For the recipients of Peter’s first letter, anxiety and worry were just as common as they are today. Instructing believers who faced persecution, Peter called them to humble themselves before God and cast their cares upon Him. Alistair Begg reminds us that the presence of humility is directly related to the absence of anxiety. While we may not be able to remove the causes of our fear, the Lord assures us that He cares for us and will help us.
I want to address with you this morning a subject that emerges from 1 Peter chapter 5, as you anticipate your exams. I’m sure none of you are remotely concerned about them. And my text for this morning is 1 Peter 5:7: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
Anxiety is a strange thing; it creeps up on you and comes like a knife stabbing into your back. It’s as though somebody just all of a sudden produced a blanket and pulled it over your head. Sometimes, in the strangest of circumstances, at times that we least imagine its presence, it creeps up on us and gets us. And so I’d like, for this morning, to think with you for a moment or two about this whole issue of anxiety, noticing first of all the anxiety that we face, and then the action that we take, and then finally and briefly the assurance that we enjoy.
The anxiety that was being faced by Peter’s first readers was clear and unmistakable. They lived their lives with the threat of persecution. At any time, like a volcano erupting, they may be confronted by their lives in jeopardy, by their families being taken away from them. And for Peter to address the question of anxiety was not theoretical, but it was intensely practical. As normal people living in their day, professing faith in Jesus Christ, they worried about the things that people worry about. They worried about their families, they worried about their future, they worried about their employment. Businessmen worried if they would turn a profit. Engaged couples worried about whether they would ever live long enough to get married.
And in actuality, when we think about it for a moment or two, we realize that the things that produce worry or anxiety in the human heart are the same, irrespective of which century. They may take on a different face, they may be propelled by different circumstances, but by and large, it’s the same kind of issue which confronts individuals. Some of us worry about being in crowds. Some of us worry about being alone. Some of us worry about failing, others of us worry about the emptiness of success. Some of us worry about change coming into our lives, others of us worry about the deadness of routine. Some of us are afraid of the dark, others of us are afraid of heights, and so on. And in certain cases, it can reach almost epidemic proportions. And some of us may already be feeling that kind of epidemic sweeping over us as we look at the amount of literature we still have to read, the amount of time that we now have, and the amount of examination we’re about to face.
Lily Tomlin, in her show—one-woman show—[The] Search [for] Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, speaks in the opening scenes as Trudy the Bag Lady. And she talks about all the things that she worries about. And she says, “I worry that if olive oil comes from olives and peanut oil comes from peanuts, where does baby oil come from? I worry,” she says, “about my place in the cosmic scheme of things. I worry that there is no cosmic scheme of things.”
Those of you who are doing philosophy will know that Sartre saw anxiety in terms of man’s concern about his past and about his parents; Marx saw it in terms of man’s concern about his future and his neighbors; Kierkegaard, in terms of God and eternity. And history and moral philosophy simply confirms what we by experience know—namely, that anxiety is not an unknown human emotion. And any of us this morning who were prepared to say that we are not anxious at any point in our lives are probably in need of some significant help. Many of us are unable to live in the present, the sixty seconds which come in upon us every minute, which is the speed with which the history of man moves. We’re unable to live the sixty seconds we have now because of our anxiety about our past or our anxiety about our future.
And the essence of it is described for us here by the word which Peter uses. The word which he uses here for “anxiety” has as its root “to divide” or “to distract”—that distraction of mind which creates insecurity, which creates instability, which creates uncertainty, and then further serves to fuel our fears and engender in us this experience known to all human beings: that of, for whatever reason, being caught by this notion of almost paralyzing anxiety.
If we can lay that down as axiomatic—and I believe we can on the basis of the biblical record and on the basis of human experience—then it becomes imperative that we discover, How in the world are we supposed to respond to this experience? What is the action that we are then to take? Now, you will notice in this verse—and it’s a very simple verse—that Peter does not say that we are to deny anxiety, nor does he say that we are to ignore it, nor does he say that we are to run from it.
