Saturday, May 12, 2012


Jesus said, "Do not be anxious."

Paul said, "Do not be anxious." (He obviously stole this line.)

So, don't be anxious. But how?

I have always found Philippians 4:6-7 to be among the most practical verses in Scripture. Paul tells us exactly what to do in the face of anxiety: pray a lot, and give thanks a lot. It's a powerful one-two punch that puts you in touch with divine power and divine contentment.

I haven't given enough credit, however, to the verses that precede and follow this.

In v.4 we read: "Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I will say, Rejoice." This is the goal: joy. Yes, I would definitely like to trade in my anxiety for joy. While anxiety is a popular little vehicle, the engine is always running so it uses a lot of gas, and it doesn't idle very well. Joy just runs so much more smoothly and gets me where I actually need to go.

Then in v.5 we read: "The Lord is at hand." This is akin to the many times in the Bible that God says, "Fear not, for I am with you." And it's tremendously practical, because he is there in such a way that he can be accessed by us: thus, the following verse about prayer and thanksgiving. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." It's interesting that it says "let your requests be made known," as if God wouldn't know them... but the problem is not God's knowing, it's that we have a faithless tendency to worry rather than request. We don't direct our energies toward formulating a request, so anxiety breeds with all its disturbance and distraction. JUST ASK.

And after speaking about the peace that results from formulating our requests, and acknowledging all we have to be thankful for... there is more. I always viewed this next part as an entirely new set of instructions, but I should have known better. Paul goes on to speak about setting our mind on that which is true...honorable...lovely...commendable...excellent...praiseworthy. In other words, harness your thought life. You are prone to worry, which is basically letting our thoughts run wild. Lasso your thoughts, tackle them, stick out your foot and trip them, whatever it takes. Get the upper hand over your thoughts.

And finally, he says, "What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me--practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you" (v.9). So the final instruction here is to DO SOMETHING. Specifically, get busy about God's will. Praying and praising and thanking and thinking are all foundational, but now point yourself in a direction and do something. Perhaps this is why Jesus said, when he told us not to be anxious, to direct our energies on "seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness."

If you are like me, you need to be reminded of these basics even after (wow) 24 years of following Jesus. Or kind of following. It's like Jesus has to keep turning around to say to me, his erratic follower, "This way. This way. Hey Ken, this way." I then envision him rolling his eyes as I momentarily get back on track, but maybe he just lets out a laugh.

1 comment:

Matt and Maria said...

I'm so glad that when you get reminders, that you remind us too! I still need to hear this every day! We deserve the eye roll but we get the grace.