Philippians Bible Study, Week 20
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Henceforth, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:6-9
Things to think about
What sort of things do you worry about?
Is there a major concern in your life at the moment?
Have you given God control of your life? Do you believe that God is in control of your life?
What lovely or noble things have you been thinking about lately?
Has there been a time when you have especially felt God’s peace?
Master or Servant?
I recently heard someone say that when he was the owner and manager of a business he often felt the pressure and stress of making important decisions, decisions that would make his business run effectively and maintain profitability. He came to a realisation one night, while poring over his accounts, that his employees were not experiencing that same stress. He compared this situation with our servant-master relationship with Jesus Christ.
If we truly are servants of Jesus Christ and following him obediently we can trust that the decisions and directions of our lives, and their outcomes, are being handled by God. We do not need to worry about our life. Instead, we need to trust that God is indeed working, both within us and behind the scenes, to see his good purposes fulfilled in our lives. God is our “boss,” our Master; we are his “employees,” his servants. We do not need to be anxious about the effectiveness or “profitability” of our lives and ministries if we are faithfully following him.
The Worries of this World
God does not want us to be anxious. In particular, he does not want us to be anxious about our physical needs. God has promised that he will provide for us, and we need to trust that he will keep his promise and take care of our daily needs.
In Matthew 6:25-26 (cf. Luke 12:22-31) Jesus said,
“… do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?”
We need to find a balance between anxiety and worry, on the one hand, and the responsibility of making sensible decisions and working to provide for ourselves and our families, on the other. We need to make sound decisions about our wellbeing without getting caught up by the “worries of the world” and the “deceitfulness of wealth” that choke out the effectiveness of God’s word in our lives. (See the Parable of the Sower in Matthew chapter 13.)
The Antidote for Anxiety
Paul does not simply tell the Philippians to stop worrying; he gives the antidote for anxiety—prayer. In any and every situation we can bring our requests, our needs, and our problems to God in prayer and leave them, with gratitude, in his capable hands. God cares about you and he cares for you! Peter understood this when he wrote, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:7).
Here is where many Christians run into difficulties. They find it difficult to trust God when faced with stressful situations.
Have we handed over ownership of our lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ? Do we trust God completely to always do what is in his and our best interests? Do we trust that God has the power to lovingly guide our lives and intervene in every situation? Do we trust that God will help you?
If we are his children, living obediently in relationship with him, God will guide us through life’s journey and help us through tough periods. So, every time we begin to feel worried or anxious, we need to make the conscious decision to pray about whatever is bothering us and hand the situation over to God. We need to believe and trust that God can and will handle it.
Prayer with Thanksgiving
And be thankful! It is a wonderful feeling knowing that our lives are in God’s hands and that he is powerfully working on our behalf.
William Barclay (2003:91) writes:
Paul lays it down that thanksgiving must be the universal accompaniment of prayer… Every prayer must surely include thanks for the privilege of prayer itself. Paul insists that we must give thanks in everything, in laughter and in tears … That implies two things. It implies gratitude and also perfect submission to the will of God. It is only when we are fully convinced that God is working all things together for good that we can really feel the perfect gratitude towards him which believing prayer demands.
Security and Sanity
When our concerns have been left in God’s loving care, the peace of God that is beyond comprehension will guard and protect our hearts and minds. We can have security knowing that God is caring for us, and we can have peace of mind, sanity, when we replace worry with faith and prayer.
Isaiah knew God’s peace and wrote:
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal. Isaiah 26:3-4
Paul gave further advice about peace and sanity to the Philippians. He encouraged them to think about good things and have noble thoughts. He did not want the Philippians to dwell on bad things and have negative thoughts. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul went even further and exhorted the Christians to think about heavenly things (Col. 3:2).
Here, again, is where balance is important. We are citizens of this earth and we do have real physical needs, but presently we are also citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven and we have real spiritual needs too. We need to take every thought captive and think carefully about virtuous, noble and true things, even spiritual things. (See 2 Corinthians 10:5.) We should think about beauty, about truth, about love, and about other good things; but most importantly, we need to think about God.
Many people think that they can watch television shows about crime or immorality or base silliness and that it won’t affect them. Paul has a different opinion. Paul knew that what we entertain in our minds does affect us!
Paul not only urged the Philippians to think about good things, he urged the Philippians to put these virtues into practice. Paul, always the disciple-maker, presented himself as the model to follow and said, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.” Paul knew that if the Philippians were thinking and doing virtuous, noble things, they would experience the presence of the God of peace.
Peace, or shalom, is a recurring theme in the Bible. Invariably, the Bible teaches that peace is found when we put our faith and trust in God. However, we can only put our complete trust and reliance on God when we begin to understand him and appreciate how great he is. My hope is that you will begin to know just how immense God’s love is for you, and that you will be able to rely securely on his promises to care for you.
 Paul admonished the Christians in Thessaloniki and Crete about being lazy freeloaders. Many of these new Christians were not being sensible at all. (See 2 Thessalonians and Titus.)
 The seed falling among the thorns in the parable of the sower refers to someone who hears the Word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the Word, making it unproductive.
 Cf. Revelation 3:3: “So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent …”
 If worry and anxiety are having a continuing impact on your life, please see a doctor. Sometimes there is a physical, medical reason for anxiety, not a spiritual reason.
© 18th of January 2011, Margaret Mowczko