Have you ever been gripped by fear? You know the feeling. A shiver runs down your spine. Your stomach has a sinking sensation. Your mouth goes dry. Maybe it happened when you were in a life-threatening situation, or at least you thought you were.

Some people actually thrive on fear and will spend their hard-earned dollars to be scared out of their minds. They will go to a movie because they have heard it is really scary, or go to an amusement park to ride the most extreme ride. But like it or not, fear is a very real emotion that most of us would rather avoid.

Unfortunately, fear has a friend called worry, and the two work in tandem. For example, maybe something frightens you, and you begin to think about the worst thing that could possibly happen. What if this happens? What if that happens? You can worry yourself into a state of panic.

Medical research has proven that worry can be physically harmful. It can affect our nervous systems and make us less resistant to disease. Experts have stated that excessive worry can shorten the human life. It is ironic that we worry about our lives, but in doing so, we actually can shorten them.

I am glad that the apostle Paul took the time to address the subject of worry and give us God's antidote for it:

Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things. (Philippians 4:6-8 NKJV)

When Paul wrote these words, he was not living in an ivory tower, spinning off impractical theories. He was in some very difficult circumstances. Paul wanted to go to Rome to preach, but instead, he ended up there as a prisoner.

Now he awaited his fate. His case could come up any day. He didn't know whether he would be acquitted or beheaded. Paul had plenty to worry about. But in the midst of these circumstances, Paul offered three steps that will help us break free from worry.

The first step is right praying (verse 6-7). When we are gripped by fear and worry, we need to pray. If you want to be free from worry, then you need to be a person who prays. Jesus taught us to pray, "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:9 NKJV).

When you put God's will above your own and start praying and thinking about His greatness, then all of your problems start shrinking, not because they are getting smaller, but because you have begun to realize how big God is. It puts your problems in perspective.

Second, we need to take the step of right thinking (verse 8). Maintaining personal peace involves both the heart and the mind. If you want peace in your heart, then you have to get your thoughts in order, because what we think about ultimately affects what we do. We want to nip in the bud any thoughts that would be impure or spiritually destructive.

Isaiah 26:3 promises, "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You" (NKJV).

The third step is right living (verse 9). You cannot separate outward action from inward attitude. When you live a wicked life, you are constantly in turmoil, because sin always results in unrest.

In contrast, when you live right before God, you have His peace. Isaiah 32:17 says, "The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever" (NKJV).

Are you a person who is gripped by worry today? Before you can know the peace of God, you need to have peace with God. But this is only possible through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. To learn more, simply go to www.knowgod.org.

If you're reading this today and know Jesus Christ, then you don't have to worry about tomorrow. God is in control of your life. You may not know what tomorrow holds, but you know who holds tomorrow.