Do Not Worry about Anything

One of the key pieces of Scripture which has sustained me through the years, as a new Christian going through a messy disentanglement with my old life and then as a pastor dealing with pastoral situations, criticism and attacks has been Philippians 4:6-7.  I often quote it to people who are going through harrowing experiences.

And I do not quote this piece of scripture to them because a counselling book told to do so, but I quote it because in my experience it works. And has worked over many years.

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.

Let me break this wonderful verse down so you may see just how powerful it is.

First, he says “do not worry” or in other translations “do not be anxious”

Paul’s appeal to the Philippians is for them not to be anxious about anything.

When we worry, we hold on to our ability (or impression of ability) to control things ourselves. That is why worry denies our trust in God.

Jesus warned against worry because it diminishes our trust in God (Matt. 6:25–33).[1] 

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,[a] or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?[b] 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed, your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God[c] and his[d] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Remember who wrote this letter to the Philippians. It was Paul and, where was he? In chains in Rome

 

A prisoner in a Roman prison; and when Rome fixed its claws it did not usually let go without drawing blood. He was expecting his trial, which might, so far as he knew, very probably end in death. [It did] Everything in the future was entirely dark and uncertain. It was this man, with all the pressure of personal sorrows weighing upon him, who, in the very crisis of his life, turned to his brethren in Philippi, who had far fewer causes of anxiety than he had, and cheerfully told them to not worry.[2]

But this was not a call to a carefree life. To care and be genuinely concerned is one thing. To worry is another.

It is not a Bob Marley “Don’t Worry, be happy” sort of call.

Next he says, “in everything”

Not some in some things, not in the do-able things; no, in All things; even those things which seem outside the realms of possibility.

‘In everything let your requests be made known unto God.’ As one old saint wrote: That is the wise course, because a multitude of little pimples may be quite as painful and dangerous as a large ulcer. A cloud of gnats may put as much poison into a man with their many stings as will a snake with its one bite. And if we are not to get help from God by telling Him about little things, there will be very little of our lives that we shall tell Him about at all. For life is a mountain made up of minute flakes. The years are only a collection of seconds. Every man’s life is an aggregate of trifles. ‘In everything make your requests known.’[3]

The he says: By prayer and supplication/petition

So what’s the difference between these terms?

By prayer is meant the general act of devotion and the mention of our usual needs;

and by supplication or petition is intended to focus on our distinct pleas. We are to offer general prayers common to all the saints, and we are to add the special and definite petitions which are peculiar to ourselves.[4]

Then: With thanksgiving

Praying with thanksgiving involves trusting God. Thanksgiving is an attitude of heart which should always accompany our prayers.

Charles Spurgeon tells the story of George Müller, the famous man who started orphanages all over the impoverished areas of England in the 1800s.

Spurgeon writes that he was frequently astonished with the way in which Muller mentioned that he had for so many months and years asked for such and such a mercy, and praised the Lord for it. He praised the Lord for it as though he had actually obtained it. Even in praying for the conversion of a person, as soon as he had begun to intercede he began also to praise God for the conversion of that person. He told Spurgeon he had in one instance already prayed for thirty years and the work was not yet done, yet all the while he had gone on thanking God, because he knew the prayer would be answered. He believed that he had his petition and commenced to magnify the Giver of it.[5]

Do you remember when Paul had in gaol in Philippi, the very city to which this letter went, with his back bloody with the rod, and his feet fast in the stocks, and how then he and Silas ‘prayed and sang praises to God’ even during such trials and then an earthquake came and set them loose.

Let your requests be known to God

Requests speak of definite and specific things asked for.

Not vague “bless me” prayers but specific needs.

Just as we need to be specific in our repentance to God, so we need to be specific in our requests to God.

Put your anxieties into definite speech.

It has a twofold result. Speaking them, even to a friend who may be able to do little to help, eases them wonderfully. But put them into definite speech to God; and there are very few of them that will survive.[6]

 

Next: And the peace of God

The Greek word used here conveys a range of meanings, including well-being, prosperity, freedom from anxiety, safety from harm, and deliverance from enemies.[7]

The peace of God will flood one’s troubled soul. The Lord Jesus Christ is a believer’s peace.

It says that Jesus is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.  (Eph. 2:14),

and every child of God has peace with God through justification by faith

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  (Rom. 5:1).

 But the peace of (or from) God in our verse relates to the inner tranquillity of a believer’s close walk with God.

It is the peace that means when we wake up we can say: God’s got this under control.

It is the sense of peace that Job had, or Meshach and his friends had:  “Do your worst, my God reigns”

 

 

Next: this is a peace That surpasses our understanding

This peace of God transcends all understanding, that is, it is beyond man’s ability to comprehend.

The peace is outside the possible options that we could brainstorm.

Let’s take the extreme example of Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna who was martyred in 155 AD.

Polycarp is recorded as saying on the day of his death, "Eighty and six years I have served Him, and He has done me no wrong", he goes on to say "How then can I blaspheme my King and Saviour? You threaten me with a fire that burns for a season, and after a little while is quenched; but you are ignorant of the fire of everlasting punishment that is prepared for the wicked." Polycarp was burned at the stake and was pierced with a spear for refusing to burn incense to the Roman Emperor. On his farewell, he said "I bless you Father for judging me worthy of this hour, so that in the company of the martyrs I may share the cup of Christ.

It was the way that the early Christians faced death with a peace that the Romans could not understand that garnered awe of their God.

Lastly: Guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus

This peace guards the believers. Guard also used in 1 Peter 1:5 translates a military term which means “to protect or garrison by guarding.” Like soldiers assigned to watch over a certain area, God’s peace garrisons the hearts and … minds, that is, the emotions and thoughts, of God’s children.

The counter to anxiety is to: Colossians 3:16

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

So, let’s commit this verse from Philippians to memory, for when worries come (and they will) we will have this in our arsenal to defeat the enemy.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 663–664

[2] MacLaren’s Expositions https://biblehub.com/commentaries/philippians/4-6.htm

[3] ibid

[4] Spurgeon, C.  Spurgeon Commentary: Philippians. 144

[5] Spurgeon, C.  Spurgeon Commentary: Philippians. 144

[6] MacLarens Expositions

[7] Faithlife Study Bible (Php 4:7)..