It was a cold, blustery night.
They sat in the living room in front of a vigorous fire.
The two old maids, each in her 80s, said little.
Finally, one of them began to quietly sob.
“What’s the matter?” asked the other.
“Well,” she said, “I was just thinking that if I had a little baby and he got too close to that fire and got burned, how sad I’d feel”.
My dad turned to me with a big grin. He loved stories, especially ones with humor and a point.
“You see, Jack, that old maid was worrying over nothing. It hadn’t happened, it wasn’t going to happen and it couldn’t happen. Yet there she sat, worrying”. Then he leaned in toward me and chuckled. “We spend too much time worrying, and it’s usually over nothing.”
My dad, who had survived Iwo Jima, didn’t worry over much. He always did what he could and for the rest he relied on God. Of all the emotions I saw him display, I don’t ever recall my dad in a panic. In fact, during a crisis is when his calm and clear-headed steadiness took over.
He was a man of courage, which means, as Hemingway put it, he showed “grace under pressure”.
Christians sometimes forget that worrying is a sin.
We don’t often think of it that way. It’s not obvious or blatant like adultery, murder or lust. If worry were a creature, it wouldn’t be a serpent; it would be a little fox. And King Solomon warned us about “little foxes” running through the vineyard of our lives.
We either confuse worrying with concern, we cover it up or we excuse it. I suppose of all the sins I commit, worrying is the easiest and most subtle. It happens sometimes so naturally I don’t even realize it. Situations come up and there I am, wondering and worrying about what’s next.
I wish I was more like Dad.
We’ve got a whole year ahead of us in which we can choose to worry or to trust God.
Worry is one of the biggest joy-robbers in our lives. It impacts our whole disposition, our attitude toward life, and our relationships with others, including and especially our relationship with God.
The respected Greek scholar W. E. Vine said of worry:
“Anxiety harasses the soul; it enfeebles, irritates, ruffles the temper, is a sign of mistrust and failing obedience and distracts the mind from communion with God”.
A day of worry, it has been pointed out, is more exhausting than a week of work.
The Apostle Paul offers you and me a categorical antidote to worry. It’s a tested and true prescription. All we need to do is fill it out in obedience and take it by faith.
This could change my year – and my life! Perhaps it could change yours.
“Don’t worry about anything”, Paul tells the Philippians, “instead, pray about everything” (Philippians 4:6, NLT).
Notice how mutually exclusive these two commands are. To worry is not to pray, Paul says, and to pray is not to worry. You really can’t do both.
Paul is mutually exclusive. He’s also comprehensive.
“Be careful [anxious] for nothing” the King James renders it (emphasis added), “but in everything by prayer …” (emphasis added). There are no exceptions, no conditions and no limitations. There’s not a single issue, problem, situation or circumstance in your life or mine in which it’s OK to worry and not to pray.
There’s no crisis too big or complicated or involved for this prescription not to apply or not to work.
It’s nothing – and it’s everything.
The prayer which Paul tells us to pray is one of “supplication with thanksgiving” in which we confidently let our “requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6, KJV).
This is the meaning of true worship.
We come before God in praise and thanksgiving and we pour out our heart to him.
“Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (verse 6, NLT).
In essence, Paul tells us to stop worrying and start worshiping. When we do this – when we decide not to worry but to pray instead – what happens? What is the result?
“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, KJV).
What a promise!
We’ll have peace. It’s the by-product of trust and prayer.
We’ll have peace in our hearts and peace in our minds. And we’ll have peace in our storms. In a world where one crisis after another keeps us perched upon a precarious precipice of uncertainty and division; in a year in which God only knows what will happen; you and I can enjoy peace of heart and peace of mind.
We won’t fully understand it but we will fully know it.
This peace of God will keep us – guard us and protect us – every day and in every circumstance.
When we stop worrying and start worshiping – when we stop fretting and start praying:
“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, NLT).
I don’t know about you, but I’m going to try this.