Posted by: Brad Beaman | October 11, 2007

The Prescription for an anxious heart, Philippians 4:4-7

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You see anxiety is like a sickness. It is a spiritual illness that needs a cure. And we have in these verses Philippians 4:4-7 the prescription that God gives for an anxious heart.

Do people really struggle with anxiety? Is that something that is real or are we just talking when we say people in our day have anxious hearts? You have heard of Ann Landers, she got about 10,000 letters a month about people’s problems.

She was asked, what is the number one problem that people have? It all boils down to anxiety. She said people are afraid of losing their health. People are afraid of losing their wealth. People are afraid of losing their loved ones. She said people are afraid of life itself. This could be described as anxiety of the heart.

That is what we find to be the number one problem today, anxiety of the heart. It was the problem two thousand years ago too, because Jesus said on the sermon of the Mount that we should not worry about our physical concerns, about our clothing, about putting food on the table, we should not even be worried about tomorrow because each day had enough troubles of its own.

Do not have this kind of anxiety. Here we are in the age of computers and space rockets and advanced internet technology and the problem we have is the same as two thousand years ago, or in any time, anxiety in the heart.

It does not matter if you are a young person dealing with anxiety regarding your parents, your popularity or your grades in school. If you are young parents with anxiety about your children. If you are grandparents or great grandparents whoever it is you are not exempt from this problem we call anxiety.

If anxiety is the number one problem that plagues the human race then we should ask an important question. Is anxiety just for those who do not know Christ? Or does anxiety exist in the walls of this church in the lives of Christians?

I remember the time when I was about to finish seminary and I was looking for my first pastorate position. I remember going to two older men and explaining to them the frustrations I was having not finding a church to pastor. I said to them I put out one hundred resumes in 25 states and I haven’t even heard a response. Even a rejection letter would have been an encouragement to me. To at least know someone has read one of my resumes.

I was expecting these two men to say something like, don’t worry you will get a position that is just right for you. But instead the first one said, you know that I just read an article that among Southern Baptist ministers there are 30,000 trained ministers who do not have any ministry position. When I heard these words I just sank down in my chair.

The next man said, if you think that’s bad then hear this, I am from the state of Arkansas and for every one minister in the pulpit we have there unemployed ministers that cannot find a position. After hearing all this I had to struggle with the problem of an anxious heart. None of us are exempt from the problem of anxiety if we are a Christian or not. Anxiety can come upon anyone.

Paul has been dealing in this chapter with the church in Philippi. He has been writing about conflict in the church. One Christian in conflict with the other. Paul did all he could to bring peace among these Christians. But real peace is more than just the absence of conflict.

We might be in good fellowship and harmony with one another, but there still might not be real peace inside of us because real peace is internal. Real peace comes within the heart. The tranquility of the soul and the assurance that comes with trust in God. That is what real peace is. That is what God wants us to have.

The Christian was never meant to live a life filled with anxiety, but rather the Christian was meant to live in peace. Anxiety displeases God. If we are really quite frank about it we can call anxiety what it is, sin. You see anxiety is like a sickness. It is a spiritual illness that needs a cure. And we have in these verses the prescription that God gives for an anxious heart.

Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again rejoice.

The first thing that Paul points out to these Christians struggling with anxiety is found in verse 4. He tells them to rejoice. Paul has been speaking about unity. He has been speaking about peace and about conflict resolution. He is now about to emphasize some of the positive attributes that we need as believers if we are going to be free from anxiety.

Paul speaks about joy again and again in this book. He wants the church to be people of joy. Christianity was never meant to be something apart from joy. Authentic Christianity is a lifestyle of joy. If people want joy they will find it in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Joy itself is an inward quality of life. Why do authentic Christians have joy? Because of the abiding presence of Christ in their lives. Jesus promised believers a full and meaningful life. They have joy because they have a glorious future hope in Christ. All these things that give the believers in Christ joy, none of them have anything to do with circumstance.

Paul told the Christians in Philippi to rejoice. Remember that Paul wrote this letter from prison on death row. Here was Paul waiting to find out if he will be sentenced to death or if he would be let go. He had all this to deal with but he told the believers to rejoice, have joy in your life. How could there be joy in this kind of situation? Because true joy in Christ is not connected to circumstances.

To have joy it does not matter if you are going through difficult times. We can still experience true joy in Jesus Christ even in the midst of very difficult and trying times. Paul calls the church of the first century, who faced all kinds of difficulties, to joy.

Philippians 4:5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

What we see in verse 5 is another internal characteristic. Let your gentleness be evident to all. Your Bible may say have moderation or considerateness. It may say softness. Whatever the translation it is a call to the Christian to understand other people. It calls us to oppose all arrogance in our own walk with God. It is a quality that allows us to bear the injustices of life with patience. The Lord is near. We have the abiding presence of the Lord. This should cause us to have a lifestyle of gentleness and understanding of others.

It is the kind of quality that we put ourselves in the shoes of another person. Yesterday I went on one of my long and grueling bicycle rides. I often do this on Saturday morning meeting with about a dozen other cyclists. We have this group and each one takes turns leading in the front. It turns out that when you lead in the front the wind is giving resistance and it is said to be forty percent more energy is used than riding behind another cyclist.

