A Divine Alternative To Anxiety
January 6, 2019
- Paul exhorted the Philippians in chapter 4 verse 1 to “stand firm thus in the Lord.”
- He exhorted them to endure, to remain steadfast, to persevere.
- Paul then goes on to give several more exhortations to help foster that endurance, including the exhortation in our passage today which is…
Main Point: Don’t be anxious; instead pray.
I. Don’t Be Anxious
The Exhortation: “Do not be anxious”
- In verse 6 Paul says – “do not be anxious”
- Paul is instructing us to not allow ourselves to be overcome by excessive, heart consuming concern and anxiety.
- He’s not here forbidding wise planning or concern about the pressures of life or trying to solve problems. What he is forbidding is care that consumes, care that obsesses, care that will not trust the Lord.
- Paul says – do not be anxious about anything.
- The impulse to fret can be almost automatic.
- We need to realize, just because the impulse, the temptation to worry is natural and instinctive and part of living in this fallen world doesn’t make it OK to yield to that impulse and temptation.
- God loves and cares for us so much. He gave His very life for us on the Cross.
- As our heavenly Father, He watches over us every day of our lives—seeking to do us good, not harm.
- Even the bad things, in His providence, that He allows to happen, He promises to work for our eternal good.
- In light of these biblical truths, and others like them–do we not have sufficient reason to trust Him?
Obedience Isn’t Easy
- Obedience to this command isn’t easy. When you’ve suffered in certain ways in the past or you are suffering in the present or the future is clouded by significant unanswerable questions, it can be very hard to not be anxious; it may even feel impossible.
- We have an Enemy who will tempt us to doubt God, and work to drive us to anxiety and despair.
- Some people – even very godly people – can be more inclined to anxiety due to natural temperament, physical constitution, or poor health.
- For others – anxiety might not be as big of an issue – but they still feel tempted at times to worry.
- The good news is – the undertow of anxiety doesn’t have to bring any of us to a place of despair.
- We can stand and we can find His peace.
Remember Your Identity
- At least part of the reason we ask “how can God realistically expect us to not be anxious?” is we forget who we are in Christ.
- We forget that we have died and risen in Christ. We forget that we are new creations in Christ. We forget that we are have new life within us therefore our natural inclination to worry need not rule and dominate our existence.
- God by His Spirit has regenerated our hearts. The Holy Spirit now indwells us. Therefore by His power, in His strength, with His help we can rise above our anxiety and trust God.
II. Instead Pray
- Theologian DA Carson summarizes these verses by saying: “The way to be anxious about nothing is to be prayerful about everything.”
- This gets at the heart of what Paul says here. The antidote for anxiety is prayer.
How Prayer Brings Peace: We cast our cares on the Lord
- In 1 Peter 5:7 – the Apostle Peter invites us to cast our cares on the Lord because he cares for us.
- To cast our cares on the Lord is to unburden ourselves before the Lord in prayer, by saying “Lord, I give this concern over to you; I cast it on you; I lay it on you”
For we are not made of iron, so as not to be shaken by temptations. But this is our consolation, this our solace—to deposit, or (to speak with greater propriety) to disburden in the bosom of God everything that harasses us. Confidence, it is true, brings tranquility to our minds, but it is only in the event of our exercising ourselves in prayers. – John Calvin
How Prayer Brings Peace: We pray “with thanksgiving”
- When our hearts our full with thankfulness to God, for who He is, for what He has done, for what He yet promises to do, it fosters the very opposite of anxiety. It fosters hope, joy and peace.
I stand upon the mount of God
With sunlight in my soul;
I hear the storms in vales beneath,
I hear the thunders roll.
But I am calm with Thee, my God,
Beneath these glorious skies;
And to the height on which I stand,
No storms, no clouds can rise.
O, this is life! O this is joy,
My God, to find Thee so:
Thy face to see, Thy voice to hear,
And all Thy love to know.
— Horatius Bonar..
The Lord Is At Hand
- End of verse 5 – “the Lord is at hand.” Ed Welch makes the point that in that phrase, we see verses 6-7, are not a pill, they are not a formula for immediate anxiety relief.
- Instead, these verses are about Jesus.
This changes everything. The emphasis is not on how we pray. It is on the God who has come close, who hears, and who is with us. The only thing that could separate us from His love and presence are our sins, and they have been washed away by Jesus’ blood. — Ed Welch
Isn’t it true that the presence of another person in our frightful situations can lessen our fears? Fear doesn’t want a series of impersonal steps; it wants a person. Walk in an unknown dark place by yourself and you are afraid. Hold someone’s hand while you are in that dark place and fears ebb. If we are comforted by the presence of a mere human being, who might be less strong and brave than ourselves, how much more will we be comforted by the sworn presence of the reigning Christ? — Ed Welch
The Lord is invites us to draw near to him in prayer…“to deposit, to disburden in the bosom of God everything that harasses us.”
Drop thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of thy peace.
– John Greenleaf Whittier
Questions For Discussion / Application:
- Re-read the text, Philippians 4:6-7. What initial observations and insights do you have from reading this text?
- In verse 6, Paul is clearly not forbidding wise planning or concern about the pressures of life or trying to solve problems. What exactly is he forbidding?
- What specific attributes of God or promises of God give us solid ground and reason to trust God?
- How can considering the gospel foster confident trust in the Lord in our hearts?
- How can remembering our identity in Christ give us hope in the battle against worry/fear?
- How does prayer help bring peace to the anxious person?
- John Calvin, in considering this text, writes, “For we are not made of iron, so as not to be shaken by temptations. But this is our consolation, this our solace—to deposit, or (to speak with greater propriety) to disburden in the bosom of God everything that harasses us. Confidence, it is true, brings tranquility to our minds, but it is only in the event of our exercising ourselves in prayers.”
- What does it mean/look like practically to deposit or disburden everything that harasses us in the bosom of God?
- What specific cares and concerns is God inviting you to deposit in the bosom of God–that is to cast on the Lord?
- Care Group suggestion: Consider closing by taking time to pray for one another.