The Keys to Peace

Cure for Anxiety

Philippians 4:4-7

“rejoice in the Lord always…be anxious for nothing.”

 

            At first glance, it seems Paul is concluding his letter with several concise, unrelated statements.  In these verses, four commands are given (the command to rejoice is repeated for emphasis). Each of these commands implies an ongoing lifestyle rather than just a momentary act wrought out of a sense of urgency.  In other words, we are to live constantly manifesting these characteristics: “Rejoice, let your gentle spirit be known, do not be anxious, make known to God.”  In verse 7, we see the conjunction “and,” which gives the results of what precedes.  In our reading of verse 7, we often connect it only with verse 6.  The result of prayer is God’s peace.  While it is undoubtedly true that prayer is central to gaining freedom over fear, we should also not disconnect it from the preceding commands. 

            In verse 4, the command is repeated twice to “rejoice!”  Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit, and it is the result of faith.  It is the opposite of affliction and sorrow.  It moves us beyond the external emotion of giddiness to the profound joy of faith that comes even in the face of affliction and adversity. We often base our joy upon the circumstances we encounter.  We experience joy with good things happen and sorrow when adversity strikes.  But this joy, grounded in faith and trust in God,  is not based upon circumstances it is based on the person of God and his activity.  Our happiness does not change because God does not change.   

            The second command is to manifest a gentle attitude. This speaks of an attitude of forbearance, of being merciful or tolerant of the mistakes and failures of others.  It speaks of one who is satisfied with having less than one’s due.  In other words, it is an individual who does not become angry or bitter when slighted and not given the respect they deserve.  In an age of rights, we become angry and bitter when we do not get what we believe is due to us, when people disrespect or mistreat us, or when our rights are not upheld.  Peace comes when we forgo those rights and are willing to suffer a wrong and forgive others.

            The third command seems impossible to obey, for it is the command not to be anxious.  Kenneth Wuest translates this verse, “Stop perpetually worrying about even one thing.”  Anxiety and worry can quickly become our constant companion.  We become anxious about the adversity and struggles we are facing in life. However, we are inclined to worry about things that are not a reality.  Often, we become unduly concerned about the future.  As a result, we become plagued by doubts and fears.  The answer is prayer.  It is important to note that the statement “Let your requests be made known to God” is not just a divine invitation to bring our needs before a loving Father but a divine command.  God does not just want us to place the concerns of our lives at His feet. He does not just expect us to cast our cares upon Him. He commands us to do so.  He is a loving God who is always ready and willing to act on our behalf.  This brings us to the heart of faith.  When we realize and accept that He is the God of the universe, infinite in power and governed by love, then we can completely rest in His divine plan for us.  We can be free from anxiety, not because our circumstances have changed, but because our focus has shifted from the struggles we face to the sovereign God who is in control of our lives.

            When we integrate these commands into our lives, when we start to rejoice for all that God has done, when we no longer become resentful when our rights are violated, when we no longer focus upon our circumstances but trust in the infinite love of God, peace is the inevitable outcome.  We begin to realize that God has our back, and when he has our back there, that is all we ever need.  A life of joy and peace is not based on circumstances but upon the awareness of God’s work and presence in our lives. 

 

            

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