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Written by Dave Urbanski

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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

and 

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!

Written by Dave Urbanski

Listen to the sermon

Watch the sermon

Read the sermon transcript

As we delved Sunday into chapter 4 of Paul’s letter to the Philippians — and the theme Pastor Scott will take us through: Anxiety — he pointed out four principles in the first five verses that will prepare us to tackle anxiety in our lives.

Verse 1 reads, “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” You’ll notice right off the bat the word “therefore,” which — as we’ve learned before — references something previously discussed. And what would that be? Well, the Sunday prior Pastor Scott brought us through the end of chapter 3, in which Paul emphasizes our citizenship in heaven, the fact that Jesus will transform us from the inside out to be exactly like him, and Christ’s unmatched power to do such things — and all things.

Makes sense that Paul would follow up such a mind-boggling theological truth with his instructions to open chapter 4. In other words, “Since we have such amazing things to look forward to through Christ’s grace and love when this life is over … let us lean on him and trust in him (stand firm) TODAY for our needs.”

Pastor Scott shared that the balance between standing firm (the Greek translation can be thought of as “planting our feet”) and love that Paul describes in verse 1 is the first principle we need to practice in order to tackle anxiety. We do this through wrestling in our hearts between comfort and standing firm. And that practice likely requires many of us to pull back from our natural search for earthly comforts in the midst of difficulties and focusing harder on disciplining ourselves to look to the Savior who already has registered our citizenship in heaven.

Verses 2 and 3 reveal the second principle: resolving relational conflicts. The verses read, “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.” We all know how unresolved conflict can interfere with our lives. Paul does, too. Here he entreats (or implores, even begs) individuals in conflict to “agree in the Lord.” To literally place their differences below their shared love for Jesus. We must seek to do the same before we tackle anxiety in our lives.

In verse 4 we find the third principle: practice joy. The verse reads, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” So how do we do this if we’re facing problems? Pastor Scott shared that our focus must not be on the problem … it must be on the solution in the Lord. That will help get rid of worry and see the grace that God is already providing us.

The final principle Pastor Scott described is lowering the intensity. The idea is found in verse 4, which reads, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand…” Pastor Scott noted that “reasonableness” can be thought of as “gentleness.” Some of us can get pretty steamed when problems pop up, and no one likes dealing with those who head off the deep end emotionally when things go wrong. But the key here is the end of the verse: “The Lord is at hand.” Who is able to lead us down the path of gentleness in the face of problems when our typical reaction is intense anger or overreaction? Jesus, of course. He is near us when the chips are down. Lean on him … and then we can practice lowering the intensity of our emotions.

To that end, Pastor Scott pointed out one important common feature of these four principles: All of them involve acknowledging and depending on the Lord. This isn’t a do-it-yourself project! Like all things in the Christian life, our first steps always must be toward Jesus. And after that first step, we must continue to keep our eyes on him, walking by faith, trusting in his ability to lead us as we dispense with our earthly, ultimately frail abilities and efforts. 

Let us let go of control, because he’s the one in control. He knows our path and our destination, and he will take us there.