“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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.” Philippians 4:6-7
“Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
The very heart of anxiety’s concern has to do with your own real or potential predicament; it is the crucial question of Eliza in My Fair Lady, “What is going to become of me?” Anxiety, that ugly six letter word “stress,” always takes a massive toll on your health. Your Creator who knows your makeup far better than any doctor is all too well aware of its lethal dangers. Jesus was truly displaying a matchless love for you in Matthew 6 when He addressed your anxiety with, “Do not worry!” Is it even conceivably possible to obey Him in this, just as our Lord’s whole Sermon on the Mount appears to present an unattainable way of life? In speaking this command, it seems like Jesus could just as well have said, “Do not breathe”; anxiety is just that common and seemingly as impossible to avoid. How many of you can admit you never once worried today? It is the way life is lived in our society; constantly swimming in a stew of stress.
Just what is Jesus’ intent in telling you not to worry? What is the good of giving you an impossible-to-fulfill command? As a natural sinner in a fallen world, can you truly conquer the sin of worry? It is not hard to accept the dictum that a big part of your life is experiencing the stress worry produces. There are numerous reasons for anxiety: money, health, security, responsibilities, relationships, guilt, well-being of loved ones. The focus of Matthew 6:25-34 is primarily whether or not you will be fed, clothed, and housed. But Philippians 4:6 encompasses just about everything and anything which causes anxiety. “Do not be anxious FOR ANYTHING!” As Proverbs says, “An anxious heart weighs a man down,” and such a weight eventually will cause the collapse of the person carrying it.
Worry is inevitable but is a condition according to Jesus which can be immediately remedied; this is the point of Jesus’ instruction. Worry and anxiety do their damage when they persist. When they are cut off at the root, immediately when springing up, as faith and trust in the promises and strength of the Lord are reflexively applied, they are defanged, and the poison is rendered harmless. They are replaced by the inexplicable peace of God, defying explanation or understanding. Nevertheless, peace is experienced; a real and palpable peace, not a trick of the mind. Going from the trauma of worry and fear to the amazing condition of peace in crisis or even common everyday problems is THE encourager which makes life worth living. The conundrum is this: In the face of the immediate cause of your worry and anxiety, how do you transfer your attention to God who is invisible and away from the cause which is all too visible and all too present and is not disappearing? The truth is the problem or cause of worry doesn’t just vanish; it is still there. But something real occurs in your heart and mind which transforms the threat from hurtful to conquerable; peace results. God has my back. He is in control, and His control intends your good. (Romans 8:28)
Remember the historical account in 2 Kings 6 of Elisha and his servant when the King of Aram sought to capture Elisha at the city of Dothan. The servant woke up in the early morning, saw the city was completely surrounded by the army of Aram, intent on their capture and death, and he was terrified. Talk about anxiety! Elisha asked God to open his servant’s eyes so he could see what Elisha was seeing. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them,” he said. Then the servant’s eyes were opened to see the hills filled with horses and chariots of fire between them and the army of Aram. In many places of Scripture, God reveals this very same truth in that He is a fortress, a place of refuge, a cleft in the rock, an invincible protector of those who trust in Him. It is just that we are too like Elisha’s servant in the face of trouble, instead of like Elisha. “These things [in Scripture] are written as examples for us,” we read in 1 Corinthians 10; these are not circumstances peculiar to Bible characters; these are living examples of God protecting His children in the face of troubles and adversities; for all who seek refuge in Him, anytime and everywhere. These examples are for your confidence, an encouragement to action; “Cast all your anxiety on Him for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) You do not do it because you do not trust it works. The cause of your fears is apparently bigger than God. Consequently, your anxiety is ill spent, for there is nothing bigger than God. Your faith needs to gauge exactly who God is and what He has said.
In his Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis writes, speaking for Screwtape, “There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human’s mind against the Enemy [God]. He wants man to be concerned with what they do; our [Screwtape and his Devils’] business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.” Lewis goes on to say those who trust in God are called by Him to be patient in the face of adversity, claiming by faith, “Your will be done,” and asking for the daily bread He provides, which is always more than sufficient. Your anxiety is indeed due to your fear and belief that what will happen to you is not going to be good. God is concerned with what you are going to do in the face of trial: trust in Him, or fear He will fail you.
You never need to be concerned about having enough opportunities to test the truth of God’s call to not be anxious; but in all your anxiety, through prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, cast all your worry on Him. You will get the opportunity every day to test His prescription for worry, in little and big concerns. The more you do, the more you see Him come through exactly as He promised, the more instinctive your faith to immediately cast!
“Thou hidden source of calm repose, thou all sufficient love divine, my help and refuge from my foes, secure I am if thou art mine: and lo! from sin, and grief, and shame I hide me, Jesus, in thy Name.”
(1st verse of Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Thou Hidden Source of Calm Repose”, 1749)
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