It’s interesting, the way that parents treat their children so often, isn’t it? The child jams his finger in the door, and the mother offers to buy him a balloon. The child’s too smart for that nonsense. He’s going, “What in the world has a balloon got to do with the fact that my finger is hanging off below the first knuckle? I mean, get real, Mom. Why would I want a balloon? Look at my finger!” And yet, despite that, when we face anxiety in our lives, so often we are susceptible to the notion that the balloon approach is going to deal with it. We will try and ignore the fact that we are anxious by hoisting balloons into the air and distracting our minds from the issue by the development of other thought forms. And of course, I’m using “balloon” just in a kind of stupid illustration, but you know what I mean: “Let me put on my headphones and turn up my stereo. Let me go out and drive in my car. Let me run a mile, let me do something, but let me just run away from this anxiety!”
We face the challenge that David sensed in the Psalms, where he responds to those of his friends who were saying to him, “You’ve got to get out of here.” And he says, “Why do you say to me, ‘Flee as a bird to the mountain’?” Because David recognizes what we said yesterday morning—namely, that if he goes to the mountain, he goes to the mountain; and if he goes anxious, he goes anxious; and he is just as anxious in the cottage as he was in the palace. So we’re not called upon to deny it or to run from it or to ignore it. Instead, Peter uses a graphic word as to what we’re supposed to do. He says, you are to “cast all your anxiety on him.”
When people move your furniture, when you move home, you hope that they do not have this word in their minds. Because this word is a decisive, energetic, descriptive action word. It is the word used to describe the garbagemen when they come around on Thursday mornings, or whenever they come in your area. If you ever happen to be around when they come, you will notice that they do not take painstaking effort in moving your trash—at least not in our community, they don’t. I mean, they don’t get out and measure it up and look at the space, and then gradually start to pick it up as they would a fine piece of furniture. No, they simply grab it, and they hurl it—all over the place, half the time. And fortunately, some of it goes in their truck, and the rest of it you keep for the following Thursday. The reason being, because they are using the 1 Peter 5:7 word, “to hurl” or “to chuck” or “to throw, to get rid of.” And it is the word which is used here as to what we are supposed to do with anxiety. Instead of going through our days pressed down by the burden of anxiety, we are to throw it, hurl it, upon the Lord. That’s what he says.
Now, at this point, it is important to point out that the word which is used here in the Greek is not an imperative, as in the NIV, from which I’ve read; but it is actually a participle, as in the King James Version, from which, perhaps, some of you are reading. “Well,” you say, “is that really important?” Yes, it is really important. And I’ll tell you why. Because the use of an imperative, which the NIV has, suggests a fresh start—suggests that verse 7 somehow is in disengage from verse 6. When actuality, the better translation is a participle, which points out that verse 7 cannot and must not be disengaged from verse 6.
Look what verse 6 says: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast[ing] all your anxiety on him…” Reminding us that humility and its presence is directly related to anxiety and its absence. Self-preoccupation, self-pity, the enjoyment of our little problems, the enjoyment of everybody else’s attention because we are anxious, is more often than not an indication of almost a morbid self-focus, whereby we have made ourselves the center of the universe. Not to say that our issues are unimportant, not to say that we shouldn’t be concerned, but they must always be brought into the light of the fact that we have a God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who is incredibly interested in the details of our lives. He knows all that we have to face. One of the Puritans said, “All that creates anxiety, whether momentous or trivial, is a matter of concern to Him.”
And when we take matters into our own hands, when we struggle with self-pity, we are often indicating the fact of an absence of humility in our lives. We’re concerned with ourselves, rather than concerned with him. Oh, we like to excuse it, as did Martha in Luke chapter 10: “Lord, why don’t you tell Mary to get with the program here? After all, look at me and all my concerns and all my kingdom business and all that I’m trying to do for you. I’m so anxious, Lord, I’m so distracted about this.” And Jesus kindly says to her, “Hey, Martha, Martha, didn’t you realize that Mary has chosen the good part?” What was the good part? It wasn’t indolence, that wasn’t what she was displaying. It was simply that she recognized that her life, in order to get in line, needed to be brought to the feet of Jesus Christ.
