top of page

The Peace of Knowing Christ, Part 1

September 13, 2020

Phil 4:6



Bible References

Phil 4:6

Sermon Notes

The Peace of Knowing Christ, Part 1, 9.13.20
Do y’all remember the toilet paper shortage earlier this year? Wow. What a strange phenomenon. Who would have thought that in preparation for what people thought was the end of the world they would stock up on toilet paper? I can think of several other important things to stock up on other than toilet paper. Milk, bread, meat, rice, eggs, you know, the essentials. Not toilet paper. And people we’re fighting over toilet paper, too. People were going rabid over this stuff. Fighting with each other. Crazy stuff. I saw some pictures of online with t-shirts which had the message, “I survived the toilet paper shortage of 2020. The world will never forget.” That’s funny.
Well what was driving all of this? Why were people (not us, of course) acting like this? Well, I stumbled upon this article that investigated this question. And this is what it said.
In mid-March, as coronavirus cases started their sharp climb in the United States, many Americans appeared to have one thing in mind before hunkering down: Buy toilet paper. Lots of it. But not everyone grabbed every roll in sight, and research published offers insights into why some people scrambled for toilet paper while others held back. The study looked at whether different personality traits were associated with toilet paper hoarding, and found stockpilers tended to be more anxious and fearful about the coming health threat compared with those who didn’t load up on the product.
In other words, what was drove the 2020 toilet paper shortage, what led so many people to go and hoard toilet paper was anxiety and fear.
These recent events of the toilet paper shortage 2020 provide a nice backdrop for divining into our study this morning which is on anxiety. While we might not all hoard toilet paper, we all struggle with anxiety. Anxiety can be a crippling sin for some. For others, it’s more like a nagging pest that won’t go away. But for all of us, we struggle with having anxious thoughts. And God has something to say to us about it this morning. Open with me in your Bibles to Phil 4:6. This is what Paul writes,
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
This passage is very simple to understand. Paul gives three exhortations in this passage. Those three exhortations will be our three points. This is a very simple passage but also a very powerful one.
Don’t Be Anxious
Introduction: Our Cultural Context
First off write this, “Don’t be anxious.” This point naturally arises from the text. Look with me right at the beginning of v. 6. Paul writes,
do not be anxious about anything
What we must first do when we come to this commandment is we must realize that anxiety is a sin. We live in the day and age of secular psychology where issues that the Bible teaches are sins against God, the secular psychologist will not mention God, sin, and repentance. I think that there are some truths that a secular psychologist can help us to see, but they approach this issue of anxiety from a very different stance. The apostle Paul teaches that it is a sin. We must first take responsibility for our thought life and view our thought life as connect to God. We are responsible for our actions, our choices, and our way of thinking.
The Context of the Passage
at the very beginning of the verse. Paul writes,
do not be anxious about anything
Now you will notice, if you have an ESV, that the sentence in v. 6 is a continuation of v. 5. Verse 6 in the ESV is not the beginning of a new sentence. In the ESV, the word “do” is under case. Verse 6 is not a new sentence. The ESV takes the thought in v. 6 as connected to and built upon the though that precedes it in v 5. The full sentence in the ESV starts in v. 5 with, “The Lord is at hand.” Do you see this in the ESV?
What all this means is that the idea that “the Lord is at hand” is connected to the command of “do not be anxious.” We explored this idea of “the Lord is at hand” last week. I interpreted it as a reference to the Lord’s Jesus closeness to the believe in time and space. No amount of time, nor any amount of space can separate the believer from Jesus Christ.
This thought of the Lord’s closeness is the theological basis for the command to not worry, to not be anxious. Why are we not to worry and be anxious? Why? Because Jesus is with us. He is close. He will return at any time. He is not far away. He is close. His comfort and love can be felt at any time. That’s the theological basis for the command. Jesus is close. Therefore, we have no need to be fear.
What Anxiety Is Not
Now let’s break down what exactly this idea of anxiety means. What exactly, Pastor, does it mean to not be anxious? What exactly is anxiety? Great question, dear friends. Allow me to explain. To answer this question, it is helpful to explain what anxiety is not and what it is. We will deal with what it is not first.
To examine what anxiety is not, we need to examine this verb in 4:6. The verb is “be anxious.” You see that in 4:6? Paul says, don’t be anxious. This verb that Paul is saying we should be do is μεριμνάω. Remember that.
Now turn to Phil 2:20. Paul says this,
For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare
