We all deal with worry. It might be because of health, work, finances, a relationship, a recession, or a pandemic.
Worry cuts us off from the presence and power of God like almost nothing else. It robs us of joy and paralyzes our ability to trust God.
This week we lean to give our worries to God and live with a peace that is beyond human understanding.
- I will memorize Philippians 4:6-7
- I will pray pray about what’s going on inside of me.
- I will believe God’s desire for me is peace.
- I will see worry as a cue for me to give it to God.
- I will say, “Yes,” to the action God wants me to take.
- I will live like I’m under God’s care and control.
Full Sermon Script
We’re starting a three week series today to address what we’re all going through in life these days. ||
Today, we’re going to look at how this man Paul, who was a human being like all of us, increasingly learned to hand off worry… and to carry peace instead.
This series is about choosing what you will carry. We’re all carriers of something. And we’re going to encourage you to be carriers…
of peace rather than worry
of faith rather than fear
and of hope rather than despair ||
To start today, I’d like to ask you to think about the major categories of your life:
If you’re like me, you’re worried about one of these areas of your life right now?
Maybe you weren’t two months ago, but today you’re carrying this burden of worry. ||
The writer of Proverbs says:
Worry weighs a person down. Proverbs 12:25
If you’re carrying around worry, you can feel it weighing you down. ||
I would say worry is one of the most crippling forces attacking human beings in the world today. ||
Think about it.
Worry has the power to rob me of joy. I cannot be a joyful person when I’m carrying worry.
Worry makes me obsess about myself. It makes me more self-preoccupied and less attentive or loving to other people.
It makes temptations look attractive… because I want to do anything that will help me escape this inner pain.
It erodes my ability to feel grateful.
It increases my irritability.
It destroys my appetite for growth.
Worry can keep me from daring to do what God made me to do.
It can eat away at my faith.
And maybe worst of all, worry paralyzes my ability to trust God. ||
And the apostle Paul makes this extraordinary statement — He says, “Don’t worry.”
What’s remarkable about this is Paul doesn’t simply say, “Don’t worry about the small stuff, like gaining five pounds because you can’t go to the gym; or finding another gray hair and not being able to do anything about it because hair dye has become like toilet paper in week 5.”
Paul says in Philippians 4:6:
Don’t worry about anything;
When you lose your job
When you have bad news about a pregnancy
When you’re betrayed by a friend
When you’re marriage falls apart
When you lose your health
When your company goes bankrupt
Paul says, “Don’t worry about anything.”
And just in case you’re wondering, Paul knew something about problems. Paul was not writing from an ivory tower somewhere. He was writing from a prison.
And there were people on the outside trying to trash his reputation and destroy his ministry.
And he didn’t know if he was going to survive from one day to the next. He didn’t know if he was going to live or die.
He knew about problems and still he says, “Don’t worry about anything.” ||
Now, how is such a life possible? For real people like you and me, living in the midst of a pandemic and a recession, how is such a life possible?
Well, that’s what I want to address in this message, and I want to do that by looking at three questions.
The first question is: Who wrestles with worry?
The second question is: Where does worry come from? How does it originate?
And the third question is: What is Paul’s alternative? What’s the anecdote?
Three questions, so let’s dive into the first one.
Who wrestles with worry? And my quick answer to that would be everyone.
I believe we all wrestle with worry. Everyone I know worries. ||
Some people don’t recognize they worry… and that’s because we all have different styles for dealing with worry. ||
Some of you are very aware of your problem with worry because it’s right at the surface.
You have anxious thoughts and feelings quite frequently and fairly intensely, and you are highly motivated to get rid of them. ||
Some of you are worriers and you know you’re a worrier. You worry about how much you worry. ||
But some of you don’t recognize your problems with worry because some people go into denial.
You’re often not aware of worry, not because it’s not there, but because you’ve trained yourself not to think about unpleasant things. ||
Researchers say worry is often associated with intelligence. People that are prone to worry tend to be more intelligent than average.
