Calvary Road Baptist Church

ďTHE SIN OF ANXIETYĒ

Philippians 4.6a

 

It was Paulís pattern, whenever he wrote letters to churches and to individuals, to basically divide his letters into two sections. The first section was generally doctrinal and intensely theological, while the second section tended to be filled with appropriate exhortations and practical thrusts. Though there are exceptions to this tendency, Paul tended to follow this pattern in all his writings. Philippians is no exception to this routine, especially in the verses following Paulís remarks to Euodias and Syntyche in Philippians 4.2-3. Beginning in 4.4, where he rounds the final turn and heads toward the home stretch in his conclusion, Paul issues some rapid fire directives to the congregation as a whole. Turn to Philippians 4.4-6 and youíll see what I mean:

 

4      Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.

5      Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

6      Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

 

Do you see how this series of commands comes at the church members? One, after another, after another. However, these arrows of inspired guidance are not only short bursts of commands. There is also a time element to them, if you are careful to notice.

Notice verse 4: ďRejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, Rejoice.Ē And what is rejoicing but the expression of a Christianís joy? However, there is something else about joy and rejoicing that weíve not yet observed. Joy has to do with the past. The immediate past, perhaps, but the past just the same. Something has happened, a truth has been perceived or understood, a blessing has been apprehended. Maybe moments ago. Maybe hours ago. Maybe even months or years ago. Still, however, there is the delight of the soul, which is then expressed through rejoicing. Therefore, when Paul urges upon them rejoicing he is guiding the believer in Jesus Christ to presently recognize the blessings of the immediate or the remote past.

Now notice verse 5: ďLet your moderation be known unto all men.Ē This command has to do with the here and now. Because the Lord is at hand, whatever that phrase means, you are to presently demonstrate to those around you your sweet reasonableness. Whether because the Lord will never leave you nor forsake you, or because the Lord Jesus Christís coming is at hand, demonstrate to others your moderation by being a pleasantly reasonable Christian.

The past, the present, and now, in verse 6, Paul issues a directive that concerns itself with the future. I propose at this time to examine only the first portion of Paulís directive, to ďBe careful for nothing.Ē The Lord willing, we will look at the rest of the verse next week. ďBe careful for nothing.Ē You might paraphrase it, ďBe anxious for nothing.Ē Short, succinct, and subtle not at all.

Three observations Iíd like to make about this order Paul has issued, on the way to my sermon:

 

THE FIRST OBSERVATION HAS TO DO WITH THE COMMAND

 

I really hate to stand up here and give grammar lessons, but I am so conscious of the deficiencies I left high school with in this area, and how very important it is to the study of Godís Word, that I feel compelled to share some grammatical things with you from time to time. So, bear with my own inadequacies, if you will please. Two things about this command related to the sin of anxiety.

First, the command from the Apostle Paul is prohibitive. The verb that Paul uses, translated ďbe careful,Ē is an imperative verb, which means it is used as a command. However, Paul had at his disposal two different ways to issue a negative command, such as we have here. He could either construct his command so as to prohibit the Philippians from beginning to commit the sin of being anxious, or he could construct his command so as to prohibit them from continuing in their anxiety. The way Paul happens to phrase this verse, it is clear that he wants his readers in Philippi to discontinue their anxiety. And a quick glance back at Philippians 1.28 shows that they, indeed, had been filled with anxiety:

 

ďAnd in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.Ē

 

But thatís not the only thing about this command I want to draw your attention to. Itís also a command that is personal. Just like with each of the previous two commands he has issued, this command, as well, points directly to the individuals within the Philippian congregation. Only an individual can rejoice. Only an individual can demonstrate moderation, or be sweetly reasonable. And only an individual can stop committing the sin of living in anxiety, can stop committing the sin of worrying. And isnít this interesting? You hear of people having so-called anxiety attacks from time to time. You may even know someone who has suffered from a so-called anxiety attack. But what is an anxiety attack? Is it like having an asthma attack, which at times are triggered by allergies? No. An anxiety attack is quite simply being overcome with the wicked sin of worry to the point that you hyperventilate and are quite incapacitated. Anxiety attacks are nothing less than a response to the cumulative effect of the sin of anxiety. Thatís why Paul commands you to stop worrying, to stop being anxious.

