Philippians 4:1-9 is a call to Christian steadfastness. Verse 1 exhorts the church to “stand firm in the Lord.” The next eight verses teach practical steps that lead to the steadfastness of faith verse 1 calls for. Our text is a part of this inspired strategy for Christian stability. It begins with a command: “Do not be anxious about anything.” The term anxious means “to deeply care about something or someone.” It can refer to proper or legitimate concern. Paul uses it this way in Philippians 2:20 when he says of Timothy, “I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.” It can also refer to sinful or undue concern. Jesus used the term this way in Luke 10:41, when he told Martha, “You are anxious and troubled about many things.” Our text uses the term in this latter sense. We are not to be carefree or unconcerned about the important things, issues, and people in our lives. But we should not worry about them. And legitimate concern turns into sinful anxiety when we allow our hearts and minds to be pulled into different directions by our circumstances.
Faith pulls in one direction. Doubt pulls in another direction. Hope pulls in one direction. Fear pulls us the opposite direction. Peace pulls is one direction. Confusion pulls in a different direction. And we are pulled apart with worry. Our word WORRY is derived from an Old English word that means, “to strangle.” Yes, worry is internal strangulation. Jesus affirms this in THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER when he speaks of seed being planted among thorns. Matthew 13:22 says, “This is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” So our text says: “do not be anxious about anything.” The verb is in a grammatical emphasis that forbids an action that is already in progress. Literally, God is not saying, “Don’t worry.” He’s saying, “Stop worrying!” Am I talking to you? What are you worrying about? Is it your family? Your health? Your finances? Your job? Your future? Whatever it is, God says stop worrying. But he does not leave you with just a command to obey. He gives you an answer for your anxiety. Here it is: PRAY YOUR WORRIES AWAY!
• Don’t worry. Pray!
• Turn your worries into prayers.
• Take everything off of your worry list and put it on your prayer list.
• Whenever you start to worry, stop and pray.
• Give each worry – one by one – to God in prayer.
“I have a mountain of credit card debt,” one man told another. “I’ve lost my job, my car is being repossessed, and our house is in foreclosure. But I’m not worried about it.” “Not worried about it!” exclaimed his friend. “No. I’ve hired a professional worrier. He does all my worrying for me so I don’t have to think about it.” Playing along, the friend asked, “How much does your professional worrier charge?” “$50,000 a year,” replied the first man. “$50,000! Where are you going to get that kind of money?” “I don’t know,” came the reply. “That’s for him to worry about.”
In a real sense, we – as followers of Christ – have the services of a professional worrier. 1 Peter 5:7 says: “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” Have you ever thought about that? GOD IS WORRIED ABOUT YOU!
• He’s worried about your sin – That’s why he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for your sins.
• He’s worried about your sickness – That’s why he has declared himself to be “Jehovah-Roa,” the God that heals.
• He’s worried about the daily affairs of your life – That’s why he’s the Good Shepherd who leads us in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
• He’s worried about your spiritual growth – That’s why he has given the Holy Spirit and scripture to facilitate your development in Christlikeness.
• He’s worried about your future – That’s why he announced that he is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.
God is worried about you. Of course, God doesn’t worry as we do – pacing the floor, scratching his head, and biting his fingernails. God is sovereign, holy, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. So God cannot have panic attacks. But he is worried about you in the sense that he his intimately aware of what your dealing with. He cares about your situation. And he is actively at work on your behalf. Jeremiah 29:11 puts it this way: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” If that is true, what in the world are you worrying about? Pray your troubles away. Let me show you how to do it.