I wonder if there aren’t some of you this morning who are just quite literally about to go round the bend, because you have this huge burden on your back; you’re just carrying it all. You’re struggling through today, and you’re hoping you’re gonna make it through tomorrow, and it’s a long time since you knelt down beside your bed in your room and literally cast your burden upon the Lord. God did not give you shoulders broad enough to carry all this stuff through your life. God did not give you shoulders broad enough to come away to school and worry about the relationship between your mom and dad. He did give you the responsibility to pray about it, but he didn’t give you the burden of carrying it; you cannot do that. And the degree to which you endeavor to do so will impinge upon your effectiveness in Christian living. We might lay it down, then, as a maxim, that the presence of anxiety is directly related to the absence of humility.
I have made much of the fact, with my congregation—far more so than is justifiable—that the longer I live, the less I like to fly. And so they think that I’m totally terrified of flying; I’m only marginally terrified. But it’s not really true. It couldn’t be, otherwise I couldn’t go all the places I go. But I do tend to fly the plane from wherever I’m sitting. And some of you may be able to identify with me in that.
I got on an L-1011 on Sunday morning in Miami and it was packed full. It was six o’clock in the morning, I had 30G, which is one of my least favorite seats, which is in the center of the four, which means I can’t look out the window to make sure that he brought the flaps down when he should, etc., you see, and to hear for them going back up. And as I sat there, this unbelievable racket started, and the emergency lights began to flash on and off, but only from row 27. All the lights on the floor would go on and off, 27 coming back. But the lights would not go on above you for you to read. So there was some kind of electrical issue going on, and at the same time, a bizarre kind of noise.
And so, as I was strolling around the plane, having got on early, I came upon a man who looked like he could fly the plane, sitting up in row 3. It turned out he was an engineer on the flight, and so I said to him, “Hey, you don’t have it up here, but we got an interesting noise back there in 30.” So he said, “What is the noise?” So I said, “Well, it goes…” And so he said, “Oh yeah, I know that noise,” he said, “let me just come back and check.” No, he didn’t say that; that’s a lie. He just said, “Oh really?” (The Bible says, “Confess your sins to one another,” so I had to do that immediately.) But he came back down, and he looked really quizzical, and then he went away again. And he went away again and never came back. So I figured, “Hey, I don’t call this service, Delta Airlines,” so I went back, I found him again. I said, “Hey, Mr. Engineer, what’s the explanation?” He said, “Oh, it’s the loading device; the captain says it makes that noise.” I said to myself, “That is bogus, that is unbelievably bad.” But nevertheless, I am not flying the plane; I go back to 30G, I sit down. It stops, the lights continue to flash; eventually the noise has gone away, we’re going through the video presentation, which always breaks about seven times to instill confidence in you as well: “In the unlikely event of a…” So, they just put that in there for people like you and me, dealing with 1 Peter 5:7.
So, when the plane began to taxi, what came back? The noise, as loud as ever! So I knew it wasn’t the loading device, ’cause we weren’t loading anything; we were taxiing. So another lady in 30–something else, she grabs one of the stewards, and she says, “Hey, Mr. Steward, what’s that noise?” The steward said, “That’s just the flaps going down.” That was equally bad, because the flaps were already down. And so, from 30G, I just had to take the plane off myself, you know. So I just flew it from 30G, all the way to Atlanta.
You said, “No you didn’t.” No, you’re right; I didn’t. I just had to sit. And what did I do? I said, “Lord, hey, it’s 1 Peter 5:7 time all over again. I don’t like that noise, I don’t like these flashing lights, I don’t like these L-1011 planes, frankly. And I don’t like the fact that it’s full, and I don’t like the fact that I can’t see out the rotten window. But here we go. Lord, it’s yours.” And then I have this mental picture of the Lord’s hand holding this L-1011 like a paper airplane and just giving it one of these…
Now, I use that as an illustration to point out that it’s an absence of humility on my part. Who in the world do I think I am, walking up and down the plane, asking the pilots to check the noise? What are you, an egomaniac or something? No! But I’m not prepared just to sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight. And some of us are right there in our Christian lives this morning.
