On Sunday Pastor Scott took us through Philippians 4:6-7 in part 2 of his series on managing anxiety — and the words that start things off make up one of the most well-known phrases in Scripture: “Do not be anxious about anything.”
Isn’t it interesting that Paul’s phrase here regarding anxiety isn’t a suggestion, but a command? But still you might be asking yourself, “How am I supposed to obey this command when I’m terrified or my world is falling down around me?” Well, the answers follow with the rest of verses 6 and 7.
First, God’s got us covered here, because the command to not be anxious about “anything” covers every kind of situation. The next part of verse 6, in fact, says “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Let’s repeat that: In everything. That means no matter how large or how small the situation is that’s causing your anxiety, the Lord knows about it.
And let’s look again at the word “anxiety.” Critically it’s the same Greek word used for the “good kind” of anxiety found in Philippians 2:20 when Paul describes his helper Timothy as a leader who “will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.” But the way “anxiety” is used here in chapter 4 is negative; it describes what could become a dangerous situation — when our emotions threaten to overwhelm us.
We all know what that’s like, don’t we? It’s far different than a “concern” (such as getting done those income taxes due next month, right?) No, instead we’re talking here about crippling emotions that literally lead to the loss of vitality in our lives.
To underscore this, Pastor Scott took us to another well-know passage of Scripture when Jesus used this same word for anxiety — and in the negative sense — a whopping 6 times! It’s found in Matthew 6, verses 25 through 34, and is part of his grand Sermon on the Mount. Christ tells his listeners, “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?” Indeed, Pastor Scott reminded us that often we focus on the trivial rather than on the big issues of life, and that can take us off track. But the crucial point in this passage is that we must “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” It’s very much like Pastor Scott’s eye-opening analogy of God’s grace being like a bathroom shower: It’s always available to us, but we have to be willing to stand under the Lord’s grace and let it wash over us. In the same way, we can’t expect God’s eagerness to help us with our anxiety to be at its most effective if we’re not also seeking the Lord in our lives, can we?
Back in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, after telling them God’s power is ready to fight their anxiety in every situation, the apostle instructs them — and us — that “by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
In short, God wants us to hand over our anxieties to him so he can take care of them. But it requires an act of the will on our parts, being obedient to what the Lord wants. Yet his burden is so simple and so light, isn’t it? He’s not asking you or me to defeat the dragons and monsters in our lives. No. All we have to do is let the anxieties go — to admit they’re too big for us to handle — and let God deal with them and diminish their power in our lives.
Pastor Scott reminded us of how often we pivot away from this simple act of faith in favor of human-powered peace that never gets the job done. And then we end up in addictive patterns and even disorders — and finally we wonder where God is. Well, he hasn’t moved! He’s been right with us in the suffering the whole time — and just wanting us to let go and allow him to work in us instead of us relying on failing, worldly ways.
We then find the result of that act of faith in verse 7: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
But again, first we must pray — and do so passionately (“supplication”) — and offer thanksgiving to the Lord. In other words, focus on what he’s already given to us … not on the what-we-don’t-know part of anxiety that’s the core of its power over us.
Pastor Scott offered 5 principles of dealing with anxiety based on verses 6 and 7 that can compliment our study together from last week. They are as follows:
1) Anxiety can be good or bad
2) We can exchange anxiety for God’s peace
3) Prayer is the secret for accessing God’s grace
4) God’s peace is practical
5) You can trust God with anything!
But let us not forget, as Pastor Scott reminded us, that those principles must be practiced. They’re not one-and-done things. Every day we must pray. Every day we must give thanksgiving. Every day we must trust the Lord. And then every day the Lord will add his goodness and peace to us!