 

ďBe careful for nothing.Ē

 

THE SECOND OBSERVATION HAS TO DO WITH THE CONCERN

 

Letís analyze this sin of worry a bit. This will help us understand the concern of Paulís command.

First, there is its direction. Though it may have its root in the past, or even in the present, the sin of worry, anxiety, always has for its direction the future. Always. You will never have worry that doesnít look to the future. And if Biblical hope is the confident expectation of future blessing, based on the promises of God, being careful, worrying, anxiety, as we see it in this verse, is the confident expectation of future tragedy or catastrophe, having nothing to do with the promises of God . . . unless, of course, you are unsaved. This is what Paul prohibits the Philippian church members from engaging in. And this is exactly what happens when someone has an anxiety attack. They are literally overwhelmed with concern about future tragedy or catastrophe, even if their concerns are unfocused and indistinct. ďWhatís the problem?Ē ďI donít know.Ē ďWhat are you afraid of?Ē ďI tell you I donít know.Ē

Second, there is its design. Turn in your Bible to Second Corinthians 11.28:

 

ďBeside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.Ē

 

Here we see Paul describing his concern, his anxiety if you will, for the churches he has planted. However, notice that there is here no indication that Paulís worry, if you will, for those churches was sinful worry that should stop. And herein is the lesson: Anxiety, carefulness, worry, is sinful when its design is on yourself. In Second Corinthians 11.28 Paul is concerned, but not sinfully so, about the spiritual vitality and welfare of Christís churches. The congregations were under constant attack and Paul was staying vigilant in order to respond quickly to the threats that appeared on the spiritual horizon. However, in Philippians 4.6 the Philippians are concerned with their own welfare, and Paul commands them to stop. So you see, sinful anxiety, wicked worry, is a selfish concern about what is going to happen to you in the future. Spiritual anxiety, if you will, godly worry, to put it another way, is a selfless and not in any way selfish concern about what is going to happen to others.

 

OUR FINAL OBSERVATION HAS TO DO WITH THE CAPACITY

 

Letís say you are a rather timid and nervous Philippian Christian. Letís say you are not a brave person, but rather shy and introverted. And youíve been through a lot. You feel emotionally shaken and stressed and youíre just about to come unhinged because things are just piling up. Have you felt that way? Do you feel that way now?

Keep in mind that it is assumed you have the means to obey this command, to comply with Paulís wishes. Things that you feel are overwhelming are issues the Philippians would have been delighted to settle for. You have stress? They had persecution. You having a bit of trouble paying your bills? They were absolutely destitute. They had nothing. Yet Paulís command assumes they had the capacity to obey. Remember, Philippians 1.6?

 

ďBeing confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.Ē

 

If they could obey the command to stop with the anxiety, to stop with the incessant worrying, to stop with the fretting about the future, you certainly can. After all, you have the same God, the same indwelling Spirit, the same Savior, and the same future as a believer in Jesus Christ.

And the reason it is assumed you can obey this command is because capacity is assigned to you. It has been given to you by God to worry not. It has been afforded you, this grace for living with joy and selflessness. So, you can stop committing this sin of anxiety. You can. Not perfectly, perhaps, but generally. Next week, the Lord willing, we will look at what you can do positively, by Godís abundant grace, once youíre committed to stop with this faithless and hopeless wickedness called worry.

 

The command is given to you to stop doing what you may have begun to do, which is worry. The command is given to you personally. You, you with the crippling anxiety. Stop it, right now. Recognize that your anxiety, your worry, is just plain sin. Itís wicked in the sight of God and itís motivated by selfish concerns, even if you donít immediately recognize what those selfish concerns are. And recognize that such sin tends to look to the future without hope instead of with hope. That, too, is wrong. Third, allow that God would not command you to do what is beyond your means to accomplish by His grace, and that we will learn in a few weeks that you can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth you. You can even conquer your wicked habit of worrying about whatís going to happen to you if your worst fears are realized.

