5 Principles for Peace in a Worried World

As a devotional, this post is outside of the prescribed categories of my blog. But since I shared this message in our staff chapel at Brentwood Baptist a couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d let it pull double-duty. I hope it’s an encouragement to those who read it.

Philippians 4:6-9 (HCSB)
6 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things. 9 Do what you have learned and receive and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

I would characterize myself as a recovering worry-wart. As a “high C” personality, I can easily find myself over-analyzing all facets of a particular situation. I walk through every possible scenario in my head, every possible outcome, and I can tend toward a pessimistic view of those possible outcomes. Just ask my wife. I’m very analytical. And you may agree with me that when healthy analysis becomes “analysis paralysis,” it can look an awful lot like. . .worry.

I remember when I was a child, riding to school on the mornings before a big test, or during the drills before a football game, or just about any other situation in which I would have to perform, feeling physically sick on my stomach. . .from worry.

It wasn’t until I was in college, about the year 1990, that I heard a sermon on this passage of Scripture and began thinking about worry if a different way. This passage not only tells us not to worry, but it gives us a blueprint for how to eradicate worry from our lives. There are five principles in these four verses that provide that blueprint.

1. Worry About Nothing

The very first phrase in verse 6 gets us started; principle number one: we are to  simply to “worry about nothing.” Practically speaking, I think there are at least three reasons why we should “worry about nothing.” First, worry is wasteful. Have you ever thought about the fact that in time we spend worrying about something, usually, the problem could have been solved. We waste so much time dwelling on the facts of the situation, most of which we can do nothing about, rather than simply doing what we can toward a positive outcome, accepting what we can’t affect in any way, and moving past the situation, trusting God for the result. Perhaps the very best thing that can be said about worry is that it’s wasteful.

But not only is worry wasteful, I’d suggest it’s also harmful, not just emotionally, but also physically. I believe you can actually make yourself physically sick from worry. I already mentioned how I’d feel sick as a child when I was worried. But a lifetime of worry can be devastating.

A lifetime of worry can be devastating.

How many times have been to the doctor and he’s asked you about stress in your life? So many physical challenges are rooted in our emotional and psychological health. Worry creates stress, and stress leads to all kinds of physical problems. I’m convinced that some of the severe cases of anxiety and depression all too common in too many people is the result of a lifetime of worry.

But not only is worry wasteful and harmful, I’d suggest it’s also sinful. We don’t often think of worry as a sin. In fact, in the South, we’ve almost made it a virtue. But since verse 6 starts with the imperative, “worry about nothing,” can we agree that an imperative in Scripture is a command, and failing to follow a command is a sin? Philippians 2:14 says “Do everything without grumbling or arguing.” I think we can easily agree that grumbling and arguing is sinful behavior, and the imperative treatment here in chapter 4 is the same.

2. Pray About All Things

Not only are we to worry about nothing, but, also in verse 6, we’re told to “pray about all things.” Do we really pray about all things, or do we find ourselves just praying about the big things in our lives? God wants us to bring him the big things and the small things. I think this is perhaps the idea behind Paul’s admonition to the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing.” To place ourselves in a constant attitude and posture of prayer.

There’s a hymn we sang when I was a kid, and I hesitated to include it at the risk of sounding old-fashioned. But our resident millennial here at Brentwood Baptist Church, Katie Allred, actually posted one of the lyrics from this hymn on her social media feed not too long ago, so I figured it was cool enough. It goes like this: “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”

3. Be Thankful for Everything

So, we’re to worry about nothing, we’re to pray about all things, and third, also in verse 6, we’re to be thankful for everything. I think maybe the reason Paul included this directive to be thankful for everything in the same thought as worry about nothing is because he realized you can’t have a thankful spirit and a worried spirit at the same time. So whenever we’re tempted to worry, we need to think about what we’re thankful for and the worry should fade away. 1 Thessalonians. 5:18 says “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

But, you say, it’s hard to be thankful when things are really bad! I wonder how hard it must be for the residents of Texas and Florida to feel thankful right now, when so much has been lost by these hurricanes. Let’s remember, we don’t thank God because THINGS are good, we thank God simply because HE is good.

4. Think on the Best Things

So, we’re to worry about nothing, pray about all things, be thankful for everything, and fourth, we are to think on the best things (verse 8). “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.”

God made us so we cannot think two thoughts at the same time.

I think maybe God has made us so that we literally cannot think two thoughts at the same time. I know there’s debate about the idea that women can multitask better than men can, and maybe that’s true. But I don’t believe any of can actually think two separate thoughts at the same time. So, if we’re constantly thinking in the realm of these things in verse 8, things that are true, right, honorable, pure, lovely, commendable, there won’t be room in our minds or our hearts for the things that cause worry.

5. Do the Right Thing

Worry about nothing, pray about all things, be thankful for everything, think on the best things, and finally, do the right thing. Verse 9: “Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me…”

One sure cure for worry is work. When we not only think on the best things but also stay busy doing the right things, there will be no time to worry about the wrong things. One of the management models we teach at Brentwood is called “Action TNT.” The principle of this model is that action “today and not tomorrow” is the key to high accomplishment. Perhaps we can say in the context of this message, “action today and not tomorrow is the key to a worry-free life.”

As I close, let me mention what this passage tells us are the results of doing these things. “And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (verse 7); and “do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you” (verse 9).

When we have the peace of God to guard us and the God of Peace to guide us, what more can we ask for?

What are you worried about today? Give it to the God of Peace.

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