The Answer To Anxiety

The Answer To Anxiety

When you are anxious, you can find peace through prayer.

I tell you what, that’s singing the Gospel this morning isn’t it?  Two amazing songs of worship, proclaiming the greatness of God and the salvation that He brings to us through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Let me invite you this morning to open your copy of God’s Word to Philippians Chapter 4. We have two weeks left in our series, Advancing the Gospel Together.  We’ll be looking at Philippians 4:6-7 this morning.

One author wrote as I was studying this week, worries cast a shadow on our future.  Stubborn anxieties work like petty thieves in dark corners of our thoughts as they pickpocket our peace and they kidnap our joy.  How many of you experience worry or anxiety, at least at some point during the week, month, or the last year?  Most of us.  How many of you have experienced worry or anxiety within the last 24 hours maybe?  That’s right. How many of you within the last week or so have lost sleep because of worry and anxiety?  Now see we have some good news to announce to you, but leading up to this good news was about a weeks’ worth of worry and sleepless nights.  But we closed on our house last Wednesday.  But leading up to that moment was, I believe I preached a sermon on do not grumble.  And there were several instances over the last two weeks that the devil tempted me with that.  And I gave in sometimes and was called out on it by someone in my family.  I have worried almost nonstop just trying to get the last home stretch and a lot of people work behind the scenes to get everything worked out and so we’re just very grateful for that.  But worry was a very much huge part of our last week to week and a half.  Worry is a huge part of our lives.

Now, God works in amazing ways.  A year ago, today, I stood up behind the pulpit at Pleasant Grove and for the first time in my life, preached to nothing but a camera.  An empty sanctuary, me, a tech guy, a few of the praise team and a camera.  That was a year ago today and I didn’t know this until a few weeks ago when I was looking back over the last year and reflecting on what it has been, but the circumstances surrounding that Sunday were unique.  I was not on the schedule to preach.  It was supposed to be our Baptist Women’s Day. We were bringing in a guest speaker. The guest speaker cancelled late on a Friday before that, before we knew we were going to shut down anyway.  We had an interim who was unable to preach that Sunday because he had not made plans to do so. So late Friday I found out I was going to have to preach.  I mean I can do things on the spur of the moment, doesn’t bother me, but my struggle was what do we say when the world has changed? What does God’s Word have to say to us as His people who are now facing something none of us have ever faced.  And believe it or not, I opened the Bible that Sunday morning and preached this same exact Scripture.  And a year later, God worked it out for me to stand before you to preach the exact same Scripture.  Now I don’t have my notes from that Sunday.  It’s likely I didn’t have any notes.  I just stood up and read the verse and focused on the answer to anxiety because we were all were worried.  I was worried ’cause I didn’t know what the future of the church was going to be.  I didn’t know what my future was going to be.  I didn’t know what my kid’s future was going to be with school.  I had worries, I had anxieties, I had concerns.  Many of you did too, ’cause we didn’t know what was happening.  We didn’t know what was going on, and it’s not just the pandemic we feel that way a lot in life.

There are circumstances that you face in and out of your daily life that cause you stress, that ’cause you worry, that cause you to wrestle with those sleepless nights.  I don’t know, you may be like me or you may not be like me, but I can go a whole day without worry.  But, as soon as I lay down to try to turn my brain off, what happens?  It just hits.  The devil just attacks and then just, you know, worry after worry after worry.  What am I going to do about this?  What if this happens.  I’m bad about playing the what if game.  What am I going to do if this happens?  What am I going to do this and I just worry myself to death about those things and you may be like that too.

I can tell you as we look at this passage today, the church in Philippi has a lot to worry about.  They face external persecution, internal conflict, and internal division within their church.  Each member faces worries about their livelihood about their future, about their families.  Are they going to be put in prison for their faith?  They’re worried about Paul.  The reason Paul writes this letter is because they were worried about Paul in the 1st place.  You know what does this mean for the mission?  What does this mean for the church?  He’s in prison?  They’re worried about their fellow member of Epaphroditus, who on his way to see Paul got sick and almost died.  So the church has a lot to worry about.

