What Does it Mean ‘Be Anxious for Nothing’?

Being anxious for nothing means trusting the plan, purpose, and sovereignty of God as His kingdom purposes are fulfilled in all manners of circumstance. It means recognizing that all circumstances can be used by God for His glory and praise (Philippians 4:6).

Amy Swanson
Man with anxieties around him

The term, “Be anxious for nothing,” comes from a verse found in Philippians 4:6. In some translations, it reads, “Do not be anxious about anything,” or “Do not worry about anything.”

While the phrase is pretty self-explanatory, there is much to glean from these four little words. Especially when we look at them from the context of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians, where they are found.

The Church in Philippi

Paul’s initial encounter with the Philippians is recorded in Acts 16 where we learn that Philippi is a leading Roman colony in the district of Macedonia.

It would have been a pagan, polytheistic community, as confirmed by their reactions to Paul and his associates’ message of the gospel.

They seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities... “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.” The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison (Acts 16:19-23).

Paul further expands on an experience here in 2 Corinthians 7:5. He says, “When we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn, conflicts on the outside, fears within.”

It is apparent that the apostle was now addressing the church he had started as a group of people who were not unfamiliar with persecution and suffering. Particularly for their faith in Christ.

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him (Philippians 1:29).

This context is important because it sets the stage for Paul’s letter of encouragement and exhortation in the midst of persecution, and is what will help us find seven relevant implications to Paul’s words, “Be anxious for nothing.”

7 Implications of the Phrase, ‘Be Anxious for Nothing’

Paul’s familiarity with this hostile environment and his love for the Philippian church makes this text quite rich.

He doesn’t just tell them not to worry, he does so by showing them what that looks like and why such anxieties would be in vain.

Following this thread throughout his letter serves as our tool to understanding the bigger picture of “be anxious for nothing,” beyond the fundamental idea of “do not worry.”

1. Don’t worry — God’s got you. Often, fear and worry go hand-in-hand so Paul doesn’t waste any time telling this group of believers not to be afraid, in any way, of those that would oppose them. The reason being — God is there to save them (Philippians 1:28).

He, again, reminds them of this in Philippians 4:5, the verse prior to his plea to be anxious for nothing. He tells them, “The Lord is near,” followed by, “My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

Being anxious for nothing means knowing the God of peace was with the Philippians (Philippians 4:9), and He is with us, as well. To save us and to meet our needs.

2. Don’t worry — there is power in prayer. In the same breath that Paul says, “Be anxious for nothing,” he poses the remedy of prayer.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Philippians 4:6).

Not only is he reminding the Christian Philippians to stay in prayer, with much to be thankful for, he shares with them the reason for doing so — because it’s through gratitude and prayer that the unexplainable peace of God guards our minds and hearts (Philippians 4:6-7).

Not only that, Paul references the power of prayer as he is anticipating his own deliverance to result from the prayers of others (Philippians 1:18-19).  

Being anxious for nothing means making our requests in prayer, with gratitude, because we recognize the power of prayer and we recognize the power of God. It’s this trust and reliance in God that results in a peace that extinguishes fear and worry.

3. Don’t worry — there are examples to follow. Just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do (Philippians 3:17). 

And how was Paul living his life? As one who recognized his citizenship was in heaven, so he need not set his mind on earthly things (Philippians 3:19-20), and neither should we.

Instead, we’re called to maintain a united mind with Christ and His Spirit (Philippians 2:1-2), to keep our focus on godly truths (Philippians 4:8), and to look up to those who have gone before us in faith and obedience.

Paul was sure to point out how Jesus lived and how we should do the same — doing nothing out of selfish ambition, rather, valuing others above ourselves and looking out for the interests of others above our own (Philippians 2:3-5).

Being anxious for nothing means finding encouragement from those whose lives boast of God’s faithfulness. These godly examples serve to help us lay down our own lives for Christ, looking to Him as the prime example of humility and obedience (Philippians 2:8).

4. Don’t worry — death is not the end. Jesus tells us to not fear those who can kill the body (Matthew 10:28), for this reason, Paul says that even death can be considered great gain (Philippians 1:21).

This isn’t easy in practice, especially since so many live as enemies of the cross (Philippians 3:18), but living unafraid, selflessly for the gospel, becomes easier upon the understanding that those in Christ have been called heavenward (Philippians 3:14) and will be resurrected with Him (Philippians 3:11) for an eternity with God.

Being anxious for nothing means not putting our confidence in things of the flesh (Philippians 3:3), rather knowing that Christ can be exalted in life and in death (Philippians 1:20). For this reason, we confidently live for the glory to come.

5. Don’t worry — things aren’t always what they seem. For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose (Philippians 2:13).

Paul has seen, firsthand, the Lord at work, particularly in the midst of trials and persecution. He gives the example of God working to advance the gospel through his own dire circumstances of being held in chains (Philippians 1:12-13).

Being anxious for nothing means trusting the plan, purpose, and sovereignty of God as His kingdom purposes are fulfilled in all manners of circumstance.

6. Don’t worry — knowing Jesus is supreme. Paul tells the Philippians that there is surpassing worth to knowing Jesus, over anything that could be lost in this life.

He goes as far as to call anything that is lost garbage if it means that Christ may be gained (Philippians 3:8).

For this reason, Paul declares he has no need to worry because he’s learned to be content in any circumstance — the good and the bad (Philippians 4:11). And we know for Paul, it gets pretty bad (2 Corinthians 11:23-29).

But it would have been in these circumstances that Paul experienced Jesus as the source of his strength (Philippians 4:13) and came to truly understand the surpassing worth of knowing Christ.

Being anxious for nothing means pressing on to know Jesus until we fully grasp that He is in control (Philippians 3:21), that He is Lord above all (Philippians 2:6-11), and that sharing His gospel so others may know Him too, is what matters most.

7. Don’t worry — it’s all for God’s glory. The Bible is pretty clear that God is working in us and through us, as we live by faith, to the glory and praise of God (Ephesians 3:20; Philippians 1:28).

This means that each and every anxiety-inducing circumstance is an opportunity for God to be glorified.

In the very least, by applying what has been shared here, peace is found, needs are met, worries dissolve, and the fruits of righteousness are cultivated (Philippians 1:11). That we may rejoice in the Lord, always (Philippians 4:4).

Being anxious for nothing means recognizing that all circumstances can be used by God for His glory and praise.

Be Anxious for Nothing — the Fruits of Faith

The Apostle Paul’s message within his words, “Be anxious for nothing,” is nothing more than a byproduct of living in the sufficiency of Christ and the power of God. Of which he demonstrates brilliantly here in the book of Philippians; a letter that was penned from jail in a season where Christians were being publically fed to lions and burned alive on torches in the street.

Yet, it is considered by many to be the most joyous book of the entire Bible.

This should tell us everything we need to know about the power behind being anxious for nothing and the source of joy that takes its place when lived out.

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Bulat Silvia


C.com authorAmy Swanson resides in Connecticut where she has recently discovered a passion for Bible study and writing. By God's continued grace, she now enjoys helping others better understand their Bibles, while also being an advocate for biblical church integrity. As a mother of three and a wife of 13 years, she blogs less than she'd like to but shares Scriptural insights, encouraging truth, resources, and musings on her FB page


Originally published November 04, 2020.