There is a lot going on in our world that could make us anxious, or worried, over current events. Political and civil unrest is out of control all over the world. As the election of a new president approaches, we are fed increasingly more reasons to be filled with anxiety over who will be the next leader of the free world. Economic conditions cause us all to worry over our ability to provide for our families. People are filled with anxiety for a seemingly endless list of problems, and, seemingly, rightly so. I mean, who wouldn’t be worried watching the daily news? Well, those who have learned to replace worldly anxiety with surpassing peace. That is who can take in all that is going on around us and still be at peace within themselves.
Please understand, being anxious about something is not the same thing as being concerned about something. When a person is concerned, they will do something about that which concerns them. We’re concerned about our children’s education, so we do what we can to make sure they are well educated. We’re concerned about having a home and plenty to eat. So, we do what we can to provide for those needs. The difference between legitimate concern and worthless anxiety is that we will do something about our concerns, we are anxious over things we believe to be outside our control.
Jesus taught about the worthlessness of worldly anxiety in Matthew 6:25-34.
““Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Notice that when Jesus said, “do not worry,” He compared things we worry about with things we have no control over. Having our necessary food is something we should concern ourselves with, so that we do what we need to do to have them. But worrying over it is like trying to worry yourself taller. Focus on the truly important stuff! Like being a godly person, “seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” When we’re doing our part to be the kind of people God created us to be then we can be free of worthless worry, knowing that God is going to do His part.
The apostle Paul said that we can be free of worldly anxiety, i.e. worrying the way the Gentiles do, by replacing it with the right things (Philippians 4:6-9).
“Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:6–9, NKJV)
Just like Jesus, Paul said not to worry – be anxious – over anything. The word “but” is a contrasting conjunction. That is, it ties together two points of contrast. So, what does Paul contrast to worldly anxiety? He said, pray about everything! If I know that my heavenly Father cares for me (1 Peter 5:7), then what should cause me to worry? Nothing I might worry about is more powerful than my Almighty Father! That’s why, when I take my prayers and supplication to God, with thanksgiving, that the things causing others to worry are nowhere to be found in me. That is “the peace of God, which surpasses understanding.” Worldly people simply can’t understand how the godly are able to be at peace when everyone else is crazy with worry.
Paul said to replace worldly anxiety with prayer and with a mind focused on the right things. There are things on which we are to “meditate.” The Louw and Nida Lexicon says the word translated “meditate” means, “to think about something in a detailed and logical manner.” A translation comparison of this word is very enlightening. The NASB says, “dwell on these things,” TEV, “fill your minds with those things.” Paul says that we can be free of worldly anxiety by focusing and filling our minds with true, noble, just, pure, lovely things of good report, things of virtue that are praiseworthy. There is so much ugliness and hatefulness in the world today. Don’t give those things a place in your mind! Fill yourself with the praiseworthy things of God’s word.
If we pray about everything and focus our minds on the right things, we will have “the peace of God” (Philippians 4:7), and know “the God of peace” (Philippians 4:9). We should have concern over the condition of current events, so we will do what we can to make them better. But we don’t have to be filled with worthless worry! Instead, pray about it and focus on the right things.