It often seems as if those who attempt to solve our problems do not know them at all. We may be poor, and one who is well off tries to bring us comfort and help. Or, we may be sick, and one who has good health comes with prayer and words of comfort. Or, we may be passing through a particular trial, and one who is untried speaks with us. And although this comfort and care is brought with good Christian intent, nevertheless we are often prone to say that the one attempting to comfort us knows nothing of our problems. And we say, “he isn’t sick, or, he isn’t poor, he does not know how great our burdens are.” It seems easy for him to say “don’t worry” or “live in hope.”
However, the words to which we look in this article are written by one who knew affliction of many kinds. He was persecuted, afflicted, shipwrecked, etc. Even as he wrote the words, which we call God’s, he was bound in prison. Of course we speak of Paul. And he says to us, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Phil 4:6. He who was deeply tried exhorts us who pass through trial.
But even more importantly, we must emphasize that God speaks these words. For the Scripture is His Word infallibly inspired. Words of life for His elect ordained unto life from before the foundation of the world. And the Spirit of Christ says to us be careful for nothing, but be in prayer and thanksgiving. Thus, even as a pastor, I cannot speak words of comfort in my own strength, for I too must confess the sin of worry and anxiety. But God speaks—and I must listen to these words also! Even when our Lord may call me to bring these words to the bedside of a sick saint, I must listen and so must you. For when God speaks, we must be quiet, must listen, must believe, and must do what He says as we are given grace. Or as one grandma once said in a Bible Study, “When God speaks, we shut up.” One does, not argue, or say, “I don’t understand,” or, “I don’t think you know my trial or my circumstances, Lord.” O, you might say this to man, but not to God! And God tells us to walk in prayer and thanksgiving, being careful for nothing.
When one who is tried, then, considers this word of God—to be careful for nothing—it is necessary to distinguish the term “careful” as used in our text from the use of the same term used in a good sense in Scripture. In a positive way the child of God can be careful. That is, we ought to be filled with proper concern over matters of life as good stewards before God. Then this means that we are conscientious in our calling before God to serve Him in all of our lives, in ways well pleasing to Him, in the way of His grace bestowed upon us by the Spirit of His Son. Paul so uses the term (careful) in this way in the very chapter in which we find the text that we consider in this article. In verse ten we read, “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.”
However, in our text the term “careful” in the phrase “careful for nothing,” has the opposite meaning. Be not filled with cares, anxieties, unrest, or worry. Worry or anxiety is the concern of Paul’s admonition.
Such anxiety or worry we know by the hard way of experience. It is mental agony, or the morbid dread that the future will not be as we think it should be. Such worry causes one to tremble. And its symptoms are irritableness, vexation, and impatience. But it ought not so to be. Be careful for nothing says the Spirit.
Be silent and hear!
As such, worry is too often a common experience in the church, and it has no respect of age. Our children are filled with worries about school (and we often add to this)—they worry about the friends they have or don’t have, etc. In the time of youth, anxieties arise caused by the pressures that are unique to them—those arising from decisions that will affect their whole lives: the seeking of a wife or of a husband that is one in faith with them; their choice of occupation in a day when more and more fields of labor are being closed to the Christian stranger and pilgrim; the questions that arise of acceptance in their peer group, while yet desiring to stand distinctively as a child of God; etc. And as one grows older so it is the tendency to have increasing opportunity for worry. In adulthood there seems to be no end of things that arise in our lives that give rise to worry. Our labor, our health, our children, etc. Worry in life seems so common that we may be tempted to shove this admonition aside, saying, “We can’t do anything about it anyway!” But this we may not do!
Be silent and hear!
Further, it seems as though we worry about anything and everything. Marriage relations (how can I make my husband relaxed when he comes home from a hard day of work, when I, myself cannot relax) or (how can I cheer up my wife who has struggled all day with her daily chores, when I, myself am discouraged); we worry about our children (the training of them in God’s Word, when so much seems to interfere); our parents (who can’t possibly know our problems); food for the table; clothes (are they acceptable); things present; things future; our health (whether all the cancer is gone or not); etc. And if we have nothing else to worry about, we probably worry about nothing. But such worry keeps us from thanksgiving and prayer. The Spirit says, Be careful for nothing.
Be silent and hear!
