Everyone faces anxieties. We are not all anxious and nervous about the same things, but we all deal with our own fears, worries, and stresses in life. God wants you to manage the anxieties, rather than your anxieties managing you. That’s what this sermon series is about.

God gives us several weapons to fight and control our anxieties. These weapons are the seven practices of peace as described in Philippians 4:4-9.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all people. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things. As for the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (NASB)

God gives you seven practices that help you defend yourself against your anxieties.

  • Practice #1 is the practice of joy. God’s Word says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice!” This is learning how to apply the attitude and power of spiritual joy based on your relationship with Jesus in unhappy situations. This is where knowing the difference between joy and happiness is crucial.
  • Practice #2 is the practice of gentleness. God’s Word says, “Let your gentle spirit be known to all people.” This is learning how to express gentleness in stressful and anxious moments of life. The Holy Spirit has given you a gentle spirit and He wants that gentle spirit to dominate your life regardless of who you encounter. This will help you to remain calm when facing difficult situations.
  • Practice #3 is the practice of awareness. God’s Word says, “The Lord is near.” When you are aware of how big and awesome your Lord is it makes what you are anxious about not so overwhelming. This is developing the skill of being aware of the Lord’s presence, His return, and His glory.
  • Practice #4 is the practice of calmness. God’s Word says, “Do not be anxious about anything.” Another way to say that is, “Be calm.” When you are calm, you are composed. When you are composed, you are able to focus and be present to do what God wants you to do and to bless people the way God wants you to bless them. You are able to hear God more clearly and to respond to Him more faithfully.

Another weapon to defend yourself against anxiety that God has given you is prayer. Practice #5 is the practice of prayer. We are focusing on this one today. You can talk to God about what is irritating, annoying, worrying, or concerning you. Until you learn to pray, you are going to struggle with your anxieties. Prayer does not remove the cause of anxiety, but God uses it to provide a shield against them. You cannot successfully handle all your anxieties on your own. You need help. Prayer, talking to God, says, “I need help.” Once you embrace that, you begin to embrace peace.

We are going to give our attention to verse 6 today. God’s Word says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (NASB).

The essence of anxiety is that we do not trust God to handle the circumstance.

  • In a sense we take responsibility for what rightly should be His responsibility. Instead of letting God be in charge of it, we take charge of it. Anxiety wants to control the situation.
  • Another aspect of anxiety is that it wants to put more importance and significance on something than it deserves. The clutter becomes more important than the children. The mess in the kitchen becomes more important than the marriage. Anxiety has a way of making the small things big and the big things small.

When anxiety shows up, a major weapon against it is prayer. Talk to God about what you are anxious about. What bothers you? The mess, the noise, the doctor’s appointment, finances, or something else. Whatever it is talk to God about it. The Psalmist understood this when he wrote, “Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you” (Psalm 55:22, NLT). One of the ways you give your burdens to the Lord is to talk to God about them.

The Need for Prayer

Let’s start with the need for prayer. Look at verse 6 closely, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer….” Let’s stop right there, but in everything by prayer.

Everything means anything, anywhere, anytime

That word everything means anything, anywhere, and anytime. Let’s think about this for a minute. Let’s take the phrase “in everything” and replace it with “in _______________.” Give me somethings or situations where you or others might struggle with anxiety, fear, worry, or anger (In sickness, in death, in divorce, in marriage, in parenting, in being alone, in getting older, in starting a new job, in buying a house, in losing a job, in the morning, in the afternoon, in the middle of the night, in obeying God, in disobeying God, in serving others, etc.) God says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer… make your concerns known to God.”

This is why God’s Word tells you that in everything talk to God about it. Bring your concern and burden to Him. It doesn’t matter how big or how small the issue is. The word everything (pas) means everything without exception! Not just those crisis management prayers. No time, no subject, no issue, or no place is off limits for prayer. Every time you feel annoyed, pray. Every time you sense your anger increasing, pray. Every time you become impatient, pray. Every time you feel frustrated, agitated, worried, afraid, or anxious… pray! Talk to God about. Bring it to Him! He wants it!

I remember the first time I saw this practiced. I was about seventeen. The pastor of the church I attended had hired me to mow his yard. When I got there, he was working on his lawn mower. While we were making some adjustments to it, he dropped a small screw in the grass. We looked for it but couldn’t find it. He was getting frustrated. He then said, “Let’s stop a second and ask God to help us find it.” He prayed. We started looking for it again and within seconds we found it. He said, “See there, God helped us find that screw.” That left such an impression on me that I still remember it clearly nearly fifty years later. He could have become more frustrated, angry, or annoyed. However, he prayed about it and God blessed him for it. It was a small thing. It’s a screw for a lawn mower. But God means what He says, in everything you are stressed out about, talk to Him about it.

