On December 23, 1776, Thomas Paine wrote these words: “These are the times that try men’s souls.” He was writing as a patriot to those who were fighting against the tyranny of the British government. After the United States declared independence from Britain, they had to fight to defend not only their freedom but also their own lives and families. These were indeed times that tried their souls.
While most of us are not facing giant problems like starvation, poverty, or bodily harm, we do face problems every day. These problems get to us after a while. We think about them. We wonder how to solve them. We start to fret about them. And soon that problem becomes what we are thinking about all week long! Today, we will read two verses in the Bible that can help us overcome this constant anxiety.
As we look at the thoughts found in Philippians 4:6-7, we will consider three statements that God wants us to think about: (1) We don’t need to be anxious, (2) we need to talk to God about our problems, and (3) we can have peace.
- We don’t need to be anxious (Phil. 4:6a).
Paul tells us plainly that we should “be anxious for nothing.” Nothing should induce us to start fretting as if there is no hope. If you are like most people, we are thinking “easier said than done.”
What does it mean to be anxious?
Bill Mounce gives a good definition of anxiety. It is, “to worry… be concerned; to expend careful thought… to have the thoughts occupied with.”1 “To care and be genuinely concerned is one thing. To worry is another. Paul and Timothy cared for the people they ministered to (2 Cor. 11:28; Phil. 2:20), yet they retained trust in God.”4 The anxiety Paul refers to is the mindset where we are constantly thinking about something without it being solved. This lack of a solution causes us to keep thinking, fretting, and worrying about how to handle the situation. “Such worry may be about food or drink or clothes or one’s life-span or the future or words to be spoken in self-defense or even about ‘many things.'”8 Whatever it may be, should we be fretting about it?
What should cause us to be anxious?
The answer is nothing. “Nothing is the most exclusive word in the English language. It leaves out everything.”6 Basically, we are being told as Christians that there is no reason to be anxious. “Does this mean we are … not to face reality? Are we to believe that sin is not real, that sickness is not real, that problems are not real? Are we to ignore these things? No. Paul says that we are to worry about nothing because we are to pray about everything.”6 That is what our next point is all about.
- We need to tell God our problems (Phil. 4:6b).
How often do we share our problems with those who cannot help us? I have found myself talking about problems with people who could not help. I suppose it helps to vent sometimes, but does it? There is someone who can help, if we would just talk to Him.
Who should we talk to?
The answer is God. Peter knew this. He said so in the following verse:
1 Peter 5:7 – “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”
Our prayers should be directed to God as He is the One who can handle every need that we have. We are told to inform God of our needs. We are to act as if we were standing before a king and making known to him what he did not formerly know. This may seem a bit strange because God already knows everything. But this is what God wants from us. Perhaps it is the conversation and relationship that God desires. Or maybe He just wants to hear from us and see our dependence on Him. In any event, we are told to talk to God about our needs instead of fretting about them.
How should we talk to Him?
Before we look at the four parts of prayer, consider what precedes them. He says “but in everything.” This is a reminder that God wants to hear from us about everything that is on our mind. I don’t think this is an invitation to rant or be disrespectful but is more like freedom to respectfully speak about the issues bothering us.
“Some years ago, I am told, a [widow] in Philadelphia came to Dr. G. Campbell Morgan with this question, ‘Dr. Morgan, do you think we should pray about the little things in our lives?’ Dr. Morgan in his characteristically British manner said, ‘Madam, can you mention anything in your life that is big to God?'”6 He makes a good point. Is there anything too big or too small for God?
We understand that our Heavenly Father is interested in whatever we are anxious about. But how do we express our thoughts to the One who already knows what we are about to say. In verse 6, we are told that there are four ways: prayer, supplication, thanksgiving, and requests. While there may be some overlap, here are some thoughts about each one.
Prayer – “Prayer is any form of reverent address directed to God.”8 An example of this was covered in the Adult Sunday School class this morning. When God announced his possible judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham respectfully addressed the situation with God (Gen. 18). He repeatedly approached the Lord with great humility but also with great passion.
Genesis 18:27-28 – “Then Abraham answered and said, ‘Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: Suppose there were five less than the fifty righteous; would You destroy all of the city for lack of five?’”
Supplication – “By this is meant the humble cry for the fulfillment of needs that are keenly felt.”8 A supplication is a request from someone who is in need and who acknowledges that. As we come to God, we must place ourselves in the proper attitude as a needy person entreating the One who can meet those needs.
Thanksgiving – Rienecker describes this as “the grateful acknowledgement of past mercies.”2 Hendriksen goes even further: “There must be grateful acknowledgement for: … past favors, … present blessings, and … firmly-grounded assurances for the future.”9 I think that both ideas are correct. We need to acknowledge God’s provision and thank Him for it. If we remembered what God has already done, we would believe that God can handle the current situation, and that would limit the amount of anxiety we face on a daily basis.
Requests – These are “not vague generalities. … There must be definite, specific requests.” If we would like God to work in specifics, we should ask in specifics. In Genesis 24:10-14, Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for Isaac. When he got to the location, he asked God specifically to reveal the right woman by a specific sign. In Judges 6:36-40, Gideon asked God to specifically give him a sign … twice. In both cases, God answered their specific requests.
