The Sinfulness of Worry

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Introduction

In times like ours, there is a lot to worry about, is there not? If we are not worried about the coronavirus killing us dead, we are worried about panicked overreactions to the coronavirus killing our businesses dead. And so we like to think that our situation is somehow unique. We live in the modern age, and so our worry or anxiety is somehow justified. But it isn’t really.

Across many historical studies, before the modern era about a quarter of all children did not survive their first year. Another quarter of them did not make it past puberty. And from around 1500 to 1800, general life expectancy was somewhere between 30 and 40 years old. So tell us some more about your great troubles, Methuselah. You might not make it to a thousand?

The Text

“Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. 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” (Phil. 4:4–7).

Summary of the Text

When it comes to our base coat demeanor, Paul gives us our foundational marching orders. He tells us to rejoice always (v. 4), and he repeats himself for emphasis. Rejoice, he says. The KJV translates the next word as moderation, which we would call gentleness (v. 5). We are to do this because the Lord is at hand (v. 5). In the next phrase he says that we are to be anxious about nothing (v. 6). Instead of being anxious about whatever it is, he says that we are to present our requests to God in our prayers and supplications (v. 6). We are to make them known to God, but not because God doesn’t know them. We are to make them known to God so that we can know that God already knows them. Moreover, we are told to present these prayers and supplications to Him with thanksgiving. This is key, as we shall see in a moment. When we do as Paul instructs us here, we find that the anxiety is dealt with. How? The peace of God, which transcends all our understanding, will keep or protect our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (v. 7).

Your Shield and Buckler

Because we do not have great experience with the peace of God, we tend to assume that it is a frail little thing. We know that we ought to enjoy the peace of God, and so we resolve to do better. We set our hearts and minds to higher and nobler deeds, saying to ourselves that we will protect that poor little “peace of God” by means of our own resolution.

The fundamental thing we must notice about this approach is that it is completely upside down and backwards. Our hearts and minds are not to protect the peace of God. It says that the peace of God—which passes understanding, note—will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Trying to protect your peace with your good resolutions is like trying to protect your helmet with your head. It is like trying to protect your breastplate with your stomach. It is like trying to protect your shield with your neck. That maketh no sense, man.

How to Take Up the Shield and Buckler

We miss this because for several reasons I can think of. The first is that Paul says that this peace shield is an invisible shield. It passes understanding. When there is tumult all around you, and you remain unruffled, the people who know the circumstances cannot see what it is that is protecting you. But they can see that you are in fact being protected by something that “passes understanding.” And sometimes we forget that it passes understanding.

The other reason is that we often forget a key word in the exhortation that Paul is giving us, and that word is thanksgiving.

A Few Bullet Points

And so we should be done with our worries. We should be done with anxiety. Here is a small checklist for you to consult from time to time. Why should we not give way to anxiety?

• We are Christians, and Jesus said not to. If we call Him Lord, we should do what He tells us to do. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things” (Matt. 6:34, NKJV).
• We are Calvinists, and a worried Calvinist is a theological oxymoron. Either God is in complete control of all things or He is not. If He is not, then you, my friend, need to go run and hide. Good luck. If He is, then . . . “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thess. 5:18)
• Worry and anxiety are a waste of time. It doesn’t do any good anyway. “Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?” (Matt. 6:27).
• You start living your life completely out of order. Worry is like thinking there is going to be a famine next year, and eating double portions at every meal now. It doesn’t work that way. “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:34, NKJV).

Freedom from Worry is Not Recklessness

Remember that our text presupposes that you actually know the content of your prayers and supplications. Paul says that you are to lay them before God “in every thing.” You know what your burdens are. You do feel the weight of them. But when you are free of anxiety, you do not know the inordinate weight of them. “Rejoice always” is not the same thing as a happy happy joy joy approach. “As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 Cor. 6:10).

“A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: But the simple pass on, and are punished” (Prov. 22:3). Prudence is like money. It is not wrong for God’s people to have money, but it is wrong for money to have His people. You know you have gone astray when your heart is located where moth and rust destroy, and thieves break in and steal. It is the same with prudence. Whenever you are being what you call “prudent,” do the little thieves of worry creep in? God wants His people to have prudence. He does not want prudence to have His people.

Christ the Shield

Worry is like a little greased piglet, and you are not going to able to catch it. And even if you did, what would you do with it then? Worry is not an adversary to be wrestled to the ground. Worry is not an adversary that you can just hit on the head with a chemical rock. Worry is a sin to be repented—as you would repent of lying, or adultery, or theft. You name it as sin, and offer it to Christ. And what does He do? He forgives it (1 John 1:9).

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Vincente TorresThe Commenter Formerly Known As fpJonathanJanekyriosity Recent comment authors

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David
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David

I look forward to this message.

