December 18, 2017

Straight Cuts: Anxious for Nothing, In Prayer for Everything (Phil 4.6-7)

Ron Allen

Every human being has burdens. Some have greater burdens than others, but no one is exempt. One’s burdens can take a toll on his peace of mind unless he deals with them Scripturally. How does God want the believer to handle his problems? Is it possible for one to keep the peace of God reigning in his heart? In other words, can one really have a life free from worry? Paul answers that question in Philippians 4. In two very familiar verses the apostle gives the secret for keeping the peace of God ruling in the believer’s heart.

The apostle Paul begins verse 6 with four of the most challenging words dealing with the practical life of every believer. Paul commands, “Be careful for nothing”! In effect, Paul says, “Here is what the believer has a right to worry about—NOTHING!” One can cast any burden into this vast sea of nothing, all of which God says “Do not worry over.”

The English word “careful” has an Old English root, meaning “to strangle or kill bit by bit.” The Greek word has the idea of being pulled in two different directions. This is precisely what happens when one worries. His fears pull him one way and his hopes pull him another. The mental gymnastics become a tool of the Devil to rob the believer of his peace. Paul says there is nothing in life over which a believer should be full of care.

Being encumbered with burdens is costly for the believer. It is disobedient to the Lord (Matt. 6:25). It is dishonoring to the Lord as well. Imagine being one of those disciples aboard that tossing boat on the sea (Mark 4:36–41). Questioning the Lord Jesus’ shepherding care for them, they asked, “Carest thou not that we perish?” Jesus goes right to the heart of the matter when He responds, “How is it that ye have no faith?” Worrying over one’s burdens is also damaging mentally, physically, and spiritually. Luke 10:41 describes Martha, a great worrier, as being “careful,” which is the same word used in Philippians 4:6.

Finally, worry is deceitful. It doesn’t change anything. One cannot worry and have the peace of God reigning in his heart at the same time. The mind, being pulled in two different directions, must be secured if one is to be free from worry. How?

In the second part of verse 6, Paul gives a second command. “But in every thing … let your requests be made known unto God.” Here is what the believer has a right to pray aboutEVERYTHING! All that is in the vast sea of nothing, over which worry is forbidden, can be cast into the vast sea of everything, over which prayer is commanded. This prayer is directed “unto God.” Paul is turning the heart of the believer from his burden to the God who is greater than the burden. The burden-bound believer must get his focus on God. Jesus, in His sermon on the mount, directed the struggling one filled with care about life to look to the Father who both knows and cares about him.

The believer comes to God “by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.” These first two words along with “requests” are all synonyms that speak of making a direct petition. It is interesting to note that the word “prayer” is always used of prayer directed to God, while “supplication” is a word that is also used of man making requests to man. Paul challenges the believer to make those requests with a grateful heart for past mercies. One will never be thankful in the midst of burdens unless he has the same priority that God has for him. God never wastes anything He does: every circumstance He allows into a life is purposed for the spiritual growth and development of Christlikeness in that life.

Obeying these two commands is essential for the believer to have the peace of God reigning in his life. He must worry over nothing and instead pray over everything. Every believer who adheres to these commands has something only God can give: His peace. Money cannot buy it. Intellect cannot contrive it. It is given solely by God as one follows these commands. God’s peace “passeth all understanding.” There are two possibilities here. This may mean that God’s peace is beyond human understanding. It is simply more than any human mind can comprehend. Or it may mean that it is beyond human ingenuity, superior to any planning or scheming that human minds can concoct. This second thought seems to be more in line with the context. This peace will “keep” the heart and mind of the believer. Literally, it stands sentry and guards the mind of the believer. The believer, worrying about nothing and praying about everything, is in a military fortress with God’s peace patrolling outside and protecting him. The verse ends by icing the cake—Christ Jesus is the fortress!

These are tall commands, and every believer fails to obey them from time to time. What makes them even more challenging is the thought of where Paul is when he writes these words. He is in prison … in the heat of the battle!

Ron Allen pastors Bible Baptist Church in Matthews, North Carolina.

(Originally published in FrontLine • September / October 2006. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

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