Have you ever had a problem with worry? Or should I say, do you have a problem with worry? It’s easy to worry, isn’t it?
When Lincoln was on his way to Washington to be inaugurated, he spent some time in New York with Horace Greeley and told him an anecdote which was meant to be an answer to the question which everybody was asking him: Are we really to have Civil War? In his circuit riding days, Lincoln and his companions, riding to the next session of court, had crossed many swollen rivers. But the Fox River was still ahead of them; and they said one to another, “If these streams give us so much trouble, how shall we get over Fox River?”
When darkness fell, they stopped for the night at a lodging place, where they fell in with the Methodist presiding elder of the district who rode through the country in all kinds of weather, and knew all about the Fox River. They gathered about him and asked him about the present state of the river. “Oh, yes,” replied the circuit rider, “I know all about the Fox River. I have crossed it often and understand it well. But I have one fixed rule with regard to Fox River: I never cross it till I reach it.” (McCartney)
That’s good advice for us isn’t it? When we worry we tend to wrestle with problems before they are really problems.
Let me illustrate another way what our worry is like. It’s been determined that a dense fog covering seven city blocks to a depth of 100 feet is composed of something less than one glass of water. That is, all the fog covering seven city blocks 100 feet deep could be, if it were gotten all together, held in a single drinking glass; it would not quite fill it.
That can be compared to the things we worry about. If we could see into the future and if we could see our problems in their true light I think we’d realize that the things we worry about aren’t really what they seem. And that’s especially true when we truly depend on God do be our comforter and provider. But how do we conquer worry? What’s the cure for worry?
We’ve spent several weeks in Philippians 4, which begins with this verse;
Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.
Standing fast in the Lord is something we’ve been commanded as believers to do. And following verse one are several practical ways in which we can stand fast in the Lord. This morning as we come to Philippians 4:6-7, our study brings us to another practical way we can stand fast in the Lord. Let’s look at Philippians 4:6-7.
Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
As we take a closer look at this passage today we’ll see how we can stand fast in the Lord by resisting the temptation to worry and we can do that by being prayerful, by being thankful and by experiencing the peace of God.
Spurgeon once shared this story that illustrates very well for us how as believers we can be free from worry if we will rest in our Father’s care.
“One of my hearers had seven children who had come in rapid succession. He was hard-working and well spoken of. His children were all asleep when I went to visit him, and as I expressed the pleasure the sight of their peaceful little faces gave me, the father said, ‘Yes, these are fine times for them; they don’t need to take any thought for themselves.’
“On the following Sunday the man was in church. I spoke of the happy state of children, exempt from care as they were, and went on to say that believers were the children of God, that the Lord had commanded them to be careful for nothing, and promised that he would care for them. The man understood me, and it evidently pleased him to hear his expression repeated from the pulpit.” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990))
Just like those children sleeping peacefully without any care, we as believers can be at peace free from care knowing our Heavenly Father is watching over us. Yet how many times do we find ourselves worrying, fretting and being anxious? M.R. DeHaan once shared in the “Daily Bread” the following about worry…
I once read about a paratrooper in the US Army who had made more than 50 successful parachute jumps without a single serious injury. But the first day back home after being discharged, he stumbled over a rug, fell against a table, and broke four of his ribs! He had worried a great deal about his parachute jumps, but then something happened he had never worried about: He tripped over a rug. (MRD, Our Daily Bread, April 26, 2001)
We’re like that, aren’t we—we worry and fret and stew over things that never happen.
Ian Maclaren said…
What does your anxiety do? It does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, but it does empty today of its strength. It does not make you escape the evil; it makes you unfit to cope with it when it comes. God gives us the power to bear all the sorrow of His making, but He does not guarantee to give us strength to bear the burdens of our own making such as worry induces. (Ian Maclaren)
Worry does rob us of our strength for today doesn’t it? Have you ever been so worried about something, that you felt paralyzed by fear? Have you ever been so worried or fretful that you found it difficult to concentrate or accomplish anything worthwhile or be productive? Have you ever been so worried that you failed to follow through on something good God had called you to do?
Worry does that to us—it robs us of precious opportunities to do what is right, to do what is good, to do what is helpful. We get so gripped by worry that it hinders us from being effective for the Lord. Instead of standing fast in the Lord and being spiritually stable, when we are filled with worry we are wavering, ineffective and unstable.
