Be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4:6)

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.


            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.


            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.


            “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.


            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

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The Lord tests our faith (Matthew 15:22-28)

The woman had a daughter who was being tormented by demons and she was not going to let the Healer go until she got her request. She believed that this Jewish Man had the power to heal her daughter and she was not going to miss this opportunity to bring her request before Him (Matthew 15:22).

When you are in a place where you must hear from the Lord and He must answer or all will be lost, what does it take to deter you? When the Lord is not the last resort, but He is the only resort, for He is the only one who has the power to change the situation, how much resistance does it take to cause you to give up? The disciple of the Lord Jesus has been invited into the throne room of the living God to make our requests known to Him (Hebrews 4:16). In Jesus, believers have been given “boldness and confident access through faith in Him (Ephesians 3:12).” The Lord Jesus Himself told us that “our Father who is in heaven gives good things to those who ask Him (Matthew 7:11).” But do we take these promises as seriously as we should? When we must have an answer from the Lord, what will stop us from praying? We have much to learn from this Canaanite woman.

In this episode, Jesus has traveled outside of Jewish Galilee into Gentile territory. A Gentile woman approaches Him and His disciples and begins crying about her daughter, who is “oppressed by a demon (Matthew 15:22).” Jesus and His disciples try to ignore her, but she keeps making herself a pest. Finally, Jesus implies that she is a “dog” and that she is not entitled to His blessings, but she replies that even dogs get crumbs. Then Jesus grants her request.


What is going on here? What is going on here is that Jesus is testing this woman’s faith to reveal to her and to us that her faith is the genuine article. As Lord of the universe, Jesus reserves the right to test faith, but this is not so that we will be discouraged, and Jesus is not playing games with us. Jesus takes faith very seriously and He never plays games with His children. Jesus does test our faith, but we must remember that Jesus is God and, as God, He already knows that outcome of the testing. Also, true faith manifests itself in perseverance and in persevering prayer. If the woman’s faith is true, she will persevere. True faith will not rest until God answers.


            Notice how the Canaanite woman cries out to the Lord Jesus: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon (15:22).” First, she cries out for mercy. There is no pride or feeling that she deserves a response, but rather a humble request for mercy. She calls Jesus “Lord,” meaning that she is seeing Him in some sense as the Hebrew God, Yahweh. Although not a Jew, she cries out to Him with the covenant title, “Lord.” And she calls Him the Son of David, meaning that she believes He is the promised Messiah, the one from the line of David who will be the King of the Jews. So, her request is marked by reverence and respect.

            But notice also that the woman made her request boldly and directly. Both her words and her actions (kneeling and begging) displayed reverence and honor to the Lord Jesus, but that did not blunt the force of her request. She needed the Lord to act on her behalf, and this was no time for undue politeness. “If You, Lord, do not act to change this situation, all is lost. Hear my cry! Do not delay! O Lord of the universe, my King and my God, answer me and grant my request!”


            Instead of granting her request right away based on her faith, however, the Lord allows her faith to be tested.

  • She is a Canaanite and a woman. She is a “dog” outside the Abrahamic covenant promises. The initial test would be to believe that she had any part in the messianic blessings. Would the Jewish Messiah even respond to her? Does she have any part in the Messiah?
  • The next test is that Jesus does not even speak to her (15:23a). She calls out to Him, but He does not even talk to her. He ignores her. But it is important to notice that He did not say “no.” He has not given His answer yet.
  • Jesus’ disciples beg Jesus to send her away (15:23b). This must have been discouraging.
  • Jesus says that He has been sent only to the house of Israel (15:24), clearly implying He has not come to help Canaanites. But it is again important to notice that He did not say “no.” Jesus has not given His answer yet.
  • When she continues kneeling before Him and asking for help, the Lord tells her that the children’s bread should not be given to dogs (15:26), making painfully clear that she is outside the messianic community of the Jews and not entitled to their blessings. But please notice that Jesus has still not given His answer. He has tested her faith and He has rebuffed her, but He has not given an answer yet, yes or no. And since He has not given an answer, the woman continues to ask.


            Despite what I see as five separate tests to her faith and five separate opportunities to stop requesting and to give up, the woman only leans in harder. Her daughter needs Jesus to heal her, and this woman will not relent until Jesus either heals her daughter or gives her an unambiguous no. So, after being called a Gentile dog (maybe “puppy” would be a better translation, so it is not quite as insulting as it may sound), the woman accepts the label and continues pressing her case. “Yes, Lord (she always calls Him “Lord”), but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table (15:27).” The woman has gained her request. Her faith has proven true and the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, praises her. “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire (15:28).” The Lord answers, “yes.”


