In his letter to the Christians at Philippi, St. Paul gave them a charge which is of vital importance to all true worshippers of God in their efforts to attain salvation in God's Kingdom fully established. He stated: “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God”. - Philippians 4:6.
By exhorting Christians to be careful for nothing, St. Paul meant that they should not be unduly anxious or worried by any matter so much as to be weighed down by it. Rather, they should take such matters to God in prayer, which is a solemn request or petition to God arising from a sense of one's inadequacy or want. Supplication means continuance in prayer with deep humility and earnestness. St. Paul says prayers should be accompanied by thanksgiving to God. This is in view of the blessings and favours He showers on us from day to day.
Troubles in the world
Why did St. Paul exhort Christians not to be unnecessarily anxious or worried? This was because he knew that man is surrounded by troubles which, from time to time, make him to be restless or disturbed. Indeed man has been born into trouble, as a result of sin inherited from Adam. (Genesis 3:16-19; Job 5:6,7; 14:1,2; Psalm 51:5; etc.) The troubles of man have multiplied in this age because, the devil, having been driven down from heaven, is most vicious in his determination to cause as much havoc on earth as possible. The declaration of the angel when the devil was driven down goes thus: “Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.” (Revelation 12:12; see also Revelation 11:17, 18) The “great wrath” of the devil was expressed during the First World War of 1914-1918 and this was a sign to people on earth that the devil had been driven down from heaven, marking the beginning of the last days. The Second World War, which took place from 1939 - 1945, was wider in geographical scope and in its toll on human lives, than any other war in history.
Jesus Christ stated that the difficulties that have defined the living conditions of the people in the aftermath of the First World War, “is the beginning of sorrows”. (Matthew 24:7,8) Truly, no one can deny that we are now in the last days, when there shall be “distress of nations, with perplexity” with men's hearts “failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth”. (Luke 21:25-27) The last days are “perilous times” when “the wicked shall do wickedly”; when people will not have feeling for their fellow men; and “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived”. - Daniel 12:10; 1 Timothy 4:1-5; 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 12, 13.
Evidently, the world has been matching into harder and harder times since World War 1. Currently, the world is facing severe economic and social … and the world is said to be “at the point of sheer panic”. (The Guardian on Sunday, November 2, 2008, page 11)
Knowledge of the spiritual cause of the troubles in the world should inform our attitude to the various problems that confront us daily. While not discounting the efforts of governments all over the world in tackling these problems, the fact remains that God Almighty is the strength and hope of His people. He is the One people should look to in order to get relief from the hard conditions in the world. They should therefore do His will and always exercise faith in Him Who “is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble”. (Psalm 46:1) David the prophet also states: “Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man. Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies.” We should always bear in mind the charge from God Almighty through Isaiah the prophet to wit: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” - Psalm 60:11, 12; Isaiah 45:22. See also Psalm 108:12.
By positive declarations and specific acts in time of old, God Almighty repeatedly impressed it on His people that there is no way to get help in time of trouble than to trust in Him. (Romans 15:4) A ready case was when the Jews had left Egypt , Pharaoh was moved by the devil to pursue the Israelites with the mind of bringing them back into slavery”. (Exodus 14:10-12) Seeing that their faith was failing them, Moses was inspired by God to encourage the people: “And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” -Exodus 14:13, 14.
In fulfillment of the words of Moses the prophet, God Almighty wrought a great miracle in delivering the Jews in that He used the wind to divide the Rea Sea so that the Jews crossed the dry river bed in one night. But Pharaoh and His host were swallowed up as the river closed up on them. What God did at that time should teach His people to remain calm in times of crisis and to trust firmly in Him, no matter how extreme the circumstance may look like. - Exodus 14:21-31; 15:1-21.
In spite of what God did for them, the Jews could not sustain their trust in Him when they were faced with more dangers or difficulties. At a stage, they even wanted to return to Egypt. It was because of their faithlessness that they spent 40 years on the journey instead of 40 days. Even at that, it was only Joshua and Caleb and those who were 20 years and below as well as children born in the wilderness that reached the promised land. - Exodus 16:1-4; Number 14:1-39.
