“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Our lives today are frequently so busy and so complex that we easily forget our dependence upon God. We are inclined to look to ourselves to solve our problems. In foolish pride we are inclined to look to our own resources and our own ingenuity to provide for our needs. But this self-centered, self-reliant attitude takes its toll. We find ourselves beset with worry and anxious cares. Even as we live in modern, prosperous times there is much occasion for worry. Worries about health, our own or that of our loved ones; worries about money, financial cares; worries about our children or about our aging parents—there are a host of anxious cares that can weigh heavily upon us.
Worry can be overwhelming, virtually paralyzing at times. Many seek counseling. Many gulp tranquilizers. Many attempt to drown their worries in drink. Others try to escape them by submerging themselves in the lusts and pleasures of this world.
And yet in the midst of all of this the Word of God comes to us, “Be careful for nothing!” Literally we read, “Be anxious in nothing,” or in other words, “Don’t worry!”
A serious problem
We hear so much about worry, anxiety, stress, and burnout in our day. We know what worry is. We know by experience. Certainly, some are by their character more inclined to worry than others. But to one extent or another we all know what worry is. We know it the hard way. Worry is often our second nature. Who has not experienced that distress, that agony of mind and soul? The morbid dread that all in the future will not go as we think it should or as we would like to have it go? How many different things trouble us, vex our spirits, and cause us anxiety?
Realistically, we certainly have to conclude that there seems to be abundant reason for worry. In spite of startling advancements and accomplishments in technology, in medicine, and on almost every front, the world is filled with dread and the prophets of gloom are many. International tensions have not abated. Wars, conflicts, and civil strife rage in many places. Terrorist attacks occur around the globe. Poverty and disease are rampant in many places.
Closer to home, there is occasion for anxiety and worry. Our own nation is beset with many problems. Divisions run deep—politically, economically, racially. Are we not shocked by abounding lawlessness and immorality? It is very easy to worry about the church in these evil days. We live in times of terrible apostasy. We see less and less tolerance for biblical principles and convictions. How much longer will we have freedom to worship? How much longer will we be permitted to rear and educate our children in the fear of the Lord? We see increasing persecution in many places.
And if all of that is not enough, there is the host of cares in our everyday lives to which we referred earlier— financial worries, health concerns, job security, family matters. They press upon us from every side. The constant pressures of daily living sometimes force us down into a pit of despair. We experience heavy burdens in this valley of tears. We are reminded that this life is nothing but a continual death.
Then we hear this Word of God, “Be careful for nothing.” Be full of care in nothing! Don’t worry! How apparently impossible! We might be inclined to think that the apostle Paul wrote these words at a time when he had no troubles at all, when he was extraordinarily free from care. But quite the opposite is true. For these words were penned from the prison in Rome while the threat of death hung over him. If anyone had reason to worry it was Paul! But the inspired apostle speaks from his own experience, assuring us that it is our calling not to worry.
It is a striking fact that almost all of our worries concern those things that are outside of our control. Is not it true that we are sometimes tempted to think that if only we could steer the course of our life, if only the control of things were in our hands, our worries would melt away. But think about it. That means that only those things that are in the hands of God are things that make us worried. In our own minds we are not sure that God will take good care of us. So often we cannot let go and let God take care of things.
Then our cares and worries are acts that reveal the weakness of our faith. They show that we do not trust God to do us good. And behind it is the sad reality that we do not want God’s will but our own. We want life, peace, prosperity, health, and strength. We want our families around us and our loved ones with us. But God has His own will, which is sovereign and good. And we forget that His will is much higher than ours, and that He is much wiser than we. When our desires are threatened, we begin to be filled with worry and dread.
Now, this calling to be anxious in nothing does not mean that we attempt to be stoical and try to steel ourselves in the face of adversity. We certainly are not to greet every event, no matter how difficult or tragic, with a shrug of our shoulders. It is not our calling to be immune to feeling and hardened to real emotions.
The calling not to worry, to “be careful for nothing,” means that there is not one thing that can possibly make us anxious. Positively, we are to be content in everything. As Paul expresses it in verse 11, “For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” What a blessing of grace is contentment! With contentment we find that we receive nothing but good from the hand of our heavenly Father. We lay hold on the truth that whatever befalls us in this valley of tears is for our advantage. We rest in the truth that God is sovereignly directing all things for the salvation of His people. When this conviction settles upon our soul, worries are diminished. We are able to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”
A certain cure
How is this spirit of contentment, this freedom from worry to be attained? What is the cure for worry? The answer that the apostle gives is quite simply: PRAYER! “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Are you burdened with worries and anxious cares? Pray! “Let your requests be made known unto God”—literally, “before God.” Do not turn to yourself and work yourself into a frenzy of worry. Flee to the throne of grace. Appear before God’s face. Pour out your heart unto Him! Unburden your heart to Him. The psalmist sings in, “Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us.”