 

SERMON:

 

It is ever the tendency of sinful man to get things backwards. And it seems that the more important the matter the more likely it is that sinful manís reasonings will be opposite what logic and scripture dictate. Consider this thing we call fear. It is manís tendency in his spiritual darkness to fear what men can do to him, while presumptuously ignoring what God can do to him for his wickedness and malevolence. But Jesus told us that we are not to fear him who is able only to kill the body. Rather, we should fear Him Who is able to cast both body and soul into Hellfire. We should fear only God. The lesson Jesus Christ was teaching, of course, runs parallel to Solomonís instructions in Proverbs, where he teaches that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. And the point I seek to make is that man, in his sinful folly, has values that are upside down and backwards. He fears who he should not and fears not Who he should. Why is man so perverse? Itís the result of being sinful.

In our text for today we see that the Philippians, in the midst of spiritual opposition and being discouraged by the plight of their beloved Apostle Paul, had become quite anxious about their own future. And Paul was moved by the Spirit of God to put a stop to their anxiety. Isnít it ironic? There they were, a people whose future destiny, even their eternal destiny, was assured. Yet they were anxious about their future. Even more ironic, to my thinking, than anxiety in the lives of those whose destiny was safely assured, is the complete and total lack of anxiety that is evidenced in the lives of those whose destiny is certain damnation. Think about it. Here you are, dead in trespasses and sins, condemned already, because you have not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. Yet you sit here, quite calm. Almost lackadaisical in your confidence that everything will turn out all right in the end.

My friend, Godís Word tells me that if you are unsaved you are a person who is an alien from the commonwealth of Israel, a stranger from the covenants of promise God made to the Jewish people, without God in the world, and without hope. Yet you conduct your life as though you have an abundance of hope. Iím not sure what the problem is with you. Either you just plain do not believe the Word of God and find the notion that you are doomed to be laughable, or you have absolutely no idea what Godís Word holds you responsible for as a lost person. Either way, the result is that you do nothing. Perhaps you donít take your fate seriously because those around you, who you presume to be Christians, donít take your fate seriously. You may be a lost teen, and you donít think being lost is that big a deal, in part, because no matter how much the pastor seeks to warn you and alarm you, your parents arenít alarmed. They donít seem to be terribly concerned about your lost condition.

Young people, listen carefully to me. You are making a terrible mistake if you base the importance of something on your parentís consideration of it. You see, you are assuming that your parentís value system is not all fouled up. You are presuming that your mom and your dad are truly saved and that their discernment is accurate and sensible. But what if they are, in fact, lost? And what if they have no real spiritual discernment? Then you are allowing your parents to influence you in an area that they are singularly unqualified to influence you in. Be careful. On the other hand, perhaps you are one of the multitudes who simply does not know what to do in your lost condition. You sit there confused and dumbfounded. You are paralyzed with ignorance. Perhaps you are one of the multitudes of people who knows full well that you are lost, but because you donít feel emotionally distraught about it you do nothing. You think that until you are emotionally wrung out God isnít doing anything in your life and you have no responsibilities to God.

For you lost people here today, as well as for the instruction of you Christians who may be somewhat confused about what you should encourage unsaved people to do in their lost condition, I have three things:

 

First, AS AN UNSAVED PERSON, IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO SEEK

 

Please understand that by seeking, I am not referring to the so-called seeker services that are offered by many new-evangelical churches these days. Those churches are catering to folks who are seeking religious pleasure and comfort. But I am referring to what the Puritans observed in Godís Word, which was a sinner who sought after God.

ďBut pastor, the Bible says that there are none who seek after God.Ē Thatís true. Sinful man, in and of himself, does not seek after God. But some of those who are inclined to seek after God in outward appearance, are, without their conscious awareness of it yet, being drawn by God to the Savior. They are, in fact, being prompted by God to seek after salvation.

