Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 September 30, 2018
“The Antidote for Anxiety”
One definition of the word anxiety, according to Webster’s Dictionary, states that anxiety is apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness usually over an impending or anticipated ill. Another definition, according to Webster’s, and more in keeping with our therapeutic age, states that anxiety is an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating, and increased pulse rate), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it. The Greek-English lexicon in my study (referred to succinctly as Louw & Nida) defines anxiety (Greek merimna [merimna]) as a feeling of apprehension of distress in view of possible danger or misfortune. Anxiety, to judge from these definitions, is a condition no right-thinking person wants.
Yet almost every person—right-thinking or not—faces anxiety. It is a condition that is both near-epidemic in the population and near-endemic to being human. You and I did not need the rigorous definitions listed earlier to know what anxiety feels like—and we did not need any text to remind us of our individual anxiety triggers. What we need today is relief for this pervasive condition. Happily, we find anxiety relieved by God’s Word applied to our souls by the Holy Spirit. We look for such relief anywhere else in vain; doubtless many have tried looking elsewhere—and perhaps some of us have too. Let us give attention to today’s text, in which the find the antidote against anxiety.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
Our text—helpful and cherished far out of proportion to its brevity—begins with a negative command, namely, “Be ye not anxious….” This squares well with what we read elsewhere in Scripture. Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, tells us not to worry about food, or clothing, or the future (Matthew 6:25-34). He tells His disciples, on the night of His betrayal, not to let their hearts be troubled (John 14:1), and He repeats the injunction later in the chapter (14:27). Yet, much as we long to comply with Jesus’ directives, we cannot obey them without both power from on high and guidance from on high via the Bible—the Word of God. We get these as God quickens this text to our needy souls.
The text, after the negative command, proceeds to a positive command, to wit, “Let your requests be made known to God.” The Holy Spirit, through the pen of the Apostle Paul, qualifies this command in several ways. First, we present our requests to God in all things, or in everything. We think we can handle—on our own, without divine assistance—at least some of our providential stuff. We do better to realize that we can’t do this, and, upon this realization, let us there pray to God concerning everything. Second, we present our requests to God by prayer and supplication. By prayer we mean the act of reciting our requests before God, and by supplication we mean doing the same with a sense of urgency. If we would have peace from God, then we would pray in insipid, half-hearted manner; we would pray with urgency before our great God and King. Third, we present our requests to God with thanksgiving. Paul, writing by the Spirit, wrote the Thessalonian Christian households, “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Therefore, let us give thanks for—among other things—God’s being and character (which never change), His answer to your prayer (both in His time and in His way), His faithfulness to you in times past and present, and His faithful goodness to you in the future. This is the antidote: Declare your requests to God—in the manner noted in Philippians 4:6.
Now comes a precious promise to the believer in Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior. Let us unpack it together. God promises us, having prayed as He directs, His peace. Jesus tells His disciples—then and now—that He leaves His peace with us. He gives to us a peace that the world simply cannot give—for it does not possess His peace. Therefore, having God’s peace, let not our hearts be troubled—neither let them be afraid (John 14:27). This peace of God, moreover, surpasses all understanding. It cannot be understood fully, nor can it be explained fully, but it can be experienced fully—and perhaps some sense of it can be compared by Christians mutually blessed with it. This peace of God—this peace from God—will also guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. The Greek verb rendered guard in the ESV (phroureo [frourew]) literally means guard against; the word implies some perceived attack against the Christian believing soul. Hence, God’s peace guards our hearts and minds against things—and entities—threatening us. Furthermore, His peace will keep you stayed, or focused, upon Christ Jesus—and this state testifies that God’s peace has come, as Isaiah declares in the Holy Spirit, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed upon Thee, because he trusteth in Thee” (Isaiah 26:3).
What worried you as this sermon started? What worries you now, if anything? We now know what to do with these worries. Let me speak to two distinct audiences here. First, if you find yourself not yet in Christ—having not yet received Him by faith as Savior from sin and as Lord of life—then, as the Holy Spirit empowers, come to Jesus in repentance and faith. Upon this glorious transaction, you have peace with God through Jesus Christ, our Lord (Romans 5:1). Then, having peace with God, proceed to have peace from God.
Second, if you are in Christ—whether for a long time or just a moment ago—bring the anxiety-provoking thing (yea, everything) to God, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving. Then, having brought everything to God in the manner prescribed in today’s text, receive His peace—a peace which surpasses all understanding and which guards your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus against every harm. Therefore, on this Lord’s Day, may God, in place of your every anxiety, grant you His perfect peace.
 Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, eds., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989).