(This is Part Two in a series. Read Part One: The Debilitating Power of Worry.)
The Apostle Paul was imprisoned in Rome in the early 60’s (Not the 1960’s; just the 60’s — as in less than 30 years after the life of Christ). While confined to his cell, he wrote a letter to Christians living in the Greek city of Philippi, which we have today in the New Testament of our Bibles as the book of Philippians.
Paul started the church in Philippi with one convert named Lydia (see Acts 16:11-15) and it had grown to substantial numbers. However, church growth in the first century Roman Empire frequently meant persecution, and that was certainly the case here. So while in prison, Paul writes to the Christians in Philippi to instruct and encourage them. This is what he tells them (among other things):
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
Paul is telling Christians who had real legitimate concerns for their lives and livelihood “to be full of joy” and “not to worry.” As I consider the typical things I worry about (even in the midst of COVID-19), I can’t say I’ve ever been worried about being fed to lions, crucified, burned at the stake, decapitated, or impaled. I’ve never worried about being unjustly thrown into prison, my wife being taken away to be someone else’s sex toy, or my children sold into slavery. Yet, these concerns were legitimate threats for first century Christians living in the Roman Empire.
I must say, it makes my worries about money, work, and parenting seem a little trivial. Yet, even the most trivial of our worries is still of major concern to our great and compassionate God. However, if God would say to people whose lives are in serious jeopardy, “Be joyful… Don’t worry…” What do you think he’d say to us about our worries?
Being worried about the legitimate threat of harm is understandable. That’s why God’s peace exceeds anything we can possibly understand. It’s natural to worry. It’s supernatural to be at peace.
WHY can we have peace when we should be worrying?
GOD IS NEAR
Right before Paul says, “Don’t worry,” he says, “Remember, the Lord is coming soon.” That’s probably not the best translation. I think a more accurate translation is “The Lord is near.”
As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!” (Mark 4:35-41)
You know why Jesus was able to sleep in the midst of the storm? Because he wasn’t worried! Who was worried? The disciples.
Just because God is near doesn’t mean you aren’t going to have storms. But if Jesus is in your boat, you have nothing to worry about. You can face the storms of life with confidence knowing He is by your side. He’ll either calm the storm or he’ll calm you.
GOD CARES ABOUT YOU
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. (1 Peter 5:7)
Sometimes we get caught up in thinking that the only thing God really cares about is what we do or don’t do; like God only cares if we keep or break His “rules.” But God doesn’t just care about what we do or don’t do; He cares about how we feel. And even though I said that a lot of our worries are trivial, they don’t feel trivial to us; and therefore, they are not trivial to God. Peter says give ALL of your worries to God. If it matters to you, it matters to God.
GOD WILL PROVIDE FOR YOU
“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (Matthew 6:25-33)
How many of our decisions are based on worry or fear?
…It doesn’t work out? (the relationship, job, church, move, etc.)
…Something bad happens? (accident, divorce, financial crisis, failure, etc.)
…Nothing good happens? (don’t get the job, girl, house, scholarship, etc.)
When we stop looking UP (to God in faith/trust), we start looking DOWN (at ourselves in worry/fear).
- Seek God = LOOK UP
- Live righteously = WALK FORWARD
- He will give you everything you need = DON’T WORRY
UP NEXT: How to Experience God’s Peace