Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV
Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus.
For me, this verse has always been what I like to call a “chain-link” verse. Do you see the various “links” in this powerful and practical chain of thought? It is so helpful to anyone struggling with anxiety, to the man or woman puzzling over prayer, or the child of God who simply longs for rest in his or her soul. And, what’s more, knowing something about the author, and the immediate context of his writing, only makes this bit of sage advice all the more poignant.
The author is, of course, the beloved apostle Paul. And, if you can believe it, at the time of this writing, he is actually in prison – of all things – musing about the secrets of a joyful life in Christ! All of this makes it kind of hard to slough off his insights, as if he doesn’t really “get” what we may be going through. With this backdrop, lets listen in, and learn some of the secrets of a joyful life.
Be anxious for nothing.
Did you know that worry is a sin? It is rooted in a heart of unbelief; in any given moment, a basic unwillingness to trust God. Sadly, I suspect that it is probably the most “acceptable” sin in a Christian’s life, because we all too often seem to shrug it off or explain it away, saying things like, “I’m really just concerned…” The Bible, however, commands us here to “be anxious for nothing.” The word for “worry” is the Greek term: “merimnate.” It is a compound word. The verb is “divide.” The noun is “mind.” To be anxious then is to divide the mind.
Max Lucado, in his book Anxious for Nothing, colorfully expressed the same idea: “Anxiety chops up our attention, derails our purpose, and scatters our awareness in a dozen directions.” Boy, does that describe so much of humanity today! This being true, then, how do we refocus, and become single-minded in purpose and direction once again? Notice the next “link” in the chain.
Pray about everything.
All of that mental and emotional energy so foolishly wasted by dwelling on the past, or fearing what the future may hold, can instead be wisely directed through prayer. As dear children, we have a standing invitation to boldly approach the throne of God, our Creator and Father in heaven! Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it well when he said, “The right way to pray is to stretch out our hands and ask of the One we know has the heart of a Father.” Likewise, F.B. Meyer said, “The greatest tragedy of life is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer.” While we are encouraged to make our needs known, we must do so with an attitude of gratitude, which is the next link in our chain.
So, the antidote to anxiety is prayer, and the kind of prayer that pleases God, is that which flows from a grateful heart. Prayer with thanksgiving keeps us walking in the awareness and enjoyment of God’s grace. Paul was speaking from experience here – remember, he’s in prison, unjustly suffering for his obedience to God. Prayerfully acknowledging the Lord’s faithfulness yesterday keeps us from doubting tomorrow’s provision – especially when today is filled with hardship.
The peace of God…will guard your hearts.
When we are single-minded in our focus upon the Lord, gratefully acknowledging His grace as we bring our needs to Him, we get to enjoy yet another provision of His goodness: an ongoing sense of His Divine favor. That’s what peace really is. This peace has a wonderful preserving effect upon our hearts and minds. It keeps us motivated and moving in the right direction, in perfect step with our Lord. Note the “links” in our chain: prayer – peace – protection. I’ll take that over a divided mind any day!
Through Christ Jesus.
The final link in our chain of thought is the real key to its strength – Christ Himself. Only Jesus can make us anxious for nothing, help us to pray about everything, and do it all with thanksgiving! Robert Murray McCheyne beautifully expressed an additional thought that bears repeating: “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.” May this truth bring peace to your heart this Thanksgiving!
Prayerfully write down a “Thank List” (verse 6), and a “Think List” (verse 8 – see below). Why? Because an anxious divided mind needs to be re-minded of all that is true about God.
Philippians 4:8-9 NLT
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.