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Concern, Worry and Peace

We certainly live in difficult times! We hear the words, “ The worst is yet to come!” Is that true? None of us know, but such words don’t seem to bring comfort, in fact, they cause people to worry. We see it all around us. Worry is such a hard task-master because worry controls and dominates us to our core. I heard someone say recently that the difference between worry and concern is that “worry is concern gone haywire!” God does not tell us that concern is bad, but He does tell us that worry is sin. Why? “Concern you own, but worry owns you!” Being concerned about the Corona virus, or about having no toilet paper, or financial collapse, etc. is legitimate, we all experience it, but when those concerns develop into worry, concern has gone too far and needs to be dealt with biblically. How does a believer overcome worry?

Jesus dealt with it in His sermon that He preached on the mount (Matthew 6:25-34). He commanded His followers three times, “Do not be anxious!” (vss. 25, 31, & 34). The word translated “anxious” (NASB) in these verses is merimnao which means “to worry.” Jesus says clearly, “If you are worried (anxious) over anything, STOP IT!”, and He tells His followers why. He gives four reasons:

  1. God, your heavenly Father, cares for you and will take care of your needs! (vs. 26 & 32). A good and gracious father cares for his children relieving them of concern and worry. If this is true of our earthly father, how much more it is true of our heavenly Father! He is far more faithful and caring.
  2. Let the birds and flowers illustrate our heavenly Father’s care. Jesus said, look at the birds and flowers, they do not sow, reap, toil nor spin (vs. 26, 28), yet God cares and provides for them. When worry shows its ugly head, it’s time to take a walk outside; observe God’s creation and see how He is faithful to care for the birds and flowers, and remember that you are “worth much more than they” are to Him (vs. 26) and will “do much more for you” (vs. 30)!
  3. God, your heavenly Father, honors faith (trust) in Him no matter how much you have! (vs. 30). The point that Jesus made is, “the Father’s care is not dependent uponhow much faith we have, but Who our faith is IN!” It is not wrong to listen to our governmental leaders and heed their advice and guidance, but our trust (“faith”) must be in God.
  4. Live one-day-at-a-time (vs. 34). We cannot do anything about yesterday, it is past, nor can you do anything about tomorrow, it is not here and we have no idea what it will bring. Live for today alone fully trusting God!

It is doubtful that the apostle Paul was on the mount when Jesus preached His “sermon”, but the Holy Spirit certainly guided him to understand the truth that Jesus taught. When he wrote his letter to the Philippians he told them, “Be anxious for nothing, 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 comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (4:6-7). The phrase “be anxious for nothing” are two words in the Greek (a verb and an adjective) which can be translated, “Stop being anxious (merimnao)!” This is exactly what Jesus said. When concern moves to worry (anxiety), STOP IT! Worry should not be part of a believer’s life! Rather than restating what Jesus taught, Paul gives another thought about worry. Not only did he want his readers (and us) to “stop worrying,” but he wanted them to enjoy the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding that guards your hearts and minds ...” (2:7). He wanted them to replace worry with God’s peace.

How does a believer replace worry with a God sustained peace which “surpasses all understanding”? Or to put it in today’s vernacular, “How does a believer enjoy mind-blowing and heart-comforting peace when their world is falling apart all around them?” Paul tells us in the following phrases, “... but in everything by prayer and supplication with (lit. “after”) thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (vs. 6-7). Therein lies the truth that leads from anxiety to a peace from God that surpasses all comprehension. Two things are necessary: Prayer and thanksgiving!

Pause a minute and read those verses again and notice the highlighted words “but,” “with,” “and,” “shall,” and their order:

“Be anxious for nothing... but in everything by prayer and supplication with (lit. “after”) thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (vs. 6-7).

Notice carefully that the peace of God that guards the heart and mind cannot be experienced and enjoyed unless the “but” and “with” are exercised first. The word “with” in the Greek is meta which is a “preposition of accompaniment” and can be (and probably should be) translated “after.” Or, put another way, “the peace of God that guards the heart and mind is the result of prayer that is preceded by thanksgiving.” Yes, prayer is vital, but so is thanksgiving. In fact, it is so important that Paul said that “thanksgiving” must be thefirst thing that is exercised before we “let our requests be made known to God” when we are anxious.

When dealing with worry (anxiety), I’m sure you have received the counsel, “Pray about it,” and that is good counsel, but it is not complete. How often have you been counseled to first “be thankful” for the thing(s) that are the source of your anxiety? Probably not often, but, beloved, that is precisely the counsel that Paul is giving here! Are we not told by God to be “thankful” in all things and for all things? Yes! (see (1 Thess. 5:18 & Eph. 5:20) Are the things that cause us to worry excluded from the “in” and “for”? No! Therefore, when Paul calls us to first be thankful for the adversities of life, he is not asking us to do some crazy or “unheard of” thing; he is calling us to be obedient to God’s Word and God’s “will” for our lives (1 Thess. 5:18), knowing that it is the source of God’s peace that surpasses all comprehension.

I know this to be true, not only personal experience, but, also, in Olga’s life. Olga came to me seeking counsel many years ago when I was pastoring in a central California town. She was going through a very hard time in her life, not because of her doings, but because of someone else who had done things that affected her emotionally and financially. She was experiencing extreme anxiety and worry, and she wanted to know how to overcome it. The only counsel I could give her was from God’s Word and I took her to Philippians 4:6-7, sharing what I just wrote about. When I asked her if she was thankful “in” and “for” the things she was anxious about, she did not receive it well and became angry, storming out of my office. Honestly, I did not think I would ever hear from her again, but I did. The next morning she called and the first words I heard from her mouth were, “Pastor, it works!” There was excitement in her voice and I was a little confused, so I asked, “Olga, what works?” I will never forget her response, “God’s Word works!” She went on to explain that she left my office (yes, angry), went home and read and reread the Philippians 4:6-7 passage that I had explained to her. In obedience to the Word, she, then, got on her knees a cried out to God with thanksgiving for the things she was experiencing as she prayed. As she did that, she said, “the anxiety left and the peace of God flooded her heart and mind”! God had been faithful to His promise!

Did her problems evaporate? No, not immediately, but now she faced them without worry, enjoying God’s peace in the midst of them. Eventually, she was able to deal with the issues and move on with her life. The “peace of God” really did “guard her heart and mind in Christ Jesus!”

As I close, may I ask, “Have you allowed legitimate concern to become worry? Are you anxious over Covid-19? What about finances? Or maybe your personal well-being and health?” As a believer, if you are anxious (worried) over any of these things (really anything), PLEASE STOP IT! Don’t let worry destroy another minute of your life! Take time to ...

• . . . Mediate on these passages that I have shared from God’s Word and APPLY them through the power of the Holy Spirit.

• . . . Trust in God’s faithfulness to do what He has promised! He will take care of you as His precious child, and He will flood your heart and mind with His peace as you walk in obedience to His Word.

• . . . Take a walk and look at the birds and flowers! Remember, to your heavenly Father, you are “worth much more than they” are, and He will “do much more for you!” Rest in that promise!

• . . . Practice thanksgiving in and for all things and pray! Thanksgiving recognizes that God is sovereign over the affairs of your life and this world. The Father’s ears are open to such a humble and seeking heart!

Beloved, I write this during difficult times to encourage you to Walk Worthy of Your Calling! May our heavenly Father be glorified in all of His children! Yes, even in the midst of a deadly Virus, financial difficulties, and physical concerns. Let us during these times “proclaim (in word and deed) the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

For the love of God’s people,

Pastor Ron Finch (retired)


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