After I graduated from college I landed my dream job. It was working as a security guard at University of Georgia football games. This means that for a handful of Saturdays in the fall of 1997 I got to put on a bad uniform and stand on the field to watch my favorite college football team. There were, however, some downsides to this dream job.
1. The bad uniform. It consisted of a white dress shirt, blue dress pants and a fishnet hat with the security firm’s logo on it.
2. The pay. It wasn’t very good and aside from getting to watch free games there were no benefits.
3. The end. We all got laid off at the end of the season.
The biggest challenge with this job was trying to look official while I was checking people’s bags for liquor when all I really cared about was making it down to the field in time for the kickoff.
One week I was working the gate when I noticed a stray dog walking around the outside of the stadium. Eventually the stray dog came up to my gate. I was pretty sure that he didn’t have any contraband liquor so I didn’t pay him too much attention. And then he walked past me, into the stadium. The next thing I heard was the guys doing the pre-game radio show talking about a dog that “somebody let on the field.”
It’s good to be somebody.
The moral of the story is that if you were at a University of Georgia football game in the late 90s, you weren’t as secure as you thought you were. My sincerest apologies.
The Apostle Paul was familiar with anxiety. I don’t know to what extent he struggled with it but he was familiar enough to tell people at the Philippian church to avoid it and what to replace it with. That’s the great thing about Paul, and all of scripture for that matter. It doesn’t read like a frustrated parent yelling, “Because I said so!” at inquisitive children. Instead, real reasons and real alternatives come along with every command.
Paul’s alternative to anxiety is prayer. So he’s not just saying, “Man up. Quit being so anxious. You’ve got to push through this.” What he’s basically saying in Philippians 4:6 is, “Look, when you feel prone to worry don’t give in. But this is about more than your will power. Fight that worry with prayer. You need to rely on your Savior for this.”
And then Paul tells us what will happen if we fight anxiety with the kind of relentless prayer that he is prescribing.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 (ESV)
When anxiety attacks, it will hit you in your mind and your heart. Your mind will tell you all of the bad things that might happen while your heart races, searching for a remedy or rescue. This is the opposite of peace.
Paul says that when we fight our anxiety with prayer, the peace of God moves in and guards those two areas that are so prone to cave in. Standing at the entrance to our minds and our hearts, there is no minimum wage kid with other things on his mind. No, the one who holds all things together (Colossians 1:17) is standing guard at your heart and mind.
Paul never said that there is nothing to worry about. I think he would say that there is plenty to worry about. But he is also telling us that there is a much better alternative to worry.
Whatever your fears or worries may be, take them to the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe.
In return, he’ll give you his peace, a peace that is beyond all understanding.