Making War on Anxiety When War Is Made Upon You

I had hoped to finish volume two of Ian Murray’s biography of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones these three weeks in Idaho. I made it past page 500. There are still another 300 or so to go.

As with volume one, the Lord challenged me on several fronts with this portion of the life of arguably Britain’s greatest preacher of the 20th century.

Particularly fascinating to me were accounts related to the man’s ministry during WWII in London. He served alongside the spiritual giant G. Campbell Morgan, for whom he later took over in the pulpit at Westminster Chapel.

The two met weekly. Not much got recorded of their conversations. But Murray does relate on pp. 11-12 of volume two how Morgan feared in the early years of the conflict with Germany for the end of the work of his church and that nothing would remain for Lloyd-Jones to pastor.

For fifty-seven nights in succession, an average of two hundred German bombers were over London every night. Churchill later wrote, ‘At this time we saw no end but the demolition of the whole metropolis.’ Before the end of October, 1940 the Bishop of London was to state that in his diocese alone 32 churches had been destroyed, and 47 seriously damaged. What hope had Westminster Chapel, standing as it did so close to Buckingham Palace and other primary targets for German bombing? . . . The old veteran did not hide his dismay over the situation into which his friend had been brought. It was not so much that Morgan was concerned for himself. “Although I confess it is not easy,’ he wrote, ‘I am constantly hearing in my own soul the words: “In nothing be anxious, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God”.’ But he did fear that Lloyd-Jones might be left without work and without a pastorate.

I find it difficult to imagine living night after night under such perilous circumstances. The temptation to worry would certainly threaten to overwhelm the best of servants. How did this man of God wage war on anxiety while the Third Reich made war upon him, his church, and all of England? He took up an all-important weapon in his spiritual armor to keep worry at bay. He brandished the sword of the Spirit, the word of God (Eph. 6:17).

The words Campbell constantly heard, of course, come from the Bible in Philippians 4:6-7. Or he could have heard Matthew 6:25 as we had preached on Sunday. Or he could have heard 1 Peter 5:7 or any number of other texts.

But God brought to mind the Philippians passage in particular perhaps because it contains in its two short verses a seemingly complete package for waging war on worry.

First, there is the prohibition against worry, at all. The Greek text reads literally, Nothing be anxious. The object comes before the imperative for emphasis. God commands us not to worry about anything, including life-threatening danger.

Second, there is the prescription to fight against worry with prayer. The same word order emphasis holds true for the prescription as for the prohibition. The ESV reflects the literal version perfectly: but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (emphasis added). As one writer put it, Anxiety and prayer are more opposed to each other than fire and water.

Third, there is the promise of God-given, beyond-all-human-comprehension peace in v. 7. Those who refuse worrying in favor of praying relentlessly can count on a supernatural peace that stands guard at the door of their heart even on the 57th night of pounding by the 200th bomber in the middle of a world war.

On what front presently do you find yourself tempted to give way to the sin of worry? You can’t fight against it unarmed. Take up the sword of the word and do battle with it. Put off your anxiety. Kill it. Put on in its place specific, continual, faith-filled petitions to God about your concerns all the while making certain to surround your requests with the sweet fragrance of thanksgiving for His many gifts to you and His sovereign control over all things that concern you. And take the massive promise of supernatural peace to the bank of your soul and let it stand guard over the contents therein.

If G. Campbell Morgan could do it in the middle of a global conflict, we can do it in the middle of whatever battles we must fight.

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