Summary: Our joy is snatched away when the wrong thing happens, when the wrong person says something; it’s snatched away when we can’t get what we wanted it is certainly snatched away when we worry. When we deal with anxiety.
“When Anxiety Attacks”
Throughout this letter we have heard Paul referred to numerous thieves that try to step in and steal our happiness. Our contentment. These thieves are used by Satan on a daily basis. He is identified in John 10 as the thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy.
One of the thieves that steps in instills our joy can be our circumstances. You know everything is fine then something happens and we fall apart. And our joy is gone.
Another thief is people. Difficult people. As someone said everything would be fine in my life that I just didn’t have to deal with people. They can say things, do things that hurt and we let them steal our joy.
Another thief is possessions. This craving we have to get more and more. As though we don’t have enough and too many times we think, I just can’t be happy until I get one more thing.
Our joy is snatched away when the wrong thing happens, when the wrong person says something; it’s snatched away when we can’t get what we wanted it is certainly snatched away when we worry. When we deal with anxiety. As this passage opens Paul is addressing a common problem in churches-disagreements-a disagreement has occurred between two individuals-two women-Euodia and Syntyche (sintichee.) By the way, this is the only time these two women are mentioned in Scripture and they are remembered for all of history for one thing-they had a disagreement. Not much to be remembered for. I can see it on their tombstone. “I disagreed.”
But as no surprise that a passage on the topic of worry and anxiety opens with a disagreement. Paul mentions several things here to the church...
• Do everything you can do help these two women agree. Why? Because disagreement can tear a church apart and Paul obviously knows that.
• He reminds them of their importance in God’s work... He says they have contended at my side for the gospel and he then reminds the church that these two women-their names are written in the book of life. They are believers.
• Believers have difficulty too. We are not perfect. We’ve not arrived. And one of the things we can really do... We can worry with the best of them.
Now let’s look at the advice Paul gives us as to how to deal with worry and anxiety. Verses 4-9. I’m told it and Landers receives around 10,000 letters a month requesting advice on various topics. When asked what her most common question is, she said that all people seem to be worried about something. Afraid of losing their health, they worry about their job and they worry about their family. And of course we worry about our world situation-whether the leader of North Korea may wake up in a bad mood tomorrow and set off a nuclear weapon. The truth is it is not difficult to find reason to be anxious. So these are some thoughts that Paul gives to us.
1. Rejoice in the Lord... Always. Verses 4-5. Remember as Paul writes these words-Paul was imprisoned. Chained to a guard. 24/7. No exercise room. No snack machines. No chance to even talk with the other inmates. But one thing he did have was time-a lot of time on his hands so he used it to serve God. And in the midst of a very bleak environment he learned to keep his joy... His happiness alive. And the first key to that was to rejoice.
• When? Always.
• Where? Everywhere.
• Why? Paul says because the Lord is near.
We can’t tell for sure here Paul is telling us that Christ is near as in he is always close to us or if he is saying is coming is near. I believe Paul is reminding us that no matter where we are, no matter what is happening, we must remember that Jesus is always nearby. In prison, in birth, in life, in death, in tragedy; in tryouts. He is always near. And as a result he says we should rejoice... Always.
2. Rethink your situation. Verses 6-8. It would be good at this point to focus on six words we really need-these are good words for all of us to live by-here they are:
WORRY ABOUT NOTHING, PRAY ABOUT EVERYTHING
Would you say these words out loud with me? Would you say them again? Plant these words firmly in your heart and mind. Memorize them. Focus on them. Then ask yourself-what is it that qualifies as a worry? I would say that a worry is:
• anything that drains your supply of joy
• anything you are unable to control. This is what causes most anxiety attacks. Life feels out of control.