The presence of anxiety is directly related to the absence of humility. Think about the culture in which we live—all of its neuroses, all of the anesthetic crutches that are provided to help people get through their lives, all of the aimless souls which fill the wards and corridors and railway stations of our days. And at the same time, think about the fact that society largely has rejected God. And ask yourself, isn’t there a direct correlation between the rejection of an eternal creator God who is personally interested in the lives of those who are his creation and the presence of so much neurosis and chaos and anxiety ? You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that it is at least a possibility that there is a correlation between the two. No stability, no future, no hope. To quote Joan Baez, the grandmother of folk music, she says, “[We] are the orphans in an age of no tomorrows.” Because, as Schaeffer has said, Western culture has broken the link between a personal, creator, infinite God and his creation. And consequently, man then has lost his moorings and staggers through his life.
So, as Christians, we are responsible to challenge such assertions—not with false cries of bravado; not by saying, “I don’t ever get anxious”; not by saying we just run from it or we deny it, but by doing exactly what the Bible says to do: humbling ourselves under God’s hand, saying “Father knows best,” and on the basis of that, giving to him our anxiety.
Now, we may not be able to remove the cause of our anxiety. I couldn’t stop the noise, which was the cause of anxiety. We may not be able to remove our unemployment in the immediacy. We may not be able to move our exams back for another two months. We may not be able to deal with our singleness, which perhaps we don’t like. We may not be able to deal with a recurring illness which is known to us and known to a few and known to God. We may not be able to remove the circumstances, but it’s not the circumstances which are being addressed; it is the anxiety which is produced by the circumstances. It is our anxiety which we cast upon the Lord. And it demands being ruthlessly honest with ourselves.
We can refuse to be burdened by the care which weighs us down, which disturbs our peace, and which distracts our minds. Why? Because of the assurance of the Lord’s willingness to help. “Cast … your anxiety on him,” because—and with this, we conclude—“he cares for you.” Phillips paraphrases it, “You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern.”
The real issue this morning is, you see, do you believe that? In Greek, it actually reads, “Auto melei peri hymon”: “To him it is a care concerning you.” God knows you exactly, he knows you intimately, he knew you when you were intricately formed in your mother’s womb, he made you exactly as you are—not to compare you to the person next to you, not to set you up for a fall, but in order to redeem you and to use you as you are. And today he knows all about you. There is no matter that is beyond his knowledge, there is no issue that is of such intimate detail that he is unconcerned about it. Therefore, it is that assurance which encourages us to take this action. It’s not misplaced confidence; it is confidence well placed.
And it was a distinctive belief expressed at the time in which Peter was writing. The very phrase “He cares for you” was a revolutionary phrase in a world of pagan deities. It was as revolutionary in Peter’s day as it was in the day of the prophets of Baal when Elijah challenged them, because you remember the prophets of Baal couldn’t wake their gods up. And Elijah kept saying, “Hey, did they fall asleep? Hey, did they go to the bathroom? What’s wrong with these guys? Why don’t they come and do something?” And then Elijah called on his God—the God who cared—and he was able to burn up and consume the sacrifice.
You gotta realize this morning, young folks, that you’re going out into a world that doesn’t know that anybody cares. And you’re going into a world that has increasingly embraced the notion of Mother Earth and Mother Nature and the great goddesses of our world—and they’re going to care! Total stupidity! Truly, “the fool [has] said in his heart, There is no God.” Surely, Romans 1:18 and following is absolutely right, that behind a facade of wisdom they have become “fools” who would exchange “the glory of [an] immortal God” for things that crawl and creep. And that’s exactly where our culture is!
And to you is given the responsibility to walk out into the world of the arts, into the world of engineering, into the world of law, into the world of medicine and nursing, and not go around beating people over the heads with a big Thompson Chain reference Bible, but by living your life in such a way that society says, “What is it about you? Why are you as you are? Don’t you ever get anxious?”
