Be Anxious for Nothing, Instead Pray (Phil 4:6)

I have never seen a gravestone that reads, “He died of worry.” But some of them ought to read that way. How many illnesses are directly connected with our worries, our anxieties, trying to take the responsibility that was designed for God to handle. If you can’t handle it, why are you trying to handle it? If you can’t change it, why are you worrying about it? But we do, don’t we?

In fact, I have a friend who worries when she doesn’t have something to worry about. She has to have that security. I think she keeps a mental list of those reserved areas, then when she runs out of the conscious ones she draws on the unconscious. And she just brings them on, just like ammunition in a machine gun, just to fire them into her life.

Corrie Ten Boom, for the last two years of her life, spent it in our congregation in Fullerton, California. It was a wonderful experience to have this godly woman in our midst during that extended period of time as we literally watched her die. She said on one occasion, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrows; it empties today of strength.”

A woman worried for forty years that she would die of cancer. She finally died of pneumonia at age seventy. She wasted thirty-three years worrying about the wrong thing.

—John Haggai, How to Win over Worry

As you may recall. I am preaching a short series on Phil. 4:4-8. I am hoping this helps us dealing with the times we are living in. The year 2020 has been tough, no one would argue that. However, maybe during this tough year we can draw nearer to God (James 4:8) like never before.

Two weeks ago we talked about Rejoicing in the Lord Always (Phil 4:4)

Last week, Let Your Gentle Spirit Be Known to All Men (Phil 4:5)

Today: Be Anxious for Nothing, Instead Pray (Phil 4:6)

Next week: How to Have the Peace of God (Phil. 4:7)

September 20, 2020: Think on These Things (Phil. 4:8)

Today, let’s read Phil. 4:6. My theme is to pray instead of being anxious.

Phil. 4:6:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

  • Paul tells them not be anxious but to pray giving their request to God with thanksgiving.
  • Not to be anxious is difficult.
  • One stressed-out secretary told her boss: “When this rush is over, I’m going to have a nervous breakdown. I earned it, I deserve it, and nobody’s going to take it from me.” —Billy Graham, The Secret of Happiness
  • It doesn’t matter how great the pressure is. What really matters is where the pressure lies, whether it comes between me and God or whether it presses me nearer His heart. —Howard Taylor, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret
  • But Paul gives an antidote to anxiety and even to the time we are spending being anxious.
  • What is anxiety? It is worry. Instead of worry Paul calls us to prayer.
  • How is that working out for you?
  • Do you find yourself anxious lately, or more anxious? Pray more.
  • C. H. Spurgeon was showing some visitors over the Tabernacle (London). After taking them to the main part of the building, he said, “Come, and I’ll show you the heating apparatus.” Imagine their surprise, when he took them to a room where four hundred were gathered in a prayer meeting. The church with warmth of spirit must have the warmth-producing prayer meeting.
  • The antidote is prayer and Paul tells us how to pray.
  • We pray in everything. Not in some things but in all things. And we pray with supplications, sometimes translated as petitions. This petition means that we have a list of needs that we are giving to God.
  • Please understand, all prayer is not petition. Some prayer is just listening to God, worshipping God, praising God. But in this case Paul says: pray and give your list to God. But Paul also says do this with thanksgiving. Tell God what you are thankful for.
  • A few years ago, I was counseling a student who was somewhat depressed. I had him make a list of things to be thankful for; I think we thought of at least 50 things.
  • We all have clothes, we have food, we have heat, we have a roof over our heads.
  • But you know what? We usually forget the most important. We usually put the physical, felt needs in front of the spiritual.
  • We have salvation in Christ. We have the Holy Spirit as our comforter (John 14). Jesus said not to fear the person who can harm our body but the person who can harm our soul (Matt 10:28).
  • About the year 125 A.D. a Greek by the name of Aristeides was writing to one of his friends about the new religion, Christianity. He was trying to explain the reasons for its extraordinary success. Here is a sentence from one of his letters: “If any righteous man among the Christians passes from this world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God, and they escort his body with songs and thanksgiving as if he were setting out from one place to another nearby.” —J. G. Gilkey[1] 

Having been banished, Cyprian suffered martyrdom in Carthage in 258. When the sentence of death was read to him he said, “I heartily thank Almighty God who is pleased to set me free from the chains of the body.”[2]

We can be thankful for our salvation and we are to give God our needs in prayer with thanksgiving and then God will give us peace which compels us to rejoice and be kind. We will talk about the peace of God next week.

