Today I’m excited to get to one of the premier passages in the Bible on anxiety and worrying. 2 of the verses we’re looking at, in fact, the two that we’re going to focus in on, were the first verses I ever memorized. When I was like 6 or 7, it was Thanksgiving Day, and I asked my dad if Thanksgiving was in the Bible. He pointed me to this passage, which includes the word “Thanksgiving,” obviously not talking about the holiday, but it still was in there. But I promise, this passage of Scripture will be life-changing for you, if you truly embrace the truths found in it.
The Problem it addresses is anxiety. Worrying. This unease we all feel at times about things that are uncertain. This is a problem, a struggle, we all have at times. The nature of this fallen world is that things in it are uncertain! They’re shaky! We just sang that, right? “All other ground is sinking sand.” We’re not totally sure about pretty much anything in this world. So, we worry about our finances. We worry about our kids. We worry about our sports teams. We worry about our receding hairlines, and the economy and foreign relations and politics in general. There’s probably not much in this world that we don’t, at some point, worry about.
Today we are reading from someone who understood what it meant to have things to worry about. He understood what it feels like to have circumstances that make you nervous, or anxious. Paul, as a reminder, is in prison as he’s writing this letter. There’s also some signals that show us he’s likely expecting a trial soon, to determine whether or not he would be executed. Do we all agree, there’s no way to accuse Paul of not having anything going on, or having an easy life, nothing to worry about? We all agree on that, right? Ok. So, let’s hear from Paul in Philippians 4:1-7. And as Kay comes to read, let me mention that not all of what Paul writes here is about anxiety, but we’re going to focus in primarily on what he says about anxiety.
Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.
Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
Euodia and Syntyche
Thank you Kay. So, Paul starts out with a plea to stand firm in the Lord. It’s kind-of hard to know whether this first verse is a conclusion to the section before from last week, or an introduction to this section, but either way, Paul cared deeply about the Philippians’ spiritual health. He wanted them to stay true to their faith in Jesus. And so, naturally, that brought up in Paul’s mind a specific issue within the Philippian church, something that might be negatively influencing the health of the church.
He brings up Euodia and Syntyche, who apparently have had some sort of disagreement. He pleads with them to “be of the same mind,” or “agree” in the Lord. These two women have labored side by side with Paul in the gospel; clearly these women have had their priorities in place and have been a big part of the ministry, and yet now something is causing them to be in disagreement. And apparently, this disagreement, this tension, is affecting the church at large, otherwise I don’t think Paul would have addressed it openly here in this letter. He probably wouldn’t have even known about it unless it was affecting the church at large.
But, the desire he has for the whole church that he mentioned all the way back in chapter 2, verse 2, “being of the same mind,” that desire is not just with the church at large, but goes for individual Christians too! We have the greatest possible thing in common, the Gospel, and that’s what pulls us together. And sometimes it takes a third party to help when there’s tension. In verse 3, he mentions his “true companion.” We don’t know who that is, but we know he’s talking of someone specifically, and asking them to help these women agree in the Lord.
And so, while we don’t have a lot of details about these issues he’s talking about in verses 1-3, we certainly know that addressing whatever specific issue it was fits within his letter in general, and his desire for the church at Philippi to “be of one mind.” So now, in verses 4-7 is where he’s going to focus in on worrying.
Five Keys to Killing Anxiety
We read in verse 7 one of the main commands that Paul gives here. He says, “Do not be anxious about anything.” Now, if he were to stop there, I think we may not be too happy with Paul. Most of us struggle with anxiety at least at times, and we know it’s a problem, and if Paul were to give us the solution by saying, “Just stop it!” that wouldn’t seem too helpful. It’s like telling a friend who’s sick with the flu, “Just get better.” “Gee, thanks, hadn’t thought of that.”
