Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The promise above is one of the grandest in all the Scriptures. In this age when anxiety, panic attacks, and depression plague so many, this verse is the answer that God would give us. He’s told us in these simple terms that we are not to be anxious about ANYTHING. But He doesn’t leave us hanging with these words that are more easily said than done. No, He gives us His supernatural alternative. He says we are to pray, and to do so with thanksgiving. Seems so simple, doesn’t it? But if that’s all there is to it, why do so many people, including Christians, continue to struggle so much with anxiety and other related negative emotions?
As I thought about this this morning, some other Scriptures came to mind. One of them was James 1:22-25, which says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” In other words, God didn’t just give us His wonderful promises to make us feel warm and fuzzy inside. He didn’t say the things that he said to us so that we could win first place in a Bible verse memorization contest. No, He gave us what He gave us so that we would actually do what He said!
Listen to the words of Jesus as He taught on this theme:
Matthew 7:21-27 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven . . . Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
Luke 6:46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”
Luke 11:28 “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
John 13:17 “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”
So, back to the topic of anxiety as it relates to all of this. We are told in the above passage from Philippians 4 to not be anxious about anything BUT in EVERTHING we are to pray with thanksgiving. And so why does anyone give thanks? We give thanks when things are given to us or done for us. Again, with reference to this passage, for what are we giving thanks – and to whom? Well, obviously, if we’re praying, we are talking to God. The question is, do we really believe that we are dong this when we pray? Do we believe that He is hearing us? Do we believe that He has the power to give us peace when anxiety threatens to undo us? Do we believe what He’s said to us enough to thank Him for what He has promised to do? And do we pray with perseverance? Do we keep at it, just as He told us to do, or are we prone to just give up. Do we pray in our anxiety, but then disobey God by continuing to hold on to it? For you see, if we really believe the things that God has said to us, we will do exactly what He says. That’s what true faith is. Faith isn’t a belief that is theoretical. It’s not like the belief of the demons who the Bible says believe that there is one God. You see, they believe this, but they’ve chosen to disobey Him nevertheless. True faith, on the other hand, obeys. As James tells us in his letter, “faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26).
And so, if we say we believe the Bible, and yet fail to do what it’s telling us, it will do us little good. If we know what the Bible tells us about this matter of anxiety, and yet we continue to flounder with anxious thoughts, there is only one reason for it. We just don’t believe what God has said! We can’t! If we really trust Him, if we really believe that if we take our anxiety to Him, no matter the root cause, if we believe that when we do this, that when we take our anxiety to Him and ask Him to help us that He actually will, and if we believe this in the depths of our being so that we don’t just ask but also give thanks, then we will, in peace trust Him, and walk away from our anxieties and fears.
But if not, praise God that He won’t just walk away from us! He loves His children too much to leave them in a condition of anxiety. He will continue to test us, to prove us, to burn this dross from our lives. Listen to the apostle Paul as he recalls how God did this in his own life: “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. BUT THAT WAS TO MAKE US RELY NOT ON OURSELVES BUT ON GOD WHO RAISES THE DEAD. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again” (2 Corinthians 1:8-10).
And as with Paul, so God will work in our lives. With Paul we can say, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). May God help us to believe Him, and to actually do what He says! And may we pray with the anxiety laden father who came to Jesus, worried sick about his demon possessed son, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). May we pray like David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24).
Help us, God, to believe you. Help us to believe you enough that we actually do what you’ve said.
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