My Portion Forever
Member

I just had a perspective change on 1 Thess 5:18 I always thought it meant that it was the will of God for me to be thankful in all things… but what if it means be thankful in all things because they are the will of God for me?
The new interpretation is true but radical!

bethyada
Member

I’d be careful with that interpretation. I don’t speak Greek so someone may want to give more detail, but verses 16 forward read somewhat literally,

Always rejoice, without-ceasing pray, in all be-thanking; for this—the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

So there is a list of verbs for us to be doing because it is the will of God. I am not certain whether “this” really relates back to “all/every.”

kyriosity
Member

I suspect bethyada is correct. We should give thanks for all things because they’re the will of God for us, but that’s not what this particular passage teaches. There are other passages that point to that truth, though: Romans 8:28 and James 1:17 come to mind.

Jonathan
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Jonathan

I strongly agree with this message especially its title. When I realized perhaps 5-6 years into my Christian walk that worry was not only cautioned against but was literally a sin, it fundamentally changed my perspective on my problems in a manner that changed my life. As you argue well, we CAN trust God in this world, despite all the world tries to throw out there.

Jonathan
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Jonathan

(I perhaps should clarify – the worry that plagued me at that early age was the same that plagues many a young Christian man or woman – “Am I going to end up with the ideal partner I dream of or not?” Freeing myself of that worry and trusting in God’s plan became transformational not only for that particular issue, but many others and my entire outlook on life.)

Jonathan
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Jonathan

One elephant in the room is Matthew 6:25-34. This would appear to be the fundamental text for this principle, yet the actual message delivered by the text was excised out of the proof-quotes. The central message of Matthew 6:25-34 is not to worry about the acquisition of material things. It’s a warning against hoarding, either in spirit or in fact, as a bulwark against an unknown future. In case you wish to argue that the material examples given are only evocative and aren’t to be taken literally, you only need to look at the passages leading into it – Matthew… Read more »

Jane
Member

I have heard many texts preached in different ways, with different emphases, on different occasions, within the bounds of careful treatment of the scriptures. It never occurred to me to think of that as excising other possible emphases or ignoring any elephants.

Jonathan
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Jonathan

Again, this is not just “other possible emphases”, but the actual context of the main Scripture used that is missing. Now would be an especially appropriate time for it too, when so many people have expressed such dramatic worry regarding finances. Many have said that they want to open up even if it costs their grandparents their lives. The number of voices spreading dramatic doom and gloom scenarios regarding money and our ability to get our daily bread have been impossible to ignore. So why ignore the exact application which speaks to them? And of course, you and I both… Read more »

The Commenter Formerly Known As fp
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The Commenter Formerly Known As fp

Jonathan: “Many have said that they want to open up even if it costs their grandparents their lives.”

Really? Who? And in those words?

Jonathan
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Jonathan

You seriously haven’t heard that? It was discussed widely, especially after Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in Texas (as well as Glenn Beck) suggested that they and other elderly people would sacrifice their lives to get the economy running (which of course is not a sacrifice they get to choose for themselves, but a choice for which they will most likely be fine while other individuals in more vulnerable situations will not). Or Rick Santelli’s bizarre suggestion that we should just give COVID-19 to everyone and get all the deaths over with so the economy can get back on track ASAP.… Read more »

The Commenter Formerly Known As fp
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The Commenter Formerly Known As fp

Jonathan: “You seriously haven’t heard that?” This is what Dan Patrick actually said, leading up to Tucker Carlson’s question: …living in fear of is what’s happening to this country. And you know, Tucker, no one reached out to me and said, “As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?” And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in. And that doesn’t make me noble or brave or anything like that. I just think there are lots of grandparents out there… Read more »

Jonathan
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Jonathan

I didn’t say that I heard it from Dan Patrick, I said that I heard it discussed widely after Dan Patrick’s statements, which were clearly suggested in order to spark such a discussion. I am speaking both in terms of people I know personally and participated in conversation with as well as people writing online. If you don’t think his comments were meant to start a conversation regarding the tradeoffs between losing some older people and getting the economy back, then I don’t think you’re being serious. The rest of the statement speaks for itself. I’ll be taking Demo’s suggestion… Read more »

The Commenter Formerly Known As fp
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The Commenter Formerly Known As fp

Jonathan: “Many have said that they want to open up even if it costs their grandparents their lives.” Not Dan Patrick. Not Heather MacDonald. Maybe Chuck Bonniwell, but that wasn’t his point. Jonathan: “I am speaking both in terms of people I know personally and participated in conversation with as well as people writing online.” In other words, you’ve got nothin’. No one is actually saying they want to open up even if it costs their grandparents their lives; instead, people like you are putting that false dichotomy in the mouths of those who simply want to get back to… Read more »

kyriosity
Member

I don’t know if it was intentional, but since worry is the mother of all mothering sins, this was a very appropriate message for Mother’s Day.

Jane
Member

And it’s one of those sins we like to justify or at least normalize, which are the most dangerous kind, regardless of what *kind* of sin it is.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

That was one of the exact emphases of the talk that led me to change my entire perspective on worry. Pointing out that we rationalize and sympathize with people who worry or speak with despondency, while we would never give such quarter to other sins.

Vincente Torres
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Vincente Torres

What about people with anxiety disorders?