Prayer is a wonderful privilege of grace granted only through the cross of Christ. Prayer carries God’s children into His presence. Prayer is the way to freedom from worry. This verse contains the three common scriptural words for prayer. “By prayer” refers to prayer in general, which really includes the other words for prayer. “Supplication” refers to prayer for particular benefits. It has the idea of petition. And “with thanksgiving” refers to the proper thankfulness of prayer. By prayer and supplication with thanksgiving we are to let our requests be made known unto God. The purpose is not to inform God of what our requests are. He knows our needs far better than we do. But the point is that it is in prayer that we bring our needs to God—our needs that lie at the root of our worries.
When we do this, we will find, on the one hand, that we have personal desires that are a cause of many of our worries, which are not really needs at all. Before God those things die upon our lips. In His presence we realize how foolish we often are, how vain our fears, how empty our worries. But on the other hand, the real needs and concerns that we have and that tend to make us anxious will largely be dissolved before God. Casting our cares upon Him, we know He makes our cares His own. We are filled with the assurance that our heavenly Father is directing all things for our good in the wise way He is pleased to lead us. We hear Him speak, “Be still and know that I am God.” We are able to be thankful whatever the circumstances that have befallen us.
This does not mean that it is easy. It is often extremely difficult. We struggle to understand why. Why would God take my spouse? My parent? My child? Why would He lead me in this way of affliction? Why would He give me this financial burden to bear? Only by grace through faith is it possible. Then, even when we cannot comprehend God’s way and grasp the whole picture, we believe that all things work for our good.
A familiar illustration makes this point so beautifully: a woven tapestry or piece of embroidery work. From the underside we see a mass of thread and knots, a real mess, a meaningless web of discolor and disharmony. But, then, look at the upper side of the tapestry and we behold a beautiful pattern! It is woven with the same thread that from the underside seemed so disordered. So it is that now we are looking at the underside of life. And it frequently looks tangled, garbled, and ugly. But one day we shall see from above and see things as God sees them. We will understand the purpose of each dark thread woven into the pattern of our life. We will see that it was all a beautiful and necessary part of the whole pattern that God had ordained for us. Now, by faith, we sometimes get a glimpse of the pattern, but in heaven we will see the glorious whole. Knowing this, we can pray with thanksgiving instead of worrying!
A blessed promise
There is a sure blessing that the apostle attaches to this exhortation, “And the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” God is a God of perfect peace because there is in Him perfect love and harmony. By nature sinful man has no peace. “There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked” (). But peace comes through the blood of the cross. Christ shed His blood for us, establishing peace through reconciliation of God and His elect. Being brought into fellowship with the God of peace, we experience peace in our own hearts.
The apostle calls this the peace “which passeth all understanding” because it is impossible to comprehend. It is so great, so wonderful, so beautiful, so blessed that it defies all description. It is to be taken into the very covenant life of God Himself and to dwell in the peace of His blessed life.
What comfort is ours as this peace dispels all anxiety and worry! It quiets the storms of our lives, banishing doubts and fears. It is the calm assurance of faith and the serenity of hope. This peace is calmness in life’s tempests and joy in the midst of our tears. It is contentment whatever the circumstances of life.
And notice that this peace is our defense! The apostle uses a military term here when he speaks of this peace “keeping our hearts and minds.” Literally we read, “will guard your hearts and minds.” He describes peace as a strong castle or fortress guarded by soldiers. The idea is that worries and anxieties storm against our minds and attempt to throw our hearts into turmoil and unrest. The cares and burdens of life attack us in an effort to fill us with worries. But when this peace fills us, we are guarded safely from life’s worries. We rest in the peace of our God. We are hidden in Christ, safely kept, in perfect peace.
Let us not live in worry and anxiety. Rather, let us pray! Let your requests be made known unto God. Pray without ceasing. Pray that He will keep your hearts and minds in Christ. Then we can face the future as dark and uncertain as it may be. And we will experience the blessed peace of God that passes all understanding!