Worry is the “in” word today! In the times and season, we are living in, it is definitely a time to be overly concerned about life. Loss of jobs, news about friends and family members getting affected by the corona virus, kids’ online education are all enough reasons to be worried.
What is worry? How can it be defined?
Worry may be defined as:
1. To have harassing and unreasonable fear – about job, finance, children, etc. This fear can be contagious and it can affect another person.
2. To be distracted, disturbed, and annoyed in mind and spirit about life and its needs like food, clothing, employment, and future.
3. To have disturbed sleep. It is because of worry that people have disturbed sleep and leads to addiction and self-destructive behaviour.
What are some reasons that people worry? We worry because:
1. We cannot control situations.
2. There is a lack of confidence in God’s care for His children.
3. There is a faulty understanding/faulty theology causing us to ignore God’s role in our lives.
4. We tend to forget God’s provisions in the past.
Having said that, worry is not illegitimate, but Paul gives us a new orientation to it in Phil 4:6-7. The verse says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” When Paul wrote this letter, people were worried about emperor worship and its spread, as Christians were being targeted. In this context, Paul is saying, “do not be overly concerned about anything.”
We are not focussing on anxiety that is psychological and physiological or depression, muscle tension, avoidance of public, fear of crowd, dark-tunnel feeling, hopelessness and so on. Those with these challenges need to see a mental health doctor and there is no stigma attached to it. Just like diabetes, depression is a physiological and emotional disorder that can be corrected with medication.
What we will focus on is what Paul teaches in Phil 4. Verse 6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything.” The Greek word μέριμνα, “merimna” refers to “to be overly concerned.” Paul is saying here, “Do not be overly concerned.” To be overly concerned” is stretching the normal—to be excessive fearful or be split in your mind.
Paul is giving us at least four theological reasons from the passage why we must not be overly worried:
1. God has started a good work in the believers (1:6). He who began the good work in you will certainly complete it. It is an emphatic future. If you are a believer, then God has started a good work in you and if you are going through a rough phase, or a valley, or feeling shunted, it is because He is at work in your life. It is a very important theological fact to remember.
2. God is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (2:13). Verse 12 is the context. It is not talking about justification here, but about living the gospel life. When you go to Mahabalipuram, you can see huge stones kept there for art work. They are huge and out of shape. But after a few months, what you will see are beautiful sculptures out of those hard, out of shape stones. In the same way, God is at work in you, to think and to behave. Therefore, you do not need to be worried.
3. God shall supply all needs of the believers (4:19). God has started a good work in us and He is working in us. He will supply all your needs; whether it be spiritual or emotional or financial needs. He shall certainly supply all your needs.
4. “God of peace” is with the believers (4:9). The peace of God is not what we generate, but what God, Himself owns. In the Greek it is called “Objective Genitive.” This God of peace is with you.
Therefore, instead of being overly worried, believers must make God know their needs in prayers (verse 6). In other words, Paul is suggesting “prayer” as a remedy for “being overly worried.”
Recently I heard that my mother had a fall and broke her hip. She is 84 years old. It’s only about 6 hours’ drive to go see her. But I could not travel because of the pandemic restrictions. The situation showed me how limited we are. But it also showed me how I can go to God in prayer about the matter. (I couldn’t travel and she recovered well – praise God!)
There is anxiety, but we have prayer given as a remedy to it. Let’s notice a few points about what prayer is from verse 6. Interestingly, 3 different words are used for prayer in Greek – Proseuche, Deesis and Aiteo. We can notice that Paul has experienced God’s care in his life, time and time again and he is asking the Philippian believers to pray with understanding. What is prayer then?
1. Prayer is not some form of magic as if it is going to change God. No, it does not change God. God has given this provision of prayer not to be used to overpower God by praying for 21 days or 41 days. God is Sovereign and He rules over all things.
2. Prayer is not something that we inform God about what He does not know. God is all-knowing and He is aware of all things.
3. Prayer is one’s affirmation of your trust in God. When you are in a given situation and you are not anxious instead pray, you are affirming your faith and trust in God.
4. Prayer is the opposite of control—it is to transfer one’s worry to God. Whatever seems to be dominating your thinking, it is a perfect opportunity to take it to God in prayer.
5. The result of prayer is the “peace of God” that protects the believers’ hearts and minds. It is the “peace” that God possesses and the peace that He gives to His people: Shalom. In this passage, “peace of God” is a state of wellbeing that keeps us stable in the midst of those things that cause us worry. It is the opposite of worry and it transcends human rationale. Only the peace of God can protect your heart and mind.
Martyn Llyod-Jones from his book, “The Life of Peace” says, “Prayer is our openness about our needs before God, our emptiness in His presence, our absolute dependence upon Him with an attitude of constant thanksgiving and complete trust.”
What can we learn from all of this? Well, as a pastor there are several things I can be worried about. Leading a team of gifted pastors, I should not be overly concerned about things that are not in my control. For the past 7 months now, we have not been able to meet together in the church vicinity. I could actually be worried about that. Sometimes insecurity sets in making me think if people will come back to church? Transferring my worries to God and going to God in prayer is the remedy. Make God in-charge of things in your life that are not in your control.
To watch the sermon, click link below