So we are sure that everyone is going to take their turn up front. But their was one guy who rode yesterday who had just a couple of years ago been hit by a car and his legs had been broken. When he was up front we were not so concerned that everyone take their turn. The others told him to get to the back and save your energy and rest.

That is the kind of quality that Paul is calling Christians to. An understanding of the other person and what they have been through. It requires putting yourself in their position. Then to act in kindness is a way you would hope others would treat you. That is what Paul calls the Christians to, a life of joy and life of gentleness.

Then Paul switches from the positive Characteristics and gives a negative command. He says do not be anxious. He says I do not want you to be anxious. Now we talk about the hard sayings of the Bible that are difficult to live up to and this is one of them. How many people as hard as they try not to be anxious still find themselves over and overcome with anxiety when the difficulties come and they begin to worry.

When we become anxious, and that anxiety fills our hearts as much as we hate to admit it we are actually saying God, I really can’t trust you with this one. I have to take this inside of myself and worry and become anxious. I just don’t have the ability to trust you God with this problem.

That kind of anxiety has no place in the life of a Christian. The root idea of anxiety is like a mind that is divided and can not find a place of rest. In Matthew chapter 6 Jesus said. “That’s why I’m telling you to stop worrying about your life-what you will eat or what you will drink-or about your body-what you will wear. So never worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Here is the apostle Paul writing this. He could have been anxious about so much there on death row. If anybody who should be anxious it is a person in prison on death row. But Paul said do not be anxious.

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything in prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Paul actually gives the secret. He does not want people to be anxious, but he knows it is not enough to just say not to be anxious. If anxiety is a spiritual sickness then we are going to need a prescription. Paul says in Philippians 4:6 what the prescription but in everything in prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

The prescription for a troubled heart is prayer. It almost seems too simple. You ask with all this anxiety you are telling me all I have got to do is pray? Yes. You see Paul says take it to the Lord in prayer. If anxiety is dividing our mind and causing us to have this division where we cannot find a way to be settled then prayer is focusing our mind on God and giving us the peace of a settled mind. The answer to the problem of anxiety is prayer.

One person may say, but my problem is so big that you could not understand my problem. That may be true, but God can understand your problem. There is no problem you can have that is so big that God cannot understand that. Someone else may say, but my problem causing me anxiety is so small that I would not want to trouble God with it. Let me tell you that there is no trouble that is too small. That is what the Bible tells us to do, to take anything that is causing us anxiety to God in prayer.

Have we any trials? Have we any troubles anywhere? We need not be discouraged but take it to the Lord in prayer. Anxiety contradicts a life of faith. We need a life of faith and trust in God but anxiety destroys that faith. When the storms rage internally God wants us to have tranquility in our soul.

Have you ever talked to someone who is plagued with anxiety? A person that whatever they did they could not get away from anxiety that was on them like a heavy weight. Then you go back and talk to them again. You bring it up and ask them about the problem and how it is going. It is almost like they did not remember it and they say, well I prayed about that and God gave me a peace. That is exactly what Paul is telling us to do, to pray about what gives us anxiety. This anxiety will come to all of us and we are to take it to God in prayer. That is the prescription for an anxious heart.

We see the result of taking our anxieties to God in prayer. The result is peace in our lives. That person who says I prayed about it and God gave me peace experiences the cure for their anxious heart through prayer.

Philippians 4:7 Then the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Peace cannot be explained. We can experience peace, but we cannot explain it. It is a divine gift that comes from God so our circumstances cannot change this peace.

Did you read the story in the newspaper of a young seminary student who had a gun put to his head and threatened to be killed? He was shot twice with blanks and even though they were blanks it still caused his head to bleed. He said that during that time he prayed to God. He even prayed for the salvation of those who had a gun to his head and who had stolen his car. He prayed about it. He said he was overcome with peace.

Do you see the result of really taking our anxiety to God? The result is peace. If someone had a gun put to their head and their life threatened could find peace in prayer then you can find peace , whatever you are anxious about.

download Philippians eBook: Joy in Christ Jesus 

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Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    I needed to be reminded of this, especially today, that Christ who can calm a storm can likewise calm a troubled heart – if I would only ask Him to.

    Blessings to you –

  2. *For some reason, today 1-6-08, I am thinking back to 9-11 and the first thing I heard after viewing the tragedy in NY. It was some one on Christian Radio KJLY (Blue Earth Mn.) quoting Philippians Chapter 4 Verses 4-7.
    *Our family Bible has remained opened to that Chapter and Verses ever since.
    *I refer to it often, as it sits on my piano, and I play my piano everyday.
    *I plan to have these words of scripture part of my Celebration of Life Service.
    Thank you for your excellent interpretation!

  3. Thank You for Sharing

    Peace in Christ

    MD

  4. Thank you so very much for sharing this profound and life altering information.

  5. […] It grips us from time to time. But anxiety contradicts a life of faith. Paul presents a prescription to anxiety: Prayer (Philippians 4:6). Talk to God, he said. And keep […]


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