I. REMEMBER THE PRIVILEGE OF PRAYER.
Verse 6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God.” This verse succinctly states the privilege of prayer with two words: in everything. Feel the tension of the text. Don’t worry about anything. Pray about everything. Nothing is worth worrying about. Everything is worth praying about. Did you get that? Worry and prayer cannot coexist. Worry and prayer are two great opposing forces. BENGEL said, “Anxiety and prayer are more opposed to each other than fire and water.” So this verse teaches us that the way to be anxious for nothing is to be prayerful in everything. And the word everything literally means everything. There’s no fine print, qualifiers, loopholes, or exceptions. We are to come to God about everything. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” God has an open door policy with those who trust Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. You don’t have to be afraid. You don’t have to hold anything back. And you don’t have to keep your worries to yourself. Our heavenly Father is interested in every detail of our lives. He has flung wide the gates of his presence and says, “Come and tell me all about it.”
OH, WHAT PEACE WE OFTEN FORFEIT
OH, WHAT NEEDLESS PAIN WE BEAR
ALL BECAUSE WE DO NOT CARRY
EVERYTHING TO GOD IN PRAYER
Not some things. Certain things. Or spiritual things. Everything! Take everything to God in prayer. No request is too small, difficult, or inconsequential to God. We are to talk to the Lord about everything in our lives. Nothing should be left out. Here are two reasons why:
A. THERE IS NOTHING TOO BIG FOR GOD TO HANDLE!
A woman once asked G. CAMPBELL MORGAN, “Dr. Morgan, do you think we should pray about the little things in our lives?” He answered, “Madam, can you mention anything in our life that is big to God?” There is nothing too big for God to handle. Whatever it is, God can handle it! JOHN NEWTON said it well:
THOU ART COMING TO A KING
LARGE PETITIONS WITH THEE BRING
FOR HIS GRACE AND POWER ARE SUCH
NONE CAN EVER ASK TOO MUCH
Whatever it is, God can handle it. Jeremiah 32:17 says, “Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.” Jeremiah 32:27 says, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” Luke 1:37 says, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 18:27 says, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”
B. THERE IS NOTHING TOO SMALL FOR GOD TO CARE ABOUT!
The Lord is dynamically involved in the monumental decisions, problems, and issues of our lives. The Lord also gets down into the nuts and bolts of life. God is the one flung the sun, moon, and stars out into space. He is also the one who has numbered the hairs on your head. God is the one who owns all the silver and gold. He is also the one who monitors the falling of every two-bit sparrow. God is the one who parted the waters in creation. He is also the one who turned water into wine for a newlywed couple who didn’t order enough wine for the wedding reception. There is nothing too small for God to care about.
• God cares about the things that embarrass you.
• God cares about your appliances that keep breaking down.
• God cares about those lost keys that made you late.
• God cares about those extra few minutes of sleep you need in the morning.
• God cares about the things that you think are too silly to share with anybody else.
Let me bottom line this for you: WHATEVER IS GOING ON IN YOUR LIFE, IF IT MATTERS TO YOU, IT MATTERS TO GOD.
II. REHEARSE THE PRACTICE OF PRAYER.
A soldier was court-marshaled after his superiors found him apparently sleeping on his post. His defense was that he was not sleep. He was praying. Of course, the authorities didn’t buy that story. During the hearing, the prosecutor mockingly challenged him to pray right there in court. And he did. Right there, he passionately and confidently prayed to God. When he finished, the case was thrown out. It was concluded that he never would have been able to pray like that under pressure, if he hadn’t been practicing that kind of prayer before the pressure.
If you are going to be able to pray your worries away, you must learn how to practice the discipline of prayer before problems arise, pressures attack, and pain afflict you. The text teaches three ways to discipline your prayer life.
A. DISCIPLINED PRAYER INVOLVES TIME WITH GOD.
Verse 6 says: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” The word prayer translates a Greek noun that is the broad, generic, all-encompassing word for prayer in the New Testament. It speaks of the act of addressing God. It is conversation and communion with God. It’s the prayer that enjoys the presence of God and honors him in worship. Paul uses it here to teach us that believing prayer involves time with God. When Paul says, “By prayer… let your requests be known to God,” he is saying that prayer should involve more than making requests to God. Prayer should be more than offering petitions. Prayers should be more than the presentation of your sanctified wish list. You should pray in order to spend time in personal, deliberate, and intimate communion with God – not just to get God to do something for you.
