Who wants to hear someone telling them to “Calm down!” at a time like this? It sounds naive and trite.
But, Paul wrote that from prison! He faced incredible challenges throughout his ministry.
So we can assume that Paul was familiar with anxiety.
He’s not rebuking people to “Chill out!” He’s calling upon everyone to join him in seeking peace from the only source of true and lasting peace.
Phil. 4:4-5a, “4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.”
Immediately prior to his exhortation to not be anxious, Paul exhorts the believers to “Rejoice in the Lord always.” Do you know the kind of joy that surpasses your circumstances?
He also tells them to let their “reasonableness be known to everyone.” That suggests a humility and generosity towards others. Be someone who isn’t easily offended or crushed by trials.
Anxiety reveals a lack of trust. When we are anxious about our situation, we are not trusting in God. Those who are anxious about tomorrow–what they will wear, eat, and drink–are not trusting in God to provide (Matt. 6:25-34).
The solution is to…
1. Direct your anxieties upward
Phil. 4:5b-7 “The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Turn your anxieties into prayers. As soon as you recognize your worry, bring it before the throne of grace. Bring your prayers and supplications “with thanksgiving”. Direct your gratitude to God for the countless gifts that he has provided. Peter likewise says, “Cast all your anxieties on the Lord, because he cares for you” (1 Pt. 5:7).
He will provide you with His peace that surpasses understanding. This kind of peace does not waiver with our feelings. It provides hope in the midst of despair. It reveals God’s strength in our weakness. It is a peace that Christ purchased for us on the cross.
After turning upward in prayer…
2. Correct your anxieties inward
“8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Change the content of your thoughts by filling your mind with these things. That’s not sticking your head in the sand and being naive about your circumstances. It’s about raising your thoughts above your circumstances so that God remains central.
Not only that, but follow Paul’s teaching and his example. Notice the way he responded to his trials and do likewise.
This too is followed by a promise of peace. Here he says, “the God of peace will be with you.” Are you resting in that truth? Do you reflect upon the reality of God’s presence or is this merely good in theory? There is a difference between knowing something and believing it to be true.
Knowing the peace of God guards your hearts and your minds from worldly despair, while knowing the God of peace sustains you. The former is the means, the latter is the end for which we use those means.
Finally, after prayer and meditation…
3. Redirect you anxieties outward
Timothy’s “genuine concern” (2:20) for the welfare of the Philippians is the same word for “anxious” that Paul uses in 4:6. In the case of Timothy, it is positive loving concern that the church receives proper care.
He says the same thing to the Corinthians. Members of the church ought to have the same “care” for one another (1 Cor. 12:25).
Ralph Martin: One of the surest antidotes to personal ‘care’ is to widen our horizons and so enlarge our heart of sympathy that we share the burdens of other people.
His instruction to the church is not to be concerned about anything. Instead, we ought to bear someone else’s burden to relieve their anxiety. And, paradoxically, it relieves your own burden as well!
So the next time you grow anxious…
- Direct your anxieties upward
- Correct your anxieties inward
- Redirect your anxieties outward
Then you will enjoy the peace of God that the God of peace promises to give!