A Last Resort
Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God.
Worry can eat our lunch. During the day we worry that we cannot do enough, and at night, we worry that everything will fall apart. We replay conversations to find something we’ve said that could be misunderstood, and we beat ourselves up for being so stupid. We worry about our marriage or, if we aren’t married, about never finding a spouse; we worry about money, sex, in-laws, and our kids. When we’re at work, we’re haunted about things at home, and when we’re at home, we can’t stop thinking about all the things that could go wrong at work.
Into this cesspool of destructive thinking Paul says, “Be anxious for nothing.” “Yeah, right,” we are tempted to say. “ He doesn’t understand what I’m going through.” Well, actually he does. Paul had plenty to worry about, but he learned to fix his thoughts on the goodness and greatness of God (Philippians 4:8), and he practiced the habit of prayer. Prayer can’t coexist for long in the same mental space with worry; one will crowd the other out.
Many times we forget to pray, but when we fail to pray about everything, we miss out on the source of peace, hope, and joy. When we pray about everything, thank God for His wisdom, and trust Him for His will to be done in His timing, we can experience God’s amazing peace even in the most difficult circumstances. God will listen to every request.
As your positive confessions come forth, you will discover more blessing; you will have more to thank God for.
You may give out; but never give up.
The options we have when life is troubling is to pace the floor with worry or to fall on our faces in prayer. We will do one or the other, but not both. It is impossible pray if your mind is filled with worry and it is impossible to worry if your heart is crying out to Jesus. I realize this is a strong statement and some may object and say that they have done both at the same time. What I’ve learned is that there is a battle in our minds between worry and prayer. I’ve learned that they will contend for space and place and neither is willing to share that space and place. Our tendency is to worry and to be anxious and the reason for that is we feel that we’re responsible for the outcome. If something is going wrong, we feel it’s our duty to fix it. We may not know how to fix it; we may not have the resources to fix it; we may not have the strength to overcome it; and yet we often attempt to fix life without the help of God. And because we make little to no headway with the problem, we worry and fret. Some years ago I saw someone with a T-shirt that said, “When all else fails, read the instructions.” That shirt had a Bible in the background. What it said to me is that we make God our last resort instead of our first place we run when trouble comes. How often do we wait until it’s hopeless before we bring the matter to God. I have friends in the medical field who constantly express their frustration with those who wait until their condition is beyond help before they seek help and most of the time is impossible to reverse. O that we would make God our first choice for direction, guidance and wisdom rather than waiting until we’ve exhausted the help of everything else before we come before His throne.
As I’m writing today on the eve of 911, I’m reminded that our nation in a brief moment chose to seek the intervention of God. In the aftermath of the planes taking out the Twin Towers and the threat of terrorism I remember churches calling prayer meetings, our national leaders gathering in the Washington Cathedral for a prayer service, and marquees with the words, “Pray for America” on almost every business including those that would normally not post anything religious. Here we are in another world crisis with the pandemic and the unrest and what I’m observing is that rather than meeting in prayer, we are meeting for round table discussions. And in my humble opinion, all of our collective wisdom falls far short of finding a viable solution. We choose to fret, to cast blame, to live in fear and unrest, and to mourn for our lost norms.
What is more concerning is that I don’t see many Christians choosing to pray rather than worry. I remember during 911 that churches gathered for prayer and church leaders sought the counsel of God in what to do and what to say to the people. I realize that the restrictions have limited our ability to gather as believers in a single space, at least initially, but as the church has began to return for indoor, in-person worship, it seems that we are attempting to substitute our activity for the activity of seeking God for His direction in these challenging times.
The model church is the Acts church and their success wasn’t due to great leaders, though they certainly had great leaders. It wasn’t due to the fact that they had great members, though certainly they did for we read how they listened to the apostles teaching and many sold possessions and brought the money to the church for its work. They certainly weren’t in easy times for we read of the persecutions and distress that the church faced from its birth. What we learn is that rather than choosing to worry or to try to find a solution through human thought and wisdom; at every point they prayed. When Peter and John were beaten for preaching Christ at the healing of the lame man, the church prayed. When the church grew and there was an overwhelming need to care for the widows, the church prayed and God gave wisdom to call deacons. When it was time to take the gospel to the Gentiles, we find Peter in conversation with the Lord and when there was a need to send missionaries out to visit the churches that were established due to the dispersion of Christians because of persecution, the church prayed. When the church had to address its future to include Gentile believers and whether they would insist that Gentiles would be required to observe all the Jewish rituals, the church prayed and God spoke through James. We read of Paul on his journeys,often in dire situations, met each one with prayer. And if this is not enough to convince us of the importance to choose prayer over worry, let us consider Christ Himself who was known as a man of prayer and who constantly sought the Father in prayer.
So today we all can choose. We can continue to fret, to worry, to stay confused and distressed over all that’s happening around us and to us or we can choose instead to come before the Lord in prayer. An old hymn says it this way, “Take your burdens to the Lord and leave them there. If you trust and never doubt, He will surely bring you out. Take your burdens to the Lord and leave them there.
Paul says in our text, that rather than being anxious, we ought to pray with thanksgiving and if we will choose that course, God will give us peace; peace that comes from knowing that we are loved by God; we are His children and nothing is beyond His ability to fix.
Dr. John Thompson