Fortunately, Paul does not just tell us to stop being anxious. In fact, he gives us Five Keys to Killing Anxiety. Number 1:
- Find Your Joy in Jesus (4)
Verse 4 is one of those verses we need to have hidden in our hearts. It’s so simple, and yet so good and profound. Rejoice in the Lord, always. I think it’s important not to leave out any part of that statement. It’s not just rejoice! It’s not just be happy; see everything from a positive angle: It’s not just, “The cup’s not half empty, it’s half-full!” And it certainly doesn’t mean that you have to smile all the time or something like that.
This rejoicing that God calls us to, it’s not a temporary happiness that comes and goes depending on what’s going on. That’s why it says, Rejoice, always! This is far deeper than the happiness we feel when things seem to be going well. The is a deep contentment in the Lord Jesus Himself! Rejoice in the Lord, always; I will say it…
Unless this is your first Sunday here, you probably know that this is not the first time Paul has written about joy in this letter! The whole letter has been about how Jesus is our very JOY. That’s just another way of saying, “Rejoice in the Lord!” Jesus is Our JOY, that’s why we rejoice in Him. And we rejoice in the Lord mainly because of what Isaiah 53:4-6 says about Jesus:
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgression; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. We all like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned—everyone—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Why is he our joy, ultimately? Because he bore our griefs and carried our sorrows, was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. To what end? To bring us peace with God. Jesus is my JOY because he’s the one who brought me back to my Good Father. We find our joy in Jesus because he’s the reason we know the love of our Father. Rejoice in the Lord, always. Then he goes on to say, Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. This is where we see the 2nd k to k anxiety:
- Don’t be easily moved (5a).
There are several ways to translate this word into the English. It’s reasonableness in the ESV, gentleness in the NIV, gentle spirit in the NASB, and even considerate in the NLT. I think the best way understand this first part of verse 5, is by seeing it as Paul telling us not to be easily moved by our circumstances. Rejoice in the Lord, and don’t be moved from that. When things hit us in life, we respond in moderation. We don’t have immediate, knee-jerk, overly-dramatic responses as soon as something happens. That’s what Paul is getting at here.
Let your reasonableness, your gentleness be known to everyone. When we get insulted, we don’t insult back. “You’re dumb.” “No, you’re dumb!” No, we respond calmly, with a cool head. We’re sane. When someone pulls out right in front us, we don’t respond with, “You beep-beep-beep, da-beep-beep-beep-beep.” Or even if you’re not that expressive of a person—you’re more introverted—you don’t even get all that internally frustrated.
Ultimately, even when rough things come our way, we don’t pretend they’re not happening, or try and look the other way. Instead, we look at what is happening, and we are not moved in the sense that Jesus is still our JOY. Even in the most devastating of situations, to not be moved shows a heart and a mind that are stabilized by Jesus himself. If Jesus is your JOY, guess what? He’s also your ROCK. You can respond to tough situations with sanity and even with a spiritual poise of sorts.
Now this is a LOT easier said than done. I struggle greatly with this. And honestly I struggle more with all the little things than the big things. Big things come along, and for me, I tend to zone in and focus and respond with a calm mind and heart. For me, it’s all the tiny little things that I don’t always respond to all that well. There are little inconveniences at times; you know what I’m talking about. The little things that come one after another. It’s in those moments, when my guard is down, that my reasonableness, my gentleness, my calm, steadfastness—doesn’t always prevail. So, I know this is a difficult charge from Paul, in the small things and in the big things, and yet it’s here nonetheless.
And the beauty of this is that we don’t have to BE the rock that makes us reasonable and consistent. We don’t have to BE the rock; we just stand ON the rock that is able to make us reasonable and consistent. We sang about that Rock this morning: “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand.” Or as the verse puts it, Psalm 18:2- The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. We’re not easily moved because Jesus is never moved. We’re not easily moved because the rock on which we stand is not ever moved. He’s never surprised, or taken aback, or shocked, or caught off guard. He’s our Rock. The second part of verse 5 gives us the third key to killing anxiety:
- Rest in Jesus’ Presence (5b).
