Part 10 of To Live Is Christ, a series through Philippians
You can listen to this sermon here.
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 (vv. 6-7).
An Anxiety Epidemic
The church at Philippi was not free of problems. When Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians, they were experiencing two: persecution and disunity. Many of them were probably worrying about the future of their church. So Paul tells the Philippians, “Do not be anxious about anything” (v. 6).
It’s been said that anxiety is the “disease of the twenty-first century.” We live in a sin-cursed world in which bad things happen. Many people are filled with worry afraid of what might happen to them and their loved ones in the future. Probably some of you struggle with anxiety.
Life makes us anxious, but God gives us peace.
Paul tells the Philippians, “Do not be anxious about anything” (v. 6a). In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus says three times, “Do not be anxious” (vv. 25, 31, 34).
[Read Matt. 6:25-34.]
There is a difference between concern and anxiety. Timothy was “genuinely concerned for [the Philippians’] welfare” (2:20; cf. 1 Cor. 12:25). The Greek word for “concerned” (merimnao) is the same as the Greek word for “anxious” in 4:6.
1. Anxiousness doesn’t work.
Jesus asked, “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life” (Matt. 6:27). Being anxious actually does more harm than good. It can subtract hours from our life spans.
Jesus also said, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (v. 34). In other words, each day has enough trouble on its own. Worrying is bringing the possible troubles of tomorrow into today. (Most times those troubles we think might happen never happen.)
2. Anxiousness should not to be tolerated.
Sometimes Christians say, “I’m just a worrier. Worry runs in my family.” It’s true that many people are predisposed to anxiety. But that shouldn’t be used as an excuse for anxiety. (Many people are predisposed to lust. That doesn’t make it acceptable for them to have lustful thoughts.)
It’s often asked whether or not anxiety is a sin. “Do not be anxious about anything” is a command. To disobey it is a sin. However, we need to be sympathetic with those who struggle with anxiety. Christians who worry desperately want to rid their themselves of anxiety.
3. Anxiousness creates more problems.
When we are anxious, we are not joyful. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (v. 4). We rejoice in the Lord, not in our circumstances. Paul was rejoicing even though he was a prisoner (1:12-18). “In the Lord” is a key phrase in Philippians (1:14; 2:19, 24; 3:1; 4:1, 2, 4, 10).
When we are anxious, we are less likely to be kind to others. “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone” (v. 5). (Friday was “Black Friday.” People who are worried about getting a certain item on sale are not gentle with others. Some people have started calling Walmart “Brawlmart.”)
Paul continues, “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” (vv. 6b-7). “The peace of God” is an inner sense of contentment given by God. It is the opposite of anxiety.
1. God’s peace comes to those who pray.
When we pray, we show our dependence on God. We are to pray “with thanksgiving” (v. 6). When we have anxious thoughts, we should think of all the blessing for which we are thankful.
The apostle Peter wrote, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7). To stop worrying requires humility. We must admit to God that we can’t handle life on our own.
[Read Luke 10:38-42.]
Jesus said to Martha, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41). Instead of being “distracted” (v. 40) by our anxious thoughts, we need to take time to be like Mary who “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching” (v. 39).
2. God’s peace exceeds human understanding.
Some people might think Paul’s counsel is a bit naïve. “Just pray and you’ll have peace instead of anxiety?” Obviously it’s not that easy or no Christian would be anxious. But if we sincerely engage in thankful prayer, casting our cares upon a loving God, we are promised that God will give us his peace. That’s something that can’t be fully described. It must be experienced.
3. God’s peace protects our hearts and minds.
In verse 9, Paul writes, “The God of peace will be with you.” We are promised not only the peace of God but also the God of peace himself.