Many times and in many ways the Bible tells us to “be anxious for nothing” (Philippians 4:6). In fact, Paul reassures us that if we will not be anxious but in all things make our requests known to God, God will give us – not earthly peace, but his peace – and his heavenly peace will guard our hearts and minds in the power and authority of Jesus Christ (4:6-7).
What keeps us from believing this, and why are we still so anxious and filled with worry?
Jesus gave us the key to understanding in his sermon on the mount. Let’s have a look at what he said:
““Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25 ESV).
He begins by telling us not to be anxious about anything in our lives; things as essential as where our next meal is coming from, to things like clothing that we sometimes take for granted, like clothing, that for some can mean the difference between freezing to death or surviving another day.
And honestly, if we back up a few verses in chapter 6, we read that Jesus actually begins this thought by telling the multitude not to be lovers of money. He’s telling us, as he told them, that we are not to be anxious for any of the “essentials” – not money, not food, not clothing, not even about our very lives.
That may have been easy for Jesus to say because after all, he is the Son of God, who turns water into wine and serves up bread from the storerooms of heaven. But the question is, how are we supposed to not be anxious? Especially today, when being anxious has become a way of life for so many people.
Beloved Friends, Jesus is saying that God never intended for us to constantly suffer from anxiety. Anxious worry was never built into God’s original design for humanity. Worry arises as a symptom of mankind’s fallen condition, and even after we are saved, we can become anxious because we occupy a broken world where everything seems to be falling apart. Life on earth can be scary and painful, and God is invisible so it's hard to walk by faith. We love Jesus, but we're worried about what’s going to happen next!
Jesus knew this. And because he knew this, he gave us keys that unlock the chains of worry. Let’s listen to what the Master said:
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (6:31-32).
It’s perfectly fine to eat food and wear whatever kind of clothing suits us. God knows that we need these things, and he intends that we have them. The point isn’t whether we should eat food or get dressed. The point is not to be anxious about our lives at all.
Jesus goes on to instruct us that instead, we should “…seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (6:33).
Ok, now we’re getting somewhere, but how exactly do we seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness? What does that mean?
Let’s look for a minute at what Paul wrote to our Brothers and Sisters at Philippi:
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13 ESV).
Both Jesus and Paul are telling us that the key to overcoming worry can be found not in our strength or in any earthly means of support, but rather that the secret to being content in all circumstances is found in God’s strength and in his kingdom.
Ok, but how do we do that? Peter gives us another key when he says, “…Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:5-7 ESV).
So, through Peter, the Holy Spirit is saying that instead of worrying about what kinds of earthly things we should “put on,” we should be “clothing” ourselves with humility. That when we hang on to anxiety, we are operating from a place of pride because we’re depending on our own strength and not on God. And that the way to clothe ourselves with humility is to literally cast, or “throw” (Greek: epiripto) all our cares onto Jesus. Because he cares for us! And he is mighty! He can handle everything better than we can, so why are we worried?
This is what Paul was talking about when he wrote to the Philippians, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 NLT).
Jesus preached in his Sermon on the Mount that our Father God knows everything we need. Paul wrote that even in terrible circumstances, he had learned how to be content. Peter instructs us that when we have cares and worries, we are to literally throw them onto God. Are we seeing a pattern forming here?
Let’s look one more time at what Paul said: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13 ESV).
Notice that he didn’t say something like, “God has seen to it that no bad thing ever happens to me.” Or, “God promised me that I will always be rolling in dough and my bank account will always be full!” (The “dough” God gives us is the Bread from Heaven, but that’s for another post!) Or, “I’m not worried because I’ve worked so hard for God, he owes me big time!” No, Paul didn’t say any of those things, because he was a seasoned, mature man of God. He knew better than to boast or complain, because he had years of experience serving God in a broken world under his Belt of Truth.
Paul knew that times could get tough. He also knew that good times would come, when he could rest and be comforted. But he wasn’t filled with worry about future challenges, nor was he overly impressed when he was showered with abundance. Paul had learned that the secret to being content in all circumstances is only unlocked with one key. And that key is remembering that in fact we CAN do ALL things, but ONLY by depending on Christ and HIS strength, following God's will, and not our own.
When we cast all our cares on God and depend on him to see us through both the good times and the bad, we can live our lives in peace and confidence, knowing that no matter what happens, God will make a way to see us through.
Let’s close with Peter’s final words to the church, before he was executed by the emperor Nero in Rome, around 64 AD:
“…Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (2 Peter 5:5-11 ESV).
So dear Friends, cast all your cares onto God. He is standing by your side, ready to strengthen you, equip you, and establish you in everything that he has called you to do. Don't worry about tomorrow. Jesus is also waiting there ahead of you, in every moment of your future, to guide your every step. There is nothing to fear. He's got you in the palms of his hands.