“Do not be anxious about anything…” Philippians 4:6a
Now here’s a radical command.
Do not be anxious about anything? (ahem)...Anything?
To understand this, we gotta define our terms. What is meant here by "anxiety"?
IT'S NOT SAYING...
First we can clarify that the Lord is not saying to never be stressed. Jesus Himself experienced tremendous stress on his body and emotions (i.e. John 13:21, John 4:6, John 11:33, Luke 22:44, Matt 26:38).
The Lord is also not saying to never be concerned. Jesus had many heavy concerns - for the poor, the self-righteous, the lost, the weary, etc...(i.e. Matt 9:36, 10:21-22, 11:28-30, 23:37).
And I’m convinced the Lord has a different word altogether for those who suffer from major physiological manifestations due trauma, organic imbalance, and environmental or relational toxicity. While the symptoms of those scenarios may mimic the anxiety that is mentioned here in Philippians 4 - I do not believe this passage is speaking directly to all those scenarios. I believe His word in those situations is the same as His word to all the sick and injured: tender, merciful, healing redemption. If this type of "anxiety" describes you, while this study will still benefit you - I hope you will take courage to seek a doctor, counselor and/or support group to come alongside you in your walk toward healing and recovery. Also, if you would like for me to pray for you, please contact me.
IT IS SAYING...
I believe the Lord is not saying many things by this command...but we can’t deny that indeed He is saying “Do not be anxious”...so what is anxiety? Here's my best attempt at a definition:
When stress consumes us…when stress overrides our better judgement, hides in numbing distractions, controls our reactions, and leads us to fear the future…when stress seems greater than our Great God: stress becomes anxiety.
When concerns consume us…when concerns override our hope, control our reactions, toss and turn us out of the rest of prayer, and rob us of our present-tense…when concerns seem mightier than our All Mighty God: concern becomes anxiety.
When stress and concern stay in our hands, instead of being turned over to the Lord, they have a way of quickly turning into anxiety. We all have experienced this...over and over again...we all know the dizziness anxiety brings. Why do we keep getting so anxious?
WE ARE FOOLED INTO THINKING WORRY IS GOOD FOR SOMETHING...
You’ve likely been in a situation when you were so tense with anxiety that someone came alongside and patted you with sympathy saying, “Don’t worry.” Sometimes the phrase is a refreshing reality check. At other times, however, I’ve shared in some of the rebuttals that you might resonate with...“You have no idea what I’m going through,” or “C’mon now, worrying shows I really care about this situation. Do you want me just to stop caring?” or “If I don’t worry about it, how is all this going to be taken care of, really?”
Somewhere deep down inside of us we are prone to believe our worry is good for something...that worry accomplishes things and accurately expresses our care. It’s understandable to feel defensive with someone who casually sings “Hakuna Matata” songs to you when they have never entered your pain. So it feels right to keep fighting for your “rights" to worry.
But here we have the God of the Universe telling us not to worry. And who could be more qualified to offer such words? He is the One who knows us best...the One who cares far more than you and I could ever care about anything...the One whose love took on flesh to plunge into the depth of all human suffering on our behalf...the One who is both powerful and good - who is in control and who is committed to working all things together for good to those who love Him...this is the One who tells us not to be anxious.
WORRY'S A VANDAL, FIND THE PROTECTION OF PEACE
All of our rebuttals to this command can be relieved of duty. We don’t need to protect or defend our anxiety anymore...we can allow the peace of God to guard and defend our hearts now instead. See the promise? Look:
“...And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
See how peace seeks to guard over our hearts and minds? This shows us that the peace of God is protective in nature...that His peace seeks to stand guard like a shield for our hearts and minds.
This verse also tells us something about anxiety too...that indeed it is threatening enough to require defensive measures. As we'll see in this series, anxiety is a sneaky weapon...making us vulnerable to the enemy of our souls. So wanting to guard us with His peace, the Lord says, “Do not be anxious” - and then gives us a practical pathway to walk with the guardian...to accept the protective promise:
R.S.V.P. - ACCEPT THE INVITATION TO PEACE'S PROTECTION
We learn that in light of our eternal hope and identity in God, we are to stand firm in the Lord in “this way”(Philippians 3:20,21 and 4:1)...
1. Practice Peace in RELATIONSHIP: “Live in harmony in the Lord...Let your gentle spirit be known to all men.” (Philippians 4:2-5)
Here we unpack the principles given to us in these verses that tell us how to pursue peace when we are at odds with someone...
2. Practice Peace in SUPPLICATION: “...In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6b)
Here we look at the power of God as we seek Him in prayer and learn gratitude in all things...
3. Practice Peace in VIEWPOINT: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8)
Here we will look at the importance of meditation in shaping our perspective (i.e. viewpoint) on all of life...
4. Practice Peace in PRAISE: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4)
And here we will look at the joy of God as we learn how to rejoice in Him - always...especially in difficult seasons of life.
These four principles (R.S.V.P.) are followed with another promise:
"...The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:9)
So with this glorious promise in sight - let’s relearn who enables us to be anxious for nothing, why we are not to be anxious about anything... and how we can live free from anxiety to begin experiencing the baffling peace of God.
Let’s begin to understand the command to “not be anxious” as an invitation to experience the peace we have been given in Jesus. Let’s hold up the verses surrounding this command - the verses that contain the ink we will need to R. S. V. P. to this gracious invitation of the God of peace...and write an enthusiastic "yes" with our lives.
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It’s going to be a great study. I look forward to unpacking each point above with you.
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