Now, this part of verse 5 says, “The Lord is at hand,” or, “The Lord is near.” I don’t know that there’s a more immediately potent truth than this one when we are worried. When we’re anxious or uncertain about ANYTHING happening, this might be the best first truth to remind ourselves. Jesus is NEAR. He’s with us! We’re not deists who believe in God, but think that he’s uninvolved with His Creation. We are Christians, who believe that God sent his son literally to live on the earth with us, and then to dwell in our hearts even after ascending back to the right hand of God.
Jesus is WITH US. He is at hand. He is near. And that means something, doesn’t it? This is certainly not just a random dude that’s with us: “Oh, good, at least we’re not alone.” It’s not just that we’re not alone; it’s the fact of WHO is with us! It’s Jesus Himself. Our Joy, our Rock, our Salvation. This isn’t someone that might not be able to handle what comes. This isn’t someone who doesn’t really care about us. This person, this God who is with us, cares for us deeply, and that is exactly why this 4th key to killing anxiety is so, so good. Key #4 to killing anxiety (and we’ll spend most of our time on these last two, BTW):
- Give it all to the Lord (6).
This is when we get to the heart of it. Up to this point it’s been more about the things that will help you avoid anxiety. Things that we can foster in our hearts way before life hits us! We find our joy in Jesus, we stand on Him our Rock, we remember that he’s with us. Those things we should be aiming for, period, even in the calm times. But in verse 6, he deals directly with what to do with our worries. Verse 6: “Do not be anxious about anything, BUT in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”
What does it mean to give your requests to God in prayer and supplication, or prayer and petition? It’s more than just saying words, thinking that there’s a word-formula that will suddenly make things better. No. Prayer and petition means giving it all over to Jesus. It means casting your cares upon the Lord. Not just tell your cares to the Lord, but casting them onto Jesus. Throwing them off yourself and onto him. 1 Peter 5:7- “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
Wow, he cares for us, church. Maybe you think, “Oh, Ryan, that’s a fuzzy truth, and you’re not a fuzzy preacher.” There are fuzzy truths that are true and fuzzy and it’s ok! It’s a warm fuzzy that’s legit! Feel fuzzy about that. Feel softened and warmed by that. God cares for you and me! We see it in the Old Testament too! Psalm 55:22- “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.”
Jesus is our Burden–Bearer. He’s not just our Burden-Hearer! I love that the language here that Paul uses about prayer and petition, it’s a lot more than simply telling God about these burdens and these problems and these things that make us anxious and worried. Prayer is not just giving Jesus an earful; it is giving these things OVER to Him. Sometimes we think we can be engaged in true prayer simply by using our mouths and saying the right words, and expect magically peace to come, when the whole time we’re still hanging on to control!
It’s like saying, “Lord, I want you to help me with this burden insofar as you are able to while I still hold onto it as tightly as I possibly can.” It doesn’t work like that! That’s not even the heart of prayer. The heart of prayer is a reliance and dependence upon the Burden-Bearer, Jesus Christ! We give it all over to Christ! That doesn’t mean suddenly we stop caring or even being interested; it means that we care enough to give this over to the one who truly is in control.
“Well, I guess if I’m not supposed to worry I’ll stop caring about things.” No! It means at the same time that we care deeply for our lives, we also entrust them to the Lord! We entrust all things to HIM! Whatever comes along; He can handle it. Listen, we can’t, but he can. Give it to Him! Trust Jesus with all things.
You know, this (hand-gesture holding a ball tightly) is an illusion. This doesn’t exist. Giving it over to the Lord isn’t really even letting go of the ball; it’s realizing that you never had the ball to begin with. And God never intended for you to be in control of the ball and to hold all things together. We give it over to Jesus, because it’s his anyway. We give him our worries and our burdens because he is able to bear it, and because he cares deeply for us. There is an deep affection that Jesus has for those that God has given him. Read John 17 and hear the extreme tones of affection as he prays for us!