            As the Lord tested this Canaanite woman, so He may test our faith and may delay His answers to our prayers. He may bring us all the way to the edge of the cliff before He gives us His answer. But does He not have the right to test the strength of our faith? But the question is, “How do we respond to these tests?” We persist and persevere in our prayers until the Lord gives us His answer. We do not take delays or periods of silence or even apparent setbacks and rebuffs as His “no,” but we persist until we either receive our request or the answer is unambiguously “no.” We maintain the fervency of our prayer, believing that the Lord will answer the prayers of His children made in faith (John 15:7).

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You Knew My Path (Psalm 142:3)

            There is a scene from the original “Star Wars” movie (1977) that sticks in my mind. All the living heroes of the movie (Luke, Leah, Han Solo and Chewbaka) have temporarily escaped from the battle with the storm troopers by ducking into a convenient trash bin. Their relief from escaping the battle is short-lived, however, because the trash bin becomes a trash compactor and threatens to doom them to a nasty death by crushing.

            While this may not be a perfect analogy, there are times in life when we all feel like we are in this situation. Part of the human experience is the feeling that we are small and weak and that the threats against us are big and gnarly. We have exhausted all our cleverness in escaping our adversaries, only to end up in a sloppy, scummy trash bin just as the maintenance crew decides to activate the compactor. In that moment we realize that we have been outmatched by the challenges that life has presented to us. And the question is, “What do you do then?” To whom do you cry out when life has overwhelmed you and your carefully laid plans have collapsed, when your friends have failed you and there seems to be no escape for you? Where can you find hope and confidence? In Psalm 142, David is in that place, and we will find in this psalm patterns and strategies for how to respond from the midst of the intergalactic trash compactor.

            This study of Psalm 142 will focus only on the first half of verse 3:

“When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, You knew my path.” (NAS Bible)

            Since we have dropped into the middle of the psalm, it would be good to get a little context. Although the nature of David’s trouble is not clear, it is obvious that the shepherd-king is in distress and may have been in distress for a while. Here in Psalm 142:3, David says that “his spirit is overwhelmed within him.” I read this as meaning both his soul and his body are exhausted. He has tried to maintain his courage, but the setbacks keep on coming. Like a surfer caught in the midst of a series of big waves, he is losing the fight to catch his breath. As soon as he fights his way to the surface, another wave of water crashes down. Fear and fatigue are towering over him, and he is overpowered. He is outmatched. “When my spirit was overwhelmed within me . . .” What is David’s source of hope?

            The last four words of Psalm 142:3a are “You knew my path.” These four words are critically important to the child of God who is feeling overwhelmed by the incessant challenges of life.

“You, O LORD, knew my path.”

            David expresses the confidence that every believer can have, that the LORD is personally aware of and concerned with our every trial and overwhelming circumstance. The LORD knows my path, and He knows your path. The NAS Bible renders the Hebrew verb in the past tense, “knew.” In this case, the past tense is much stronger than the present tense. The LORD KNEW my path in eternity past, before the creation of the world, and then He brought my “path” into existence according to His perfect plan. He personally ordained it to be. “You knew my path” means that the LORD has led me into this situation, the LORD is personally with me in the midst of it, and the LORD already knows every detail of the outcome. “You knew my path” means that the LORD has His personal fingerprints on every detail of every circumstance of my life, making sure that exactly this circumstance unfolds exactly this way so that all things work together for good (Romans 8:28) and so that I am conformed more into the image of Christ (8:29).


            In the book of “Job,” we read that “man is born for trouble as the sparks fly upward (5:7).” Our Lord Jesus Himself said that “each day has enough trouble of its own (Matt. 6:34)” and “in this world you will have tribulation (John 16:33).” The Bible speaks truth about life on earth after sin enters the world, and it is a life of effort and setback and difficulty. Of course, it is not ALL trial and difficulty, but we must have a sober expectation that overwhelming times will come so that we are not defeated when we meet the first opposing waves.

            In light, then, of the inevitability of trials, what can we do as followers of Jesus that will make a difference in our lives? First, when we are feeling overwhelmed by the trials of life, we can have confidence that the Lord who guided us into the trial is with us in the storm and will guide us out to our safe haven (Psalm 107:30). Remember, “the LORD knew my path.” Each trial thus becomes an opportunity to increase our trust in the Lord and to anticipate His faithfulness.

            Second, it is in trials that the Lord proves His power to deliver us. God has already accomplished the most powerful act of deliverance imaginable when He delivered us from our sin and condemnation and raised us up in salvation through our faith in the completed work of Christ on the cross. Having already demonstrated His power in giving us eternal deliverance, He is more than able to come to our help for temporal deliverance. What I mean is this: The Lord will deliver those who cry out to Him. Nothing is too difficult for Him (Jeremiah 32:17). Your trial may be overwhelming to you, but to the One who called the universe into existence ex nihilo and who raised Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 1:19-20), the trial is completely under His feet. In fact, if my thinking is correct on this, the Lord brings trials into our lives SO THAT He can rescue us when we cry to Him. “The LORD knew my path,” so He knew how He was going to deliver me. SDG                 rmb                  7/3/2020