It is one of the most challenging exhortations in the entire Bible, found in Philippians 4:6. Consider the sweeping relevance of the phrase, anxious for nothing. It of course means no thing - zip, zilch, zero. Some translations use a similar phrase with the word anything - same difference. I’m telling you right now what you already know, you can’t there from here (our flesh).
Indeed, with the tragedies and turmoil in the world today, both physical and emotional, it’s almost impossible to avoid the fertile ground for anxiety. Yet the antidote is not only well known, but readily available.
The Jewish Apostle Paul continued, in his Epistle to the Philippians, to tell us to take our requests (the source of our anxiety) to God. That in turn will trigger a peace from God that surpasses all understanding. That’s the same as saying His peace is greater than any anxiety.
Take note, even our Messiah had anxiety. On the night of His arrest, according to several of the Gospels, after the Last Seder (Supper), Jesus and His disciples went to the Mount of Olives, to the Garden of Gethsemane. There He told them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” In Luke 22:44 we see more of the depth of His emotions, “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
OK, that’s kind of frightening. But what Yeshua was facing was far greater than any human could ever experience. It wasn’t just His upcoming crucifixion, He was about to take on the sin of the whole world, then be separated from His Father in Heaven for the first time in eternity. Nevertheless, when He was overwhelmed with anxiety, He went to God in prayer. He pressed in as He dealt with a greater mountain than any of us will ever have to climb.
God’s answer to anxiety has always been the same. Back in Joshua 1:9, we were admonished, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, (as in don’t be anxious) for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Trading anxiety for God’s peace doesn’t remove the problem, it removes the crushing effect of worry. Jesus stated the obvious, but necessary to hear, in Matthew 6:25 and 27, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life . . . which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” To be sure, peace and anxiety are opposites. You can’t have them both at the same time. The truth is, we choose which one to have. It’s not always pretty.
More than thirty years ago I stopped at the stop sign right next to my house, then proceeded into the intersection, striking a car which had the right of way. I never saw it. It was a low impact accident.
I pulled my car to the curb, but the lady driving the other vehicle stopped her car in the middle of the street, with a child in the back seat. She jumped out of the vehicle screaming and yelling. She was full of anxiety, not unexpected since my car had suddenly crashed into hers. It was no doubt a frightening experience. I told her I would give her my information as soon as she moved her car and child out of harm’s way. She continued her tirade. Though it took a while, she finally did the right thing, and we exchanged information. It was anxiety to the max on her part, and by the grace of God, I was maintained by His peace.
Later that night, this woman called me on the phone.
She couldn’t have been more apologetic as she proclaimed, “I don’t know what got into me to act like that.” It was her unfortunate choice to follow her flesh. Oh, don’t we all know that choice way too well.
So here’s the challenge: the next time you encounter what appears to be the need to be anxious - so many options - oh yeah, don’t be anxious. But don’t try to do it yourself. Immediately call upon the Name of the Lord.
If it seems like the anxious feeling hasn’t reduced, be like Jesus and press in more earnestly. The Scriptures are full of verses which proclaim this victory when trusting God. Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”