God’s Big Promises 7. You Can Live in Peace: God’s Answer to Anxiety Philippians 4: 6 - 7
God’s Big Promises
7. You Can Live in Peace: God’s Answer to Anxiety Philippians 4: 6 - 7
What are you worried about today? If you’re like most people, whatever you’re worried about probably has something to do with the Coronavirus. There certainly is increased worry, frustration, boredom or anxiety as a result of the ongoing pandemic. People report feeling stress from isolation during the quarantine, worries about their health, fear about their employment and uncertainty about what will happen to their loved ones. People worry about having enough money to pay their bills. Parents of school-age children worry about the safety of their children at school. I can’t blame anyone for feeling uncertain and even uneasy about the next few months. No one knows what to expect.
Most of our worries fall into 2 categories: health and finances. These are universal human concerns. These are issues that will be with us as long as we live. You’re going to have to die in order to stop being concerned about your money and your health. Now take all those common worries and then add the Coronavirus on top of that. No wonder we have trouble sleeping. No wonder we feel under so much pressure. No wonder we find it hard to concentrate. For most people, it’s not just 1 thing but many things wrapped up together. It’s a job, school, money, work, health, bills to pay, your husband, your wife, your ex-husband, your ex-wife, the in-laws, the kids, and on and on it goes. Any 1 thing we could handle or even 2 things, but when you get 3 or 4 together, your knees start to buckle.
Strangled by Worry
Let me give you a simple definition. Worry is excessive concern over the affairs of life. The key obviously is the word “excessive.” Worry happens when you are so concerned about the problems of life that you can’t think of anything else. It is an all-consuming feeling of uncertainty and fear. Worry is a sin for 2 reasons: 1. It displaces God in your life. When you worry, you are living as though God did not exist. You are living as though you alone can solve your problems. 2. It distracts you from the things that really matter in life. As long as you are worrying, you can’t do anything else. You are strangled by worry.
This is the 7th message in the series called God’s Big Promises: God Says You are, You have, You can, You will. So far we have looked at 6 big promises: You are Forgiven: God’s Answer to Guilt - You are Never Alone: God’s Answer to Fear - You Have a Way Out: God’s Answer to Temptation - You Have a Great Future: God’s Answer to Failure - You Can Learn to Forgive: God’s Answer to Resentment - You Can Move Mountains: God’s Answer to Impossibility. Now we come to - You Can Live in Peace: God’s Answer to Anxiety. In order to focus our thoughts, let’s concentrate on a very familiar passage of Scripture: Philippians 4: 6, 7. It contains a prohibition, a principle and a promise.
1. The Prohibition
“Do not be anxious about anything” v. 6a. KJV - “Be anxious for nothing.” Don’t worry about anything. We immediately want to say, “Are you kidding me!” Where was Paul when he wrote those words? He was in a Roman jail, chained to Roman guards around the clock. But he has no complaints. He had plenty to complain about, but he said nothing about it. His future was a dark mystery. He didn’t know when or if he would get out of jail. He was at the mercy of Nero, a bloodthirsty dictator. But he never mentions that fact. In light of the very real problems of life plus the ongoing pandemic plus the unrest we sense all around us, how are we supposed to be “anxious for nothing”? The key lies in the word “nothing.” We are to worry about nothing because we pray about everything.
Worry is poison to the Christian life. It weakens our faith, encourages our fears, destroys our joy and increases our doubt. It accomplishes nothing useful for the spiritual life. Worry makes us think we can predict the future when only God knows what will happen tomorrow. It distracts us from our legitimate duties, wrecks our testimony and leaves us exhausted and depressed. Worst of all, worry is a contagious virus that quickly spreads to others. It’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but won’t get you anywhere.
2. The Principle
“But in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” v. 6b Paul gives us 4 specific instructions for how to deal with our worries:
When you pray, you come face to face with the God of the universe. Prayer begins with your desire, not with your words. Prayer is to the spiritual life what breathing is to the body.Remember that when we can’t pray, or when all we can do is groan under the burdens of life, the Holy Spirit comes and prays for us. If all we do is cry out, “O God, O Jesus,” that’s enough. The Holy Spirit fills in everything else.
B. Petition It’s a list you make when you are in desperate circumstances. It’s a document you sign when changes need to be made. It means begging God for what you need. “If Jesus were standing here, what would you ask him for?”
The Lord loves it when we come to him with a specific request. If you need a miracle, ask for one. There’s no extra charge for large requests.
Here is an important antidote to worry: Pray with thanksgiving. Why is this so important? Worry and gratitude cannot coexist. Worry will drive out your gratitude, or gratitude will drive out your worry. How can we increase our gratitude? Quote a promise. Listen to Christian music. Remember God’s goodness. Hang out with grateful people. There are plenty of grumpy people in the world. We have to deal with them, but we don’t have to spend all day with them. Find the grateful folks and hang out with them.
This word includes both our daily prayers and our urgent cries for help - those “arrow prayers” that we shoot up during the day when all we can do is quickly say, “Help, Lord!” The Lord invites us to pray about everything. There is no detail too small for the Lord. If it touches you, it touches him. Don’t wait for things to get better. Take your little problems to him before they become big ones.
3. The Promise
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” v. 7
When you take your burdens to the Lord, he replaces your worries with something much greater: peace that passes all human understanding. When we follow God’s plan, God sends his peace to stand guard at the door of our heart. We can’t define this peace, but we know what it is. When peace guards your heart, you stay calm when the whole world goes nuts around you. When peace stands guard, you can have joy even when your heart is breaking. God’s peace delivers you from bitterness, despair, anger, dishonesty, greed and pessimism.
It transcends understanding because it comes down from heaven to every believing heart. You can have God’s peace any time you need it. There is no “secret” you must discover and no code you must break. God’s peace can be yours if you will lay hold of Jesus by faith.
Here’s the Big Promise for today: You can have the peace of God.
Are you worried about your children or your grandchildren? God offers you his peace. Are you anxious about that test result from the doctor? You can have peace while you wait. Are you concerned about the Coronavirus? God’s peace will guard your heart. God issues the same invitation to all of us. “Take your worries . . . Take your cares . . .Take your burdens . . .Take your anxieties . . . And give them to me.”
Can You Handle Hard Times?
No one knows what tomorrow will bring. We’ve all learned in the last few months that our plans and God’s plans aren’t always the same. But we need not give way to fear because our future is in the Lord’s hands. We will be alright no matter what happens.
This could refer to the spread of the Coronavirus, but it could equally apply to the ongoing political turmoil, the unrest in our streets or the discord in many homes. We seem to be passing through a “most difficult” period of history with no end in sight. In times like these, we discover what we believe. Anyone can trust the Lord when life is good, no one is sick, we have money in the bank, our church is happy and healthy, and our children and grandchildren are all doing well. But it’s a bigger challenge to rejoice, give thanks, and walk by faith when the education is disrupted, our boss says, “We’re going to have to let you go,” we argue constantly about politics, our church can’t meet and we test positive for Covid-19.
I wish I could say that things will get better in 3 months. That might be true, I hope it is, but only the Lord knows for sure. So the question becomes, will we trust the Lord or will we give in to worry? The world wants to know if what we believe is real.
We have a great future because we have a great God.
Prayer - Lord, we do not necessarily pray for a lighter load, but we do ask for stronger shoulders. Deliver us from worry that strangles us, from care that consumes us and from anxiety that overwhelms us. Help us to cast our cares on you, and then leave them there. Give us joyful and grateful hearts because we know that you will carry our burdens so we don’t have to.