Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Our world is a factory of anxiety and worry, and the production of this factory has radically increased in 2020. Reasons for anxiety bombard us from every side, and the bombing is constant. Yet Paul tells the believer to be anxious for nothing. How are we supposed to do that? Many people today have a natural bent toward anxiety and worry. Is it realistic to suppose that someone living in this dangerous day and age can be free of anxiety, or was that just for people who lived in the simpler times of the first century?
Of course, worry is a huge topic and there are those who have much more expertise in this field than I have, but I wanted to take a few minutes to consider this topic of anxiety (I will use worry and anxiety interchangeably) and see how the believer can slay this dragon by obeying the Bible’s teaching on the subject.
JESUS’ TEACHING ON WORRY – FIRST STRATEGY
In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus teaches His disciples that they are not to worry because their heavenly Father cares for them. If the Father cares for them, then worry makes no sense. In the end, Jesus commands a change of focus. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (6:33).” Focus on the kingdom of God first and foremost, and then trust God to take care of you. This may be a bit oversimplified, but that is the basic point.
IS IT FEAR OR IS IT WORRY?
For the purposes of this article, I am going to make a distinction between “fear” and “anxiety” to make sure that we know what we are discussing. You may see that some of what you call “fears” are actually nothing but justified worries.
Fear is objective, meaning that all people can see the danger. Anxiety is subjective. It is unique to the possessor and other people have difficulty feeling your anxiety.
Fear is adrenal. It causes feelings of “fight or flight.” It demands action. Worry is cerebral. It festers inside your head and there are no courses of action that seem to help.
Fear is spontaneous, rising suddenly to a high pitch, whereas worry is prolonged, droning on and on at a fairly low level of constant negative stress.
Fear bypasses the mind, but anxiety flourishes in the mind.
Fear is a rational response to a genuine, imminent danger, a response that rises within us before we have a chance to bring up our defenses or bring our faith out of the sheath. Anxiety, on the other hand, is a prolonged sense of nervousness and unease when a person is concerned about an undefined or relatively insignificant or very unlikely threat.
THE PROBLEMS WITH WORRY
“Everyone deals with worry, especially in this crazy world. Have you never heard of COVID-19?” This comment about worry is completely justified coming from an unbeliever. They should be anxious and worried about almost everything because they are all alone in this world. But, despite many attempts and much poor teaching on the subject, worry is a source of serious spiritual problems for the believer. Here are some of them.
Worry is a spiritual cancer that will hobble your spiritual life because worry is ongoing, persistent lack of trust toward God. Any lack of trust toward God is dangerous.
No spiritual fruit flourishes in the soil of anxiety. “The worry of the world chokes the Word, and it becomes unfruitful (Matthew 13:22).” Anxiety will choke out your spiritual life.
When the believer has anxiety, he is living as an orphan. Having been adopted into God’s family as a fellow heir with Christ, he now lives as a street urchin who does not know where he will sleep or what he will eat.
To continue to live in anxiety and worry is to openly distrust the Lord and to despise His faithfulness. God has displayed His faithfulness countless times:
- In the Scriptures by His power over enemies, by His promises of protection, and, supremely, by His salvation through Jesus Christ.
- In our own lives by His providence, by His answered prayer, and by His patience.
Anxiety is living as if none of God’s displays of power and none of His promises are good enough to have you trust Him. This is serious.
Do you see the point? Anxiety is sin, and the disciple of Jesus must master anxiety and worry at all costs.
PAUL’S TEACHING ON ANXIETY – SECOND STRATEGY
Here in Philippians 4:6, Paul gives us a two-fold strategy for combatting anxiety and replacing it with the peace of God. Paul gives a command to be obeyed and a means for obeying.
First, Paul commands that we be anxious for nothing. Do not miss this essential first step. The disciple is to repent of anxiety. We are not to coddle it or condone it or to cuddle up with it. Rather we are to repent of our anxiety. Have a loathing for all anxiety as you would for any other sin and any other threat to your spiritual vigor. Put worry to death (Colossians 3:5). When you sense anxiety is trying to rear its ugly head, shoot to kill.
Step two, we are to cry out to God in prayer and supplication in a spirit of thanksgiving. We are to bring whatever it is that is causing the worry directly into the light of God. We are to expose it to the light (Ephesians 4:13). Confess it to God for what it is – sin. Thank the Lord that He is mighty to save and “He is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20)” and ask Him to act on your behalf. Your job is to kill the worry and then to trust God for everything. His promise is to bring you to heaven and let you spend eternity with Him.
In this way, “the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7
SDG rmb 12/14/2020