Pastor Steve took a second look at Philippians 4:4-9 today as he continued his exploration of anxiety, starting with the observation that if you want to get rid of it, focus on someone else. We live in a society filled with anxiety and pressures to do things a certain way—even though 300 years from now people will look back at us and say, “That was stupid.”
Fear is not only irrational, he said, it demands your attention. When we start worrying all the time we have a fear-filled worldview where everything will be filtered through anxiety. We are so conditioned to view everything through our anxiety that we’re conditioned to think the worst will come true, so we dare not get our hopes up. This runs exactly opposite the advice in verse 6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Steve pointed out there are three ways to kill anxiety, starting with prayer. There’s something wrong if we think “all we can do” is pray because prayer is the lifeblood of our life with God. He instructs us to pray because it is an antidote to worry and anxiety. We shouldn’t reduce prayer to talking to God about our feelings. Prayer is worship towards God and giving thanks to Him. Prayer is trust God and opening our mouth to Him is a sign of that trust. Worry is a sign we don’t trust Him.
Second is to dwell on the positive; as verse 8 says, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely . . . if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” The only way to get rid of red is to introduce green or yellow, Steve said. Namely, we have to replace anxiety with godly thoughts. This helps whenever we worry what about other people think of us or how they have hurt us.
Finally, we need to practice what we have seen portrayed for us in the scriptures as demonstrated by Paul and other saints. Anxiety can become like a pet polar bear that tells us to sit and do nothing while we pet it. Overcoming anxiety demands action and getting up and doing something. For some, it may be becoming part of the ministry of helps. For others, getting a job. We must not be hearers of the Word only, but doers. Action will have a suffocating effect on fear. When we do something for God, the God of peace will be with us, Steve said: “This is a formula for fighting fear for the rest of your life.”