Banks have guards, museums have guards and nations have guards to protect their people. A guard is needed when there’s something of such high value that to lose it would be a great loss. The cost and expense of a guard is worth it because of the value of what is guarded.
This is what the Lord guards:
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
We all love the peace of God that “transcends all understanding” when we face a crisis. It’s the most unusual and amazing thing to experience. But why here? Why do we need something that will “guard us.”
When you go back to verse 6, there is a clear injunction “not to be anxious about anything.” All of us get worried at times so why this command? Is it because worry is a sin? I think it goes deeper than that.
The Hidden Viper of Worry
First of all we read in the Parable of the Seed that worry is deadly to faith. It is subtle and deceptive in its ability to render faith impotent. In the Parable of the Seed it is the seed that falls onto the ground and is choked out by thorns:
“The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries…they do not mature.” Lk 8:14
“…but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.” (Mk 4:19)
“The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life … choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Mt 13:22)
How can something so easy as worry and anxiousness kill faith like this? Because there is no faith in worry. As one person has said, worry is practical atheism. When we focus on our worries, we often leave God out of the picture. We can do this to the point that faith is no longer faith and we become God followers who are unfruitful. Worry is lethal.
This is also reiterated in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus spent more time on the issue of worry than he did on many other issues. Worry and faith are connected…”why do you worry…O you of little faith?” (Mt 6:28,30). In the context he is talking about worry about having enough food and clothes–seemingly justifiable things to worry about. Perhaps in our culture of lavish abundance we don’t understand just how deeply this worry was felt. But aren’t food and clothes necessary?
Jesus said yes, but still…don’t worry. He can provide.
Worry leads to the pursuit of the objects of our worries…which is what pagans do and how they live. (Mt 6:52)
Faith leads to the pursuit of Him.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Mt 6:33)
We can’t pursue both.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Mt 6:34
For the last few years I’ve been in a difficult situation and I’ve thought to myself the only way to get out is to have the money to have the power to do what I need. So every morning I would roll out of bed and go straight to my computer to work on my business. I was frantic to squeeze every moment for productivity. I’ve done this for several years. It wasn’t worrying about tomorrow. It was about how I could find a way to end today’s suffering.
At some point I realized that I was putting my faith in money to save and deliver. So I put on the brakes and gave myself room to breathe for the first time. I’ve had much more peace in my life as I’m looking to Him to change things now. It’s the patience of faith but also seeing him deliver.
I believe that what Jesus was addressing and what should all cause our heads to snap up in attention is that worry is serious. It’s not something to be trifled with but something to do battle against. We need not fear worry. But it’s something to overcome. And in this text Paul gives us the prescription:
- Prayer – “but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Php 4:6)
- Purposeful thinking – “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
- Practiced Faith – “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
And there it is again….did you see it? The God of peace will be with you.
God fights for your peace.
Because peace is a guardian of our faith. Protecting our hearts and minds.
I have friends who struggle with anxiety. Severe anxiety that causes panic attacks and horrible issue. They tell me it’s a physical feeling they get in their body. So where does this leave them with this Scripture? They feel condemned and “sinners” because of this anxiety.
I have seen is that more times than not that this anxiety is rooted in a deeply painful event or season of their life. The trauma was real and often relational in origin. And now the anxiety that it produced is affecting other areas of their life. It’s terrible. Those who experience this would give anything for their anxiety to go away, but will-power alone seems useless.
I think in these situations healing comes through community as it rarely is overcome alone. Healing comes through conversation to help process that pain. And healing comes through Christ working a miracle.
“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,
your love, O LORD, supported me.
When my anxiety was great within me,
your consolation brought joy to my soul” (Psalm 94:18-19)
If this is you, there is no condemnation. Find the path of grace. Even as David did.