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Summary: Be anxious in nothing; prayerful in everything; thankful in anything, and you will have the peace of God.

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Worry-Free Living

Philippians 4:4-7

01/16/05

2293 words

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.

5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.

6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

See if any of this applies to you: You always seem to have more to do than you can possibly do. At your job, you are the first to arrive and the last to leave. You are always in a hurry. You feel guilty about doing anything other than work, but when you are at work you spend a lot of time fantasizing about "getting away from it all." Any unforeseen problems that arise during your day seem like major setbacks or disasters. You find that you have trouble making a decision about anything. Large or small, major minor, any decision is just tough to do. You seem to rely more and more on the legal drugs of our society: cigarettes and/or alcohol. You find yourself saying, I have just got to have a cigarette to calm my nerves. You may even go further into an increased use of tranquilizers and "uppers." You find that your thoughts trail off while speaking or writing. You do not finish sentences because it seems like too much trouble or it just takes too much time. You start to forget appointments, deadlines, dates. You become distrustful of other people saying that you have to do everything yourself.

If several of these points apply to you, then you may have too much stress in your life. Like many Americans, you are afflicted with anxiety.

Anxiety has been defined as an "inner feeling of apprehension, uneasiness, concern, or worry that is accompanied by heightened physical symptoms." You perspire, shake, your blood pressure rises, you may even break out in hives.

Stress and worry can cause ulcers, skin rashes, shortness of breath, loss of sleep, and loss of appetite. Studies show that people who are too busy with too much to accomplish, and too little time actually wear their bodies out at an earlier age.

Worry paralyzes us mentally. We cannot think, focus, react well, recall basic and important details. Some students who know the material, for example, forget everything under the stress of taking a test.

Fear of failure puts incredible stress on everyone. That kind of worry can prevent us from fully participating in life. We do not even try, but Hockey star Wayne Gretzky reminds us, "You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take."

We need a prescription for anxiety and stress. We need a prescription for worry-free living. We might begin with Psalm 94:19, “When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul” (NRSV). When the burdens of life seem too much to bear, God consoles and comforts and supports us. Again we are told in I Peter 5:7: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” We can trust God to take care of our problems, because he loves us.

Then we come to Philippians 4:6-7, ”Do not worry 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.”

These two verses have three attitudes and a conclusion. The three attitudes are: Anxious in nothing, Prayerful in everything, Thankful in anything. The Conclusion: Peace forever. The three attitudes are founded on faith in God. When we live by faith those three attitudes can guide our lives and the "peace of God" settles quietly over our minds and hearts.

Let’s think briefly about those three attitudes.

First, anxious in nothing.

Never worry. As we think about this piece of advice, we need to remember that Paul’s letter to the Philippians was written from a prison cell. Paul’s greatest desire, to continue traveling and preaching the gospel in new and distant places, was apparently a lost cause. He was old and ill in jail. The Philippian church itself was not exactly experiencing the best of times. In 1:28, Paul mentioned the "opponents" the faithful encountered every day. Elsewhere, we read of tension and conflict in the church.

Things were not going all that well for Paul, nor for the church, yet Paul counsels the Philippians "Do not worry about anything."

Worry is based on lack of trust in God. Frances Willard, the great temperance leader, once remarked with her usual forthrightness that "anxiety is atheistical!" To be constantly anxious suggests that we do not quite trust ourselves, and more importantly, we do not quite trust God. What does your 16-year-old say when he comes in 30 seconds before his curfew is up and finds you "waiting up" for him: He says, "What’s wrong, don’t you trust me?" Well, truth be told, we do not.

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