Handle with Prayer

March 10, 2017

Bills, sickness, bereavement, arguments, raising children, caring for elderly parents, pressures on the job, transfers — the pressures of life seem endless. Two modern observers have even developed a stress scale. If we score over 200 points in a given year, we are under a great deal of stress and may have difficulties. Their scale ranges from the death of a spouse, 100 points, to smaller things like surviving the Christmas holidays, 12 points.

It seems to me that Paul must have hit 200 stress points at times.

Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:23–28, ESV)

He not only had some calamitous things happen to him, but he also faced persecution for his faith.

Paul was no stranger to stress. When he wrote Philippians, he was under arrest (1:14). Some preached Christ to cause Paul problems (1:17). He faced his own death (1:20) as well as feeling opposition and suffering (1:28- 30). His friend had been sick and almost died (2:26-27). Doctrinal problems existed (3:2), and two friends disagreed (4:2). Paul’s words on handling anxiety came out of the crucible of real life.

Paul teaches us to stop being anxious by taking everything to God in prayer.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4–7, ESV)

Paul could say, “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10, ESV). Paul could rely on spiritual resources to face the problems of life. He wasn’t just relying on his own strength.

Someone has also remarked, “There is nothing too great for God’s power; and nothing too small for His fatherly care.” Paul practiced this and discovered the peace of God which transcends all understanding. When we face the stresses of life, may we handle with prayer.


One Day at a Time

December 31, 2016

I like the phrase at the end of Matthew chapter 6: “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Jesus is arguing against worry and excessive anxiety. In Matthew 6:34, he is not talking about moral evil, but problems or troubles that come our way each day. The modern versions are quite correct in rendering it: “Each day has enough troubles of its own” (e.g., NIV and NASB). Jesus is urging that we have a deep trust in God and handle our problems one day at a time.

Jesus argues against worry in a number of ways in this passage (Matthew 6:25-34). First, he argues from the greater to the lesser. If God has given us life and a body, will He withhold the lesser things — food and clothing — which are needed to sustain the greater gift? Second, he argues from the lesser to the greater. Jesus teaches that God provides for the birds and the lilies of the field. Since we are more valuable, won’t he provide for us as well. Third, he informs us that the pagans — those without faith — pursue the same things, but our heavenly Father knows that we have need of them. Our perspective should then be: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33).”

Francis C. Ellis tells of a businessman who drew up a worry chart to track his worries. His findings were:

  • 40% probably will never happen
  • 30% concerned that past and couldn’t be changed
  • 12% other’s criticism of him
  • 10% concern over health
  • 8% legitimate concerns changed

This aptly illustrates Jesus’ maxim: “Each day has enough troubles of its own.” We need not borrow problems from the future to ruminate on, let us live each day with trust in God.

Certainly, there are times when disasters come, and anxieties press us down, but the solution is still found in “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33, ESV). Or, as Peter encourages, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7, NIV). Only trusting in God will see us through.

One sage has remarked, “The most pleasant and useful persons are those who leave some of the problems of the universe for God to worry about.” Let us take one day at a time.


Overcoming Worry

March 11, 2016

All of us have concerns and stresses, but does that make us worriers? Interestingly enough the word that is translated “be worried” in Matthew 6:25 is also rendered “is concerned” (e.g., 1 Corinthians 7:32-34, Philippians 2:20 NASB) and “care” (1 Corinthians 12:25 NASB). I think it is similar to warnings against anger, and yet Ephesians 4:26 states “Be angry, and yet do not sin” (NASB). Everyone will have feelings of anger. The question is how we handle them. In the same way, everyone will have concerns that enter their life. The issue is how we handle them.

At root, the difference between having concerns and worrying seems to be faith. George Muller makes a telling observation when he says, “The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.” What are the Biblical ways of handling our concerns and overcoming worry?

  • Trust God. “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” Matthew 6:26, NASB
  • Accept the things that you cannot change. “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” Matthew 6:2, NASB
  • Keep God first in your life. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33, NASB
  • Remember the limits of one day. “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34, NASB A study cited in Marriage Partnership notes that 60% of our fears are unfounded, 20% are already behind us, 10% are so petty they don’t make a difference, 4-5% are real, but we can’t change them, and 5% are real and we can act on them.
  • Pray. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 NIV “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6 NIV Abraham Lincoln said, “I have often been driven to my knees by the circumstances I face.”
  • Act on your concerns. Worry usually hinders, frustrates, and paralyzes. If we can avoid “worry,” we can usually develop a plan of action about our concerns. Taking action often reduces our stress level significantly.
  • Find support in the body of Christ. “…but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” 1 Corinthians 12:25-26, NASB

One Day At A Time

November 15, 2013

I like the phrase at the end of Matthew chapter 6: “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (KJV). Jesus is arguing against worry and excessive anxiety. In Matthew 6:34, He is not talking about moral evil, but problems or troubles that come our way each day. The modern versions are quite correct in rendering it: “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (ESV). Jesus is urging that we have a deep trust in God and handle our problems one day at a time.

Jesus argues against worry in a number of ways in this passage (Matthew 6:25-34). First, He argues from the greater to the lesser. If God has given us life and a body, will He withhold the lesser things—food and clothing—which are needed to sustain the greater gift? Second, He argues from the lesser to the greater. Jesus teaches that God provides for the birds and the lilies of the field. Since we are more valuable, won’t He provide for us as well? Third, He informs us that the pagans—those without faith—pursue the same things, but our heavenly Father knows that we have need of them. Our perspective should then be: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33, ESV).

The magazine, Marriage Partnership, reported a study on worry. They found the following breakdown.

  • 60% of our worries are unfounded
  • 20% of our worries are already behind us
  • 10% are so petty they don’t make a difference
  • 4-5% are real, but we can’t change them
  • 5% are real, but we can act on them

This aptly illustrates Jesus maxim: “Each day has enough troubles of its own” (Matthew 6:34, NIV). We need not borrow problems from the future to ruminate on, let us live each day with trust in God.

Certainly, there are times when disasters come, and anxieties press us down, but the solution is still found in “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33, ESV). Or, as Peter encourages us, “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7, ESV). Only trusting in God will see us through.

One sage has remarked, “The most pleasant and useful persons are those who leave some of the problems of the universe for God to worry about.”