Anxious for Nothing
Isn’t it true, that so much of the time, when we are going through a difficult time, our greatest battles are fought in isolation? Some of life’s most difficult challenges come in the private places in our lives. These are the places that other people never see. As a result, we fight these battles alone. We may show up looking confident on the outside, while on the inside, we’re secretly wrestling with insecurity, or struggling with some other issue on the inside.
To some, we look so strong, but the truth of the matter is, we often feel so weak. We put on a happy face at church. We post all kinds of stuff that looks so solid, so confident, and so put together on social media. But on the inside, we feel so anxious, so worried, so afraid. There’s so much insecurity, anxiety, and fear in our heart. It is like there is a battlefield in our mind.
So, what do you do when you find yourself battling emotions like these? We are going to talk about that today. Welcome! We’re in a message series that is called “Anxious for Nothing”. I think this series has the potential to be transformational, on some level, for all of us. The KEY VERSE for this series is found in Philippians 4. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
These were the words written by the Apostle Paul. He was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write to his friends in a place called Philippi. He was writing from a Roman prison. He was chained up 24 hours a day to a Roman guard. He was awaiting trial and possible execution. He didn’t know for sure what the future would hold. If there was anyone anywhere who had the right to be anxious, it was the Apostle Paul.
Facing circumstances like most of us will never face, these are the words of power, life, and truth that he wrote from prison to his friends in Philippi, and to all of us. He went on to say…“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” – Philippians 4:4-5 (NIV) Sometimes we all need to be reminded of the fact that God is near, just as He promised. He is here. He is close by.
Last week we talked about the Old Testament prophet Elijah. He was hiding in a cave when the Lord passed by. But the Lord did not show up like you might expect. He was not in the earthquake, the wind, or the fire. The Lord came to Elijah in a gentle whisper. The reason He can whisper is because He is so close. He is right here with us.
The Lord is near…just as He promised. That is why Paul says…“Do not be anxious about anything…” – Philippians 4:6a (NIV) What does that even mean? Don’t be anxious about anything? It means what it says. Don’t be anxious about anything. Another Bible translation says, “Be anxious for nothing.” That seems clear enough. There is no need for interpretation. Then he said…“But in everything, (in every situation, every circumstance, every opportunity, every day of the week) by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. – Philippians 4:6b (NIV)
If you’re worried about your job, your health, the economy, your kids, no matter what you’re going through right now, or what you will face tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year, in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, we are to present our requests to God. And as we present our requests to God, Paul says…“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7 (NIV)
So, what is anxiety anyway? Anxiety is a NORMAL emotion. Anxiety is your brain’s way of reacting to stress and alerting you to the possibility of danger ahead. Everyone feels anxious at times. But anxiety must be managed, or else, it can get out of control and it can consume us.
There are physiological, emotional, and spiritual elements to our anxiety. There are multiple possible causes for anxiety. Genetics can be a factor. Some anxiety disorders can run in a family. Some research suggests anxiety disorders may be linked to a chemical imbalance. Stressful events in the past can trigger anxiety in the present. Anxiety disorder sometimes goes hand in hand with alcohol or substance use and certain medical conditions.
Anxiety is COMPLICATED. Excessive and overwhelming levels of anxiety can cause you to want to avoid work, school, family get-togethers, and other social situations that might trigger or worsen your symptoms. My prayer is that the Lord will provide wisdom as we seek to address the anxiety that may invade our personal hearts and minds today.
Just as there are multiple possible cause of anxiety…There are numerous ways to address the issue as well. We may need the help of a medical doctor. Some forms of anxiety may require psychiatric treatment. There may need to be adjustments made to our diet and, in some instances, medication may be necessary. Others may need some form of counseling to deal with their anxiety. But as a pastor, and from a spiritual perspective, I believe that regardless of the cause, and no matter what other treatments may be prescribed, Whenever we face anxiety, it is always wise to PRAY.
It is not necessary for every anxious person to seek medical or psychiatric treatment. Anxiety doesn’t always require counseling or medication. But according to Paul’s advice here in Philippians 4, PRAYER is always a proper response to anxiety.
