“Therefore don’t be anxious, saying, ‘What will we eat?’, ‘What will we drink?’ or, ‘With what will we be clothed?’ . . . Therefore don’t be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.
-Matthew 6:31, 34 (WEB)
“Don’t be anxious.” That is what Jesus said, but how do we do that when the “annual” raise we anticipated does not come, or we work in the midst of chaos or constant change, or the doctor delivers bad news, or __________? You fill in the blank. Everything seems to be out of control, and there doesn’t seem to be anything we can do to improve the situation. Everywhere we turn, we see more of the same. Yet Jesus said, “Don’t be anxious.” How can we not be anxious?
Maybe the better question to ask is “how do we live the abundant life Jesus said he came to give us, while we live in a world of sin and chaos.”
Perhaps the apostle Paul can help us. He certainly had a rough time, a life filled with beatings, imprisonments, shipwrecks, and even a stoning. He told the Philippians he had learned to be content in whatever circumstances he found himself (Phil. 4:11). He also told them to “rejoice always.” How could he expect them to actually do that?
Paul answers that question in Philippians 4:8, as he tells the Philippians to think on whatever things are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, or virtuous, of good report, or are praiseworthy.
He goes on to say in verses 12-13:
I know how to be humbled, and I know also how to abound. In everything and in all things I have learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in need. I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.
-Philippians 4:12-13 (WEB)
Paul’s focus is not on himself, but on Christ and what he can do through Paul.
We, however, have a tendency to allow ourselves to get overwhelmed by the circumstances of life, and then we take our eyes off Jesus. Thus, we make ourselves vulnerable to the attacks of Satan, who loves to discourage us and watch us wallow in self-pity.
How do we prevent discouragement and remain strong?
- We feed our minds positive, wholesome, God-honoring thoughts, as Paul directs in Philippians 4:8. We read the Bible regularly, get involved with a local Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church family, and carefully filter what goes into our minds.
- We surround ourselves with Christ-following friends. When the days are bleakest, it is these friends who will challenge us to get our eyes back on Jesus, remind us of God’s promises, and provide godly counsel.
- We pray regularly throughout the day. As Paul put it, we “continue steadfastly in prayer.” We feel compelled to pray. This is our Father we are talking to. He understands what we are going through. He knows how to help us. He wants to help us. We feel we must talk to him. As we do so, he brings to our recollection those Scriptures we’ve been reading, and we feel strengthened and encouraged by his presence and his faithfulness.
The day is coming when there will be no more tears, no more suffering, no more trials. In the meantime, God calls us to be people of faith.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
-Proverbs 3:5 (WEB)
We must remember the call of Jesus to follow him. He is the one who makes it possible for each of us to actually do Proverbs 3:5. We do not do this through our own strength, but through his. We must run to the arms of Jesus and let him give us rest, peace, and the strength to carry on. As chaotic storms run through our lives, we truly can have the peace that Christ offers, if we just look to him.
O God, help us to lay aside the sin that entangles us—the bitterness, anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, laziness, uncooperativeness, selfishness, self-pity, and all the other sins that put us on the throne instead of Jesus Christ, the rightful King. Father, our old nature was crucified with Christ, but we seem to keep dragging it out of the grave and putting it back on. Help us to deliver the final, fatal blow as we boldly run to the goal you set before us.
We get anxious, God, when life does not go the way we planned. Father, right now we lift our eyes to the Cross and remember the trials that Jesus went through. Help us to follow his example and to put everything in your hands. Help us to hold onto the promises you gave us. We don’t understand all that has been happening, Lord, but we trust in you. Let your Kingdom come, Lord, and reign over us now as you will for all eternity. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.
As we press on toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14), we can almost hear Jesus calling, “Come on, my child. Keep running. I’m right here with you. You can do it. Look at Me! Look at Me!” ‘
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth. -Psalms 121:1-2 (WEB)