Summary: This sermon addressed the problem of anxiety and answers with the blessings that God gives us in His Gospel.Introduction
A writer from the last century said, “Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained” (Arthur Somers Roche). All of us will someday have to face some form of very serious anxiety. Jesus faced anxiety in the Garden of Gethsemane before His death on the cross. Paul, who tells the Philippians not to be anxious, was himself anxious about his imprisonment and the effect that might have on the churches he was helping. Anxiety is a reality we can’t avoid.
I went to the website of the National Institute of Mental Health to see what they said about anxiety. They had a concise description of the problem and two potential remedies. The first was medicine. Pharmaceutical companies are constantly producing new drugs to help control our thoughts and feelings. The second remedy is psychological and usually involves a cognitive-behavioral approach. With this a psychologist might train a person to overcome their fear of germs by asking them to stick their hands in dirt and to finally realize that nothing bad will happen. Both approaches can be helpful if used in the right way.
However, as Christians we have a much better approach – the spiritual approach to anxiety. This is what St. Paul was teaching the Philippians in our lesson today.
The Spiritual Problem of Anxiety
Let’s begin with the spiritual problems involved in anxiety. If you look at the King James Version of Philippians 4.6, you’ll notice something interesting. Where we read “Do not be anxious about anything…” in the English Standard Version, the KJV has “Be careful for nothing…” To some people this may not make much sense. Aren’t we supposed to be careful about things? The answer of course is “yes.” The Greek word here means “to have a care or concern about something, to be anxious.” A little anxiety can be a good thing. We should care about an upcoming test. It might help us study harder. We should be concerned about a social situation in which we do not want to embarrass ourselves or someone else. And we should, at times, be anxious about the welfare of our children. Not all anxiety is bad.
Jesus helps us to see when anxiety it bad. In the Sermon on the Mount He said, “Do not be anxious about your life… what you eat, drink or wear, etc.” (Matthew 6.25ff). He says that God takes care of the flowers of the field and the birds of the air. God will also take care of you. Anxiety becomes a bad thing when God drops out of the picture. It is then that fears will take over. An equestrian knows how important it is to keep hold of the reins. A horse is a powerful animal that needs to be controlled and guided. If you drop the reins, it could become confused, and you could be in big trouble as it tries to go wherever it wants to go. When we turn away from God, there is a beast within us that will rise up and get out of control.