“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” – Philippians 4:6.
The Apostle Paul’s instruction to live free of anxiety sounds wonderful, but his original readers may have wondered if that was truly possible. Many Christians are asking that same question today. After all, life is full of troubling situations, and we as humans tend to view anxiety as a reasonable response when they arise. How can we not be anxious in this world-wide pandemic called COVID-19.
Philippians 4:6 however offers a better way to handle our cares, by encouraging us to quickly and continually release concerns to God. This is not easy but it is possible to do it because God is our Helper and Paul promises that if we can learn and practice this skill, we’ll experience more peace and joy every day.1. WHAT DOES “DO NOT BE ANXIOUS ABOUT ANYTHING” MEAN?
Philippians 4:6 becomes a lesson about keeping our joy in the midst of difficulties. Paul clearly set the goal – “Do not be anxious about anything.” Then, he explains what to do instead “in every situation.” His approach includes four elements: 1. Prayer, 2. Petition, 3. Thanksgiving and 4. Presenting.
The word of God through Paul promises that doing these four things would have positive effects on the emotional, mental and spiritual health of a person.2. WHAT SHOULD WE DO WHEN WE FEEL ANXIOUS?
Three separate but related actions are mentioned in verse 4 that suggest how we can deal with anxious thoughts.
“…by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving…”• Prayer – giving worship to the Lord for who He is and what He has done• Petition – directly asking God to help in His way and timing• Thanksgiving – expressing humble gratitude for the kindness He has shown
Paul knows that incorporating all of these will soften the believer’s heart, and align it more closely with God. The result of coming to God this way is the creation of a wonderful worship cycle between us and God: seeking Him, calling out to Him in trust, asking Him to meet our needs, confidently watching for Him, and praising Him for His provision.3. HOW CAN WE OVERCOME ANXIETY?
God did not design you to be anxious or nervous. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told the crowds, “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ . . . Do not worry about tomorrow” — Matthew 6:31,34
At some point, all of us have worried about the basics of life through the COVID-19 pandemic. Our anxieties often involve fundamental things: fears for our health and those we love, how we will make a living, securing supplies, and how to handle previously anticipated events and celebrations. In all these concerns, the issue is one of faith and trust in God. Do we really believe that God will do what He has promised to do in His Word?
If we assume that we are the ones who is in charge of our life, then we will battle anxiety and fear. However, if we understand the ways of the Lord, then we will know that He is in charge and that the sovereign God of the universe cares for every detail of our lives – 1 Peter 5:7. If we worry and doubt His goodness, we will never have the peace He wants us to experience.
Do you take time to acknowledge Him as your provider? Your answer has everything to do with your anxiety level.
Have you ever watched a mouse running inside a wheel? The faster he runs, the faster the wheel moves — but he doesn’t make the slightest progress. He does not even have the sense to get off the wheel. This is exactly what anxiety does to us. As fearful thoughts fill our mind, we begin to run faster, trying harder to meet the demands of others or to prevent an uncertain disaster. But we will never gain complete control over our circumstances because God is the One who is solely in control of all things.
There is only one way to step off the wheel and that is by acknowledging the Lord’s ability to take care of every need we have. God created us. He knows our needs and the deepest desires of our heart. “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” – Psalm 37:4.
The Lord for us to end the anxiety cycle and let Him lead. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28.
First Peter 5:6 – 7 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” The word “casting” is related to the Greek verb used in Luke 19:35, when on Palm Sunday the people of Jerusalem threw their garments onto a colt for Jesus to ride. The word describes the same motion: a deliberate action of setting something down and leaving it there.
Jesus wants us to give our cares over to Him and leave them with Him. You depend on Him for life itself, and you acknowledge this by saying, “Here, Jesus. Take my problems. You have the answers! I trust you to show me what to do and to take care of the consequences.”
CAST AWAY YOUR CARES
Anxiety is so debilitating. Body, mind, and spirit can plummet when filled with it, and no one is immune to its effects. But God, in His love and care for you, will take your anxiety onto Himself – just simply cast it to Him. Hurling or throwing something takes focus and force so the object being thrown lands far away from your presence. When you cast your anxiety on God, it gets caught up in His mercy net where He receives the weight anxiety brings and replaces it with His comfort and calm. Nothing is too small or too big – just cast.
Lord, it is so hard not to worry, but I know I shouldn’t. You have taken care of me in the past, so I know You will today and in the future. I cast my cares to You now and trust that You are with me and You will provide.
Imagine never worrying about anything! It seems like an impossibility. We all have worries on the job, in our homes, at school. But Paul’s advice is to turn our worries into prayers.
Do you want to worry less? Then pray more! Whenever you start to worry, stop and pray.
BEGONE, UNBELIEF; MY SAVIOUR IS NEAR – MHB 511
1 Begone unbelief,
My Saviour is near,
And for my relief
Will surely appear:
By prayer let me wrestle,
And He will perform,
With Christ in the vessel,
I smile at the storm.
John Newton (1725-1807)
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