Philippians 4:6-8 (NKJV) 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.
We have been spending time dealing with the subject of worry and how to overcome its affects on our lives. We learned a number of things from Jesus’ words in Matthew chapter 6. Last time we looked at Paul’s approach to the problem from Philippians 4. We started with Paul’s admonition to be anxious for nothing. Coupled with Jesus’ words saying that we should not worry about provision, clothing or the future in general, we have the permission of the two most important teachers in the New Testament not to worry.
If I am not going to worry, I must do something else. God gave us an imagination. He made our minds active. If we are going to keep worry out, we must put something in. The obvious answer is that we must put the Word of God into our minds. Paul gives us a few other things we can do as well.
He says that the way to counteract worry or “being anxious” is to pray. Sometimes the most profound solutions to problems come in the simplest forms. They are so simple and obvious that we forget to do them or discount the power in them. If you are a Christian, you know that you should pray. You probably do pray. However, what we fail to realize is that prayer is counter to worry.
Paul does not just say pray. He says that we should bring “all things” to the Lord in prayer. How often do we simply neglect to ask the Lord about the thing that is causing worry? If we ask, how often do we take the burden of it right back on ourselves. Prayer is a powerful deterrent to worry if we use it as such. Paul wants us to realize that there is nothing in life either too big or too small to bring to God in prayer.
How does prayer help us defeat the worry thoughts that come to our mind? When the thought comes that you do not know how you are going to handle the situation you face, tell yourself, “I have prayed and God is working on it.” When you are tempted to try to figure out the solution, remind yourself that you have placed it in God’s hands. Then ask him if there is anything you need to do. If nothing comes to your mind, let Him handle it.
It is not enough to pray. We often pray as a matter of religious form. That is not what Paul is talking about. He is talking about the prayer of faith. In order to make sure that we are praying that kind of prayer, Paul tells us to offer it “with thanksgiving.” Praise and thanksgiving are the language of faith. If I pray but do not give God thanks for the answer, I have not prayed in faith. If I give him thanks from my heart, I remind myself that he is there, he has heard my prayer and I believe that he will do what he said!
Jesus said much the same thing in Mark 11.
Mark 11:24 (AMP) 24 For this reason I am telling you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe (trust and be confident) that it is granted to you, and you will [get it].
In this quote from the Amplified Bible, we see that Jesus says we must be confident and trust that our request will be granted. In the NKJV and the KJV, it says, “When you pray believe you receive.” If we believe we receive from the Lord after we see the manifestation, we are not operating in faith. If we choose to believe it is ours at the moment we pray, that means we trust that God will do what he says he will do. The outward expression of that attitude is thanksgiving.
Paul tells us something will happen if we do this from our hearts.
Philippians 4:7 (NKJV) 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Peace is the direct opposite of worry. If I pray about all the things that trouble me and from my heart give God thanks for taking care of them, a peace that cannot be naturally understood will attach itself to my mind. It will drive out fear and worry. Something from much deeper than the place where worry lives will begin to take control of my mind. It says here that it will guard our hearts and minds. From what will this peace guard our hearts and minds? Many things but one of the most important is worry.
If we do not honestly go to God and ask him about the situation, this peace will not come. If we pray but do not give God thanks for the answer, this peace will not come. If we do not meditate on the promise we are trusting in, this peace will not come. If we pray, give God thanks and trust in his Word, the Word of God promises this peace to us.
With this peace that passes understanding at work, we can look at the problem without worry. We can decide what we need to do and make plans without fear as a factor. The peace of God will strengthen us so that nothing can shake us. Worry has nothing to take hold of in a peace-guarded mind.
Paul tells us one more thing we must do. We must choose what we will think. Look at the list in verse 8. Can things that are true, noble and just in any way be a product of worry? Are worry thoughts “lovely” or a “good report.” What about virtue and praiseworthy things? Do we find either of those included in worry? Of course not.
Paul says we must choose to think on those things. When worry thoughts come, find something from Paul’s list to replace them. If thoughts come to your mind that do not fit his list, you know that they are thoughts of worry. You can choose what you dwell on. It is not always easy but it is possible. You may have to replace worry thoughts with “list” thoughts every few minutes for a while. The more you choose God’s thoughts over the devil’s, the easier it will be.
We might ask, “Where can I find ‘list’ thoughts.” Jesus fits everything on Paul’s list. When worry tries to come in, think of Jesus. Remember how he gave his life for you. Remember his love is everlasting and that his care for you did not stop at the resurrection.
Remember what God has done in the past and think on that. We tend to remember what God has not done. Instead, revisit some of the “altars” of your life. That is why God told Israel to build altars every time something good happened. He wanted them to remember what God had done especially when there was something to worry about.
Finally, think about the Word of God. Remember his promises. He remembers them. If you fill your mind with what God said, it will drive out the worry and you will experience the peace he so graciously promised.