“Yes I do.”
“What do you do with anxiety?”
“I cast it on the Lord.”
“Who’s the Lord?”
“He is the Lord; he is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is not ‘my sweet Lord’ of George Harrison, he is not Krishna, he is not Buddha, he is the God and Father of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He is my Savior, he is my friend, he is my Redeemer, he is my confidant. He is my Great High Priest, who is touched with the feelings of my infirmities.”
Many of you are too young to know the song that says, “[There’s] … no throb nor throe that our hearts can know; but he feels it above.” And the ultimate expression of God’s care can be seen on a cross, can be heard in a cry—“Father, forgive them, for they [don’t] know what [they’re] doing”—and can be experienced in an instant: “Today you will be with me in paradise.” 
When I was the same age as some of you, when I was a freshman at college, I played football on a Wednesday night against an army team. I was bruised and I was beaten and I was discouraged because we lost. I sat and had my meal at dinnertime; I felt disconsolate, I didn’t know why. I went to my bed. I was awakened early in the morning by the president of the school knocking on my door. An unbelievable experience. My mind went through everything. “Imagine getting expelled in the first two months,” I said to myself, as I lay there in my pajamas. Then I said, “Well, maybe he wants me to play the organ in chapel,” which was ridiculous, ’cause I don’t play the organ, you know. And I went through a whole bunch of stuff. I could never have imagined, as he walked in the room, I had a South African roommate, and he said, “Could you leave us, please?” I knew I was in deep trouble, one way or another.
And he sat down and pulled a chair out from the little desk that was in the room, and he looked me in the eye and he said, “Alistair, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but last night your mother died of a massive coronary.” Forty-six years old, six years older than I am now, with one of my sisters still eleven. I can’t tell you—some of you have experienced it—the terror, the fear, the emptiness, the loneliness, the anger, everything that just shatters through your body in that moment.
Did it get any better after the funeral and two weeks later? No. I used to worry. I used to worry about my dad. How would he do the laundry? I used to worry about my dad as he went to the grocery store every Friday morning on his own. I used to worry about my fifteen-year-old sister. I used to worry about my eleven-year-old sister. And I used to get down on my knees in my room and literally imagine my whole family and say, “Lord Jesus, I cannot study, I cannot do my exams, I cannot live my life with this burden on my back. And today, hey, it’s yours.” And then the discipline, at sixty seconds a minute, of walking through your day and refusing to take back onto your shoulders what you just gave over in the quietness of your room.
We used to sing a little chorus in Scotland. It went like this:
Said the robin to the sparrow;
“I should really like to know
Why [those] anxious human beings
Rush [around] and worry so.”
Said the sparrow to the robin,
“[Oh,] I think that it must be
That they have no Heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me.”
Let’s bow together in a moment of prayer.
The chorus is real simple; it goes,
All your anxiety, all your care,
Bring to the mercy seat, [and] leave it there.
[There’s] never a burden He cannot bear,
[There’s] never a friend like Jesus!
I pray for these dear young people this morning and the faculty at this great and influential institution, that every burden, every financial concern, every issue, may be brought to your feet, Lord Jesus Christ. Hear our prayers and let our cries come unto you, for we ask it in Christ’s name. Amen.
 Jane Wagner, The Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe (New York: HarperCollins, 1987), 26.
 Psalm 11:1 (paraphrased).
 Luke 10:40 (paraphrased).
 Luke 10:41–42 (paraphrased).
 James 5:16 (paraphrased).
 Joan Baez, “The Hitchhiker’s Song” (1970).
 Psalm 139:13 (paraphrased).
 See 1 King 18:16–46.
 Psalm 14:1 (KJV).
 George Harrison, “My Sweet Lord” (1970).
 Hebrews 4:15 (paraphrased).
 W. E. Littlewood, “The Love of Jesus” (1857).
 Luke 23:34 (NIV 1984).
 Luke 23:43 (NIV 1984).
 Elizabeth Cheney, “Overheard in an Orchard.”
 Edward H. Joy, “All Your Anxiety” (1920).