Daniel’s enemies were jealous of his promotion. So they plotted against him. But they soon found out that Daniel could not be bribed, tempted, or discredited. He was too devoted to God. So they determined that if they couldn’t get Daniel to break his devotion to God, they would set him up based on his devotion to God. They convinced King Darius to sign a decree prohibiting his subjects from praying to any God but him for the thirty days. But Daniel 6:10 reports, “When Daniel knew that the document had been sighed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber opened toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave hanks before his God, as he had done previously.” Don’t miss that last line. Daniel prayed, as was his custom. He did not start praying when he heard the decree was signed. He was already praying. So rather than worrying, he just kept doing what he had already been doing. He prayed! That may be why your prayers don’t work. Many of us are practical atheists. We don’t formally deny the existence of God. But we live as if he doesn’t exist. We forget God when life gets good.
• Our prayers become perfunctory.
• Our church attendance becomes sporadic.
• Our giving becomes a tip rather than a tithe.
• Our service becomes inconsistent.
• Our time in the word becomes nonexistent.
But when your money gets funny, your body gets sick, or your loved-ones start tripping, then you rush to God for strength, guidance, and comfort. But “crisis Christianity” doesn’t work. Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” You can’t plant sinful seeds and then quickly turn to God when you see that your harvest didn’t turn out the way you thought it would. I am not saying that God cannot hear emergency prayers. I am saying that prayer without commitment is presumption. Prayer is not some spiritual 9-1-1. You try that and you may get put on hold like 9-1-1. Prayer is like two lovers getting together. They really don’t have to go anywhere special; they just want to be together. And they don’t have to have anything special to talk about. But they stay on the phone because they don’t want to hang up. Pray should be like. Authentic prayer involves time with God.
B. DISCIPLINED PRAYER INVOLVES TRUST IN GOD.
Verse 6 says: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” The word supplication refers to the act of seeking, entreaty or asking. The picture is that of an inferior bringing a petition to a superior. It is to pray with a sense of need. But supplication is not just about the act of taking your needs to God in prayer. It’s about the implication of that act. By taking your need to God in prayer, you are not informing God of something he does not know. God is omniscient. God knows everything known, unknown, and knowable. You cannot inform God of anything. By taking your needs to God in prayer, you are affirming that God is the one who is able to meet need. Supplication is a statement of trust in God. It is a declaration of dependence upon God. It’s the simple act confessing to God that you are going to trust God with your situation. Jesus taught this in Matthew 6:25-34. It is the section of THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT where Jesus directly addresses the issue of worry. His position on worry is clear and simple: Don’t do it. Don’t worry about what you will eat, drink, or wear. And don’t worry about tomorrow. GERALD MANN suggests that Jesus really doesn’t tell us not to worry, as much as he tells us to wait to worry.
• Worry when it will feed and clothe you.
• Worry when it will make you live longer or grow taller.
• Worry when you want to know how people who don’t God react to problems.
• Worry when you want to make tomorrow to be worse than it’s already going to be.
Otherwise, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33). Mark it down: Worry is like sitting in a rocking chair: It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere. So just trust God.
WHEN THE WORLD FROM YOU WITHHOLD OF ITS SILVER AND ITS GOLD
AND YOU HAVE TO GET ALONG WITH MEAGER FARE
JUST REMEMBER, IN HIS WORD, HOW HE FEED THE LITTLE BIRD
TAKE YOU BURDEN TO THE LORD AND LEAVE IT THERE
…IF YOU TRUST AND NEVER DOUBT, HE WILL SURELY BRING YOU OUT
TAKE YOUR BURDEN TO THE LORD AND LEAVE IT THERE
C. AUTHENTIC PRAYER INVOLVES THANKSGIVING TO GOD.
One reason why many of us worry so much is because we are ungrateful people. We don’t thank God enough. And because we are often short on praise, we are short on peace. MARTIN LUTHER wisely asserted that if God was stingy, close-handed, and inconsistent in blessing us, we would be more grateful for every single thing he did. However, we respond to God’s extravagant grace with indifference. Consequently, we spend more time rehearsing what’s not going right in our lives, rather than rejoicing over the undeserved goodness of God. But I dare you to make thanksgiving a habit. Your worries would vanish. Your fears would subside.