The Apostle Paul has a lot to worry about.  He’s in prison.  He’s chained to a Roman soldier.  He can worry about the mission?  Who’s going to plant a church here?  Who’s going to plant a church here?  Who’s going to do this?  He has ample reason to worry. Am I going to live?  Am I going to die?  Am I ever going to go to trial?  Am I not going to go to trial?  Am I going to spend the rest of my life in this in this prison?  And I would not have faulted Paul and you wouldn’t have faulted Paul either if he would have said these words.  If Paul would have written I was not expecting this.  I was hoping to make it to Rome and plant churches and have a productive ministry.  But God didn’t answer that prayer.  Oh, I got the Rome alright, but I’m chained to Roman guards.  The church in Rome has abandoned me.  See the church in Rome would have nothing to do with Paul since he was in prison and I don’t know if I’m going to live or die.  I’m consumed with worry.  My joy has been robbed.  And all seems hopeless.  I wouldn’t blame Paul for writing that.  Because we’ve all experienced the same kind of feelings, haven’t we?

But yet as we read this letter that he writes back to the church in Philippi, we see a completely different attitude.  It is an attitude of joy.  It is an attitude of hope.  It is an attitude, not filled with worry, not filled with anxiety, but filled with optimism for the days ahead.  And what he wants to tell the church in Chapter 4, he’s just rattling off a lot of instructions.  He’s closing out his letter, and so it’s like I don’t want to forget anything.  One instruction after another, and then we get to this version six and seven. And he says these words, and he gives the answer to anxiety.  When you are anxious, you can find peace through prayer, here’s what Paul says.

“Don’t worry about anything.”  Listen to that again ’cause this is a this is a command it’s an instruction.  “Don’t worry about anything but in everything through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God and the Peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

The first instruction Paul gives to the church who’s faced with anxiety is simply this.  Stop worrying.  Stop doing what you have been habitually doing.  Stop worrying about what tomorrow is going to hold.  Stop worrying about your family.  Stop worrying about that persecution.  Stop worrying about all those things that are keeping you up at night for you and I it would be this.  Stop worrying about your finances.  Stop worrying about whether you’re not. You’re going to have enough to retire on. You know I’m 37 and I’m a pretty long way from retirement, but I checked my 403b and IRA once a week ’cause we want we want to have enough to retire.  Stop worrying about your job.  Stop worrying about your coworkers.  Stop worrying whether they’re going to do this or do that, or how am I going to respond to that?  Students stop worrying about that big test.  I mean, you know we got it’s SAT time, it’s AP test time. It’s coming up on the end of semester exams. Stop worrying about it.  Stop worrying about what college you’re going to get into.  Stop worrying about if you’re gonna get into college.  Oh, for a lot of people, it’s what career am I going to have when I get out of college?  Am I going to be able to find a job when I get out of college?  There are so many things that we can worry about and Paul says, stop worrying about all of it.

The word worry that he uses is a word that comes from an old German word it means to choke out or to strangle.  You know over time our worries can choke us of our joy rob us of our hope and Paul knows this.  He knows that the more we worry, the less joy we have, the less happy we are, the more we more we get stressed.  The word also means that we are pulled in different directions.  I want you to think about this.  You have your hopes and dreams and then you have your fears.  When we worry about our fears, we’re pulled in two different directions and Paul says, you can’t live your life like that.  You have to stop worrying.  You have to stop this habit that you’re doing.  He says that it’s a harassing thing and worry is, here’s what worry is.  It’s when you and I attempt to control something that we have no control over.  Right?  That’s what it is.  Paul says you don’t have control.  He said you know who has control?  God has control.  Stop worrying about it because you can’t control it anyway.  There’s nothing you can do about the things that we’re worried about.  So just stop worrying.

Vance Havner was a Great North Carolina evangelist.  Here’s what he says about worry.  “It’s like a rocking chair.  It gives you something to do.  And it will take you nowhere.”  You just worry, worry, worry.  Let me ask you a question.  Have you ever solved a problem by worrying about it?  Has worry ever caused you to have success?  The Apostle Paul says stop worrying because it’s going to strangle your joy.  When I read these words, it’s an echo of Jesus in Matthew 6 where Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, don’t worry about your life.  Don’t worry about what you will eat or what you will drink.  Don’t worry about your body.  Don’t worry about what you will wear.  Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Consider the birds of the sky.  They don’t, so they don’t reap or gather into the barns.  Yet, your heavenly Father feeds them and Jesus says aren’t you worthy, worth more than they are?  Can anyone of you add one moment to your life by worrying?  Therefore, don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

