Intro: Our sermon theme for this month, as we make our way through the book of Philippians, takes us to Phil. 4:6-7 – 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Our specific topic this month is the last phrase of v. 6 – let your requests be made known to God – so we are going to spend some time studying about prayer. But before that, consider with me why Paul mentions prayer in this context.
- I like the NLT of Phil. 4:6 – Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. The words are simple and concise; but the doing is one of our greatest challenges.
- I want to speak to you this morning about something God never wants you to do; something that you, as a Christian, have not reason to do, and something that you probably do almost every day. Worry. We recently discussed the subject of anxiety in our Wed. Bible class in Luke. So some of the things we say today will be fresh in our thoughts.
- Do you worry? – How can a person deal with anxiety? You might try what one fellow did. He worried so much that he decided to hire someone to do his worrying for him. He found a man who agreed to be his hired worrier for a salary of $200,000 per year. After the man accepted the job, his first question to his boss was, “Where are you going to get $200,000 per year?” To which the man responded, “I am going to let you worry about that. (Max Lucado)
I. What is worry? – The Greek verb found in Phil 4:6 is Merimnao (mer-im-nah’-o); It is used nineteen times in the New Testament and in the KJV it is translated with four words or phrases: take thought (11 times), care (5), be careful (2) and have care.
A. There is a positive usage of the original word in scripture. It is used to describe the care (KJV) or concern (NIV) we have for others. 1 Cor 7:32-33 – I want you to be without concerns. An unmarried man is concerned about the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the things of the world—how he may please his wife—34 and he is divided. (HCSB)
B. When Paul, the apostle catalogued his sufferings for Christ in 2 Cor. 11 he wrote… 2 Cor 11:27-28 – in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. The word for concern here is merimna (mer’-im-nah); the root word for merimnao (worry), There is a sense in which Paul worried about the churches. This affliction was not sinful. He went on to say that he gloried in his weaknesses. But it is so easy for a healthy concern, even for others, to become a spiritually unhealthy and even sinful way of thinking about the future. [“Whoever has learned to be anxious in the right way has learned the ultimate.” ― Søren Kierkegaard.]
C. The most common use of merimnao in the NT is not positive. In all the occurrences where Jesus uses the word he warns against it, and most often depicts it an excessive concern that displays a lack of trust in God, or an obstacle that prohibits one from drawing closer to God. [‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things…” Lk. 10:41] The English term worry comes from an old German word meaning to strangle, or choke. That is exactly what worry does; it chokes out the faith we need to place in God.
II. Be Anxious for Nothing: What do you worry about? Only the really important or pressing things, right? We do tend to view some issues as more worthy of our anxiety. [“That is not worth worrying about”, or “how could you not worry about that”] This passage calls on us to not worry about anything – not even the really important or pressing issues.
A. In Matthew 6, Jesus provides the most extensive teaching on the issue of anxiety. He starts out with these words… Matt 6:25– 25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry 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?
1. “about your life” makes the command all-inclusive. Life – psuche (psoo-khay’) encompasses all of our physical wellbeing; from the smallest to the most fundamental need; from the physical to the psychological need; Jesus is referring to life in its fullest possible sense. Absolutely nothing in any aspect of our lives, internal or external, justifies our being anxious.
2. We also notice that Jesus chooses some pretty pressing and important issues to illustrate his command – What I eat, What I drink – what I wear.These things are the necessities of my life, how can I not worry about these things? But that is precisely why Jesus mentions them here… God provides the most necessary things of life for us, therefore we do not need to worry about them. Which brings us to our next observation about Jesus’ argument against anxiety.
III. Anxiety & Covetousness: Jesus can call on us to not worry about any element of our life, because God provides for every element of my life. The NAS translation verse 25 begins with ,”for this reason”. This phrase points back to vs. 24 where Jesus declares that the Christians have only one master – God. [We cannot give allegiance to money and God at the same time.] Our perception and acknowledgement of God and His work in our lives is at the heart of this issue.
A. Jesus’ exhortation against anxiety flows from his exhortation against covetousness.They are different battles in the same spiritual war against our souls. This is even more pronounced in Luke’s account, where Jesus words about anxiety follow the parable of the rich fool who was “worried” about having too much stuff. (Luke 12:17– And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’) Jesus turned to His disciples and made a personal application of the parable to them (they might never have to worry about having too much), but they would be tempted to worry about having too little. You may never have the rich fool’s dilemma, but you certainly can have his heart – his demon is your demon.
1. The issue of anxiety revolves around how we view the things in our lives…
a. “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”‘ (Luke 12:19)
b. “Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.” (Luke 12:23)… Jesus is telling us that we worry too much because we are too attached to the things of this world.