So some of you may not be worried, not because you’re so spiritually mature… but there may be other things going on. ||
Other people have a different strategy for dealing with worry.
Some of you go into heavy self-reliance mode. You decide that whenever a problem comes along, you will deal with it all by yourself, without help from God or anyone else.
Just sheer, human strength!
You’re into control. And you decide you’re going to manage every detail and dominate any person that might cause you worry, directly or indirectly, so that you’re always in control by the strength of your will. ||
I’ve done a lot of weddings as a pastor. At almost every wedding, there’s one person who wants to be in total control of the wedding. And we call this person – the mother of the bride.
I remember one wedding where the mother of the bride did not like any of it…
didn’t like the colors
didn’t like the candles
didn’t like the music
didn’t like the bridesmaid’s dresses
didn’t like me. She told me I was replaceable.
And that was my mother-in-law at my own wedding.
I’m just kidding. ||
Some of you go into heavy control mode, but sooner or later, you’re going to have to face the fact that ultimately you are not in control.
I’m sure some of you are able to go down the control road a long ways.
You may be able to dominate people for quite a while
You may be able to manipulate certain events
You may be able to dictate outcomes at work or at home
But recently, it’s taken a pandemic and a recession, both of which you cannot control, as smart or as strong as you may be, you’ve realized you are not really in control at all.
You are not God!
And all those worries you’ve been managing away or controlling away all those years really are not gone at all. ||
So who wrestles with worry? Every one of us… whatever your coping style. That’s part of being a fallen and finite person in a broken world. We all have worry problems. ||
Second question: Where does worry come from?
Now this is an interesting question to me because I think there’s a real common illusion.
The illusion is, “The reason I worry is because I have these problems. And if I just didn’t have these problems, if these problems would just go away, I wouldn’t worry anymore.”
That’s the illusion. ||
Jesus said: In this world you will have trouble. John 16:33
If it’s not your job, your health, your relationships or your finances, it’s going to be something.
And it’s a strange thing in this life — problems come and problems go, but worry remains. ||
An expert in this field talks about an equation. He says worry results primarily from two things.
One is a heightened sense of vulnerability — when you feel vulnerable.
Second is a diminished sense of power — when you feel weak, like you can’t handle what you’re facing.
Anytime there’s a heightened sense of vulnerability; and a diminished sense of power, strength or competence… the result is escalating worry.
Whatever the issue is — health, money, relationships, whatever… underneath it you’ll find that where there’s an increased sense of vulnerability, and a diminishing sense of your ability to handle it, you’ll experience a growing sense of worry.
And conversely, where there’s a sense of decreased vulnerability and increased strength, you’ll feel less worry. ||
The apostle Paul addresses this vulnerability and power in the letter he wrote to the church at Rome. He says:
What can separate us from the love of Christ?
What can make us vulnerable? Then he lists the kinds of things that we worry about:
Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? Romans 8:35
He says: “No…
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39
Living in the care and love of God is not at risk. I am not ultimately vulnerable to anything… not even to death itself. ||
Then there’s the power dimension. Paul says in just a few more lines in his letter to the Philippian church:
For I can do all things — I can handle anything — through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13
In some fairly mysterious way, the strength and power of Jesus Christ is available to me for the situations of life in which I find myself.
So Paul, in prison, says, “Really, I’m not vulnerable to any kind of enemy ultimately because I live in the care of God.”
And Paul says, “Really, my weakness can’t keep me from coping with any situation because I have the power of Jesus Christ available to me.”
And I do too. And you do too.
“And therefore,” he says, and this is an amazing thing, “you have no reason ever to be worried.” ||
Now that’s part of what is right at the core of the gospel.
That’s why Jesus said:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:25-27
That really is the message of the gospel if you’ve asked Jesus Christ to be the Lord and the Savior of your life.
You have no reason ever to be anxious. You live in the hand of God, whatever it is you face.
Jesus goes on to say:
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.