About a year ago I remember sitting outside. I was looking out my window spring with spring and I saw a bird perch on my fence around the backyard and I watched the bird. He just sat there for like 10 minutes.  And he’s just looking.  And then out of nowhere he dives down and I see him come back up.  And you know what he’s got?  A worm.  And he flies off and I watched the bird.  He goes into one of my trees.  And I guess it’s a she and she feeds her babies.  That bird didn’t do anything to get the worm, just patiently trusted, patiently waited and God provided for the food.  You know the bird wasn’t frantically running around and flying around.  The bird wasn’t going crazy because there was no worm in that particular moment, patiently trusting for the Lord to provide, and the Lord did provide.

So, Paul says, stop worrying about all of those things.  Now you may think that’s good advice.  How many do you think that’s good advice? I mean, we’re going to stop worrying.  Yeah, we would all say that.  How many of you know that’s easier said than done, right?  We can try hard not to worry.  We can exercise.  We can go for a run, not me, but some people do.  We can go for a walk, I walk.  I prefer to read.  Which sometimes I can’t.  I’m not very smart, so reading gives me more worry ’cause I don’t know what those words mean.  So you know we can exercise.  We can do yoga.  There’s a lot of things, but guess what?  Worry just keeps coming back, doesn’t it?

Steven Davey, one of the pastors I love listening to, he says it like this.  “Worry is like weeds in my yard, when you think you’ve gotten rid of him, you look out and boom, they’re back.”   They just come back, so Paul doesn’t just say stop doing it.  He doesn’t just say stop.  He says you gotta start something.  He gives you instructions on how to stop worrying and you stop worrying by starting to pray and keep praying.  The answer to anxiety is prayer.  The answer to anxiety is prayer.  Start praying and keep praying, but in everything through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

So we see that there’s a few things about prayer I want you to notice.  The first one is pray consistently.  Everything you do in your life should be bathed in prayer.  Don’t just wait for the times of worry to creep up.  Pray in good times, pray in bad times.  I mean how we’re going to be doing a sermon series on prayer, probably starting sometime in May, and it’s just amazing to think about the Creator of the universe invites us to talk to Him.  God our Father, who sent the Son Jesus Christ to die for us.  God the Father who created every single star. Everything in the universe says I want you to talk to Me and you have access to my throne through faith.  So we start making our request to God.  He wants to hear from you.  He’s not some God who sits up there and ignores His creation.  He wants to hear your problems.  He wants to hear your concerns. He wants you to give Him your worries, not just today, not just in the moment, but every single day.  In everything we do, we pray consistently. DA Carson says that he never met a chronic worrier who enjoys excellent prayer life. If you have an excellent prayer life, you’re not going to experience the types of worry that you experience when you lack an excellent prayer life.  It doesn’t mean worry is just going to magically go away.  This isn’t some magic bullet.  Prayer will help you become aware of the fact that God is in control of your life.  So pray consistently not just when not just when things are bad, but when things are good.

Give you an application point.  This is an action point for you.  A lot of us have calendars, Google calendars on our phone.  Put it on your phone and hit the little bell so you’re reminded to pray every single day.  Put it on your calendar, put the little, make it busy, guard that time with your life.  You might be like me when you wake up, you get out of bed and your To Do List.  I gotta get this done.  I gotta get this done I gotta get this done and we can get so busy that we neglect prayer.  Don’t neglect your time with the Father.  Listen, every day is filled with so much worry and so much stress.  Don’t neglect those first moments of your day just communing with God.  Reading the Word of God, hearing from Him, and talking to Him.  Make it a point to do it every single day, over and over and over.  And when you pray, make your request known.  It’s OK to tell God what you want.  Some of us, I think, hold it back.  I don’t know why, but I’m like this too, we don’t think that’s worthy to go before the Father.  But don’t think that way.  Make all your request prayer and petition, ask God for it.  Now you might not get exactly what you want.  You’ll get what God wants you to have and what God knows you need.  But it’s OK to ask for it.  It’s OK to make your request and to cast your burdens and to celebrate the good things because through prayer, you depend on God.