So in this passage, Paul is talking about Timothy. Paul here is praising Timothy to the Philippian church because of his “concern” for their welfare. The verb “concerned” here in 2:20, you know what that verb is? It’s μεριμνάω. This verb is the same verb that occurs in 4:6, our passage, when Paul says, “Do not be anxious about anything.”
So Paul in 2:20 is praising Timothy for a behavior that he forbids in 4:6. Huh? What? How do we understand these two verses?
This word μεριμνάω has two related but different definitions. So for Timothy and his behavior, the behavior that Paul praises. That use of μεριμνάω means this.
To attend to, care for, be concerned about
So when Paul says that he was μεριμνάω for the Philippians, he is saying that Timothy attends to their needs, cares for them, is concerned about them.
A good way to illustrate this is with a loving mother and her sick child. This loving mother is going to think about her child and try to find ways she can help her child feel better. This type of concern is not sinful. In fact, it is good. It’s OK to care for others. In fact, it is a manifestation of God’s grace in your life to care for others. You should be like Timothy and have a genuine concern for the welfare of others.
What Anxiety Is
Anxiety is a different type of concern. Listen to the second definition of this verb μεριμνάω. It is this,
To be apprehensive, have anxiety, be anxious, be (unduly) concerned
This is the behavior that God prohibits in our lives. We are supposed to be concerned for others, but we are not supposed to be “unduly concerned.” So the first definition of μεριμνάω, which is good and acceptable behavior was, “to attend to, care for, be concerned about,” and the bad and unacceptable behavior was, “to be apprehensive, have anxiety, be anxious, be (unduly) concerned.” The similarities between these definitions is considerable.
An example of this sinful type of behavior. Let’s go back to the concerned mother for her sick child. A mother who has anxiety regarding the situation will be concerned for her child but this concern will delve into fear, and the fear will take the mother’s thoughts in a million different directions. The mother will begin thinking about what life will be like without this child, the shattered hopes and dreams that she will experience, what it will be like at the child’s funeral, and the grief that she will suffer for years after having lost her child.
Concern and anxiety are very similar but anxiety takes hold of your thoughts and won’t let them go. It grips you. Controls you. It’s an enslaving form of fear. And the way you can tell if you’re having anxiety is that your fears are irrational and overblown. So that is what we should not do. We should be concerned for others and sometimes for ourselves but this concern cannot and should not turn into anxiety. Anxiety is unchecked concern that runs rampant in your mind. Anxiety takes your thoughts into the dark, the irrational, and the overblown. Anxiety is concern without trust in God.
It’s not enough to just say, “Don’t be anxious.” While preparing for this sermon, I did some research on anxiety on the internet and found people who struggle with anxiety don’t find it all that helpful to be told, “don’t be anxious.” The conversation needs to go beyond that. When dealing with anxiety, it’s not enough to just believe and think, “Don’t be anxious; don’t be anxious; don’t be anxious.” While that’s true, that’s not the full story. So we need to not be anxious (yes), but we need to focus on some other activity as well. So God calls us to not be anxious and he also calls us to do something else. That “something else” is prayer. So rather than being anxious we are to pray.
The Command
The antidote to anxiety that Paul provides us with in this passage is prayer. Look with me at the passage again. Paul starts with the prohibition, “Don’t be anxious about anything.” So that’s what we’re not supposed to do. Don’t do that. Never be anxious about anything, God tells us. Instead of being anxious, what are we supposed to do? What behavior are we supposed to engage in when we are anxious? Prayer. Instead of becoming anxious, we need to pray. Look with me at the passage.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Paul references prayer three times in this passage. He mentions “prayer” itself. Then he mentions “supplication.” And lastly he mentions “making your requests known to God.” These three references are referring to the same reality. Paul is a bit repetitious here. I take his repetition to be intentional for the sake of important. Pray, pray, pray he says to us.
Prayer is such an important spiritual discipline. Listen to what Paul says in 1 Thess 5:17. He says,
Pray without ceasing
Every second of the Christian life is to be lived through prayer. We are to have a constant conversation going on with our heavenly Father. This is how we protect ourselves form anxiety. Constant, consistent, continually dependence on God by means of prayer.
I’d like you to look specifically at the last statement Paul makes in Phil 4:6 about prayer. He says there, “let your requests be made know to God.” You see that there? I want you to notice that the tense of the work “let.” It’s present tense. Paul here is stressing the need for continual, ongoing prayer. How do we battle our anxiety, dear friends? Ongoing, continual prayer. A mindset of dependence on God expressed by means of prayer.