Verse 6 says that we are to make our requests to God with thanksgiving. And note that Paul is not saying that when God answers your prayer, go back and thank him. On the contrary, the phrase with thanksgiving means that gratitude is to characterize the very act of prayer – not just the answer to it. When you make your requests – right then and there – thank God. Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” Colossians 4:2 says, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” And 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
WHEN UPON LIFE’S BILLOWS YOU ARE TEMPEST TOSS
WHEN YOU ARE DISCOURAGED, THINKING ALL IS LOST
COUNT YOUR MANY BLESSINGS – NAME THEM ONE BY ONE
AND IT WILL SURPRISE YOU WHAT THE LORD HAS DONE
III. RECEIVE THE PROMISE OF PRAYER.
I have good news and bad news for you. I’ll give you the good news first. When you go to God in believing prayer, you can expect God to respond to your prayer. God hears. God knows. God cares. God answers. God responds when you pray. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he may not respond the way you want him to. Verse 7 records a beautiful promise that affirms God will respond when you pray. But it does not promise that God will change your circumstances. No healings. No supernatural debt cancellation. No promotion. No Mr. or Miss Right. No miracles. The verse does not promise DIVINE INTERVENTION for your circumstances. But it does promise DIVINE INSULATION for your heart and mind.
This is not to say that God is unable or unwilling to move in your circumstances. He is. But that’s not point here. The point is that God is more concerned about what’s on within you than he is about what’s going on around you. God is more concerned about what’s happening in you than he is what’s happening to you. So verse 7 makes a wonderful promise: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Have things really changes? Not necessarily. You may still be in a war zone. The battle may still be raging. The enemy may still be advancing. But even though war is raging around you, something has happened within you. God has dispatched his peace to guard your heart and mind. That’s the promise of the text. In fact, that’s God’s promise throughout scripture. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” John 14:27 says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” And Colossians 3:15 says, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”
In Daniel 6, King Darius issued a decree prohibiting his subjects from praying to anyone but him for 30 days. But that didn’t stop Daniel from going to his room and praying to the true God, as he had always done. And Daniel got the death penalty for it. Darius put him in a lion’s den and put a stone on the mouth of the den, so he couldn’t escape. And Daniel 6:18 says, “Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.” He was in the palace, but he couldn’t sleep. He was surrounded by luxuries, but he couldn’t sleep. He was protected by armed soldiers and trained guards, but he couldn’t sleep. He stayed up all night long. The next morning he rushed down to the lion’s den and called out to Daniel. To his surprise, Daniel answered. Daniel 6:22 says, “My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths.” The king couldn’t sleep all night. But at the same time, God was keeping the lions quiet so that his child could rest in safety. That’s what the peace of God will do for you, if you take your worries to God in prayer.
A ship was wrecked in a furious storm and the only survivor was a little boy who was swept by the waves unto a rock. He sat there all night long, until he was spotted and rescued the next morning. “Did you tremble while you were on the rock during the night?” someone asked. “Yes,” said the boy. “I trembled all night. But the rock didn’t.
MY HOPE IS BUILT ON NOTHING LESS
THAN JESUS’ BLOOD AND RIGHTEOUSNESS
I DARE NOT TRUST THE SWEETEST FRAME
BUT WHOLLY LEAN ON JESUS’ NAME
ON CHRIST, THE SOLID ROCK, I STAND
ALL OTHER GROUND IS SINKING SAND