When Israel became a settled nation, God Almighty showed His power in delivering them from danger several times. At a time during the reign of Jehoshaphat the people of Moab, Ammon, among others, besieged Jerusalem. Jehoshaphat himself “feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah”. He went into the temple to pray, saying among other things: “for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee.” - 2 Chronicles 20:12.
In response to King Jehoshaphat's prayer, God used His servant Jehaziel to encourage him and the people of Judah with these words: “And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God's … Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem : fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the LORD will be with you.” (2 Chronicles 20:15-17) By the miracle of Jehovah, the armies who came against Judah fought against each other and destroyed themselves. The Jews only came to gather the spoil. -2 Chronicles 20:21-34.
God Almighty also wrought great deliverance for His people during the time of King Hezekiah, when Senacherib, king of Assyria, besieged Jerusalem. Hezekiah went into the house of God and prayed, placing the blasphemous words of the king and his servants before God, in the temple. God replied him through Isaiah the prophet, stating that the King Sennacherib “shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields, nor cast a bank against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return … The Bible record states that the “angel of the LORD went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses”. When King Senacherib returned to his palace, two of his sons assassinated him. -Isaiah 37:33-37.
One of the most striking instances in the New Testament of God's intervention to deliver His people is the one of Paul and Silas. While Paul and Silas were carrying out their work of preaching the gospel, they met a young girl who was possessed by the spirit of divination through which she brought much gain to her masters. Paul cast the evil spirit out from her in the name of Jesus Christ. For doing this however, he incurred the wrath of her masters who dragged him and his colleague to the magistrates accusing them of troubling the city, sowing discord and disturbing the public peace. Consequently, they were beaten and jailed. But in the night, while they prayed and sang praises to God, “suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed”. (Acts 16:26) As a result of this miracle, the jailor and his household became Christians and the following morning, Paul and Silas were released. It could be seen that the faith of Paul and Silas attracted Jehovah's intervention and their subsequent deliverance.
Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ gave us a stern warning on why we should not worry over material needs so much as to allow it affect our faith. - Matthew 6:25-34.
The exhortation given by our Lord Jesus Christ on why men should not be restless about the wants of life or concerning the future had earlier been given by David the prophet when he stated: “Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine” “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” - Psalm 33:18-20; 37:25.
Knowing that people of the world are weighed down by several problems imposed on them by the devil, Jesus Christ pointed the way to life and peace for those who want to get the salvation of God. He stated: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” - Matthew 11:28-30.
Faith and Prayer
At one time or another, every Christian would have “a fiery trial”. (1 Peter 4:12). The Christian should not get confused or become faithless in the face of these assaults from the devil, or start looking to “mountains” and “hills” or to “Egypt”, (satan's organization) for help; rather he should understand that such tribulations show that he is on the side of God. (See Proverbs 24:10; Jeremiah 3:23; Isaiah 30:1-3) We should always remember that there are good times and bad times, just as there are sunny days and rainy days. God allows them to balance each other for our own spiritual good.(Ecclesiastes 7:14) It is those who prayerfully remain on the side of God despite the storm that will get help from Him as He will make a way out for them. (1 Corinthians 10:13) “They shall not be ashamed in the evil time...” “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.” - Psalm 34:19; 37:19.
People of God should always trust and be prayerful to Him. David the prophet stated: “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22) And St. Peter admonished: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” -1 Peter 5:6, 7.
It is by faith, that is, absolute trust in God Almighty that His people will enjoy his peace, which means a condition in which one is free from fear and anxiety. Faith “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. Nobody should expect any help from God if he lacks faith. (James 1:6, 7) The Bible further states: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” - Hebrews 11:6
One who trusts in God Almighty will always show his dependence on Him by being prayerful. When prayer is based on accurate knowledge and understanding of the purpose of God and is backed by faith, it works wonders. - Luke 18:1;1 Thessalonians 5:17,18; Matthew 21:21,22.
Indeed, the Scriptures charge us to be strong and of good courage knowing that God will eventually give us victory and make a way out for us in the midst of any crisis. - 1 Corinthians 10: 13; Joshua 1:6-8; 1 Corinthians 15:57.
It was with this understanding St. Paul stated that we should be careful for nothing, that having made our requests known to God in prayer, the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:6, 7; see also 1 Peter 5:10.