If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Matthew 6:28-30
In other words this is highly discardable stuff, unlike us.
Now if God takes care of, sustains, this highly discardable material, will He not much more clothe and feed and take care of you… and then look at the tag line, “you of little faith” — you who find it difficult to trust Him. ||
Now the problem with making this point is that some of you listening right now are worriers, and when you tell a worrier that their problem is lack of faith what does a worrier tend to do about that?
They tend to worry about it, which is not a helpful thing to do.
It becomes a downward spiral.
So think of this teaching now as an invitation. Not one more thing to put on your list of things to worry about. But as an invitation to begin to reflect on God’s sustaining care in the world. ||
Now I believe this to be profoundly true, however, in my experience, this information alone generally is not enough to eliminate worry.
So I want to move to the third question.
The first question is who wrestles with worry? We all do.
Second question, where does it come from? A heightened sense of vulnerability and a diminished sense of power.
The third question is — What’s Paul’s alternative to worry? What’s Paul’s anecdote to worry?
This is very important because as a general rule — you cannot free yourself from worry simply by trying really hard not to worry.
You can’t just tell yourself, “Relax,” or beat yourself up… because trying to make yourself stop feeling anxious is not very effective. ||
Jesus say, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
You know, when we worry we actually literally take hours away from our lives.
We have stress related diseases like ulcers, migraines, muscle pain, and back pain because of worry.
We say, “This pandemic is a pain in the neck.” Well the worry in your life because of the pandemic may actually be reason for the pain in your neck. ||
The truth is we live with so much worry that we don’t even realize how deeply we carry it… in our bodies. ||
I want to ask you to do something for a moment — would you take a deep breath? Just take a real deep breath.
And as you breathe it out, would you just hand over to God all the tension and weight you’ve been carrying around.
Do it again — take a real deep breath. And give God all the tension and worry. ||
Alright, now this is the apostle Paul’s alternative to worry.
He says in Philippians 4:
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Philippians 4:6
That’s the truth for this week — Don’t worry; instead pray. ||
There is in Scripture a very important connection between worry and prayer.
Peter puts it like this in 1 Peter 5:
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7
Give all your worries to God… because God cares about you.
When an anxious thought or anxious feeling begins to surface in your life, just give it to God.
Don’t worry; instead pray.
The best way to learn to worry about nothing is to pray about everything. ||
Now, praying doesn’t mean that you never feel worried.
The idea is this — anytime you feel a twinge of worry or concern, God wants you to take it directly to him. Tell him all about it.
And your job is not to make the anxious feelings go away.
Maybe they’ll go away. Maybe they won’t. You can’t control that, so don’t beat yourself up trying to.
Your job, when you have an anxious thought or feeling, is to take it directly to God… and you can do that. ||
I think there are two key components of the kind of prayer that enables us to overcome worry.
And in the time that we have left, I want to walk us through them — two key components to the kind of prayer that is stronger than worry.
The first component is captured in one word Paul uses here when he says to the Philippians: Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.
It’s the word “everything.”
That doesn’t leave anything out. ||
The translation I grew up reading says:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. ||
So the first key component to the kind of prayer that is stronger than worry is:
In everything make your requests known to God.
I think the implications of that single phrase are enormous.
And I would say one of the biggest barriers to prayer is we don’t take that seriously. ||
Here’s what often happens for me —
In my mind, I have this constant stream of thoughts. And very often, they’re not very spiritual.
I’ll think about what people are thinking of me
or how I look
or how I sound
or if I’m going to get a lot of praise for how I’m doing my job
or if I’m going to get this message on worry done on time
or any number of things
Then when I go to pray, often I won’t talk to God about those things that I’m really thinking about… because they don’t sound very spiritual.
So I’ll talk to God about the things that I think sound much more spiritual… as if the only time God is monitoring what’s going on in my mind is when I pray.
So I’ll pray about world hunger; or those who are suffering; or for protection for those who are vulnerable to the virus; or something like that.
