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?
“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).