Jesus Saves Us From Corrosive Care

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : Phillippians 4:4-6

Have no anxiety 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 passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 rsv

For these next few times together, let’s think about what it means that Jesus saves people. How is He a Savior, a Deliverer for you and me? What does He save us from? What does He save us for? How does He do it?

For those of us who are already Christians, let this be a time when we realize afresh, celebrate, give thanks for, such a great salvation. If you’ve not yet committed your life to Christ, this is the good news of His transforming power, of His love that brings liberation to people like you and me.

Think with me now of how Jesus saves us from corrosive care, about the freedom He gives from anxiety. Listen to these words from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 4, verses 6 and 7:

Have no anxiety 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 passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

ANXIETY

You know what anxiety is. All of us have experienced how painful it is to be anxious. The Greek word for anxiety comes from a root which means “to divide.” When you’re anxious, you’re inwardly divided. You’re torn up inside. Anxiety gnaws away at your inner life.

Anxiety is fear, but fear of an especially distressing kind. It’s fear blended with uncertainty, with vague apprehensions about what’s ahead. It’s the indefiniteness of the threat which makes us so uneasy. Sometimes we’re afraid or worried about a known danger, but at other times we’re just anxious. We don’t know exactly why.

People feel anxiety in times of distress or sweeping change. “Future shock” leaves us anxious. We sense it in moments of confusion and loss. We can even be afflicted by anxiety amid success and prosperity. When we are very happy, an inner voice sometimes seems to whisper, “Watch out. This is too good to last!” Anxiety seems an escapable part of our lot, as vulnerable creatures here in this uncertain world. John Paul Sartre saw it as so pervasive in the human condition that he could say flatly, “Man is anxiety.”

That’s what makes it so surprising to read words like these from the apostle Paul, “Have no anxiety about anything.” Does that strike you as an impossible demand? Our reaction to advice like that may sometimes be annoyance or even anger. It’s the feeling we get when we’re deeply depressed and someone says, “cheer up.” Or we’re in terrible pain and someone urges us to smile. This person, we tell ourselves, can’t possibly understand what we’re going through. Or else, he’s mocking us in the cruelest way imaginable. What do you mean, “Have no anxiety about anything”? Who could possibly live like that?

At the same time, we remember that the apostle Paul was no shallow thinker and he surely hadn’t lived a sheltered life. Paul had faced more dangers and felt more wounds than most of us ever will. Further, he was writing here to people he deeply cared about, to those he counted as his best friends. When he called them not to be anxious, he wasn’t handing out cheap advice. He was pointing them rather to a new possibility. He had a practical alternative to suggest. “Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Here, Paul claims, is a way out. We can be rescued from what we’re calling “corrosive care.”

PRAYER AND SUPPLICATION

The apostle counsels us by prayer and supplication to let our requests be made known to God. “Wait a minute!” someone objects. “Doesn’t God know them already?” Of course He does. He knows the way we take and all we experience, our hopes and fears, struggles and tears. But still, He wants us to tell Him our trouble, to bring before Him those wants of ours. God doesn’t need that, but apparently we do.

Let’s try to be doers of this word. Why not act right now as Paul suggests? If you’re feeling anxious, tell the Lord about it. Ask Him to take care of that situation about which you feel so inwardly torn, so uneasy and uncertain. Invoke His help in the inner pain you’re feeling right now. Call on Him for what you feel you most need.

And please remember, friends, how all-inclusive the invitation is: “In everything.” Sometimes I talk with people who puzzle over what they should ask God for. Should we pray for material things or only for spiritual blessings? Should we trouble God over little things, minor annoyances, or should we only pray about the big problems? Such folk seem to be afraid that some of their wants are so petty and their fears so trifling as to be hardly worth praying about. They won’t bother God, they say, with such insignificant details. In thinking that way, they seem to picture God as a harried telephone operator whose incoming lines are already overloaded. Why try to get through to Him, they reason, unless it’s a real emergency?

But how can we draw the line between the large and the little, between what is significant and what isn’t? Sometimes we weather the major crises of life with our chins up, while a slighting word of criticism can land us down in the dumps. We battle bravely through heartbreaking losses but then go to pieces when some familiar trinket falls off the mantle and breaks. It’s not how important the difficulty may look to someone else that matters. It’s how it affects us. And listen, if it’s big enough to get you upset, to leave you anxious, it’s plenty big enough to pray about, isn’t it?

Don’t be more fussy than God is about what you should bring to Him. He says “anything.” He says “everything.” Don’t qualify that down to a few major crises. Remember that God’s name is Father, Abba. Think about the best human father you’ve known. Is anything that interests that man’s children insignificant to him? Would he simply ignore the hurts that make them cry or the fears that wake them up screaming in the night? No. Anything that concerns that boy, that girl of his, concerns him. He’s their dad. He wants nothing more than that they should tell him what’s on their hearts. How much more your Father, our Father, in heaven!

