapsed around us.
I’m imagining there are some listeners, who are going, “Where do I find those two sermons that you preached on anxiety?” and they’re in the Show Notes at FamilyLifeToday.com if you want to go there and click on and listen. There are probably folks who say, “I need to hear those messages today.”
I’m interested in one of the encumbrances you talk about in the book—the hindrance of religion. That kind of caused some people to scratch their head and go, “What’s he talking about that religion can be a hindrance to persevering?”
Kyle: Yes; you know, Jesus oftentimes talked about religion as a weight. In fact, He said, in Matthew 23, to the religious leaders—His accusation to them is: “You’re loading them up with weight, and you’re not doing anything to help them carry it.” I know that people who, oftentimes, come to church have felt the fatigue and the frustration of religion—of thinking that they have to earn God’s favor; that if they just tried harder to be better, then that would be enough. That’s an exhausting way to live. Instead of strengthening your faith, it robs you of faith.
Dave: Another aspect you talk about, Kyle—which I love—is unhindered or getting free of lies.
It’s interesting, Bob—you probably don’t know this, but I’m a marathon runner. Did you know that?
Bob: So you need to get rid of that lie. [Laughter]
Dave: Yes; what are you talking about?
Ann: He likes to tell this story.
Dave: No; I ran in the Detroit marathon three years ago.
Bob: Did you?!
Dave: Yes; I ran the Detroit marathon [pause] relay. [Laughter] I just keep the “relay” like I’m coughing; but no, I was part of a five-man team.
Bob: I thought it was going to be maybe a 25-man team. [Laughter]
Dave: No; it’s actually an unbelievable thing the runners in our church do—they run for clean water in Africa. Each runner tries to raise $1,000. We’ve raised $4.1 million over several years. I jumped in and said, “I have a really bad left knee, and so I can’t run a marathon; but I can run a relay.” I had to run the finishing leg—7.1 miles. It is funny—as I broke the tape, I sort of acted like I had just finished 26.2, you know?
Everything you’re saying is so true. I’m not a runner; but you know—in that short little training and, then, that day to run—which was so exciting to run for something of purpose, which was really cool. I was teared-up at the end—not because I was dying—but because it meant something.
Everything you’re talking about—I experienced, in a small way, as a runner. First thing is I started throwing off everything I was wearing—I had a sweatshirt on—trying to get lighter and lighter. I’m only running seven miles; but it’s getting hard, and there’s ascension up hills.
The thing that kept me from not quitting in the last mile was I could see the finish line—and that was exciting—but was a couple of friends, who I asked to get on bikes and pedal beside me. They had already run; they were runners—and Ann was one of them. They just kept whispering, “Keep going man”; because I was about to just walk it in. My goal was: “Don’t walk one step; run the whole thing.” Those people—what you were just saying, Kyle, speaking truth into me—my lie was: “I can’t finish. I’m just going to walk it in. That’s okay. Nobody’s going to say you shouldn’t,”—but having Rob there and Ann there, saying: “Keep going. Keep going. You can do this,”—was a weight of the lie. I was telling myself a lie, but they were speaking truth that changed everything.
Talk about that, because that’s a big one for people believing lies. One of them is just: “I don’t have what it takes to finish.”
Kyle: You know, they talk about the lies we believe are usually rooted in what’s called the “early and often factors”—that things that we are told, at a young age, and repeated to us, frequently, have a way of setting in—kind of a neural pathway gets established—and those are the things we believe to be true about ourselves.
This is why you can talk to someone, who is an incredibly successful CEO, and operates out of insecurity and feelings of failure. If you talk to people like that, you will find, oftentimes, that when they were young, they had the opposite of what you just expressed. They were running a race; and a parent, or a teacher, or a sibling came alongside of them and said: “You can’t do this,” “You don’t have what it takes,” “You’re never going to measure up,” “Why are you even trying? Every time you try, it fails.” You know, they’ve got those voices rooted and established in their head.
Being able to show that to people/being able to say: “Look, here’s what you are believing…It’s not true. The truth is—you might not be able to have what it takes, but God’s strength is made perfect in your weakness,” “The truth is that all things work together for good,”—“that God can redeem anything you’ve gone through,”—“that it’s not beyond His power to heal or to repair.” Helping people identify some things that they’ve heard, early and often, and then replace that with what God has said to be true. What will happen is—if they don’t do that, they’ll end up saying those things to the next generation.
Bob: And again, you’re not talking about positive thinking; you’re talking about believing. You’re talking about taking God at His Word and saying, “I’m going to act as though this is true,” which is what faith is.
Kyle: I have a friend, who is a sports psychologist. He talks about the power of a mantra. The idea is that—if there is an athlete, who has missed some free throws at the end of a game—and after that, really struggles with his free throw shooting—he needs a mantra. He needs something that, when he steps into that moment, where he feels insecure, that he’s going to tell himself. My friend, who’s a sports psychologist, said the mantra has to be true; you can’t just make up something. [Laughter]
Bob: “I’m as good as Michael Jordan,”—right?—that isn’t going to work.
Kyle: Like it needs to be rooted in the fact that: “You know, I make a hundred of these after every practice every day; and it’s true.” He said: “If you have a mantra that is true, and you train an athlete—that’s what they’re saying—they’re not thinking about the times they missed it; they’re thinking about the hundred shot free throws they made the day before practice.
That’s the difference between this positive self-talk/wishful thinking versus a truth that is rooted in Scripture—it’s real.
Bob: And this is where Scripture memory becomes so vital for all of us to have God’s Word hidden in your heart so that the Holy Spirit brings it to mind at the points when the lies are coming. You go: “No; here’s what the Bible says…” “Here’s what I know is true…” “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Whatever it is that you need in the moment comes to you in those moments—this is what the walk of faith looks like. It’s what is at the heart of the book, Don’t Give Up, that we’re talking about this week.
We’ve got copies of Kyle’s book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go, online, to FamilyLifeToday.com to get a copy; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. You may want to go through this book in a book club; or if you’ve got a small group, get multiple copies. I think going through a book like this, where you can talk with other people about it as you read it, I think that just expands the impact of the book. Again, the title of Kyle’s book is Don’t Give Up. Order from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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And we hope you can join us back tomorrow when we’re going to talk about the times when it is appropriate for us to give up. There are times when that’s the right thing to do. We’ll talk with Kyle Idleman about that tomorrow. I hope you can be here for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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