Have you ever laid awake at night worrying about things? I know I have in the past, and I probably will continue to do so once in a while in the future. Each of us has a list of worries with the potential of keeping us awake at night: job worries, family worries, health worries, and financial worries just to name a few.
In my life, I have my own particular worries list.
As a pastor I find myself worrying about church matters. It is summer and attendance is down. That means the finances are down as well. I also have many members with problems, and I worry about them. I have a large staff, and I find myself worrying about them. Are they happy? Are they burning out? Will they stay on? We are adding a worship service this fall, and I worry about that change.
As I look at my personal life, I see changes going on that can cause worry. I am about to become an empty nester. That is a change and I don’t really like it.
Physically I am aging. I do not hear as well as I used to. I don’t remember names like I used to. I cannot lose weight as easily as I once did. That worries me!
You know what worry does to us, don’t you? It strangles the life right out of us.
Jesus talked about this subject in his parable of the sower (Mark 4). A seed fell among thorns and was choked out. Later he told the disciples that seed represented the Word being heard by a person, but the troubles and worries of the world prevented him from enjoying it and growing.
Worry can strangle us as well. It can harm us physically as we go without sleeping and stress out over things that might happen. A Greek proverb says, “The bow that is always bent will soon break.” How true that is for us. The person who is always under pressure will soon break into a million pieces. We get headaches, ulcers, and all sorts of serious ailments.
Worry can affect us emotionally as well. Being a loving person when you are tired and crabby is difficult. It can sour our attitudes and make us negative and emotionally weak. Author Corrie Ten Boom once said, “Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.” We just find ourselves emotionally strung out.
Worry hurts us spiritually. It shrinks our view of God and his greatness, his bigness, and his ability to take care of us. As we get caught up in it, we stop maturing and therefore cannot bear fruit to honor our heavenly Father.
This is really nothing new to God’s people. It has been around since the beginning in the Garden of Eden and that first sin. Jesus talked about it quite a bit in the New Testament. Now we hear Paul talking about it with the Christians in Philippi.
The Philippians had their worries list.
Factionalism existed in the congregation. Two women were fighting over something and caused a rift in the congregation. When people are fighting, it can be a very tense and draining situation.
Some strange teachings were floating around among the members. Outside teachings, which called into question the doctrine of the Gospel (saved by grace through faith in Jesus), were being passed around from member to member. Now people were getting confused. And when we are shaken or confused, we get anxious with uncertainty.
They had pressure from outside. The community was treating Christians with persecution and ridicule. People outside of that church saw the faith as
subversive and held them at arm’s length. That can be quite lonely. They probably feared for their well being.
So Paul wrote, “Do not worry.”
I can imagine that, as those first two words were read, people thought, “That is not good advice. He does not know what is going on here. ÔDo not worry.’ He has to be kidding. That does not help.”
However, Paul does not leave them there. He goes on to say, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”
In the vernacular he is saying, “Got worries? Hand Ôem over! Got a problem? Hand it over.” Do not worry about anything, but pray about everything. Turn to the one who loves you and knows what makes life work. Turn to the one who loves you, who sent his Son to die on that cross for your sins so you could have a relationship with him.
Paul uses three words for handing it over:
Prayer. In the Bible when prayer is talked about, it typically connotes worship. First, take some time to focus on how great and faithful God is in worship.
Supplication. Come asking Ð earnestly and sincerely. Lay these things at his feet.
¥ For the privilege of approaching the throne of grace.
¥ For the privilege of calling upon God as your Father because of what he did for us through Christ.
¥ For past faithfulness.
And the promise is some great things await you.
Paul, as if reading their minds about whether this does any good, goes on to say, “In case you are wondering if this will help:
¥ “The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
¥ The peace of God is promised to us as we worship, ask, and thank.
Handing it over to God leads to peace.
Are you lying awake in bed at night? Here is what to do: Slide those legs over the side of your bed, put your knees on the floor, and hand it over. The peace of God will come and guard your heart, feelings, mind, and thoughts in Christ Jesus.
Paul is not just waxing eloquently here. He is speaking from personal experience. Read about his life in the book of Acts or his letters in the New Testament. You find that Paul was a man of prayer. He believed profoundly in the power of prayer and that God could be counted on when he handed it over to Him.
Paul discovered first, that God is trustworthy. When God promises something, he comes through.
He learned that God is a lot bigger than any problem, situation, or circumstance in his life, and He could handle it.
He discovered how deeply God loved him as he came to know his Son Jesus Christ. And he again and again reviewed what had been done for him at the cross. God helped Paul to see, through that Gospel message, how much he loved Paul.
So as Paul lay awake at night worrying, he learned he could hand everything over and peace would be his.
My dear friends: God loves you. If you have trouble believing that, look at the cross. We were lost in our sins, far from God. God loved you so much he gave his Son Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for your sins, so that the relationship that was broken might be mended, and you could become a child of your heavenly Father.
You are loved. God loves you. Paul discovered that, and millions of others have since, as they have come to know Christ and place their trust in him.
Are you lying awake at night? Hand it over. Hand over that list. Take your worries list, turn it into your prayer list, and empty your heart to God.
I enjoy a psalm, written by King David. David had learned he could trust God, and he declares his dependence on God:
“Lord, my heart is not proud, my eyes are not haughty.
I do not concern myself with matters too great or awesome for me.
But I have stilled and quieted myself, just as a small child is quiet with its mother.
Yes like a small child is quieted is my soul within me.
O Israel put your hope in the Lord now and always” Psalm 131.
David had learned that God loved him, and He could take David’s worries and give him peace.
One last story:
A weary Christian lay awake one night, trying to hold the world together with his worrying. Then he heard the Lord say to him, “Now you go to sleep, Jim, and I will sit up.”
That is the promise. Our Lord neither slumbers nor sleeps. He is there for you.
So do not worry about anything. But pray about everything. Hand it over.