But my mind keeps wandering back to this other stuff that really is on my heart.
So I have a wandering mind when I pray.
Do any of you ever have your mind wander when you pray?
Well, I think there’s a solution for this that’s contained in this phrase of Paul — “in everything.”
And the solution is this — I must pray about what’s going on inside of me, not what I wish was going on inside of me.
When my mind wonders to something, it’s probably because that’s what I should be praying about. ||
Even if what’s going on inside are self-centeredness things. God is not surprised by that.
It’s not like God is going, “Woo, that’s so selfish. I didn’t realize that about you.” ||
We see this in kids.
A friend of mine was telling me about a time when he got a got a life insurance policy.
They sent someone out to his home to do a check up, and they took a blood sample.
So he was out that afternoon with one of his daughters. She was young — five or six years old.
She saw the Band-Aid on his arm, and she asked, “Daddy, where did you get that? Are you okay?”
She’s a very tenderhearted little girl.
My friend knew this would tug at her heart, so in order to elicit some affection from his daughter, he said:
“Well, some people came out and took a blood sample because Daddy had a checkup so he could get a life insurance policy.
“Do you know what that is?
“That’s so I can take care of my family in case something bad happens to Daddy. So if I should die…”
He knew even mentioning the fact that Daddy might die would really get her.
“So that if I should die, you’d get $500,000.”
And she looked up at him with what looked like the beginning of big tears in her eyes and said, “Apiece?” ||
That’s just human nature.
Children come to parents with all kinds of requests. Some requests are wonderful… and some are foolish… and some are self-centered.
But what matters to the parent is that the child comes, and comes with what’s really on the child’s heart.
Not that the child would try to fake it and sound real altruistic and noble, but that the child just comes in the reality of what’s on the child’s heart and lays that before the parent.
Because parents know that if they handle those requests with wisdom and care, they can guide the child, and the child will grow.
What matters is that the relationship between the parent and the child has sufficient truth and closeness and authenticity that the child will talk to the parent about the desires that really are on the child’s heart — good and bad and everything in between. ||
Now this is an “in everything” kind of prayer. Paul says, “In everything, make your requests known to God.”
I don’t wait to clean up my motives first.
I don’t try to sound more spiritual than I am.
I don’t pray what I wish was going on inside of me.
I don’t pray what I think God wants to hear.
I pray what’s really going on inside of me.
Richard Foster talks about this as “Simple Prayer,” which is the most common kind of prayer in the Bible. ||
We see this all over in Scripture.
Let me give you one example.
Elisha is the name of one of the main characters in the Old Testament. He was a prophet used by God in amazing ways. But toward the beginning of his ministry he’s out for a walk.
It’s in 2 Kings 2. I won’t read it right now, but that’s where it is if you want to look at it later.
He’s walking around and a bunch of kids come out, and they start to yell at him. They called him “Baldy.” Apparently he was bald. So they said to him, “Go away, Baldy, go away.”
Now, how do you think Elisha responds to that?
This is what he does: He prays and asks God to send a bear to chase these kids away from him.
That’s in the Bible.
That’s simple prayer!
It doesn’t sound like the prayer of a spiritual giant, does it? But he just talks to God about what’s on his heart. ||
If you read through the Psalms. Over and over again, the psalmist just has these uncensored, unvarnished prayers —
That’s simple prayer.
You don’t pray to God about what you think ought to be going on inside of you. You pray about what really is going on inside of you… about the desires of your heart.
And if you’re going to grow in prayer and learn to overcome worry, you must begin by becoming a person who prays “in everything.” ||
So I want to challenge you to make this week an experiment in simple prayer.
This week, starting today, pray about what is really going on inside of you, not what you wish was going on inside of you…
whether your request is large or small
whether your motives are mixed or pure
whether what you ask is wise or foolish
God can sort all that out.