Before Sharon and I were married, I was a bit bashful about asking her to the Valentine’s Day Banquet. As I walked her to her dorm, I finally said, “I was wondering if you would like to go to the banquet with me.” Sharon’s reply was rather coy: “Oh you were, were you?” It was then that I had to be a bit more specific. Thankfully, she said yes to my specific request.
I have been wondering if the lack of results from my prayers stem from that same issue. Perhaps I am asking in generalities instead of asking God to do specific things for us and our church family. In another letter to believers, Paul wrote, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think…” (Eph. 3:20). He knew that God could do more than we think He can. let me ask you a question. How have your prayers been? Have you been humbly bringing your prayers, supplications, and requests to the Lord with the specific items you need? Or have you been asking in generalities? Perhaps we need to rethink how we bring our requests to the Lord.
- We can have peace (Phil. 4:7).
When we have specific needs, we may be tempted to worry. And that worry may become fretting if we are not careful to bring those worries to the Lord. But when we do take them to the Lord (and we know this to be true but often fail to take advantage of it), God promises to give us His peace.
What kind of peace is offered?
First, it is the peace of God. This ought to encourage us. It is not a peace that comes from our strength or abilities. It is the peace of God. And His peace is “fairly” substantial. Wouldn’t you agree? Second, it is a peace that surpasses our understanding. We often think about good, better, best for quality. But God’s peace surpasses all of those ratings. It is beyond anything we can experience elsewhere.
Perhaps an illustration will help us to understand God’s peace. Do you remember when Jesus and the disciples were on the Sea of Galillee during a storm. The disciples were “losing it” as the wind blew and the waves crashed over their boat. But where was Jesus? He was sleeping. When the disciples chided him for not caring about their welfare, Jesus commanded the storm to abate: “Peace, be still.” Immediately, the sea was calm! This peace of God which Paul writes about is like that. It allows us to have a feeling of tranquility and the ability to sleep peacefully amidst the storms of life.
How will God’s peace affect us?
We are told that it will guard our hearts and minds. When we experience God’s peace, it keeps us from becoming anxious. It guards us like “soldiers standing on guard duty.”3 Just as soldiers guard a city against the enemy, so God’s peace guards our hearts and minds. Our hearts (feelings) and minds (thoughts leading to actions3) will be kept from feeling anxious and acting out those feelings. The prophet Isaiah knew about this peace.
Isaiah 26:3 – “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”
Note that the peace that surpasses our ability to understand it, it rooted in Christ Jesus. In other words, this peace can only be found by those who are in Jesus, who have been saved, forgiven by, and changed by God. If you are a Christian today, you are someone who knows the value of Jesus. You have repented of your sinful ways and have placed your faith in Christ alone to be made right with God and have been saved from eternal judgment in Hell. And if you are in Christ today, you have something available that the world doesn’t have—God’s peace. Take advantage of it by taking your anxieties to the Lord.
J. Vernon McGee concludes with these comments: “Notice that we entered this passage in anxiety, with worry, and we come out of the passage with peace. Between the two was prayer. Have things changed? Not really. … Although the storm has not abated, something has happened in the individual.”7 This is true. God doesn’t promise to take away the problems. But He does promise to give us His peace.
I wonder this morning if you have come to church with a burden on your mind. You have been fretting about something that you think is too big for you or even for God to solve. Although it may seem like an impossible problem to solve, it is something you should give over to God. We have learned that all of our anxieties should be turned over to the Lord in prayer. And when we do that, God will replace those fears with His peace. Will you turn over your troubles to the Lord today?
2 Rienecker 560.
3 Rienecker 561.
4 Lightner 663.
5 Lightner 664.
6 McGee 322.
7 McGee 322.
8 Hendriksen 195.
9 Hendriksen 196.
μεριμνᾶτε – “to worry, have anxiety, be concerned; to expend careful thought; to concern one’s self; to have the thoughts occupied with”1 “to be fretful”2
δεήσει – “prayer, request, petition … entreaty; prayer, supplication”1 “generally a request arising from a specific need”2
εὐχαριστίας – “expression of thanks, thanksgiving, gratitude”1 “the grateful acknowledgement of past mercies, as distinguished from the earnest seeking of fut.”2
αἰτήματα – “a thing asked, or sought for; petition, request”1
γνωριζέσθω (Pres/Pass/Imper/3rd/Sing) – “to make known, reveal, declare”1
εἰρήνη – “peace, harmony, tranquility; safety, welfare, health”1
ὑπερέχουσα – “to hold above; intrans. to stand out above, to overtop; met. to surpass, excel… excellence, preeminence… to be higher, superior”1 “to rise above, to be superior, to surpass”2
φρουρήσει (Fut/Act/Indic) – “The word is a military term picturing soldiers standing on guard duty and refers to the guarding of the city gate from within, as a control on all who went out”3
νοήματα – “the mind, the understanding, intellect… the heart, soul, affections, feelings, disposition”1 “act of the will which issues from the heart”3
Hendriksen, William, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994, pp. 194-97.
Lightner, Robert P., “Philippians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, p. 663-64.
McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. V, 1 Corinthians through Revelation, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983, p. 322-25.
Mounce, Bill, Greek definitions found at https://www.billmounce.com as viewed on 5/20/2023.
Rienecker, Fritz and Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Grand rapids: Zondervan, 1980.