God wants you to talk to Him. He will help you with this. His Holy Spirit is working in you to cultivate a habit of having conversations with the Heavenly Father throughout the day about everything. The people in your life may not want to hear everything you have to say or what is on your mind, but your Heavenly Father does.

Everything mindset

If you are going to experience the peace of God on a daily basis, then you need to have what I call an everything mindset. An everything mindset means I’m giving everything to God in some way. Let me give you some examples of what this means by looking at “everything” in the Bible.[i]

Psalm 37:5 says, “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you” (NLT). In the four verses prior to that statement God’s Word says, “Don’t worry… or envy” (v. 1) and then immediately after we are told “commit everything you do to the Lord” we are told to “be still in the presence of the Lord” and “wait patiently for him to act” (v. 7). Then we are told “Don’t worry” and “don’t fret” (v. 7). Then it goes on to say, “Stop being angry” and “don’t lose your temper” (v. 8).

Notice carefully, the statement, “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you” is surrounded by anxiety. Don’t worry, don’t envy, be still, wait patiently, and don’t fret. This tells me that when you feel like your life is surrounded by anxiety that is when you need to ramp up your commitment to the Lord. You need to commit everything that you are worried about, angry about, envious about, impatient about, and fretting about to the Lord. Part of praying is committing everything to the Lord, trusting him to guide you through it and to help you as you need it. You’ve got to have that everything mindset!

Proverbs 20:24 says, “The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way? (NLT). For some of you, your stress and anxiety show up when you don’t know everything or understand everything. One of the ways people try to control situations is by trying to understand everything. If they know more about what’s going on and understand why it’s happening, then they feel like they are in control of the situation. When they can’t understand something, it frustrates them.

The phrase “along the way” refers to your life. There is this path in front of you that God has laid out. You cannot see where it will take you, but God knows. You have already walked part of this path. You can look back on your path and see where you were, where you have been, what you have done, what you have gone through, and who you were.

Have you ever been hiking on a nature trail? I like walking on nature trails. I like the way it smells, sounds, and feels. There is something about the trees, plants, squirrels, birds, and everything else about nature trails that is peaceful and enjoyable to me. When I’m hiking on a trail, I’m not trying to understand everything. I don’t understand why the path goes this way and not that way. I don’t understand everything about the trees I see or the dead trees I see. I don’t understand everything about the creatures along the path, why the birds do what they do, and the squirrels do what they do. I don’t understand everything about flowers, grass, and other plant life. I’m just enjoying the path and enjoying what God has created around me. I’m not trying to understand everything. I’m curious about a lot of things, but I don’t need to “understand everything along the way.”

Your life is the same way. The phrase “along the way” refers to your life. You will see a lot things “along the way” some good, some confusing, and some difficult. “Along the way” you will encounter some nice people and mean people, you will experience blessings and obstacles. For whatever reason, our paths have crossed today. God doesn’t want me or expect me to understand everything along my path, I just need to embrace it, enjoy it or learn from it, and honor God as walk along the way. Once you stop trying to understand everything you will discover that being aware, calm, and present is much easier.

Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (NLT). That’s an everything mindset.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (NLT). That’s an everything mindset.

1 Corinthians 16:14 says, “And do everything with love” (NLT). That’s an everything mindset.

Ephesians 1:11 says, “Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan” (NLT). That’s an everything mindset.

Philippians 1:12 says, “And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News” (NLT). Paul wrote in prison. He was put in prison for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. He had an everything mindset.

Philippians 2:14 says, “Do everything without complaining and arguing” (NLT). That’s an everything mindset.

2 Peter 1:3 says, “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence” (NLT). That’s an everything mindset.

Let’s put this in a better perspective because I love that little word everything. That word tells me there is nothing too small to bring to God. Someone may ask, “Is it all right to bring small things before the Lord? Is He concerned about the small things in my life?” That question assumes that God sees some things as small and some things as big. However, to God everything is a small thing. There is no big problem to God. So, yes! Bring your small problems and small issues to God.

Instead of living uptight, tense, uneasy lives, we need to bring everything to God in prayer and have an everything mindset. If you feel agitated, pray about it. If you are scared, lift it to the Lord. If you are burdened by a past that threatens to come back and haunt you, go to God and ask Him to do something with it. If you are stressed out about someone you love, spend time praying for them. If you find your mind and emotions running through the endless “what-if” scenarios, pray about them.

Conclusion

Everyone faces anxieties. We are not all anxious and nervous about the same things, but we all deal with our own fears, worries, and stresses in life. God wants you to manage the anxieties, rather than your anxieties managing you.

One of the weapons He has given you is prayer, talking to Him about what is bothering you. Turn to Him. Talk to Him. Make it a habit.

 

[i] See also Mark 5:19; Philippians 4:13