Fear, Part Four

Philippians 4:6-8

By Kersley Fitzgerald

The Series

Joshua 1:9
Isaiah 41:10 and Jeremiah 29:11
Matthew 6:34
Philippians 4:6-7
Romans 8:28; 1 Corinthians 10:13

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6
The week the article on Matthew 6:34 was posted, Colorado Springs had a small blizzard. In the days before, grocery stores were cleaned out of bread, milk, and bananas. All for a "snowpocalypse" that saw schools closed for a total of three days in a city where the average pantry could feed its people for a couple of weeks or more. Preparing is fine. Being consumed by emotional panic that you'll run out of ground beef over the course of half a week is something else.

The early church saw dangers much more acute. Compared to being fed to lions, facing the risk of running out bananas in February is pretty silly. But even if we are faced with death, God tells us to reject worry.

Anxious — This is the same merimnao as in Matthew 6:34. To be troubled and/or make it a priority to seek one's own interests. The word is often used in the context of persecution, which Paul had started addressing in Philippians 1:27-30.

Anything — The Greek word pas just means all things; every bit of the whole.

SupplicationDeesis means to seek, ask, entreat God to handle our need, lack, privation.

Made known — The Greek gnorizo means to make known or to cause to be recognized.

The other words involved, prayer, thanksgiving, etc., have pretty literal meanings. There are just a couple of seeming contradictions in the verse that bear looking at.

We are not to be merimnao about our needs but deesis God about them. That is, we aren't to promote our own interests or be troubled that a situation won't resolve favorably, but we are to entreat God to fill our needs and wants. That doesn't mean we can't act on our own behalf. Or plan for the future. Or even be a prepper. It doesn't mean that we should neglect responsibilities and assume God will take care of all our needs without us lifting a finger. It speaks more to the emotional weight of a situation. It is so easy to transform the weight of concern and duty into either frantic, desperate activity or overwhelmed passivity. We aren't to take either of those routes. We're to present our needs (which would include peace of mind) to God and trust that He will provide, knowing that part of His provision will involve work on our part.

The other hiccough in the verse revolves around the word "present." How can we make our needs known to God if He already knows everything? Many of the other places in the New Testament where gnorizo is used, it's in the context of revealing the identity of a person or a spiritual truth. An exception is 1 Corinthians 15:1 where Paul reminds the Corinthians of the gospel. In these two cases, the word means more to bring to one's attention. But even this has a different tint when applied to the God Who knows everything always. When we bring something to His attention, we reveal what our priorities are. And we start a conversation with God about an issue — a conversation that will continue past the moment. When we invite God into a situation, we're more focused and more likely to keep a lookout for His involvement. That's a huge part of spiritual growth.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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.
Philippians 4:7-8
Peace — There are several shades to the Greek eirene, including exemption from the rage and havoc of war, and safety and prosperity, but the key in the verse is the application of this peace: it's between the believer and God. Harmony, tranquility, and security all characterize our standing with God.

Guard — Bearing in mind the context of "peace," the literal phroureo continues the metaphor as it speaks of being protected by military forces from a hostile invasion.

Hearts — The Greek kardia refers to the seat of life, both spiritual and physical; the place where our life flows from.

Think about — The root word of logizomai is the familiar logos, which makes an English translation difficult. It doesn't mean just to think about or to "dwell" (NASB) or "think on" (KJV). The Amplified gets closer: "center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart." Even then, a sense is lost. The reason we can "implant them in our hearts" is because we have reckoned the logos of these things and judged them to be true.

The list of things to dwell on in Philippians 4:8 can be (and have been) the subject of an entire article, but for the purposes of this article, a brief overview will do. Nature abhors a vacuum. As we give God our worries and concerns and desire to control in order to protect, He tells us to be filled again. He will fill us with the assurance that our relationship with Him is characterized by a harmony that ensures He takes responsibility for protecting our hearts. Meanwhile, we are to seriously consider the truths of those things that are honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and excellent — those things that indicate the Kingdom of God is in our presence.

Philippians 4:7-8 explain how we should think instead of being anxious. Philippians 4:4-5 describe how we should act:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand...
Rejoice — The Greek chario means to be glad, but it also means to be well and thrive.

Reasonableness — To be reasonable (epieikes) is to be suitable, appropriate, fair, mild, and gentle.

So, to be anxious is the opposite of rejoicing in God. To be reasonable is to rely on God for our needs. It is actually unfair and inappropriate to be anxious. That's really convicting.

These "don't be anxious" verses in the New Testament continue their relentless call to reject worry, not because we'll be safe anyway, but because our focus is elsewhere. A family facing a short blizzard that remembers their warm home, hot water, and full pantry won't be anxious about running out of bananas. Their hearts are at peace. Similarly, a Christian who remembers truth, honor, and the priorities of God can weather any spiritual storm.

Image Credit: DragonWoman; "Rock Walls"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life

comments powered by Disqus
Published 2-16-16