Worry isn’t helpful
Notice the first part of verse 6. Be anxious for nothing. Commenting on the word anxious, Warren Wiersbe says…
What is worry? The Greek word translated “anxious” (careful) in Philippians 4:6 means “to be pulled in different directions.” Our hopes pull us in one direction; our fears pull us the opposite direction; and we are pulled apart! The Old English root from which we get our word “worry” means “to strangle.” If you have ever really worried, you know how it does strangle a person! In fact, worry has definite physical consequences: headaches, neck pains, ulcers, even back pains. Worry affects our thinking, our digestion, and even our coordination. 1
All of us at some time in our lives have probably experienced worry. Some of us may spend a lot of time worrying. Maybe you think you are just a “worrier” by nature and there isn’t much you can do to change it. Well I have good news for you this morning. There is a cure for worry and it’s found right here in our passage. We don’t have to be enslaved by our fears. Worry doesn’t need to overwhelm us and keep us from being our best for God. There is freedom from worry for the believer.
Paul tells us to be anxious for nothing. Now we can’t say back to him, “well that’s easy for you to say, you don’t face the kind of trials I’m facing.” If anyone had cause for worry don’t you think it was Paul? He is writing this while he’s a prisoner chained to a Roman guard. He faces an uncertain future. He could be facing death for all he knows. Yet he tells the Philippian believers to be anxious about nothing. Don’t worry, Paul says.
These words aren’t just for the Philippians either. These words are God’s Word and apply to each of us today as believers. We are commanded not to worry.
Did you realize that worry is a sin? God has clearly commanded us in His Word not to worry and when we do worry we are sinning. Often we make light of worry but we shouldn’t! Worry is sin. Worry is not something that should characterize the life of a child of God.
This is not the only place we are told not to worry. Listen to the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:34.
Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
And Luke 12:32
Luke 12:32 “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Take heart in what we are told in 1 Peter 5:7.
1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (NIV)
But a little worry is okay, right? No—we are not to worry. We are not to worry at all. We are not to worry about anything. Paul says be anxious for nothing. He doesn’t say it’s okay to worry about a few things or that one thing that is heavy on your heart. No—He says be anxious for nothing. Don’t be worried about anything.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying we shouldn’t care or be concerned. We should care enough and be concerned enough to do what we can in a situation that could potentially worry us. For example if you are in school and you have a test coming up you should care enough about your grade that you take time to study and prepare but you shouldn’t sit around worrying about your grade. If you have an unsaved friend or loved one you should be concerned enough to share Christ and to be a good testimony and to pray for their salvation but you shouldn’t be overcome with worry.
Maybe you’re thinking, I do worry too much and I would really like to be obedient in this area. I want to stop worrying. I’ve tried not to worry but the harder I try the more it seems I worry. How can I quit being such a worried person? There is a cure for worry. Instead of worrying we need to be prayerful.
Look again at verse 6.
but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
Prayer is the replacement for worry. If you don’t want to worry then you need to pray. Are you to only pray about a few things and worry about others? No, it says in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. Pray about everything! Pray about the big things and the little things that concern you. Don’t worry about anything but pray about everything! As Matthew Henry said…
When any thing burdens our spirits, we must ease our minds by prayer; when our affairs are perplexed or distressed, we must seek direction and support. 2
Prayer is vital and important in the life of the believer. Jesus told us to pray and not lose heart. It says of Jesus in Luke 18:1;
Luke 18:1 Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, (NASB)
And in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 we are told to pray without ceasing.
When you find yourself tempted to worry about something get on your knees instead. Replace your worry with prayer to your Heavenly Father. Charles Tindley, who wrote many Gospel songs was visited by a man who was a constant worrier. After listening to this man for a while Tindley said, “My advice to you is put all your troubles in a sack, take ‘em to the Lord, and leave ‘em there. Tindley wrote the song, Leave it There and the chorus goes like this;
Leave it there, leave it there,
Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.
If you trust and never doubt, He will surely bring you out.
Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.
That is what you need to do. You need to take your burdens to the Lord and leave them with Him. Don’t worry about anything but pray about everything. Instead of worrying, take your cares to the Lord in prayer.
And the key to our praying is found in two little powerful words, with thanksgiving.