PEACE

Now for the happy result of spreading all our concerns before God. Listen to the promise that follows: “The peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds.” Imagine it – the peace of God! The calmness in His heart. Shalom! That was the word for peace among the Hebrews. It meant not simply freedom from anxiety or conflict. It meant total well-being, complete wholeness. What weak, struggling human beings are promised here is the calm at the heart of the Almighty, the blessedness of which He is the living fountain.

That peace, says Paul, will keep your hearts and minds. Literally, it will stand guard over them. God’s peace is not a fragile sentiment. It’s a working power in the lives of people, watching over, protecting their inner selves. God’s peace can be like a garrison around your heart to guard your thoughts. And that’s vitally important in the battle against anxiety.

I remember reading a book on cognitive therapy entitled Feeling Good. The author pointed out that all our emotional states arise from the ways in which we think. We become anxious, for example, because we entertain negative, foreboding thoughts. The key, according to the therapist, is to straighten out distortions in our thinking, to begin to think differently. Long before the author wrote that book, the apostle Paul had discovered how the peace of God brings about that change. It helps us to see our circumstances and view the future in a new light because we’re being kept by this peace of God. Whenever anxiety tries to intrude, our sentinel gives the challenge, “Who goes there?” and bars the way.

THANKSGIVING AS THE KEY

But there’s something else we need to do when we spread our concerns before God. Paul says, do it with thanksgiving. Then the peace of God will keep you. Without thanksgiving, my experience is that the cure for anxiety doesn’t seem to work. The desired results don’t always follow.

Here’s what I mean by that: sometimes when I’m anxious, troubled about the future, say, of someone close to me, I try to follow these instructions from God’s Word. I turn to God in prayer and tell Him about my anxieties. I ask Him to take care of what’s troubling me, to work out the difficulty I’m anticipating, to help and guide this loved one of mine. But sometimes after I pray about that, very earnestly and fervently, I get up from my prayers just as troubled as I was before. Where is God’s peace? I’m still heartsick, still tense, still churning inside. Those ill-defined worries are still hanging over me like a dark cloud. Maybe you’ve experienced something like that too. You pray, you tell God about it, but then you feel like you’re still carrying the whole weight of it yourself.

Somehow thanksgiving changes all that. When I pray about something and then thank God that He’s going to take care of it, I somehow roll the burden of it onto Him. That makes a change. Almost before I realize it, the sentries of God’s peace take up their stations around my heart. The anxiety lifts. The burden drops away.

One of my professors in seminary used to tell about an experience he had while driving a pickup truck. He gave a lift to a hitchhiker who was carrying two heavy suitcases. There was no room in the cab so he invited the hiker to clamber up into the back of the truck. After driving for some distance, he happened to look in the rearview mirror. To his amazement, he saw the young rider standing up in the back of the truck, still holding those heavy suitcases. Though he had been given a lift, he hadn’t put his burdens down.

We laugh at that, but I’ve been like that hitchhiker sometimes. Maybe you have too. Even after the Lord came along and picked me up, I kept on carrying suitcases, as it were, heavy with anxiety. But now, in prayer with thanksgiving, I’m learning a little bit about how to put them down, how to cast my care on Him.

ALL IN CHRIST

All of this happens, Paul reminds us, in Christ Jesus. The apostle is writing to people who have believed in Jesus, who have confessed Him as Savior and Lord. So he’s telling about a present possibility in their experience because they are Christians, because they are “in Christ.” If you are not a believer today, the apostle is telling you about a provision that can be yours through faith in the Savior. It’s in Jesus Christ that we learn to know God as our gracious Father. It’s in Him that we gain the inward assurance that we are beloved children. It’s His own Spirit within our hearts who encourages us again and again to bring all our needs before the Father’s throne, to pour out our hearts before Him.

This marvelous watching-over-us peace is not just a psychological trick. It’s the gift of Jesus Christ. It’s the fruit of His presence within our lives, the ministry of His Spirit. When you experience the peace of God, it is Jesus saving you, saving you from anxiety, from corrosive care, from what wears you out and tears you apart on the inside.

Friends, let me testify to you today that there is nothing more practical and workable than this. I know. I’ve tried it. I’ve known what it is to experience anxiety and to be inwardly withered and weary about it. And I’ve known what it is to spread all my concerns before God, to thank Him, and then experience this peace. It’s real. You can have that, too. The cure actually works. If you will acknowledge today your sin, your need, believing that Jesus Christ died and rose again for you, you can receive Him into your life now as your Lord and Redeemer. You can invite Him to be your Savior and King. And with Him will come, as you walk in the light of this Word, His own indescribable peace.