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Bob Hostetler

“I am an old man and have known many troubles,” Mark Twain once remarked, “but most of them never happened.”

Most of us emulate Mark Twain’s way of life. Our lives are a patchwork pattern of worry-filled days and fretful nights. By contrast, the Apostle Paul once wrote to the Christian church at Philippi that “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11 NIV).

Since most of us can, with little effort, imitate Mark Twain’s pattern of worry-filled days and fretful nights, we may profit from Paul’s secret of a life free from worry, a life that is lived in the contentment and peace that comes only from God.

Lose your blues

Paul gave a series of three statements to the Philippian church—like the numbers in a combination lock—to help them deal with worry and anxiety. The first, however, is not a “tip,” or a “clue”—it’s a command.

“Do not be anxious about anything,” he says in Philippians 4:6.

Of course, many of us are tempted to smile indulgently at Paul’s naivete, because we worry about everything, from the greatest concerns of our century to the minute problems of our day-to-day life. We worry about the AIDS epidemic, but also about what to fix for dinner. We worry about the limited supply of natural resources on our planet, and about our grade on last week’s chemistry exam. We worry about the kids needing braces, about the rumored lay-offs at the factory, about whether or not we should change our hair style.

It would be nice not to be anxious about anything, but we tend to agree with the person who said, “To live in the world in which we live and not worry is unnatural.”

But Paul doesn’t just command us not to “be anxious about anything” and then leave us to guess as to how the anxious Christian can adopt such a lifestyle; he gives us the formula that will deliver from worry. He tells us, in effect, that “To live in the world in which we live and not worry is supernatural!”

Pray every day

Paul’s second statement tells us the supernatural way to avoid worry and stress: “in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6b, NIV). Or, as Bible scholar J.B. Phillips phrased it, “tell God every detail of your needs.”

The Christian who is busy praying about the kids who need braces, about the rumored lay-offs at the factory, about whether or not to go for a new hair style, is often delivered from worry for three reasons:

1. A Christian who is occupied with praying will have less time for worrying;

2. A praying Christian will develop a heavenly perspective, responding with thanksgiving for the blessings of life and identifying many concerns that are not worth worrying about;

3. A Christian who has prayed can rest in the assurance that matters have been placed into the hands of an all-powerful, all-loving God.

Ease into peace

It may not happen all at once, but the person who obeys Paul’s prescription to pray every day, in everything, will begin—as the practice becomes habit—to ease into the peace only God can bestow.

Hudson Taylor advised, “Let us give up our work, our plans, ourselves, our lives, our loved ones, our influence, our all, right into His hand; and then, when we have given all over to Him, there will be nothing left for us to be troubled about, or to make trouble about.”

If we do that when we find ourselves plagued by worry, if we tell God every detail of our needs, and then, in faith, leave those needs in His hand, then “…the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard [our] hearts and [our] minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 NIV).

For more hope and humor, visit bobhostetler.com.