By Mike Willis
In the preceding articles of this series, we have been looking at several lessons drawn from Philippians 4 which emphasize how to live with good spiritual health through trying times and circumstances. In this lesson, I emphasize the teachings of Paul regarding how to handle anxiety. The apostle wrote,
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6-7).
These verses contain several principles for good spiritual health.
1. Don’t worry and fret about everything. Paul is reiterating the teaching of Jesus who wrote,
Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof (Matt. 6:25-34).
The apostle Paul is teaching the same gospel truth as was preached by Jesus. Regarding the exhortation “be careful for nothing,” B.C. Caffin explained, “St. Paul does not wish his converts to be careless, but to be free from that over-anxiety about worldly things which might distract their thoughts from the service to God, and hinder the growth of holiness” (Pulpit Commentary: Philippians 156). There is nothing spiritually virtuous about a don’t care attitude which turns in sloppy work. As a matter of fact, this attitude toward work is condemned by the Proverbs as slothfulness (6:6-11). Neither is this verse teaching that men should not be anxious about their duty to God. Rather, what Paul is condemning is an over anxiety which distracts from service to God.
R. Finlayson commented, “Anxiety is harassing care, very different from the providential care of God. We cannot help having cares in the world – cares about getting a livelihood, cares about health, cares about higher matters, cares about those who are near and dear to us, and cares, beyond our immediate circle, for men generally and for the church. But, though we cannot help having cares in this world, we are not to be harassed by cares, as though we had to bear them ourselves” (Pulpit Commentary 176).
Such an anxiety reflects an absence of trust in God’s providence. Jesus taught that the Lord would provide for man’s necessities. Therefore, we should not worry and fret about food, clothing, and shelter – how much less should we worry about things of lesser importance such as schedule deadlines, surviving the expense of having the car repaired, and a hundred other things which might distract us from our service to the Lord.
2. Cast your cares upon the Lord. Paul instructed that Christians bring their burdens of worry to the Lord, making prayers and supplications with thanksgiving. Peter emphasized the Lord’s concern for his children saying, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Pet. 5:7). Christians are blessed to have access to the throne of grace to find help in the time of need (Heb. 4:16).
A Christian will make his prayers, supplications, and requests known to the Lord. He will ask the Lord’s help in facing the circumstances of his life. God has promised to be attentive to our requests even as a father is to his children. Jesus said,
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (Matt. 7:7-11)
The Lord has not given us a blank check in prayer that guarantees us everything for which we ask. James said that some prayers are not answered because they are asked with the wrong motive (Jas. 4:2-3). Every request which men make is subjected to the overseeing providence of God; hence, we pray, “If the Lord will.”
Our worries are intensified by the neglect of daily prayer. In the popular song “What A Friend We Have In Jesus,” Joseph Scriven wrote,
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear,
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer.
O, what peace we often forfeit;
O, what needless pain we bear;
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.
3. Our requests should be accompanied with thanksgiving. Sometimes prayers become the expression of selfish “gimme’s.” Paul emphasized that prayer should contain thanksgiving. Jesus taught an important lesson on gratitude when he healed the ten lepers and only one returned to express his thanks (Lk. 17:12-19).
There is another aspect of thanksgiving which recognizes and accepts one’s circumstances in life. This can be illustrated in Paul’s life by the disposition he had toward the messenger of Satan which buffeted his body. Three times he requested of God that the affliction be removed. The Lord responded by saying, “My grace is sufficient to thee.” Then Paul accepted his circumstances with the disposition expressed in these verses:
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10).
Paul accepted the Lord’s providence and was able to give God the thanks and glory, even in the midst of adversity. because he recognized that God, who knew better than him what was best for his life, allowed the suffering. The wise man wrote, “In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him” (Eccl. 7:14). Consequently, even in the face of adversity and suffering, the Christian can bow his knee in thanksgiving to the God who controls all things.
The Peace of God
The Lord promised to give his peace to those who live as he has directed. The peace from God surpasses all understanding. Jesus spoke of his peace saying, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (Jn. 14:27). Jesus’ peace was different from the peace that the world is able to give.
The world is able to give peace from civil conflict, although it is temporary. The world may bring peace between friends, neighbors or relatives. However, the world can neither give nor has it experienced peace with God which is only available through Jesus Christ. T. Croskery’s comments in the Pulpit Commentary (168) are wrote reproducing as he discussed the nature of this peace:
(1) It springs out of our justification (Rom. v. 1). (2) It arises in the soul as part of our spiritual-mindedness. “For to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom. viii.6). (3) It is the abiding experience of the saints so long as they are practically consistent in their walk. “Great peace have they that love thy law” (Psa. exix. 165). “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee” (Isa. xxvi. 3).
The peace which God gives will “keep your hearts and minds. ” The word ” keep ” is translated from phroureo. It is a military term meaning “to guard, protect by a military guard, either in order to prevent hostile invasion, or to keep the inhabitants of a besieged city from flight.” It is used in a metaphorical sense in this passage to mean “to protect by guarding.” The Lord has promised to guard and protect the hearts and minds of those who do as these verses command.
A fourth prescription for good spiritual health is handling life’s trouble, not through worrying and fretting, but through casting them on the Lord in prayer.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 15, pp. 482, 502-503
August 15, 1991