Here’s the thing about God.  When you pray, you’re not telling Him anything he doesn’t already know.  He knows everything what you’re telling Him is that you are dependent upon Him to answer your request.  I know my kids need breakfast every day and every day guess what they do.  They asked me to fix some breakfast.  They depend on me. I know they need it and I’m gonna do it, but they still ask me because they are dependent upon me to do that.  So we have to trust the Father enough to make our request.

There was a family.  There was a family who sent grandma on their her very first plane trip ever.  She flew, she came back and when she got off the plane, one of the grandchildren went up to her and said, “Grandma, I know you were kind of scared and you didn’t trust these flying contraptions to do these things, but did it hold you up?”  And Grandma says “yes, but I didn’t put all my weight on it.”  Aren’t we like that with God?  We trust Him just a little bit, but do we trust Him to put our whole weight on Him?   Do we trust Him enough to ask Him for everything?  Because we were to make our request known to God.

Peter says it this way.  “Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you.  He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.”  Listen, I’ve heard it a lot that people say God will never give us more than we can handle.  Well, I really don’t know if that’s true because He’s given me a lot that I didn’t think I could handle.  But here’s what I want you to know.  He’s never given me anything that He couldn’t handle for me.  So when we’re worried when we’re stressed, we go to the Lord and we say here’s my burdens, I’m giving it all to you.  I’m giving you everything and I’m trusting you’re going to work it out for my good and Your glory.  It may not be exactly what I want.  But it’s going to be what God knows I need.  Because God is a good God who will faithfully bless His followers when we just allow Him to do it.  Have you released your worries to God?  And when you release your worries, don’t keep worrying about it. Let go and let God.  As the old saying goes, just let them go and let God work things out.

We like to control things, don’t we?  And God’s timing is sometimes a little shorter or longer than our timing.  But we just have to pray about it and pray about it and let God work it out in His way and He will do that.  So we make our request known to who?  To God.  This is what it means.  We stand face to face to the Father.  One person wrote that when we pray to God, we focus our attention away from the world and we go face to face and focus on God.  There is nothing like orienting your life in the direction God wants you to go.

The Bible says that we can approach the throne of grace with confidence through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul also says that we are to be thankful.  We make our request through prayer and petition, but we have an attitude of thanksgiving. Warren Wiersbe says that “even the Heavenly Father likes to be told ‘thank you.’”  I like to be told thank you.  You like to be told thank you.  God likes to be told thank you and it’s so hard to say thank you in the midst of hard circumstances.  It’s so hard when you’re in the midst of that worry, when you’re in the midst of that stress or where you’re going through something you never thought you would go through, to say thank you. You may be thinking, well, how can I thank God?  What can I be thankful for?  Well, you can be thankful for above all else Jesus Christ.  You can be thankful for the sacrifices that He made as he was hanging on that cross.  You can be thankful that God loved you enough to save you from your sins.  If that’s all you can be thankful for, that’s big.

But you know what else we can be thankful for?  Everything that God has done for us in the past.  Think about your past.  Think about the last time you were really worried about something.  Remember how God brought you through it?  Remember how in the moment, you didn’t know what was going to happen?  In the moment you were concerned, but God brought you through it?  I can think of a lot of circumstances in my life and when I was in it, I’m like I would cry out, God, where are You?  Are You even listening to me?  And I look back and I see how God did it.  We can be thankful because God is at work.  We can be thankful for all that He’s done for us.  We can be thankful that He will never leave us, nor will He forsake us.  We can be thankful.  I would challenge you.  I challenge you to pray each and every day consistently about everything. End your prayers and begin your prayers with praise.

Start out by just saying thank you to God.  Thank you to God.  Paul says to stop worrying, to start praying and to keep praying because the result, here it is, the result is powerful peace of God. Verse seven, “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  The peace of God is the result of prayer.  This is at peace with God.  Peace with God comes through our Salvation through faith alone in Christ alone.  He’s not talking about inner peace.  Inner peace is a result of relying on God’s promises and God’s present. What He’s talking about here is the peace of God. God’s peace, His character, the peace that God has Himself will be given to you.  In fact, it’s an invitation for you to have God’s peace.

