"Four Things to Do When You're Worried"
Topic: Sermons Passage: Philippians 4:4–4:9
How does God want us to handle worry? Worry is such a normal part of life that I suspect we hardly know we’re doing it. We worry about a doctor’s findings from a simple check-up. We worry about that trip our loved one is on. We worry about running out of money, or time, or friends. Will I get married? Will I like college? Will a shooter enter our school today?
If you are exploring Christianity, you may have a lot of questions today. One of them may be, “What’s it like if I actually become a Christian? What’s the Christian life like?” It’s not about religion and rules. When a person becomes a Christian, it’s a new beginning. Forgiveness from God for sin. Unconditional acceptance because Jesus kept all the law in our place. New perspective on life. And new power to live life the way we created to live. One example is how we handle worry.
So let’s read this passage in Philippians 4 to hear what God says to us about worry. I believe that when Paul says anxiety here he is referring to the garden-variety worry that we all experience. And the God who loves you and cares about you deeply wants to give you his wisdom on handling your worry. Why does he care about your worry? Because he loves you and worry steals your joy. And he also cares because he wants us to trust him, and not worry.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 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.
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. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Love enough to worry
The first thing I’d like you to notice is that Paul and the Philippian Christians loved one another enough to worry about each other. Most the Christians were worried about Paul. That is the reason for this passage.
It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. (Philippians 1:20-24)
Paul is talking about his death! There is something to worry about! Imagine your favorite uncle talking freely at the next family get together about his possible death this year.
They were very worried about Epaphroditus. He was one of Paul’s team members in his journeys of church planting and evangelism.
I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. (Philippians 2:25-30)
There was apparently a lot to worry about for the Philippian Christians themselves.
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. (Philippians 2:19-20)
They were experiencing some kind of persecution.
And as we saw at the beginning, they were concerned about Paul’s condition in prison. He begins the body of his letter this way: "I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel" (Philippians 1:12).
Do you see? These are the same kinds of worries that we all have, especially about the people we love. This passage is very relevant and every-day. This is good old worry.
And this is the kind go church we want to be. Where we love one another enough to care. To care enough to have to deal with worry.
Do you love your brothers and sisters enough to care? To worry?
Friends, we are not going for tolerance. Tolerance is the world’s way of putting up with one another. It’s weak and superficial. We are going for love. Our culture is built on legislated civility. The church has Christ. The church has an opportunity to show true love. Where you get involved. Listen more than you want to. Spend more than you have. Stay longer than have time for. Christians don’t just put up with each other. We fight for each other in prayer. We teach Sunday school like their lives depend on it. We wrestle over right and wrong. We love each other! Even enough to worry.
Four conditions for experiencing peace
Now God’s Word gives us the conditions for dealing with the worry. And boy do we need it. The first is:
1. Rejoice in the Lord
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice." (Philippians 4:4)
We cannot hope to enjoy the peace of God until we enjoy the God of peace. Let’s remember that Paul has plenty to worry about. He is stuck in a dingy Roman prison. He doesn’t really know if he will live or not. And yet he uses the word joy 16 times in this letter of only 104 verses. And here he commands us to find our joy in Christ.
Finding our happiness in Christ is closely related to trusting him. Regardless of what I am worried about, I trust him. What does that feel like? Like sinking down in a comfortable chair. What does it sound like? It sounds like saying, “I don’t know how this will turn out, God, but I trust you.”
When that’s the case, you can move forward through life, in spite of your worries. That’s what Paul means, I think, when he says “let your reasonableness be known to all men.” This is the ability to move forward in spite of the fears.
Rejoicing in the Lord is the first, and the most necessary part of killing worry.
2. Pray and give thanks
"...in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." (Philippians 4:6)
Paul says “prayer and supplication.” Prayer is a general word for praying, or asking a request. Supplication refers to the humble attitude of the one praying. It’s linked to the idea of someone bowing in front of a powerful person to ask something.
Someone said, "If worry is a conversation we have with ourselves about something we can’t do anything about, then prayer is a conversation we have with God about something he can do everything about."
Prayer is a specific action we take to give worry to God.
Praying your worries to God is like taking a flight. You need to get from here to there — usually from today to a future time you are worried about. When you take a flight from here to somewhere, you need to trust the pilot to get you there. So you sit on a plane and let the pilot fly you. The analogy is limited. But it’s a bit like praying your worries. Maybe you have a big worrisome event coming up. You are worried about it. How will it go. How will I do. How will I feel. What if something goes wrong? Getting to a certain time in the future is like getting to your location on the plane. You will have to entrust yourself to God’s care. Give yourself to him, like you do to a pilot.
So you might pray like this:
“God, I’m really scared about my new job. I don’t know if I can do the job they want me to. I don’t know if I’ll like my co-workers, or my boss. I don’t know if they will like me. I’m not sure if the money will actually be enough. And I’m worried about the hours. God, I’m just really worried. Would you please give me the skills I need to do this job. Would you please give me a heart of kindness and love for my co-workers. You have put your spirit in me to love others, so please help me. Help me see your strength and your power and that I would see that you are in control of my life."
3. Exercise mental discipline
The third condition is found in 4:8. (By the way, the word translated "finally" in the ESV is probably better translated "next".)
"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."
Let's look at just two of these.
Whatever is true: Paul may have in mind what he said about the false teachers — "the dogs, the evildoers, the mutilators of the flesh." (Philippians 3:2). Mature Christians discipline themselves to think about what is true. So what might that look like for you and me?
- Satan wants us to believe identity lies: “I’ve always been a…” Or “I’m just not lovable.”
- Satan wants us to believe worship lies: “If only I had more money I’d be happy.” Or, “I’d be a lot more content if I had a better wife."
- Satan wants us to believe performance lies: “I have to work this hard.” I have to be the funny person at the party, or people won’t like me.”
- Satan wants us to believe avoidance lies: “It’s not my fault.” Or, “If he hadn’t made me so mad, I wouldn’t have screamed at him."
Do you see how lies lead to worry? Lies lead you to control, which makes us worry. Lies lead us to overwork, or manipulate our relationships. And all of that makes life full or worry.
What are your favorite lies? What are your enslaving lies?
Whatever is commendable: Paul commends Epaphroditus, who nearly died for the work of Christ. Philippians 2:29: "So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ.” And he commends Timothy: "But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel” (Philippians 2:22-23). The people you admire are the people you imitate. And when you imitate good people, you make good choices. When you make good choices, you have much less to be anxious about.
The last of the four things to do to get rid of worry is:
4. Do the right thing
"Practice these things.” This is the word we need as we conclude. It’s not enough to think the right thoughts. You have to do the right thing. DO!
Rejoice in the Lord. Pray and give thanks. Exercise mental discipline. Do the right thing.
James says, don’t just be hearers of the Word, be doers.
Worry is sin. It’s a life of disbelieving the power and love of God.
Worry is very common.
And worry is a pain. It’s exhausting. It makes you grouchy. Controlling. Weak. Fretful.
If you are exploring Christianity, Jesus invites you to a new way of living. He says, “Come to me, all who are weary and weighed down, and I will give you rest for your souls.” He offers that to you today in love for you. He did the heavy lifting. You can receive his grace as a gift.