The city of Philippi had a special place in the heart of Paul. He loved this church. When he wrote Philippians, his intention was to visit them soon (Phil. 2:24) even though he was currently in prison (Phil. 1:7, 13).
As a prisoner incarcerated for the crime of doing God’s work, Paul wrote to this church he loved encouraging them to rejoice in their circumstances. In light of their current situation and the promise of struggles to come, Paul knew that there would come times of plenty and times of want (Phil. 4:12). Aware of the uncertain times awaiting them, Paul encouraged these people dear to his heart.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. -Philippians 4:4-9
Paul instructs this church twice to rejoice in the Lord (v.4). Why would that be an important command to repeat? Because it is worth repeating! And we tend to need reinforcement for such a truth. Why is that an important reminder for you? Because you need to remember to rejoice in the Lord regardless of your situation.
Think about the things that cause you to be anxious. What is it that causes you to worry?
As you think through these worry catalysts, I want you to think about this question:
According to Phil. 4:6, which of these items does the Bible permit as worthy of making you anxious?
Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:6-7
The Bible makes it clear: we should not remain anxious. When anxiousness hits us, we need to do something with it!
When circumstances confront us and tempt us to worry, we cannot ignore them or hope they will simply go away. We must pray.
Don’t let anything cause you to worry but let everything cause you to pray.
In Phil. 4:6, Paul uses the term “prayer” and “petition.” “Prayer” is the general term for talking with God. “Petition” refers to the more specific requests made. As we abstain from worrying, we must stay devoted to prayer in all situations and make specific petitions with thanksgiving.
When you make a petition with thanksgiving, you are asking for something specific, all the while thanking God for what he has already done, that he is willing to listen to your prayers and that he will respond with the best answer.
The peace of God comes when we can do that, and it is supernatural. It is a calming force that can not be shaken by circumstances.
While you probably have seen God answer prayers in your midst, there are still some unresolved issues on your prayer lists. There are still some things that can cause you to become anxious.
The tendency is to resort back to anxiousness and attempt to take matters into our own hands. God’s Word is clear – we must fight against anxiousness and rely on prayer.
I often hear people talk about anxiousness as if it is a sickness and not a sin. As if that’s the way God made you, and you just can’t help it. The reality is most anxious people would not allow that type of logic to be applied to sexual perverts, temperamental abusers, or greedy thieves.
When you treat anxiousness as a condition rather than a sin, you will never be free from it.
While I think that murder, adultery, stealing, and the likes are heinous sins against God, I also believe that anxiousness can just be as grievous. In fact, you can follow the entire Law but stumble at one point and become guilty of all of it (James 2:10). That means that if you are anxious, you are also guilty of those sins you deem greater.
Anxiousness at its core is saying to God: “I don’t believe you are able to handle this situation.”
That is nothing short of heresy.
God is not short on supply or concern for your life. Fight anxiousness as the sin that so easily entangles you (Heb. 12:1).
When circumstances grab your heart, take them captive and lay them before God (2 Cor. 10:5) and pray!
Don’t let anyone tell you that your circumstances are not great; just realize that your God is greater!
When fear, anxiety, and worry grab you, pray to the God who is aware and able to meet you in your need, and the peace of God can comfort you as nothing else could ever do.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.