Summary: We have heard the song "Don't worry, be happy!" and "Hakuna Matada." While their points are nice, they are easier said than done. How would Paul rewrite those lyrics? In Philippians four, we see his answer: don't be anxious, pray!
“Here’s a little song I wrote, you might want to sing it note for note. Don’t worry, be happy!” That line is from a famous song that we have all probably heard before. If you aren’t familiar with it, perhaps you might be more familiar with this more recent line sung by a warthog named Pumba and a meercat named Timon: “Hakuna Matada, what a wonderful phrase. Hakuna matada, ain’t no passing craze. It means no worries for the rest of your days!” Was this one more familiar? The messages of these songs are nice, but they aren’t exactly easy. They are certainly easier said than done. Someone can tell you, “Don’t worry, be happy!”, but does that really help? Does it suddenly make things all better? Does it make you no longer feel worried? No. Of course not! If Paul the Apostle were alive today, how would he rewrite these songs on worry? What would it look like? What would he say? As we finish our time in Philippians, we see that Paul gives us an answer. In our text, we see his “song” on worry, one could say.
As humans, worry seems to be a natural and normal thing. A recent study on worry has revealed some very interesting findings on the things that we worry about. Experts on worry say that 45% of the things that we worry about will never happen. That is roughly half of the things that we worry about! Is that true in your life? We might worry about what someone might say or do to us. We might worry about a chain of misfortune or of scenarios that might never come true. Consider the worry of a high school student. Tim worries that if he doesn’t get good grades that he won’t get into college. If he doesn’t get into college, he won’t get a good job. If doesn’t get a job good, he won’t be able to provide for himself. He also fears that if he won’t get into college, he’ll never meet someone. If he never meets someone, he won’t have a family. If doesn’t have a family, he’ll be all alone! Our worrying can spin out of control. We can worry about what might never happen.
We can also worry about the past too. That same study revealed that 35% of our worrying is about the past. We might worry about what we didn’t say in a conversation, or what we didn’t do at work. On the flipside, we might worry about something we did say to a person, and wonder how they took it. We might even beat ourselves up about it, or wrestle with regret. Coulda, shoulda, woulda are the words here. We can worry about the past.
We also can worry about what is out of our control. About 12% of what we worry about are about things that we have no control over. This can be things like politics, government, weather, or environmental issues. Things like the California forest fires, or the North Korean situation fit here. We have no control over these things, and others like them. We can worry about what we have no control over.
The study concluded that only 8% of what we worry about is actually legitimate. About 92% of our worrying makes no sense! Worry doesn’t help the situation. It doesn’t change the future nor does it change the past. It is like a rocking chair. You use your energy to go forward and back but you end up going nowhere! We need to hear Paul’s song on worry, don’t we?
The apostle says in verse six: “do not be anxious about anything.” Well that is easy for you to say, Paul, we might think. He is not in our circumstances. What does he know about worry? In fact, he knows a lot about worry. As he writes this verse, he sits and waits in jail for his upcoming trail. If he loses this trail, it could very well mean death for the apostle. On top of it all, as he waits, he hears that the Philippian congregation is fighting and that their unity is threatened! Paul doesn’t write, say, or sing this in a stress free circumstance. Paul has many things to be anxious about. How is it that he says, “do not be anxious about anything”? It is because of prayer.
His song continues: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” It is in times of anxiety, angst, and apprehension that the apostle points us to prayer. In prayer, we bring our requests to God and put the problems and issues in His hands. Our Heavenly Father knows our needs, but He invites us to bring our needs to Him. As we are invited to bring Him these needs, we are invited to be specific, too.