In a few short days from the time of my writing, my dad is coming to visit me from Illinois. I am ecstatic. Not only am I excited to see my dad and have him here for almost a week, I am excited for the purpose of him coming to visit. He’s coming to help me remodel one of the bathrooms at my house. In preparation for his coming, I decided to start demolition before he made the 1,017 mile trek to my house. My brother-in-law came to my house and started digging. After three hours of work, we had only taken out the standing shower and all of its remains. Underneath the pre-shaped shower, we found shower walls, and a cement shower base. After removing these, we found extensive water damage. The sub-floor under the shower base had completely rotted. So much so, that a simple step would have sent me through the floor to the ground below. We finished that phase of the demolition, and it was time for us to call it quits. As we were closing up the bathroom, I attempted to shut the door that previously opened and shut with great ease only to find that the door didn’t shut anymore. Through the busyness of the night, something had happened to the door. After spending extra, unscheduled time, We were able to latch the door shut.
I’m glad we are doing this. I’m glad my father is coming. I’m glad to not have rotted floors. I like having remodeled rooms. But can I tell you a secret? When I look at the current state of the room, I am filled with care. I’m extremely anxious as thoughts run through my mind like, “I hope there’s not more unexpected issues to resolve;” and “How much is this gonna cost?!” I look back at the time when my living room was remodeled. Problem after problem arose. The process took much longer than expected. The price tag was higher than planned. The memories of the previous job flood my mind, and cause me to be anxious for this project as well.
However, if I were to be honest with myself, a home renovation is nothing in comparison to what the Apostle Paul faced when he wrote the letter to the Philippian church. Paul had faithfully preached the Gospel from the moment God called him. He planted churches, made missionary journeys, and saw many people begin a relationship with Jesus through the saving power of the Gospel. But Paul ran into a problem. Some people didn’t like what he was saying. People didn’t want him to preach the Gospel to the point that he was now in prison with an uncertain destiny-either being released or being executed. Though Paul would be released this time, there would have been no certainty in Paul’s mind. Throughout the book, Paul mentions over and over again that he was joyful. He focuses on joy so extensively that people almost universally agree that joy is the theme of the book. In the final chapter, Paul gives various practical commands. In chapter four verse five, we find this exhortation:
“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”
Paul tells us to be careful for nothing. The word’s first definition in the Webster’s 1828 dictionary is this: “Full of care; anxious; solicitous.” Don’t be careful. Don’t be anxious. If anyone could speak about being careful, it was Paul with his destiny in the balance.
There is hope, however. As Paul’s custom was, he gives a replacement action. You may remember that he does this throughout almost all his letters. “Replace this action with this one.” Put off the old man; put on the new man. Ephesians 4 is an extensive example. Instead of lying, tell the truth to everyone. Instead of stealing, work so that you can give. Instead of being bitter and angry, forgive. Paul goes over various, similar scenarios in Colossians as well. Our verse in focus for this article is no exception. Paul gives the alternative to being anxious. Essentially, Paul says this, “Put off being careful, and put on being prayerful.”
What was Paul telling us?
- Bring everything before God. I’ll be honest with you again. The times that I am most anxious in this life is when I try to handle everything on my own. When I fail to trust God’s power and plan in my life is when I become so filled with care, that my life is overtaken in anxiety. Isn’t that one reason Christians don’t pray? They don’t think God can take care of their problem. They don’t believe God is sovereign in every situation. That’s true for me, at least. I forget that God is omnipotent (all-powerful). But if I want to get rid of being careful, I absolutely must bring the situation before God.
- Be thankful. Even in this time of imprisonment, Paul was thankful. He was thankful for the Philippians and their care for him. He was thankful God chose him to suffer for the name of Jesus. He was thankful that the things that happened to him would cause the furtherance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He was glad. It’s pretty difficult to be anxious when you look at everything God has blessed you with.
I can overcome these feeling of anxiety by praying and being thankful. But what about you? Preacher, do you feel anxious because the couple you’re discipling just doesn’t seem to be making any progress spiritually. Sunday School teacher, does it seem like your students are apathetic and don’t care at all about God’s Word. Parents, are you anxious because your children are walking away from the faith? Or maybe you’re worried that as they grow, you’ll lead them astray inadvertently? Maybe you’re worried that God won’t lead you to the right person for marriage. You’ve been waiting, but there aren’t any possibilities. Students, perhaps you’re anxious that your project will fail even though you’ve spent countless hours planning, preparing, and executing. Whatever the case may be, there is a solution. Whatever situation you find yourself in, approach it with prayer, trusting that God is able to solve any problem. Be thankful. Be grateful for the opportunities God has given you. Be grateful God uses you. Then, you can find joy in your life.