And brothers and sisters, let me just say that I can testify to joy of prayer. I struggle with my prayer life. I do, dear friends. If you ever want to know how to pray for me, pray for my prayer life. Pray that I would have unceasing, constant fellowship with God by means of prayer. I need that, dear friends. Would you pray that for me?
This week the Lord has blest me with a deeper sense of prayer. As I’ve studied this passage I’ve seen and felt the Lord’s presence. Deeply, truly. And I’ve communed with him through prayer. Letting him know how wonderful he is to me. How much his grace is my sufficiency. How I am totally in need of him. My mind has been enraptured with his love, his grace, his mercy, his forgiveness of my sins. And I have felt that my mind is so enraptured with the love of Christ that all anxiety and worry is pushed from my mind. And what I am left with is satisfaction with him. When my mind is filled with his value and worth, there is no room for anxiety in my thoughts. O, dear friend, what a friend we have in Jesus.
In Every Situation
Notice the time restraint on this prayer that Paul commands. There’s this little prepositional phrase “in everything.” This “in everything” is contrasted with what Paul says regarding anxiety—do not be anxious “in anything.” Paul is saying this. In no situation should you be anxious but in every situation you should pray. Anxiety is to have no foothold in your life, while prayer is supposed to dominate your thought life. Constant. Consistent. Perpectual. Never ending prayer.
Theological Basis
Now why prayer? Another way to ask this question is this. Why is prayer taught here as the antidote to anxiety? Why not, say, evangelism? For example, why doesn’t Paul say, “Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation share the gospel?” Why doesn’t he say that? Why does Paul teach here prescribe prayer as the answer to anxiety?
The answer to this question relates to the nature of prayer. Prayer is the main way that we show our dependence on God. Prayer is all about our dependence on God. When we pray, we express our inner need for God to help us. When we pray, we abandon our own abilities to fix the problems in our lives and in the lives of others, and we throw ourselves upon God for him to fix our problems. Prayer is all about dependence on God. It is the expression that the Bible gives us to show forth our dependence on God. People pray when they feel like they need God. If you don’t pray, it’s because you don’t think you need God.
Anxiety occurs when we trust in ourselves and in our ability to fix our problems. Anxiety occurs when we are not dependent on God. When we have anxious thoughts, we exclude the goodness, power, kindness, and love of God. Anxiety is an expression of self-dependence. Anxiety is based upon the belief that we are in control of our lives
So answering the question I posed. Why exactly does Paul prescribe prayer as the way to address anxiety? This is the answer. Anxiety is based upon self-reliance. We become anxious when we are self-reliant, and believe that we control our lives. Prayer is the exact opposite of self-reliance. Pray occurs when we feel like when need God. Paul prescribes prayer because prayer demonstrates reliance on God. And when we are anxious what we need most is to be reminded and reoriented to are need for God. Prayer is the expression of that need.
The medicine that Paul prescribes for anxiety here prayer. Perpetual, continual, unceasing prayer. Prayer is important because it reflects our need for God. When we pray, we posture ourselves as not having the answers, as needing divine help, as being dependent on God. Anxiety is self-dependence. When we are self-dependent, we must strive to repent of that through prayer. That is what Paul teaches.
Be Thankful
Now we have one last point this morning, dear friends. One last point. This point addresses the manner in which we should pray. When we are anxious and we choose to make our requests known to God, what attitude should be associated with our prayers? So we should pray but how do we pray? This is our third and final point this morning. Write this if you are taking notes. “Be thankful.”
This point naturally flows from the text. Looking again at Phil 4:6. Paul says (we’ll read the whole verse again),
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