So, without trying to delve into the innermost motives of a lost man, letís just observe what Godís Word says about what sinful man appears to do:

 

Isaiah 55.6-7: 6    Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:

7      Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

 

Zephaniah 2.3: ďSeek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORDís anger.Ē

 

Some people are saved who have never knowingly sought the LORD. However, there are examples aplenty, in scripture and history, of men who sought the LORD and eventually came to Christ. Just because a man appears to seek the LORD does not mean he will ever be saved. But as Zephaniah wrote, ďit may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORDís anger.Ē

Consider two familiar examples in the book of Acts, the Ethiopian eunuch and Lydia: Most of us are familiar with the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch. He was returning to his native country from a visit to Jerusalem when the Spirit of God directed Philip to his chariot, after which the eunuch was converted. But wait. There are some all too obvious questions that arise in this incident which are usually overlooked. First, what was that eunuch doing in Jerusalem? Acts 8.27 indicates he had been in Jerusalem to worship. But what prompted him, a Gentile, to travel such a long way to Jerusalem to worship the God of the Jews? And why, after he had visited Jerusalem, was he reading the Jewish book of the Law on his return trip? My friends, the Ethiopian eunuch was seeking God as best he knew how. Why else would he leave his country, make a long and difficult journey to a faraway place of worship? Drawn by God? Of course. But to human observation he was seeking God. Next, consider Lydia. When Paul arrived in Philippi he went to the river side on a Sabbath day, where he knew the Jewish people would gather to worship in a city without a synagogue. And who should he encounter, but a Gentile woman named Lydia, worshipping God with the Jews. Unsaved though she was, that woman was seeking God. And God worked out the crossing of these two peopleís paths.

Consider the example of Adoniram Judson. ďThrough the process of investigating the Christian faith and contemplating its infinite moral excellence, he was converted in December of 1808.Ē He later became a world renown missionary to Burma.

What does it mean to seek? The Hebrew word refers to going over something repeatedly, to rubbing something, or to read and carefully study. So, to seek the LORD would mean to study of Him, to examine His character and attributes again and again in the Bible, and to consider those things which estrange you from Him, which is to say, your sins.

Do you wait until you feel an impulse to seek Him? No. Seek Him while He may be found. If you wait until you feel like you need to seek Him it may be too late for you. Seek Him now! Donít go to Jerusalem or to the river bank. Go to church. Go every service. Go to Sunday School. Go to prayer meeting. But go. Some will never be saved because you are too lazy to attend more than one service a week. Others of you will never be saved because you are waiting for some Christian to speak to you, or provoke you, or deal with you. How foolish you are to set preconditions against the saving of your own soul. Just seek God while He may be found. Salvation is of the LORD, not some timid or ignorant Christian friend.

 

Second, AS AN UNSAVED PERSON, IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO STRIVE

 

I am sure that there will be some who will say, ďHeís teaching salvation by works.Ē Nothing could be further from the truth. I believe and have ever only preached salvation by grace through faith, plus nothing, minus nothing, for my whole ministry. Any admixture of works in the gospel plan destroys the gospel and makes it another gospel. So, donít accuse me of advocating salvation by works. If you say that you donít know what youíre talking about.

That said, two verses must be pointed out, Luke 13.23-24:

 

23    Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them,

24    Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.

 

Why is it that no one ever points out to sinners that the Lord Jesus declared that some must strive to enter in at the strait gate, at the narrow entrance? Our Lord Jesus Christ, Himself, urged that sinners strive. What does it mean for you to strive? It means to exert yourself, to put forth great effort. The Greek word is the one we get our English word ďagonizeĒ from. So, the Savior, Himself, commanded the unsaved to put forth great effort to enter in at the strait gate.

Please understand that the Lord Jesus Christ was not advocating salvation by works. He and Paul were in complete agreement. So, though works cannot in any way save you, though works cannot in any way earn salvation for you, and though you are not in any way making yourself better for salvation by striving, since Jesus Christ said to do it youíd better do it. not everyone is saved the first time he hears the gospel. With some, perhaps with most, the conviction process is slow and lengthy. During that process of spiritual awakening and the gradual illuminating of your darkened mind, you are responsible to put forth some effort. What kind of effort? Whatever kind of effort is appropriate. Just understand that it is not in any way saving effort.

Are you a drunkard? Stop drinking. Are you a fornicator? Move out and stop the fornication. Are you a drug user? Stop the drugs. Begin to read the Bible. Begin to cry out to God. Come to church and eagerly soak up as much gospel preaching as you can. Lydia strived. There is no way those Jewish people would have allowed her to attend their worship had she not cleaned up her act tremendously. The eunuchís efforts in striving are obvious to anyone who reads the Bible.

