“Be killing sin or sin will be killing you” – John Owen

Do Not Be Anxious About Anything – Philippians 4:6

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).

Anxiety is one of those stress indicators that we all have. At some time or another we have been anxious. Some people are anxious by nature and personality. Others suffer anxiety as a result of abuse, and others become anxious due to the overwhelming events of their lives—either by family, social or business events. Today we have specific names for anxiety. Supposedly there are different types: panic disorders, social anxiety disorders, specific phobias, and generalized anxiety disorders. There are a variety of symptoms depending on the type of anxiety disorder. These symptoms include feelings of panic and fear, uneasiness, difficulty sleeping, cold, sweaty hands and/or feet, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, uneasiness, dry mouth, nausea, muscle tension and dizziness.

These all seem to me to be general, rather than specific, because they could be applied to every single person who has ever lived. Some may show more than one symptom. We have become professionals today in diagnosing people with anxiety disorders. For instance, if someone said that he couldn’t sleep, that must mean that he is anxious or has an anxiety disorder. Sometimes listening to a person talk may give you anxiety. I have no doubt whatsoever that people can be and are anxious, and some very seriously so. Some may indeed require serious treatment. However, the general diagnosis by our medical professionals would probably mean you would have to go on some medication.

My neighbor told me the other day that he had just suffered a heart attack (two weeks previously). He trains regularly and is fit. His heart suffered no damage but because they could not find anything they put him on a beta–blocker to help with his heart (though they couldn’t define precisely his problem) and then because the beta–blocker affects his cholesterol, they had to give him cholesterol medication. But even the treatments cause you problems. Where does it end? For instance, I just wouldn’t take something that caused any major side–effects. Others perhaps would take the treatment.

Now I’m sure that people suffered anxiety in Paul’s day. Their life–expectancy was less than ours. Infant mortality was high, and, of course, due to certain diseases, they did not have the medical treatment that we do today, and so they died. Praise God for good medical treatment. But we are in the business of extending life. Scientists are always working on extending mortality, and insurance companies do the same. The longer you live, as far as they are concerned, will delay any payout.

In our text, Paul tells the Philippians to be “anxious for nothing” (NASB). The word “anxious” means to have a care for something, to scan minutely, to think earnestly upon, or to be cumbered with many cares. He does not tell us what they might have been anxious about. Life was uncertain in the Roman Empire. But he does tell us his cure for anxiety. As far as our world is concerned, Paul’s recommendation would be laughed at.

There are two ways to think of the word “anxious.” We can be and should be genuinely concerned for someone else, enough to care for them or be concerned for them. In this sense, we have an anxiety for them. First Corinthians 7:32 is an example of this: “I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord.” Being anxious about the things of the Lord is a good thing. On the other hand, there is the negative sense, which means to be worried, in such a way that your life is affected.

Jesus said: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing”(Matt. 6:25)? These are the very things that do worry us—food and clothing. Jesus says that our heavenly Father knows we need them and will provide them, provided we seek his kingdom and righteousness first (Matt. 6:32, 33). Jesus told Martha that she was anxious and troubled about many things, and that wasn’t a good thing (Luke 10:41). Jesus told the disciples not to worry or be anxious about what they should say when they stood before governing authorities (Mark 10:19; 13:11; Luke 12:11).

It is interesting to note that in Philippians 2:28 Paul does mention that he was anxious about the Philippians, because they were very concerned for Epaphroditus who had gone to visit Paul and had become very sick. Paul’s concern was for the Philippians, that they might not be overly worried, and thus cause him worry.

Paul’s cure for anxiety in our verse is two-fold. First “in everything” (every circumstance or situation) we are to pray; and second, we must pray with “thanksgiving.” Paul uses two words to describe praying to God. The one is “praying” and the other is “supplication.” Prayer is the general activity of asking God for something, but supplication is the activity needed for a specific issue. So, “in everything” which means every circumstance, we must pray; but every circumstance is different, so in each circumstance we must supplicate God about that particular circumstance and its needs. A general kind of prayer is not going to suffice. This means that praying must not be aimless or vague. It should be specific and with intent. If my need is about my health, then praying that my neighbor’s dog get better from its illness is missing Paul’s point.

Our prayers and supplications must be with thanksgiving. Thanksgiving implies humility and submission. God’s will is connected to “in everything.” This is what Paul refers to in 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 when he says,“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Praying and giving thanks in all circumstances is God’s will for us. The rejoicing part is connected to the anxiety part of our verse. We won’t be anxious if we are rejoicing. Joy takes away pain and sorrow. We do not find this joy in ourselves or others. It is only found in the Lord. He is our joy. That’s why Paul tells the Philippians in Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”

Thanksgiving also takes our minds off ourselves. If we are thanking God, we don’t focus on our problems. Much anxiety in our lives would be greatly reduced if we gave thanks. Thanking God for everything means we are thinking about God, and understand that he is thinking about us. This is what Peter means when he says: “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). It is the “cares of this world”that “choke the word” and cause it to be “unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). Those whose hearts are weighed down with the “cares of this life” will be unprepared for the day of the Lord when it comes suddenly (Luke 21:34). Thanksgiving will help greatly when we are confronted with troubles and sorrows, but it will only help if we make it the tenor of our lives. We must be a thankful people generally speaking. We tend to think that we should only express thanks for the good things, but Paul says “in everything,” meaning also all the bad times. Let us not be preoccupied with our problems, but ask God for help, and thank him for all our troubles. He cares for us and will help us.