And yet further, the present day in which we live seems to add to the growing list of things that can fill us with anxiety. There is increasing unrest in the economy of the whole world and it is hard to know where we are heading financially. This in turn continues to spur on political unrest and upheaval throughout the world—so we live in an era of instability that borders an chaos. And finally we live in the age of great apostasy—when the love of many wax cold. And this in turn can give rise to many questions to the child of God, questions that are not always faced with steadfast trust. However, even in the light of the above, and especially because of the above Christ says, be careful for nothing. And we must hear!
Has it struck you that it is basically the work of God that we worry about. We worry about the things which we cannot change. The farmer worries whether it will rain, or whether it will not stop raining. The sick are worried that they will get worse, or that they will not be restored to health soon enough to do this or that. We are so often filled with doubt concerning God’s ways and His will for us and our loved ones. We usually worry about the future, about the unknown. The Spirit says, worry not at all.
Be still, and hear!
Christ teaches this same truth throughout His Word. An example is found in the sermon on the mount. This is recorded in Matthew, the sixth chapter. “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: . . . Wherefore if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith.” Do not be filled with anxiety, because it is of no avail—and gets one nowhere. We cannot add one cubit to our stature. Worry can only cloak your life in a shadow of despair and misery! Be careful for nothing.
And yet there is a much greater reason to cease from all anxiety and worry, and that is that it is the deep way of sin! Worry draws us away from trust in God. Worry looks away from God, and looks inward upon self. Worry is concerned with the ease of the flesh and of this earthly life. Worry is based upon setting our judgment over against our God’s sovereign will and counsel. It leads us into selfishness.
And while it is true that we do not know or understand all of God’s ways, worry nevertheless is exactly a distrust of God’s covenant faithfulness, and a distrust of God’s ways with us. When we worry we refuse to walk in submission to our Father. We express that we know what is the right portion for our life. And thus we fail to trust in Him Who alone knows our needs perfectly. We walk in sin. And we are robbed of all true peace.
Positively to be careful in nothing means that we walk in relation to all things as children of God. Out of faith, with reverence and fear, we submit all things unto the Father for Jesus’ sake. The Spirit says in I Peter 5:6-7“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.” Further, we know that Christ has been given all power in heaven and earth to rule over all things to perfect the kingdom of our God. For God hath given Him all power, “when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head of the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” Eph. 1:20-23.
God has predestined all things that come to pass in this life. He has chosen His people in Christ from before the foundation of the world upon whom to set His love. He sent His Only Begotten Son to die the accursed death to save that people. And He gives Christ as our High Priest all power to rule over all things unto our salvation. Then how foolish to be filled with worry! Christ came in our flesh, He tasted our infirmities, He knows our chief adversary and his power, He knows our weakness—our sin (for sin He suffered to taste the fulness of God’s wrath), and He knows each of His elect personally as members of His body. Surely then all things work together for good, to them who love God, to them who are the called according to God’s purpose. Hence, it is in the confidence of grace that we must understand that all things work together for the perfect realization of that which our covenant Father in Christ has purposed! And this in every minute detail. Trust in the Lord for He cares; and in love having blotted out our sin in the blood of His Son He forgives your iniquity and makes you His child. Surely He will perfect His work in you. All is well!
Be still and hear!
Precious way of trust—precious prayer and supplication with thanksgiving!
Do not go to the psychiatrist, do not gulp pills, do not try to drown out your cares in drink, or escape them with the stupor of drugs. But the way to blessed trust and peace that passeth understanding is to bring your requests to God in prayer. For prayer dispels anxiety and care. When we bring our cares to Father and leave them there, no longer shall we be burdened. By turning to Father it is necessary that we turn our thoughts away from self. We see ourselves as sinners. And alone in contrition we bring our supplications unto Him. But then we come alone in Christ, for apart from Him we cannot stand. It is by grace through faith we petition Father for Jesus’ sake. Our deepest need of forgiveness, caused by selfishness and pride, filling us with care, we bring unto Him seeking mercy. And for His Son’s sake God hears your prayer. Your sins are forgiven in Christ’s blood. All things are well. Surely then we rejoice and live in all thanksgiving—and all care slips away. In Christ we have peace with our God, and this in all of our way!
Be still, hear—Be at peace!