You can trust him to respond wisely. He’s not going to give you something foolishly. ||
Now, part of what this means is you’ve got to learn to hold your prayer loosely… and trust that if God doesn’t answer it the way that you want it to be answered, he has very good reasons. He’s a very wise parent.
But your job is to talk to God about what’s really on your heart… and you can do that. ||
So become a person who prays “in everything.”
That’s the first component of prayer that overcomes worry. ||
Then there’s a second part, and I think it’s this:
You must Make listening and responding part of your prayer.
Prayer is supposed to be a two-way conversation, and this is especially important when it comes to giving my worries to God. ||
Now here’s a key question I want to give you to ask God — as you lay your worry before him — “God, is there any action you want me to take about this concern?”
Because sometimes a concern is a prompt for action. ||
Not too long ago, Kathy and I were lying in bed at night and she said to me, “Do you hear that noise in the kitchen?”
And I knew if I acknowledged it, one of us would have to get up and go check it out. So I said, “No.”
Although I had to say it real loud so she could hear me over the loud noise coming from the kitchen. ||
I knew once I acknowledged the concern the next step would be someone would have to take action. And I had a pretty good idea who that someone would be. ||
This is an odd thing about us. Sometimes human beings will spend days, weeks, months or years… and they will spend more energy and time and emotion worrying about something then they’ll spend taking positive steps that will help to prevent the very thing that they’re worried about.
We’ll spend 10 or 20 or 100 times more energy worrying about something than we will taking steps towards resolution.
As a general rule, that is not God’s will.
So, very often what will happen in prayer is God will prompt you and say, “Alright, now part of what I want you to do my child, my son, my daughter, is to get up and take a step and move toward a solution.”
And your worry will be a prompt towards that. Your worry will be a prompt.
As you pray, God will say, “I want you to take this action step.”
And you need to be ready to say yes. You need to be willing to say yes. ||
Maybe you’re concerned about your finances and you’re real worried about them, but you’ve never done anything about that.
You’ve never sat down to try to figure out how to make a budget. And maybe what will happen as you pray about that is you’ll get a sense from God, “I need to sign up for the next Financial Peace class at Blue Oaks so I can take action steps.” ||
Maybe you’re real concerned about your marriage, and as you pray about it God will say, “I want you to do something positive.”
Maybe it’s, “I want you to find the name of a really good Christian counselor that you or the two of you can go to together so that you can get on the solution side.” ||
Very often, as you pray about concerns, what will happen is God will prompt you to take action steps… and it’s crucially important at this point that you are willing to listen and say “yes” and respond in obedience and faith.
Because if your idea of prayer is that it’s just kind of a magic thing where all you have to do is say these words before God, and it makes worry go away without having to do anything — be obedient, or trust — then you have the wrong idea of prayer.
Prayer is connected to a willing heart and a life of obedient faith. ||
Now if you’re willing to do this, if you’re willing to do what Paul says: “Don’t worry; instead pray about everything.”
Then whatever your concern — big, small, wise, foolish, selfish, altruistic — if you listen to God and respond in faith and obedience… if you’re willing to do that, Paul makes a tremendous promise.
He goes on to say in the very next sentence:
Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7
“Then you will experience God’s peace — wouldn’t you like that?
“Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand — which is deeper than any human being can understand given our situation of pain, illness, confusion, loneliness, death —
“His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” ||
Paul uses a military metaphor here: that word “guard.”
I think about that sometimes. Paul was probably chained to a Roman guard, and it may be that as he watches that guard, as he looks at him, he writes down that word.
Because he’s thinking of another kind of prison, the prison of worry or fear that all of us know.
He’s saying, “God is not a God of worry. God is never worried himself.”
There is no writer of Scripture who says God is worried. And God never sends worry.
You can know if you have an anxious thought that it’s not God sending that to you.
God wants for his peace — the kind of peace that characterizes God — to guard your heart and mind.
And it can…
But you must do one thing.
You must pray. You must place your burden before God. ||
This is why prayer is the single, most fundamental spiritual practice when it comes to being carriers of peace rather than worry.