You see, God never worries about anything. You know why? Because He knows everything. God is controlling everything, so He’s never worried about it. He’s always at perfect, holy peace. And Paul says you can have it through prayer. You can have the tranquility that God has.  You can have the peace that God has and it’s a peace that surpasses all understanding.  This is a supernatural peace.  You know why?  Because you can’t explain why you have it.  Somebody says man, you’re going through this terrible situation, how can you be at peace?  And the only answer you have is God.  That’s what we’re talking about.  A supernatural peace that is beyond intellectual powers.  It’s beyond human analysis.  It’s beyond human insights.  It’s beyond human understanding.   It is a peace that is superior to anything that we can do here on earth.  It guards our hearts and minds.  When you go to bed at night and your mind is just racing, racing, racing, Just pray about it.  Now, I’m not going to guarantee you’re going to get any sleep.  You might have to pray all night.  That’s OK, you’re going to talk with God all night.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  But the peace will guard your hearts, which is your feelings and your minds, which is your thinking.

Here’s the picture I want you to have.  I want you to think of a garrison of soldiers guarding your peace, your thoughts and your feelings. ‘Cause that’s what Paul is referring to, a Roman Garrison surrounding you and protecting you so there’s nothing to worry about because they have your back. Listen, church God’s got your back.  He’s got it.  Don’t worry about it because He’s in control.

But look at the last words, three words “in Christ Jesus.”  Those are the three most important words of this section.  Here’s why.   No prayer offered to anybody but God through the Son will get heard.  That’s important to know.  It has to be a prayer to God through Jesus Christ for God to hear it.  And if you want to have the peace of God, then you need to be at peace with God.  And if you want to be at peace with God, then you need to put your faith in your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus lived on this earth.  He had a three-year ministry and here’s what He taught people.  Believe in Me and Him who sent Me.  Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?  Do you believe in God?  Then repent of your sins, turn from a life focused on you.  Turn from a life focused on the world and focus your attention on Jesus.  And decide to follow Him and be His disciple.  That’s the plan of Salvation in three words.  Believe, repent and decide to follow.  Decide to become a disciple.  When Jesus was calling the 12, He said “come follow Me”.  He didn’t look at the 12 and say go clean your life up then come follow Me.  He did say pray this prayer and come follow Me.  He looked at Matthew.  He looked at Peter.  He looked at the 12.  He said come follow Me.  Be my disciple.  And the minute they made that decision, they were saved.

They were saved from the penalty of sin in their life, and they begin that growth process where Jesus worked in them and then one day when He ascended to heaven, the Holy Spirit came and worked through them.  But it all starts with that moment.  Do you believe in Jesus?  Are you willing to step out on faith and follow Him?  When you do, you are at peace with God.  And because of peace with God, you can experience the peace of God.  You don’t have to worry about it.  We don’t have to worry about death because death has no sting over us when we follow Jesus.  Are you ready to make that decision today?

You know when you’re feeling anxious and when you’re worried, I want you to know this, that the peace of God will stand guard over you whenever you pray, petition, request and do so with thanksgiving.  There’s this old Puritan prayer that goes like this.  “Heavenly Father, my faith is in Thee.  My expectation is from Thee.  I accept Thy Word.  Acquiesce to Thy will.  Rely on Thy promises.  Trust in Thy Providence.  I have cast my anchor in the port of peace, knowing that my past, present and future are in the nailed pierced hands of the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Can you say that today?  If not, I invite you to respond to God’s call on your life.

Let’s pray together.

Father, we thank You so much that when we are worried, when we are burdened with an anxiety that we can just give it to You.  God, we know that it may not work out the way we want.  We know that it’s not going to take away all of our problems, but that through our problems, through our panic, we could have peace trusting that You’re going to work it all out for our good and for Your glory.  Father, we’re grateful for that blessed assurance that we have that when we make the decision to follow You, then we are free from the penalty of sin and that we are at peace with You and can experience the peace that You have for us.  Father, as we look back on the past year, help us to remember how far You have brought us.  And as we look to the next year, the unknowns of what things are going to look like, help us not to worry about it, but just to trust You and to follow You.  Help us to put our full weight in Your arms.  And let You carry us through the days ahead.  Help us to be faithful to You.  Committed to praying each and every day.  And we ask this in Jesus Name, Amen.