I’ll admit that my penmanship might cause you to think I can write a prescription for medication, but that would be a false assumption. However, I can prescribe a biblical response to the anxiety you may be facing. And I can tell you with great confidence, that regardless of the cause, and regardless of what other treatments that you might have sought, or may be seeking, prayer should always precede and supplement any other treatment for anxiety.
Anxiety works a lot like those annoying red or orange lights on the dashboard of the car. PICTURE – Dashboard Warning Light – Just seeing these lights on the screen has generated a touch of anxiety for some.
Several years ago, I had an old Ford truck and the check engine light stayed on all the time. I took it in, and the mechanic said the issue was the light itself. The truck was old, and since the light had malfunctioned, and I was too cheap to fix it, I just covered it up with electrical tape. (BE CAREFUL AT SALE)
I am not recommending you do that with your car or with your anxiety. But here is what I want you to see. The check engine light is typically NOT the problem. The check engine light is a signal alerting you to a more serious problem with your vehicle. It may be something as simple as the tire pressure, it may be an issue related to the exhausts system, but it may be something as serious as the engine, or transmission. The warning light is usually not the problem. The light lets you know there is a problem. The light is an indicator that we should take the vehicle to someone who knows how to fix it.
So, what is anxiety? Among many things, Anxiety is a SIGNAL alerting us that it is time to PRAY. What would it look like for you to view anxiety through this lens? Anxiety is a signal alerting you to the fact that it is time to pray. If something is big enough to WORRY about, it’s big enough to PRAY about. As some have said, if it’s on your mind, it’s on God’s heart.
Be anxious about nothing but in every situation take your request to God. If you’re worried about your upcoming doctor’s appointment, pray about it. If you’re worried about an important decision that you need to make, take it to the Lord in prayer. If you’re worried about your marriage, the kids, your health, your job, the promotion, or how you are going to pay your bills, it is time to pray. If it’s on your mind, it’s on God’s heart. Take your requests to God.
But some people don’t know how to pray. Listen! Prayer doesn’t have to be intimidating. There is nobody to impress. Talk to your Heavenly Father like He is your best friend, because that is exactly who He wants to be. He loves you. He wants what is best for you. And we can come to Him with anything. Paul even said it, “pray about everything.” If you care about it, God cares about it.
Present your requests to God. Which requests? All of them? Let your needs be known to Him. Present your requests to God. How do we do that? What does it mean to present your requests to God? It’s really very simple. The way you present your requests to God is by simply letting your needs be known. Prayer is talking to God in your own WAY, in your own WORDS, through your own PERSONALITY.
We all have different communication styles. Some people like to text. A text is usually short, direct, and to the point. Some might prefer to call. But calls are typically a lot longer than a text, especially if someone is a talker. Some prefer face to face communication over text, calls, emails, or other options.
The point is, we are all unique. And the good news is you can come to God and talk to Him in your own WAY, in your own WORDS, through your own PERSONALITY. You can speak to Him. You can write out your prayers. You can sing your prayer requests to Him. You can even sigh because He knows your heart. You may shout with joy and there may those moments when you shout in anger. I don’t mean in disrespect, but I am confident that God know us completely, and He can handle our emotions, and even our occasional temper tantrum.
Again, we have a Heavenly Father who loves us. And I truly believe His desire is for us to bring our needs to Him. In every situation, with prayer and petition, let your needs be known to God. ANXIETY a signal alerting you that it is time to go to the One who loves you, the One who made you, the One who can help you in your time of need. Anxiety is a signal alerting you that it is time to pray.
I love the way that Peter talked about how to handle anxiety. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV) Do you feel anxious? Do you feel afraid? Take your anxiety to God, because He cares for you. Do you feel down? Do you feel depleted? Are you overloaded and overwhelmed? Do you feel like you’re sinking?