  • Applications: 

Swindoll shares:

Let’s get six words clearly fixed in our minds. These six words form the foundation of God’s therapeutic process for all worrywarts. 

WORRY ABOUT NOTHING,
PRAY ABOUT EVERYTHING

What qualifies as a worry? Anything that drains your tank of joy—something you cannot change, something you are not responsible for, something you are unable to control, something (or someone) that frightens and torments you, agitates you, keeps you awake when you should be asleep.

All of that now needs to be switched from your worry list to your prayer list. Give each worry—one by one—to God . . . .

Tell Him you will no longer keep your anxiety to yourself . . . .

The more you practice giving your mental burdens to the Lord, the more exciting it gets to see how God will handle the things that are impossible for you to do anything about.

Turn your worry list into your prayer list. Give each worry—one by one—to God. 

  1. We are not to be anxious about anything. There is nothing that should make me anxious.
  2. We must pray about everything.
  3. We must pray with a humble petition of needs.
  4. We must give God thanks.
  5. We must depend upon the Lord.
  6. The only way to do this is to meditate and ruminate on this passage.
  7. We must pray this passage.

John Piper shares:

When the mud splatters your windshield and you temporarily lose sight of the road and start to swerve in anxiety, turn on your wipers and squirt your windshield washer.

So my response to the person who has to deal with feelings of anxiety every day is to say: that’s more or less normal. At least it is for me, ever since my teenage years. The issue is: How do we fight them?

The answer to that question is: we fight anxieties by fighting against unbelief and fighting for faith in future grace. And the way you fight this “good fight” (1 Timothy 6:122 Timothy 4:7) is by meditating on God’s assurances of future grace and by asking for the help of his Spirit.

The windshield wipers are the promises of God that clear away the mud of unbelief, and the windshield washer fluid is the help of the Holy Spirit. The battle to be freed from sin — including the sin of anxiety — is fought “by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13).

The work of the Spirit and the word of truth. These are the great faith-builders. Without the softening work of the Holy Spirit, the wipers of the word just scrape over the blinding clumps of unbelief on the windshield.

Both are necessary: the Spirit and the word. We read the promises of God and we pray for the help of his Spirit. And as the windshield clears so that we can see the welfare that God plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11), our faith grows stronger and the swerving of anxiety straightens out.

Gavin Ortlund:

One of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes comes from a little-known letter. In 1958, Lewis was savoring the remaining time he had with his wife, Joy, who was ill. He wrote to a friend, “my situation is not easy to describe. My heart is breaking and I was never so happy before; at any rate there is more in life than I knew about” (quoted in Alan Jacobs, The Narnian, 285, italics mine).

At the time Lewis wrote these words, his own health was starting to fade. He was five years from his own death. He had lived a very full life, experiencing war, love, a dramatic conversion, and literary fame. His writings up to this point convey a depth of wisdom and insight that most human beings never achieve. Yet here he is, discovering new pathways, finding life fuller and richer than he yet knew.

I often think about these words: there is more in life than I knew about. They remind me that we should never stop growing. Boredom with life is simply inexcusable. If we are bored with life, the problem is with us, not the world. There is always more in life to experience, to learn, to love.

In my mind, this is a function of a Christian worldview: because we live in God’s world, and ultimately before God himself, reality has endless possibility. Anything can be a door to newness and change, because anything can direct us to God. There is always something more out there.

Backpack example: 

I have been convicted by this verse. Further, I have been convicted by the context of these verses. I have been convicted to pray for gentleness. I have been convicted to pray that I will rejoice in the Lord always. I have been convicted that if I can worry I can pray. So, in response, I have prayed these verses. I encourage you to do the same. I encourage you to pray that God will help you to live out this verse. Pray it every day this week. That is your homework.

Pray  

[1]Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

[2]Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

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