Jesus does not want us to try and hold on to things over which we have no control. Instead, he wants us to trust Him with all of it. My favorite Bible passage about anxiety is found in Matthew 6:25-34, in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus says this, and I’m going to read all 10 verses, because they’re so good.
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Family, we can give it to God, whatever it is that worries us, whatever it is that we need and even want, we can give it to him because he knows that we need it and he’s going to provide what he determines we truly need! This brings us to one particular word we didn’t focus in on in verse 6 yet. It’s where we find the last key. When we pray, petition, give our requests to God, we do it with thanksgiving. From that one word, we get the 5th and last key to killing anxiety:
- Remember what God has given and promised (6).
Thanksgiving is not just added in here randomly: “Don’t forget to be thankful!” It’s not just a little add-on: “Ooh, don’t want to forget that.” We come to God so often with an attitude of entitlement as opposed to an attitude of gratitude!
We come so often overwhelmed by what we think we need, that we forget all that God has given us. To have a consistent lifestyle attitude of gratitude is not merely a perspective change, or seeing things from a different angle; it’s seeing things from THE angle! Being captivated by the gospel of Jesus Christ, this newfound relationship, this reconciliation we have with God in Christ: there is no greater reality for us than that!
Let me just take a few moments here to read one of my favorite chapters in the whole Bible. Because sometimes we forget what it is that God has done, and what it is that God has promised us in Christ. I know this is a whole chapter, but I have to read it. Hopefully none of you are frustrated about reading the Bible. It’s food! It’s nourishment! It’s life! In fact, just to wake us up and keep us focused, would you stand with me and follow along as I read Ephesians chapter 2. Page 98 in the blue New Testaments.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
You can be seated. Do you see why I wanted us to read that? To hear from God himself through Paul that the biggest problem in the universe has been dealt with! It’s been resolved! Yes, we have worries, yes, there at times are things that make us anxious, and there are so many uncertainties in the world, but listen: the biggest worry by FAR, has been resolved. It’s been fixed. If we would only believe.
Do you SEE and TREASURE what God has done? He loved us by reaching out and pulling us in. If we keep that in the forefront of our minds and overflowing our hearts with joy, we’ll still struggle with anxiety at times, but MAN will it look different. And certainly our praying and giving things over to the Lord will be prayers of thankgsiving for who he is and what he’s done. Our prayers would not merely be, “Here’s my list of stuff, thank you.” Our prayers would be marked by thanksgiving, remembering what God has given and what he’s promised, the completion, the consummation of this reconciliation.
The Result: Prayer Brings Peace which Kills Anxiety
What will come when we truly give our anxiety over to the Lord? What will happen? Verse 7: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” In a sentence: Prayer brings peace, which kills anxiety. Prayer brings peace, which kills anxiety. That’s the relation in these verses between anxiety, prayer, and peace.
And when peace does not come, listen, it’s not that God isn’t giving you peace. It’s that we’re still trying to hold on. We’re not truly giving it over to him. We’re not finding our joy in the Lord. Instead, we’re trying to find joy in controlling things, which—let me just tell you—that’s not going to bring joy. It will only bring more and more stress, more and more anxiety because of 2 things: 1) the crazy amount of things to worry about in our lives, and 2) our inability to really have much control over them.
Everyone in the world stresses and worries and experiences anxiety. Peace that transcends understanding; that’s not just talking about going beyond what we can understand; it also goes beyond what anyone can understand! When we truly do give it to the Lord and find this peace that transcends understanding, we preach to the world that we have a God that can handle all things. A God that cares enough about us that we don’t have to stress out over anything.
That doesn’t mean we don’t care, it doesn’t mean we don’t work hard to change our circumstances. It means, ultimately, our faith is not in ourselves. Instead, we trust God in all things.