Let’s back up a verse and see what else Peter said…“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. – 1 Peter 5:6 (NIV) Peter, the one who penned these words, is the one who was in a boat with all the other disciples when a storm came up out of nowhere. Remember how Jesus came to them walking on the water. Peter said Jesus, if it is you, invite me to come to you on the water. Jesus said, bring it. That’s a paraphrase. 😊
Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. At first, he was doing really well walking on water to Jesus, but his focus shifted to the wind and the waves, and that is when anxiety began to take over. Peter took his eyes off Jesus, and he started to sink. “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” – Matthew 14:30 (NIV)
That was Peter’s prayer. In that anxious moment, Peter was sinking! The warning lights were flashing. Peter cried out to God in the most natural and most authentic way he could. He didn’t try to use any flowery language. He just expressed his greatest need.
I think it is important to notice that in Peter’s crisis moment of need, Jesus didn’t condemn him. Do you remember what Jesus did? “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.” – Matthew 14:31a Humble yourselves under His mighty hand that He may lift you up in due time when you go before God in prayer.
If you are feeling anxious right now, maybe it is because you feel like you are sinking. But the real problem isn’t that you’re sinking. The problem is that you’re not reaching out to Him. He is there for you. If you reach out to Him, He will lift you up in due time.
Can you picture Peter reaching out to Jesus? What does a lifted hand or lifted hands symbolize? Victory. Surrender. I need help. I have a question.
If you’re battling with anxiety, there is typically a cycle, and the cycle looks like this. The Cycle or Anxiety: First, we feel ANXIOUS. Next, we try to take CONTROL. We say things like, I’ll make this happen. I’ll get them to shape up. I’ll fix this. I try to take control. The problem is, the more we try to control, the more…Then we fear LOSING control. Which just leads to more anxiety.
You can see how this cycle keeps repeating itself. We need to learn how to break the cycle. How do we do it? I think we can do it by recognizing a simple truth: I don’t always have the power to CONTROL, but I always have the power to SURRENDER. I can’t fix everything. I can’t change everything. Medicine won’t always fix it. Counseling won’t always fix it. Circumstances can’t always be changed.
I may not have the power to control, but I do have the power to choose to surrender those things I can’t control. I can’t always control (FIX) EVERYTHING, but I can surrender ANYTHING that is a burden to my God. I can take it to the Lord in prayer. Present your requests to God. Let your needs be known to Him.
To effectively handle our anxiety, we must learn to humble ourselves and consistently go to God for help. And as we humble ourselves, under God’s mighty hand, He has the power and the ability to lift us up in due time. You can cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.
What is it that is weighing you down right now? What is the burden you are carrying today? What are you anxious about? Anxiety is a signal alerting you that it’s time to pray. And when our anxiety alerts us that it is time to pray, we can present our requests to God, knowing that “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7 (NIV)
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus experienced the greatest anxiety you could ever imagine as He was preparing to go to the cross to pay the price for our sin. You may recall He fell on His knees and said, “my soul is overwhelmed to the point of death.” That’s anxiety! Separated from His Father, knowing the torture of the cross was ahead, that anxiety was a signal alerting Him that it was time to pray. He cried out in prayer, “Father, if there’s any way to remove this cup of suffering, take it from me. But ultimately, God, I want Your will, not my will, to be done.” He prayed and He obeyed. He then died in our place, and He rose again for the forgiveness of sins.
Our mission around here is to point people to Jesus. He wants to forgive our sins.
He wants to empower us to live a holy life. He wants to crush the anxiety that has been crushing you for too long. And as we prepare to pray, we pray to the One whose name is above every name. His Name is Jesus. He is the One who hears and answers our prayers.
I want to invite you to experience that peace of God that Paul was talking about as we continue to worship this morning. As we go to the Lord in prayer and as we continue to worship in song, you may want to reach out your hand to Him like Peter did. You may be reaching out saying, “Lord save me.” Others may choose to lift your hands in praise.
For some, your hands in the air are a symbol that you are surrendering your situation, or yourself to Him. You may want to bow your head in reverence, or you might want to kneel there at your seat, or here at the front, as we go to the Lord in prayer. I just want to invite you to forget about everything else, and everyone else, and focus on God as we seek His peace, and deliverance from the anxiety that plagues so many.