Our prayers and supplications are to be offered up with thanksgiving. Don’t miss this! If you want to be free from worry then you not only need to pray about everything, but you need to pray with thanksgiving. What a wonderful cure for worry is prayer with thanksgiving. When we have grateful hearts our attention is focused on God and His goodness and we get our eyes off our feeble, puny selves and on our mighty, powerful, sovereign, loving God.
Did you realize that when you worry you aren’t trusting God like you should. Is it easy to pray and trust and not worry? No—it’s not easy, otherwise Colossians 4:2 wouldn’t tell us that we are to;
Colossians 4:2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving;
“We do not come to God in Prayer as if he had left us absolutely penniless, and we cried to him like starving prisoners begging through prison bars. We do not ask as if we had never received a single farthing of God before, and hardly thought we should obtain anything now; but on the contrary, having been already the recipients of immense favours, we come to a God who abounds in lovingkindness, who is willing to bestow good gifts upon us, and waits to be gracious to us. We do not come to the Lord as slaves to an unfeeling tyrant craving for a boon, but as children who draw nigh to a loving father, expecting to receive abundantly from his liberal hands. Thanksgiving is the right spirit in which to come before the God who daily loadeth us with benefits.”
Did you realize that when you are focused on God and His goodness it gets the focus off of you and your problems and instead of worry you can rest confidently knowing that God is working everything in your life for your good.
If you have difficulty praying with thanksgiving maybe you need to understand and know God better. The more you get into God’s Word and the closer you are to Him and the more you experience His faithfulness in your life, the more your heart will be filled with thanksgiving.
As you learn and understand and know how wonderful God is your heart will be filled with praise and thanksgiving. If you lack gratitude in your life then you need to know the Lord better. He is good and gracious and the better you know Him the greater your reasons for thanksgiving.
Worry robs us of joy, but when we get our eyes back on the Lord through prayer that is filled with thanksgiving our worries fade. We understand that God is in control and even in the troubling circumstances He is working it all out for our good.
Think of how Daniel reacted when a decree was issued not to petition any god or man for 30 days except the king?
Daniel 6:7 “All the governors of the kingdom, the administrators and satraps, the counselors and advisors, have consulted together to establish a royal statute and to make a firm decree, that whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions.
Daniel 6:10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.
Instead of worrying about what might happen to him, Daniel follows his regular practice and kneels in prayer. And notice that he prays and gives thanks. We don’t see any evidence here that Daniel worried about what might happen to him.
When there is cause for alarm or worry in your life, pray with thanksgiving. God is in control. No matter how bad your situation is God can use it to strengthen you, to grow you. His purpose will prevail and you can trust Him even in the midst of difficulty.
And look at the results with me. When you learn to stop worrying and start praying about everything with thanksgiving the results are peace.
Do you want to experience His peace? When you replace thankful prayer for worry, God graciously gives you His peace.
7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
He gives us peace that is beyond all understanding. It’s beyond our comprehension. God can give you inner tranquility when the storms are raging all around you. When your mind is focused on God through thankful prayer He gives you peace.
Isaiah 26:3 You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
One commentator notes that;
This peace will guard your heart and mind through Christ Jesus.
“It acts as a sentry to guard the believer’s heart (a biblical symbol for the personality in which the mind resides) and the believer’s thoughts from all anxiety and despair.” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary)
God’s peace protects you from anxiety and worry. As Christians we don’t have to be worried and fretful and uptight. There is a cure for worry and it’s found through prayer with thanksgiving.
When you feel like worrying you need to pray instead—pray with thanksgiving and God will give you peace that you can’t explain.
J. Oswald Sanders said…
Peace is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of God.
And he’s so right. If you’d rather experience God’s peace than be worried about your troubles, then pray about everything with thanksgiving. That is the cure for worry. That is the key to peace in your life. It doesn’t mean your troubles will vanish but in the midst of your troubles God can flood you with His peace.
Worry won’t bring you peace. Prayer with thanksgiving will. Worry isn’t the answer to all your grief and trials but faithful prayer with thanksgiving is.
Photo by: Damian Gadal (Creative Commons)
1 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. “An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire ‘BE’ series”–Jkt. (Php 4:6). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
2 Henry, M. (1996, c1991). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible : Complete and unabridged in one volume (Php 4:1). Peabody: Hendrickson.