Philippians 4:4-6
How many of you are familiar with the name Ann Landers? Beginning in 1955 and continuing under various authors to this day, the Ann Landers daily newspaper column receives thousands of letters every month requesting advice on various topics. When PaulineLederer retired in 2002, she was asked what her most common question was, and answered that most people worry too much. “They’re worried about losing their health, they are anxious about their job, they worry about family concerns, they are whacked out about their neighbors or frustrated with their friends. In short, people are looking for peace, but peace seems so elusive.”

According to one recent poll here are the top ten things we worry about in reverse order:

10. Unhappiness
9. Paying rent/mortgage
8. Our physique
7. Wrinkles or aging appearance
6. Job security
5. Credit card debt
4. Our diet (don’t know if that refers to losing weight or what we eat)
3. Low energy levels
2. Savings/financial future
1. Getting old in general

What have you been worrying about lately? Don’t deny it. In fact, I would like you to take a minute and think about it.

The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians writes, “Don’t worry about anything.”

The word ‘worry’ (to be anxious) is used by Jesus on three occasions:

  1. Matthew 6:25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life-whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear.”
  2. Matthew 10:19 “When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say.”
  3. Luke 10:41 “But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details!”

Don’t worry, really Jesus? Easy for you to say, you’re God; what’s He got to worry about? I mean He can fix any problem that comes His way, right?

Paul, on the other hand, is human just like the rest of us. How can he say, “don’t worry about anything.” I say he can’t; until and unless he walks a mile in my shoes. For if he did, then he would know there’s plenty to worry about. Where does he get off telling me not to worry?

Before we reject Paul as some kind of Pollyanna Pamby, it’s important to note the verb do not worry is in the present tense which in the original Greek implies continuous action; therefore, stop worrying (all the time).

Hey, we cannot simply stop our minds from thinking about things that concern us. In fact, thinking about things that concern us is what enables us to solve problems.

So what both Jesus and Paul are commanding us, is to stop cogitating, dwelling on, fretting, obsessing over, ruminating, or stewing on. Because those kinds of mind games will make it virtually impossible for us to experience that which we are all searching for; a little bit of peace.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything.”

Rather than becoming preoccupied, pray. The antidote to worrying is praying. “Tell God what you need, and thank Him for what 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 4:6b-7)

Now some of us may be thinking sure Paul, easy for you to write; sitting in your warm and comfy ivory tower in the heart of picturesque Rome with the sounds of children playing in the streets, the view of pigeons hovering over all those beautiful fountains and the tantalizing smells of pepperoni pizza wafting through the air. Anyone could write about peace in that kind of charming setting.

Lest we think that, I want to remind us all from whence Paul writes. In the first chapter of this letter in verses 12 and 13, he writes: “I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ.”

Palace guard, chains? What’s going on here? What’s going on is that Paul is in a Roman jail awaiting trial.

How could he write about peace in that setting? If you think about his life, he was continually facing circumstances that we would consider horrendous. His litany of pain is recorded in his second letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor 11:23-27). How does he endure it all? Paul prays.

Do you recall the story in Acts 16 where Paul and his traveling companion, Silas, are thrown in a Philippian jail? (Acts 16:22-25) Paul wants us to know that he has discovered the key to experiencing peace in any circumstance, and it is prayer.

If we desire peace (and who doesn’t) we must pray.

Ay! there’s the rub for some, if not many of us; we don’t take the time to pray. We believe in prayer, we have read about prayer, we have studied prayer, we have faith that God listens to prayer and we trust that He answers prayer in accordance with His will.

BUT DO WE PRAY? How very easy it is to fall into the trap of thinking we are too busy to pray?

King Henry IV of France once asked the Duke of Alva if he had observed the great eclipse of the sun that had recently occurred. “No,” said the duke, “I have so much to do on earth that I have no leisure to look up into heavens.”

Commenting on this, the great 17th-century preacher/pastor Thomas Brooks said, “It is sad to think how heart and time are so taken up with earthly things that we have no leisure to look to Christ and the things that secure everlasting peace.”

Too busy to pray . . . I like the title of Bill Hybel’s book, Too Busy Not to Pray.

If we really desire peace, I know we do, we simply must pray.

When a troublesome thought enters our head we have two choices: either begin the process of worrying or begin the process of praying. Whatever is bothering us, whatever is troubling us, whatever we wake up in the middle of the night thinking about, we need to take it to the Lord in prayer. Whatever it is that is causing us mental or emotional turmoil or distress we need to bring it to the Lord’s attention.

Instead of allowing our anxiety to keep us from prayer, we need to see prayer as a place to deposit our anxiety.

Do you worry about your job? Pray about your job. Your children; pray about your children. A decision you have made or you need to make; pray about that decision. Finances; pray about your finances. Your future; pray about your future. Health; pray about your health. Your marriage; pray about your marriage.

We do not need to be bashful about bringing any troubling matter to Him; however great or small. If it causes us concern, it is a matter of concern to Him. In Peter’s first letter, he writes: “Cast all your cares on Him . . . for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Because He cares for us, He wants to grant us His peace.

Do we desire the peace that Jesus offers? First, we must receive peace with God. And then the peace that passes all understanding will guard our hearts and minds as through prayer, we come nearer, ever nearer, to Him.

As children, many of us had nightmares or were frightened by any number of things. I still recall my brother Tom having a nightmare about being chased by a lion the night after our folks took us to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Tom, Steve, and I all shared the same bedroom and when Tom jumped up out of bed and shot into our parent’s bedroom, Steve and I were right behind him. We all jumped into their bed and Tom was continuing his nightmare as he pointed and said, “Look at all the monkeys climbing on the curtains.” I think that was the last time Mom and Dad ever took us to the circus.

After Tom stopped hallucinating, Mom and Dad pulled back the covers and we all huddled together. Instantly, fear and worry vanished. Nothing could make any of us afraid in those moments as we were lying next to my mom and dad, who we knew loved us and would always care for us. And it wasn’t any time at all that Randy, Tom and Steve were all peacefully back to sleep.

As we ran to our parents to find peace, so God invites us all to pull the covers up and cuddle up to Him through prayer.

Philippians 4:6-7