There’s a lot of skepticism on worry and the Bible. I’ve heard many people say that because their a parent and/or a spouse, it’s their job to worry about their kids or wife or husband. Or, because of the fragility of their work, it’s okay to worry about their job. Trust is a hard thing to keep in a world that values the pressure of getting to the top through deceit and the “whatever it takes” mentality. But the real question is whether you trust anyone else, but do you trust God?
I’m reading in Philippians still. I think you’ll find that I stay in one place for long periods of time because there’s too much in there to miss. And I believe it’s okay to have one small lesson a day to apply to living than moving quickly from one thing to another. It takes a lot for me to process God’s Word. Anyway, I’m in chapter 4, the last chapter of the letter, and have begun reading the farewell remarks.
Paul likes to give exhortation at the end of the letter that specifically applies to the situations the church is facing. One thing this church was having trouble with was joy. Joy seemed to be the best answer in dealing with what they were going through. I mean, how else could any church have an impact in the community? Without joy, what reason would there be to meet at all!
To get to the point, verses 6-9 deal with what stuck out to me today. He talks about anxiousness, literally translated “worry” in the Greek. Mostly the same. This passage reminds me of Luke 12 when Jesus gives a message of relying on God for your daily needs. But how often do we turn to the self-sufficiency model of living instead of turning to God first? Paul doesn’t leave us high and dry, but gives us an example of what to do in place of worry. Again, I really like what Ash said in his commentary:
“Let God’s power address men’s concern. If divine power could not effect resolution, then none would be possible. That would be the cause for worry! And prayer is as wide as life, for ‘everything’ is its scope.”
There is nothing too big for God to handle. And somehow us worrying or being anxious about something is kind of like us saying to the Creator of the universe, “God, I know this is too big for you, so I’ll take this one.” How does that even make any sense? Echoing Jesus, if God can take care of the grass of the field, and it does no labor, can’t we believe that God can take care of it? Take care of us?
There’s a blessing that comes from trusting God, from taking it to prayer, everything to prayer. Paul says we are to pray to Him with thanksgiving. That part is the hard thing to do. It’s in that moment we lay down our “right” to handle it ourselves and trust completely in the Lord, knowing and believing that the outcome is exactly what He desires. Again, it all comes down to us surrendering to His will.
The blessing is the peace of God. This is a special expression of peace. It deals with the fact that God is peace, it’s something of Himself. So no matter what the outcome of the prayer, even if it doesn’t turn out the way we would like, peace is still there because we’ve surrendered to His will over our own. It something we can’t rationalize, or can’t quite grasp from a human perspective. This peace goes beyond any planning we could do on our own because God is at the core.
This peace guards our hearts and minds in Christ. To the Philippians, the metaphor of a soldier guarding an entrance becomes very clear. Nothing is allowed to go in and mess things up without going through the soldier first. So if this peace is some of God Himself, we couldn’t ask for a better guard to our heart and mind!
Many times we all face anxiousness and worry throughout the day. The next moment, even, could hold an opportunity to forget everything and begin to worry about what might come next, even though the future isn’t in our hands to begin with. Worry comes from dwelling on the problem. We think about it too much. So Paul gives another example and “way out” of worry: replace your thoughts with this:
“…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.” – Philippians 4:8
Now, obviously these things pertain to the character of God Himself. And I believe that they all have to do with one another. Things can be lovely and admirable, but if it lacks purity, it’s sin. Replacing our thoughts with incomplete goodness could give way to something very dangerous and perverted, and ultimately lead toward a downward spiral in sin excused as an escape from worry. But these things together describe the greatness of God and His purpose for us. God is true, He is right, nobility is something worthy of respect, lovely (a word that was also defined as “virtue”) keeps our minds out of the gutter, and admirable things don’t offend. All those things must be weighed with the attributes of excellence and praiseworthiness. We must replace the thoughts of concern about the outcome of things with thoughts of God and His character, surrendering the outcome to His will. Think about the things that are worthy of praise and positive recognition, things that God has done in your life, the evidence of God and His love. When we put those thoughts in place of the problem, or put a spin on the problem with those thoughts, the walls worry don’t stand a chance because it’s foundation is crumpled.
Lord, guard my heart and mind as I surrender my troubles to you. I know that You’re in control. I rest in Your peace.