Today's guest blogger is Naomi from Southern Nature with Naomi Walking. What a blessing and treat for her to share with us today.
Like many a Southern girl, I have a Momma who lives and breathes the Good Book. She taught me to read before I started school with the good old Scottish Presbyterian philosophy, the part of it I treasure. “There are a lot of good books out there,” she told a big-eyed little me, “and there’s value in reading many of them. Some of them are fun, and some of them teach us all kinds of things. But the primary reason to read, the real reason we learn to read, is to read God’s Word for ourselves. If you can read the Bible for yourself, then you will always be able to know the truth for yourself. Whatever else you read, and whatever anybody says, no matter who they are, even if it’s a grown up or the preacher himself or a teacher at school or even me, you will be able to hold it up to the Bible, and know whether that person is telling the truth or not.”
With a momma like that, a lot of things make sense, but sometimes they take effort to make sense of. Once you get the knack of it, though, stuff starts coming together. Some things coalesce to make sense pretty quick, others sooner or later, for still others, maybe after years and years. For example, growing up, I learned pretty quickly that worry is a sin. “The Bible says, ‘be anxious for nothing,’” Momma would remind us. “Worry is a sin.” So, as Momma had taught me to do since before I could walk, I checked it out for myself. Sure enough, the Bible did say, “be anxious for nothing.” (Philippians 4:6.) As I grew older, I saw Momma be anxious for nothing when kids went astray, or we didn’t know how we’d have enough money to cover groceries, or one of us wound up in the emergency room. Concerned, yes. Proactive, yes. Worried – well, sometimes when things were at their bleakest, we saw Momma’s faith struggle with worry, but as far as I could see, faith did manage to overcome worry in the long run when it came to Momma.
It’s easy to say “be anxious for nothing.” It tugs at your heart, but it’s still doable, to watch somebody ELSE, like Momma, actually LIVE “be anxious for nothing.” But when you’re all grown up and you’re on your own, full time job, friends you wish you saw more often, house payment, three dogs, one cat, also a new foster kitten, a fish, an aquatic snail named Hoover who is supposed to clean the aquarium and usually does but sometimes falls asleep on the job and then you have to totally reclean everything in it, community responsibilities, cars to service, dishes to wash, clothes to launder, floors to vacuum, numerous serious hobbies in which to engage if you can steal the time, vet bills, utility bills, home repair bills, lose your best lure to a jackfish, car breaks down, you’re late for work, there’s a run in your hose, somebody makes a mess you have to clean up, oil spill in the Gulf, two wars, a Great Recession, supposed to make a dish for a church function, car breaks down, and all the rest, meanwhile you’re trying to do your part for truth and justice in the world -- well, it’s kind of hard to “BE anxious for nothing.”
Especially when you start to wonder, as I did recently, what does that really mean, “be anxious for nothing?” If it’s a sin to be anxious, then how could Jesus sweat blood in Gethsemane? What IS this anxiety we are called to avoid? Is there a really difference of substance, rather than degree, between being worried and merely concerned?
Paul wrote “be anxious for nothing” in this context :
“...that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings ….
“Not that I have already obtained it or have already been made perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which I was laid hold of by Jesus Christ. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one think I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus ….
“Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence in anything worthy of praise, think on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Phillippians 3: 8-9, 12-14; 4: 4-8 NASV (emphasis added; omissions for purposes of emphasis and keeping this post shorter than a Tolstoy novel; like Momma said, read the whole thing for yourself).
The command to “be anxious for nothing” is nestled amongst words of encouragement to place our minds on the things of God; it also stands amid promises of God’s peace, and directly adjacent to an exhortation to submit our requests to God with prayer and thanksgiving. Hmmm… this is a familiar assortment of concepts. Where have I seen these concepts all together in one place before? Oh, yes, I remember now, it was Jesus who said,
“[Y]our Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]'
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also….
“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing?
“Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Matthew chapter 6 (NASV); see also Luke 12: 1-34.
I don’t know about you, but in these passages I’m picking up on a consistent group of concepts: placing our needs in God’s hands by prayer, placing our minds on and seeking the things of God, and an exhortation not to be anxious. These ideas coincide in both passages, but is there a relationship among these concepts?
For me, I understood the link when I reread and reread these passages looking for how these ideas are connected in each one. That’s why I’ve included them in this post, though they are somewhat lengthy.
I also understood the connection between these concepts even better when I studied what was meant by the word “anxiety.” Now, I know Koine Greek about like I know pistols. I’m no expert. In fact, I know just enough to be a danger to myself and a menace to society. But since I happen to have an itchy trigger finger, I threw caution to the wind, and I decided to get out not just my trusty NASV, but also the old Greek study aids for this one. Here is a brief overview of what I found.
Merimna (anxiety, Strong’s # 3308 ) and merimnao (to be anxious, Strong’s # 3309 ) are the Greek words translated “worry” and “anxious” in these passages. According to one study resource (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary), these words are probably connected with the word meridzo, “to draw in different directions, to distract.” Merimna means “that which causes an anxious care;” merimnao means, “to be anxious about, to have a distracting care.”
Of course! Although I may FEEL pulled in different directions, I ultimately will not BE drawn from the racecourse and distracted from the real goal if I seek my sustenance and direction from God, if my focus is on the prize, if I press on toward the goal through the obstacles of life, rather than being drawn aside by them.
Prayer -- truly putting our requests in God’s hands with thanksgiving and supplication knowing he already knows our needs and will provide, listening to HIM for guidance and direction rather than chasing our own distractions and worries -- is the consummate act of faith. Placing our minds on things above is a discipline in viewing things by faith, in seeing the things that are true and right and excellent, in looking where we are ultimately going, our vision unclouded by the confusion of this world. Seeking things above is walking by faith, pushing on toward the goal without being sidetracked by the confusion of this world.
There WILL be fervent prayer, concern, diligence, hard work, the rigors of training mind and body and soul for the kingdom in a tumultuous world. There WILL be moments and matters of great concern, as there was for Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. However, when we place our minds on things above and our needs and God’s hands, the way becomes clear, and confusion and anxiety give way to the peace of God which guards our hearts and minds as we press on -- even through great difficulties -- with our eyes on the prize set before us.
God bless —
I needed this today Naomi. Thank you for sharing. Want to read more of Naomi's work? /check out Southern Nature with Naomi Walking. I know you will be glad you did.
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