Please understand, however, that striving does not guarantee that you will ever be converted, just as seeking God does not guarantee you will be converted. However, some who seek and some who strive are saved, while almost none who do not seek or strive are saved. In my own case, what would you call taking out the Bible and reading the entire book of Genesis one night, and then reading Exodus to chapter twelve the next night? Though I did not recognize it as such while doing it, was that not striving? In retrospect, I am sure it was.

 

Finally, IN ADDITION TO SEEKING AND STRIVING, THERE IS SUBMITTING

 

I was discussing with a pastor the issue of dealing with sinners. With little consideration of the spiritual realities, the pastor blurted out, ďI believe in the priesthood of the believer.Ē Of course, being a Baptist, I too believe in the priesthood of the believer and the competency of the believer to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience. But I do not believe in the priesthood of the unbeliever. And, with few exceptions, Godís plan is for the lost to be carefully guided to Christ, which is almost never done in these last days. But for a sinner to be guided to Christ there must be submission, a submission betokening humility.

Romans 10.14 shows the critical role the preacher plays in the conversion of the lost. Paul, quoting from the Old Testament, asks, ďand how shall they hear without a preacher?Ē Would anyone deny that there is a need to submit to the ministry of the preacher so that his efforts to guide a sinner to Christ can be followed through to conclusion?

Consider again the case of the Ethiopian eunuch. When Philip asked him if he understood the passage from Godís Word that he was reading, he answered, ďHow can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.Ē Sit with him? That sounds suspiciously similar to an inquiry room setting, doesnít it? At least itís a setting during which care and caution can be taken to insure that the gospel is clearly and without confusion communicated, and that it is properly understood. That eunuch submitted to Philip.

Back to Philippi and the ministry of Paul. What is implied with Lydia is obvious with the Philippian jailor. He specifically asked Paul and Silas, ďSirs, what must I do to be saved?Ē And what did Paul do? To this man who was trembling and who fell down convicted before them, overcome with conviction, Paul told him how to be saved. But did the Lord Jesus Christ give an answer to a rich young ruler who asked what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, and who was not sufficiently convicted of his sins? No, he did not. He gave him directions to follow, but He did not tell him straightway how to be saved.

 

I could go on and on. But the point I seek to make is that sinners are usually not sufficiently anxious about their soul to show straightway how to be saved. We have this idea in Christianity that all a person has to do to be saved is jump up during an invitation, go forward, and pray a sinnerís prayer. However, conversion involves more than just praying a prayer. And conversion is far and away more than what most mean when they say ďI accepted Jesus.Ē To be sure, salvation is not by works of righteousness which we have done, Titus 3.5, but itís also something more than stopping off at 7-11 for a half gallon of milk. Itís a sinner cleaving to Jesus by faith.

In many cases, a person is not saved the first time he is exposed to gospel truth. Instead, God gradually draws him to the Savior, all the while deepening his recognition of his own sinfulness in the sight of God. During that period of time he should seek the Lord while He may be found. During that time he should strive to enter in at the strait gate. During that time he should submit to the directions and counsel of the gospel minister. Even then there is no guarantee that he will be saved. But if he waits until he feels sufficiently overwhelmed in his emotions he is ignoring his own responsibilities to God, and it is unlikely that he will ever be saved.

Letís stop this superficial nonsense thatís characterized evangelism over the last 150 years. Letís recognize that man is so sinful and so stubborn that oftentimes God works long and deep in him to bring him to sufficient realization of his own wickedness that he will then eagerly flee to Christ for salvation. And if that be true, letís not rush things. Letís not hurry God up, but let Him work slowly on people, as He sees fit. And if someone is ready to come to Christ the first time he hears the gospel, thatís fine.

So, here is what you do, sinner. You seek after Him. Read your Bible. Come to every single service, without fail. Earnestly plead with God for mercy. And work hard to understand the gospel. While you are at it, strive to enter in at the strait gate. Cast off those hindrances and besetting sins. Will they make you deserving of salvation? No. But what youíve cast off can no longer tug at you, can it? Finally, do what I ask you to do. Listen to me. Allow me to guide you to Christ. And all of these things you should do because you recognize yourself to be lost, not because you feel especially impressed to do so.


Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org