Careful for Nothing

My wife Jane is a retired nurse. She’s still very good at it. There are other nurses that come to her for advice on how to do their jobs better. Am I bragging? No. In the words of Bear Bryant: “It ain’t bragging if you can do it,” and when it comes to being a great nurse, my wife can do it.

We have been married for 28 years and one thing I have learned about nurses and medical professionals in general is this: They make terrible patients. They know how to give medical advice to others and expect others to follow that advice, but getting them to follow medical advice? Forget it. (I’m speaking tongue-in-cheek.) I once knew a doctor who had broken his leg and had no idea how to use crutches properly, though I’m sure he’d been told how to use them.

I say all this because Philippians 4:6-7 is one of those passages that we know well, quote to each other all the time but often fail to apply to ourselves.

Philippians 4:6-7
(6) Be careful for nothing; but in [everything] by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
(7) And the peace of God, which [passes] all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

We fail in applying these verses to ourselves because we so often see ourselves as the exception to the rule. That’s not just unbelief. It’s pride. There are no exception clauses in this passage. It applies to every believer.

“Be careful [anxious] for nothing.” The word translated “careful” is the Greek word marimnaō. It means “to draw in different directions, distract.” Jesus used this word several times in His Sermon on the Mount in phrases such as “take no thought for your life” (Matthew 6:25). Paul is saying this to the Philippians to remind them that if they busy themselves with the Lord’s business, the Lord will take care of their business. That’s not to say they were supposed to ignore their responsibilities, but they were to avoid letting those concerns distract them from their testimony for Christ.

“Nothing” is a deep theological word. It means “nothing, zip, zilch, nada.” Put that together with “be careful for,” and it means don’t worry about a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g. Going back to the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus covered every concern His listeners had: food, clothing and shelter. We in the U.S. can take such things for granted, but for the common people of Jesus’ day, those things were a real concern. Food, shelter and clothing were not guaranteed. Jesus told His audience to put those concerns into His hands and He would take care of them.

So, what does this kind of trust in the Lord look like? Paul says it looks like “prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” (4:6).  The word “prayer” is the Greek word euchomai. It means “to pray to God.” The word translated “supplication” is the Greek word deésis. It’s a synonym to euchomai, but a stronger term. It carries with it a sense of urgency. Why does Paul use two words to cover the act of prayer? Because it’s something we really need to do in every circumstance. We tend to run around with an “I got this attitude” when Jesus told us: “Without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). That’s not an insult. That’s a fact. The other attitude we have is “I don’t want to bother God with such a minor thing.” That’s not humility. That’s pride. In Isaiah 7, king Ahaz was facing trouble from his enemies. So, Isaiah approached him and said: “Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above” (Isaiah 7:11). Ahaz refused. He couched it in humble-sounding words: “I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD” (v. 12), but it was still a refusal, a rejection of God. God was rightly offended and gave Ahaz a prophecy anyway, a beautiful prophecy regarding the virgin birth of Messiah (Isaiah 7:14), but the prophecy ended with a dire warning about Ahaz’s plans to pray to the Assyrians for help. He told the king that the Assyrians would turn on him and destroy him (7:18-20).

When we refuse to pray, it doesn’t matter how pious we make that refusal sound. It is an insult to God. We are to pray for everything and thank God for everything, including the situations that drive us to prayer. I said yesterday that all these exhortations in Philippians 4:4-9 had one thing in common: the abiding presence of God. When it comes to the details of our lives, even the most mundane, God is there. He wants us depending on Him. The mark of the mature Christian is not self-sufficiency apart from God. It is complete and total dependence on Him.

 Be careful for nothing; but in [everything] by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  (Philippians 4:6)

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