Updated: Mar 24, 2020
There is so much information & misinformation about the coronavirus & as a result many people are worried, they are concerned about their health, they are panicking about food supplies & toilet paper. People are worried about job security & their finances. Just last week we remembered the Mosque attacks in Christchurch.
We live in worrying times & yet Paul tells us in our passage this morning… Philippians 4:6 (NIV2011) Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God…
What is that about? Is Paul nuts? Isn’t he aware just how stressful life is? How on earth is this verse helpful when we are in the middle of a pandemic?
It even gets weirder. In v4 he states - Philippians 4:4 (NIV2011) Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! When Paul wrote this he was in prison & the church was experiencing opposition & suffering from the community & yet he commands them to Rejoice in the Lord always.
The word rejoice here literally means to be filled with joy. In the midst of everything that they were experiencing, he commands them to rejoice in the Lord. Maybe, that is a command for us here today.
This joy that he is writing about isn’t something that is driven by our emotions, rather it is grounded in the Lord. It’s based upon our relationship with God. We are to rejoice in the Lord.
Rejoice in his unchanging power - His Holiness.
We rejoice in His patience in dealing with us - that the Lord is slow to anger.
We rejoice in His wisdom, His justice & His knowledge.
We rejoice in his love shown to us on the Cross & knowing that our sins are forgiven
We rejoice in the gift of the Holy Spirit who dwells within.
Paul reminds us in this one simple V that we have so much that we can rejoice in & our joy isn’t sourced in our circumstances, it is sourced in the Lord.
Then building on from our original v6 Paul makes this statement in v7 - And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
The word guard here is taken from the military world. It has that image of standing like a garrison over our hearts & minds. Our hearts relate to our emotions, our feelings, our passions. While our mind refers to our thinking, how we make decisions. In this verse there is this image of the peace of God, which is beyond our comprehension standing guard over our emotions & our decisions when we submit them to God in prayer.
As we submit our situations to God in prayer, with thanksgiving, we receive his peace, his shalom, his wholeness & wellbeing. Why because He is the God of Peace & just as we can’t comprehend God we can’t fully comprehend his peace either. Can we imagine this - that as we offer to God our concerns in prayer, with thanksgiving, trusting Him he gives us his peace, not because he gives us what we want but because his peace totally transcends our way of thinking & how we view the situation. Peace comes because prayer is an expression of trust - that we can trust God to watch over us.
Then at the end of these vvs Paul urges us to dwell on those qualities which are good, moral & upright rather than being driven by fear of what might happen.
This list is taken from the wisdom & philosophical literature of the day. He encourages the recipients of his letter to dwell upon:
Whatever is true - whatever is sincere, real, correct, faithful, trustworthy. Everything that is true in thought & deed. For Paul, that 1st & foremost is found in the gospel.
Whatever is noble - the word often refers to what honourable, noble or worthy of respect. Thus, whatever is worthy of respect is also worthy of consideration.
Whatever is right - Whatever is upright, or just, righteous is always defined by God & his character. God is concerned about righteousness & justice.
Whatever is pure or holy - as Christ’s followers our attention should be focused on those things that are pure & holy. In our multimedia world this challenges us to think about the things we read, watch & listen to.
Whatever is lovely - this is the only place in the New Testament where this word is used & it is primarily about having a friendly disposition towards people. We would describe the person as lovable.
Whatever is admirable - whatever is praise worthy or appealing. It describes a person who is well spoken of.
Paul is encouraging the Christians at Philippi that this is how you are to live as followers of Jesus. So often our culture is focused on the very opposite of these attributes & yet Paul challenges us to Think about such things, but for Paul this isn’t something passive. He goes on to write Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice…
Paul challenges these Christians & us that it isn’t enough just to dwell upon these things - we are to actually put them into practice just as he has. That the way we live our lives should be radically different to someone who isn’t a follower of Jesus. Matthew 5:16 (NIV2011) In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. What will that look for us all, this coming week?
So, Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Isn’t that a better way to live than to be live with worry & anxiety. Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. Over these next few weeks, we are all going to be tested if we really believe this.