2. The issue of anxiety revolves around how we see God’s activity in our lives…
a. ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods… So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:18, 21)
b. “your Father knows that you need these things.” “But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Luke 12:30, 31). Jesus is telling us that overcoming anxiety comes when we become confident of God’s provision. To be anxious is to exhibit a lack of trust in Him and unfaithfulness to His words. Do you believe that God will provide your needs?
IV. What Anxiety Reveals about Us: One author said that in the fight against our anxiety we must turn the sword of the Spirit inwardly on ourselves. That means that the real enemy we face is in our own hearts, and we must allow the word of God to pierce us through, even to the division of the soul and spirit (Heb. 4:12). It seems apparent, as well, that the matter of anxiety is more serious than we might suspect. What does it matter if I worry about stuff? What is the value of a worry-free life?
A. The answer that is easiest to give is that it forfeits the peace of mind we seek, and that God wants us to experience. Worrying makes us feel bad. Worrying is a waste of time.
1. One writer says it this way… worrying is a waste of time. It doesn’t change anything, it just messes with your mind and steals your happiness. Those are all bad things.
2. Or there is the old English proverb, worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.There is truth here. Jesus points to the uselessness of anxiety – Luke 12:25 – Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? (NIV) and Paul goes on to point us toward the reward of the peace of God in Philippians 4. We will consider this in more detail later.
B. But I see a deeper, more compelling answer as to why worrying matters to the Christian. It is not so much about how it makes me feel, as what it reveals about my heart. When Jesus connects anxiety to covetousness He is telling us that our minds are anxious because our lives are too attached to the things of this world. To worry is to give credence to a false view of life… It is NOT just about things, not even the necessary things.
1. Worry is uncomfortable and useless to the unbeliever as well. He seeks to live worry-free as well, but his reasons are not my reasons. If his view of life is correct then he needs to worry. This is all he has. The unbeliever will always have a reason to be anxious about life. The Christian does not have a single reason to be anxious about life. When he seeks a worry-free life, he is seeking comfort now. When the Christian seeks to live worry-free, he is seeking to bring glory to the God who created and sustains him.
a. Optional Note: I recently read an article entitled, “What’s Next When You Don’t Have to Worry About Money Anymore”. I thought the author might have some insight on how to get rid of anxiety. But it turns out he was not writing from a spiritual perspective at all. (see excerpt)
V. Overcoming Anxiety for God’s Sake: When we look closely at Jesus’ argument against anxiety, they are rooted in God alone. It is not just a quest for mental peace or comfort. It is an argument against worry for the sake of God’s work and character. What I tell others when I refuse to be anxious about my life:
A. God is sovereign – He alone owns all things and controls all things. In Him all things consist.
1. David proclaimed, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it” (Ps 24:1).
2. 1 Chron 29:12 – “Thou dost rule over all, and in Thy hand is power and might; and it lies in Thy hand to make great, and to strengthen everyone” .
3. Daniel declared, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him. And it is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men, and knowledge to men of understanding” (Dan 2:20-21)
B. God is providing. Jesus references the provision of God, the Creator, for the lesser creatures of his creation (the birds of the air, and the lilies of the field, to confirm that God has always provided. (Matt. 6:28-30 – Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?)As a child lives without the concerns or worries that accompany adulthood, so the child of God is secure in the knowledge that God is his Father. James 1:17 – Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Phil 4:19 – “God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” These facts form the basis for our unwavering trust in God on a daily basis.
C. God sees and knows. As the One who can provide, God is also the One who sees and knows all. Matt. 6:32 – “For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” Note again that God is referred to as our Father here. He sees everything and cares for us. IF God knows then that presupposes that He will take care of it.
D. God is reigning: Matthew 6:33 – But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.The presupposition is that God is reigning over His kingdom, His work is more important, and He will keep His promises. No matter what happens in the kingdoms of men, the kingdom of God remains. His people will never lose what God has provided for them. So knowing that His spiritual work (making sinners righteous) is what really matters in life, Christians can fully commit to it without worry. Those other things will be added.
1. So there it is… a better reason to overcome the anxiety of making money. A better calling than just feeling good about my life here. He has promised that if we will seek him first, He will see to it that we do not have to waste time working for merely earthly concerns. We can put our efforts into His Kingdom. Living worry-free is a sign that we have accepted a higher calling in life… that we are living for eternal things.
Conclusion: How do I confront the anxiety I experience? Are there any solutions?
Peter says in 1 Peter 5:7 – casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. – the NAS says casting your anxiety upon Him because He cares for you. The word is merimna. (mer’-im-nah). The answer to anxiety is not to get enough stuff, or even to get rid of stuff; but to pray to God and let him take care of the stuff.
Paul’s words in Phil 4:6 provide real help. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. “Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” We will look closer at prayer and thanksgiving as a tool against anxiety in next week’s lesson.