By Justin Randolph
Pastor, Zion Hill Baptist Church, Sevierville, TN. Extract from the Baptist and Reflector: Sunday School Lesson-Bible Studies For Life. Focal Passage: Philippians 4:4-9

Do you worry excessively about things you cannot control? Is there a cure to worry? In the conclusion of his letter, the Apostle Paul turns to practical living. His desire is that they move toward holiness in their walk with the Lord. He knew worry would hinder them in this pursuit. He also knew their faith would be tested as they lived and worked in this predominantly Roman colony during the reign of Nero when persecution of the church was reaching a fever pitch.  Therefore, in these verses, he diagnoses the problem that would steal their joy; he prescribes a cure, recommends a recovery program, and makes them a promise they, as well as you and I, can count on.

The New Testament word for worry is translated as “be careful” in verse 6 and comes from the Greek word meaning to divide the mind or to pull apart. Worry creates a tug of war in our minds. Referring to this, James wrote that a “double-minded” man is unstable in all his ways. It is a fact that worry produces physical, emotional, and spiritual damage. Physical consequences include headaches, neck/back pain, and ulcers. Emotionally, we can become edgy, nervous, and angry.  Spiritually, we lose our compass and our trust in God’s Word.  Ultimately, worry is the greatest thief of our joy and peace.

Likewise, worry is often not based in reality. A recent study on the subject revealed that 90 percent of the things we worry about never happen. Besides this, worry is counterproductive. Worry produces nothing but more worry. It is a black hole which leads into the depths of depression. In verse 6, we are commanded not to worry.

The prescription given by Paul for worry is prayer. We are not to be careful, but to be prayerful.  It is not a new idea to many of us that prayer is the answer for worry. But, what kind of prayer is effective? Prayer is a general term for talking with God. Paul uses more specific terms in counseling us to pray in response to worry. First, he mentions supplications. Supplication in the Greek form implies earnest sharing of our concerns and problems. The picture is of a servant humbly coming before his or her master in order to have a need met. Supplication requires acknowledgement of who we are, who God is, and a courage to come before Him to receive the desires of our heart.

Second, Paul urges us to have a spirit of gratitude when we come before God. This reflects a humble attitude and a recognition that He has our best interest at heart.

The final word Paul uses for prayer is requests, referring to the particular items on our prayer agenda. I believe the order is important here. You see, God already knows what you need before you request it. More important than the words you speak is the attitude of your heart.  Likewise, by getting the order correct you understand that while worry is always unproductive, prayer always produces, not because we always get a positive answer to our requests. Prayer does not always change the situation and make it better, but prayer always works in us, changes us, and thus makes us better. Therefore, prayer is a powerful prescription for the cares and concerns of this world. It puts a smile on our face, a peace in our heart, and a brightness to our day. Prayer doesn’t always change our situation, but it changes us. It brings God down from heaven, to live with us.

Lastly, Paul reminds us that anxious thoughts must be replaced by something. It is not enough to empty your mind, you must fill it with thoughts of faith and truth. Worry torments us with “what-ifs?” What if I become ill? What if I lose my job? The Bible calls these “imaginations” and Paul said we must cast them down, take them captive, and make them obedient to Christ.  This type of thinking is powerful and if not dealt with properly it can pull us apart emotionally and physically. In verse 8, Paul gives six guidelines of proper Christian thought. What we fill our minds with is important. It does no good to pray and then immediately go and fill our minds with useless garbage. If we desire peace in our lives and our hearts we must set our mind on things above. Isaiah wrote it this way, “You will keep Him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”

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