It should be clear where I am getting this last point from. “But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” When we are anxious, God prescribes prayer. We covered that in the second point. He also prescribes thankfulness to occur as we express our prayers to him.
Once again relating this to anxiety. When we are anxious, we focus on the negative. So if you’re anxious about money, you’re focused on the money that you don’t have and the negative consequences that will occur in your life as a result of your lack of money. If you’re anxious about your health, you’re focused on the bad health you have or might have the negative consequences that will occur in your life as a result of your lack of health. If your anxious about your future, you’re focused on the bad that might happen, the uncertainty, the negative. We become anxious we become enraptured with the negative, the evil, the bad.
Thankfulness is the opposite of this. Thankfulness is not a focus upon the bad but the good. Thankfulness is a focusing on what you do have, not on what you might not have or not on what you might lose. Thankfulness is the recognition that you are the recipient of divine grace based upon what Christ has done for you in his first coming and what he will do for you in his second coming. Thankfulness focuses upon the positive. Anxiety focuses upon the negative.
Let me illustrate this. Let’s say you are anxious about death. You are anxious about dying. We’ve all experienced this from time to time. I’ve had moments like this. Especially, during COVID, people’s sensitivities towards death have been heightened. I myself have had like, “What if I get COVID, die, and leave my wife as a widow?” These thoughts have been fleeting but I have thought them. We all have these twisted, distorted patterns of thinking. So let’s say you’re anxious about death. When you have this anxiety, you are focuses on what it is that you will lose—namely, your life. Your attention is on the negative. It’s on what will be lost. It is not on what you have. If you are anxious about death, you are fixated on the life that you will lose and not on the life that you have. Anxiety gravitates towards the negative. When you are anxious, you fail to recognize the blessings that God has given you. Your perception is distorted, and you cannot see what is right in front of you—which is the overabundance of God’s blessings in your life.
Dear friend, when you are anxious, when those negative thoughts bombard you, when you can’t seem to get out of their grip, focus on what it is that God has given you. Focus on what it is that you have, not what you don’t have or what you might lose. Thankfulness and gratitude is a powerful antidote to anxiety. As you pray, express your prayers to God with thanksgiving. All that we have is from him. All that we have is form him. Thankfulness conquerors anxiety through a change in perspective. Anxiety focuses upon what you lack; gratitude focuses upon what you have. Be thankful.
My biggest takeaway from studying this passage was the God-centeredness that occurs over and over again in this passage. The answer that God gives us to fighting anxiety is to be more focused, more aware, more grateful to him. And this really should not be all that much of a surprise. The Bible is about God and our relationship with him. Dear friend, all of life’s answer find their answer in our relationship with God. What God does here with this passage is that he changes our perspective on anxiety away from the things of this world and bring it into perspective in light of our relationship with him. The reason why we are anxious, dear brothers and sisters, is ultimately because we don’t trust God. Anxiety is a sign of faithlessness. It a symptom of our lack of trust in God. Anxiety occurs when we trust ourselves, when we are thankless, and when we think that we are the masters of our destiny. All of these beliefs are false, dear friend. The antidote to anxiety is a reorientation in our belief about life. Our life is not our own. We are not in control. God loves us. He cares for us. His plan for is good. We have nothing to fear. When we do fear, we must pray. We must make our requests known to God. We must also be thankful. We must be grateful for what we have and not on what we might lose.
For next Sunday’s sermon, we will study the next verse, Phil 4:7. There we will see the promise that God has for us, if we obey what he says in 4:6. A tremendous promise from our God. Please read over that passage, Phil 4:7, to prepare for our sermon next week. Pray with me.

bottom of page