Prayer — turning any concern over to God when I feel it — that’s the part I play in allowing the peace of God to stand guard over my heart and my mind.
And the peace of God really will do this. It’s promised in Scripture. It really happens in the lives of ordinary people like you and me. ||
You know, I was thinking about something this week. What must this look like to God, all these finite people, carrying around these burdens that are way too big for us?
I imagine God saying, “Why don’t you take it off? Why don’t you set it down? Don’t you know it will only crush you?
“Don’t you know if you live day after day, week after week with this constant burden of anxious worry over what’s going to happen tomorrow…
Will I have enough?
Will I be safe?
Will I keep my job?
Will I recover financially?
Will I be alone?
“Don’t you know that you were not made for that burden? You cannot carry it, and it will crush you if you try. Why don’t you just give it to me?” God says. ||
I sometimes think some of the most wonderful words Jesus ever spoke were:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
Doesn’t that sound good? Come to me anyone who’s weary… not just in your body, but in your soul… and I’ll give you rest.
Then he says something very interesting. He says:
Take My yoke upon you. Matthew 11:29
Doesn’t that strike you as kind of an odd thing to offer worried people? A yoke? An instrument of burden?
He doesn’t say, “Take my orthopedic mattress, or take my Lazy Boy.” He says, “Take my yoke.”
Why does He do that?
Well, Jesus does this kind of thing a lot. Jesus is the Master Teacher, and you have to stay alert if you want to keep up with Him while He is teaching.
He often says things that are quite surprising, but if people have been around church too long, they just kind of let them slide by. ||
Let’s talk about this yoke for just a moment.
The word “yoke” is used over 50 times in the Bible. And it almost always involves a picture of being in submission to someone or something.
This is from Jeremiah:
Bow your neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon; serve him and his people, and you will live. Jeremiah 27:12
This is a picture of submission.
Or Paul writes to the Galatians:
Do not let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
Here’s the deal about yokes. Everyone wears a yoke. Everyone!
Jesus knew this.
A yoke is whatever cause or dream or goal you invest your time and energy in. Whatever you submit your life to.
We all submit our lives to something.
It might be your job.
It might be security.
It might be a relationship.
It might be your marriage.
It might be what some other people think about you.
And every yoke besides Jesus has a way of turning into slavery, and it will ultimately crush you.
And so Jesus says, “Take MY yoke upon you. Take my way of life upon you. And if you dare to do that — if you trust me — you will find rest for your soul.”
In 2000 years, Jesus has never led anyone into worry or fear or despair. Never.
He really does have an answer to the insanity that is around us. ||
So won’t you give him your burdens? You really can do that.
He says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened. And I will give you rest.”
You can come to him right now. And then when the worry comes back, you can come to him again. And when it comes back, you can come to him again. ||
I’d like to give you an opportunity to do that right now. I want to take a moment as the band leads us in a closing song as a time of burden removal.
So, I’m going to ask that you bow your head and close your eyes.
I’d like to ask you to identify right now — this is between you and God — what is the burden that you’re carrying today?
Maybe you’re worried about your heath.
Maybe you’re worried about your family or children or marriage… or a relationship that’s not there that you’re worried about.
Maybe you’re worried about finances.
Maybe it’s your job.
Maybe it’s your future.
Maybe it’s what’s going to happen in one of your relationships that is currently broken.
Maybe you’re worried about losing someone you love.
Maybe it’s the unknown.
You can decide right now, “Alright, God, I’m not going to carry this burden around anymore. I have a new strategy now. I’m just going to pray. I’m going to come to you.”
In a moment, just do that. Just bring it to God.
Then one more thing: maybe God has something he wants you to do. Maybe there’s a step of courage and faith that God wants you to take. ||
So will you take a moment to just listen and identify if there’s something that you need to do to address this concern or this worry.
And if there is, will you say yes?
Just take a moment to pray and to listen as the band comes to lead us in a closing song.
Blue Oak Church