By James Metsger
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
If you own a coffee cup, there’s at least a 50/50 chance that verse six is on it. “Don’t be anxious about anything.” Yes! Ok. Sounds like a plan. Now let me get back to being anxious.
Have you ever been anxious before? I have! Do you have children? Do you have a mortgage or bills to pay? Have you lived through 2020!? Do you follow politics? Have you lived or led through a pandemic? Good grief, I’m getting anxious just thinking about it all! “Don’t be anxious about anything.” But how? How can I not be anxious when there is so much around me that causes me to be anxious?
Did you notice what preceded the command to not be anxious? Read it again. “The Lord is at hand.” Maybe that makes things worse for you, but it’s not intended to amp up your anxiousness. In fact, it’s meant to do just the opposite. Hang tight. Jesus is coming.
Jesus is coming to right the wrongs. He’s coming to make straight what has been made crooked by sin. He’s coming to calm our anxious hearts. He’s coming to execute justice and institute his righteous rule. He’s coming to complete his work of salvation in his people and bring us into the promised Sabbath rest. Paul admonishes us to “encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4: 18). Our King is coming!
Have you ever struggled with your finances? Have you had more month than there is money? What if I told you, “Bill Gates will be there shortly to help. Don’t be anxious.” You might just take a breath.
Have you been frustrated by a household project that you just couldn’t figure out? You’ve been to Home Depot three times…in two hours, and you still haven’t fixed the leak. What if I told you, “Chip and JoJo will be there shortly? Don’t be anxious.” Game. Changer.
Are you stressed out because you can’t control the world around you? Are you worried about your children? Do you fear the lack of stability around you? Are you gripped by uncertainty? Don’t be anxious. Jesus is coming.
Now you’re waiting and wondering. Sure, Jesus is coming. “The Lord is at hand” as Paul writes, but I’m looking out the window for the clouds to part and I’m not seeing it. What do I do while I wait?
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)
It sounds a little churchy, but pray. Pray. Ask. Thank. Whatever comes your way, whatever you’re facing, whatever causes anxiety to churn inside you—pray, ask, thank.
For the past few months, I’ve been sharing a brief devotion to about 60-70 teenage soccer players in the inner city. The vast majority don’t know Jesus. They may have heard about him, but they don’t follow him. Please don’t tell this group of teenagers, but they scare me to death. When you talk in front of adults, most are kind enough to at least fake interest. Not so much with students. If you’re lame, they’ll let you know.
Knowing this, I can always feel the anxiety build before I take the field. In desperation (because I’m truly desperate), I bring in reinforcements by texting friends to pray for me. “But in everything by prayer…” I’m bringing my anxiousness to God and making my desires known. God already knows. He’s not surprised. So far, he hasn’t responded with, “Wait, what are you doing? You want what?” I ask God to move–to take the truth of His Word and penetrate the hearts of the players. I pray God’s Spirit would cause hearts to see the beauty of Jesus because, here’s the thing. I can’t do that! I can’t make it happen with my speaking abilities, wit, and passion. I need God to act. And, simply put, he has.
“But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” After praying and pouring my heart out to God, I give him thanks because I’m trusting, by faith, that he hears and answers prayers. The anxiousness recedes. . . for a time. Then I get to do it again the next time.
I find it’s a constant battle of giving to God my anxiousness and praying for His peace. So far, he’s taken me up on the offer. I’m willing to live in this posture of trust because, as we started with, the Lord is coming! This is both my motivation and my encouragement to continue running the race of faith. The writer of Hebrew sums it up better than I ever could:
Since you know that you have a better and abiding possession—an inheritance in eternity—“do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, ‘Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith’ . . . But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” (Hebrews 10:35-39)
But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.