No Anxiety

This morning we continue with our studies in Paul's letter to the Philippians. We are going to be looking at the chapter 4 verses 2 to 9. Our title is NO ANXIETY. But what you have here in Philippians 4.2-9 is a set of battles. Paul is telling his friends that the Christian life is a struggle. There is a fight on against enemies of the Christian faith. In chapter 3 in our last study we saw that there were (verse 18) "many [who] live as enemies of the cross of Christ." They are undermining the faith of some Christians. Christians are easily drawn away if they are not careful. Do you know of some people who once seemed fine Christian believers? Perhaps they had a leading role in a church or a Christian Union; but now they are, spiritually speaking, nowhere. I can think of some clergymen I know. As young men they seemed outstanding Christians; but now they have drifted and lost the clarity and the cutting edge they once had. So Paul says to the Philippians in verse 1 of chapter 4 (the last verse we looked at last time):

Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!

He wants the Philippians to "stand firm" against all the seductions of the "enemies of the cross of Christ." But Paul knows that the battle is not only with the external enemies of the church. He knows that there has also to be a battle or a struggle internally - inside the church and even inside individual Christians. And that is now his subject here in chapter 4. He focuses on three areas or three sets of problems. You can see them embodied in three types of Christian. And these three types are in view here in these verses - quarrelling Christians; anxious Christians and decadent Christians. And the tendency to be this sort of Christian is something, Paul teaches, you have to battle against. So this morning I want to talk about THE BATTLE, first, WITH OTHER CHRISTIANS; secondly, OVER ANXIETY, and thirdly, FOR THE MIND. First, the battle WITH OTHER CHRISTIANS Around the country and, sadly, around the world a problem in a number of churches is "quarrelling Christians". These are not churches where the bible is not taught; they may be well organized; much may be going for them - like the church at Philippi. Philippi was a good church; it was a generous church; people there gave faithfully to God's work. But Paul had to say in verse 2:

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.

Paul knew that this sort of division within the church undermined its ability to stand firm against pressure from outside the church. Now Paul is not talking here about conflict over fundamental issues of faith. He is not arguing against conflict when that is necessary for discipline. When there was fundamental error that was destroying the faith, he himself initiated conflict. He did that in Antioch (Gal 2.11):

When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.

This was when Peter refused to eat with the Gentiles. But here it doesn't seem to be a fundamental principle that is at stake. Paul writes in verse 3 that these were "women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel." Sadly good Christians can fall out over secondary issues or personal matters. Sometimes they are arguing over very trivial affairs. They are what someone has called "custard Christians" - they get upset over trifles! But this quarrel was obviously affecting the church. Paul heard about it in Prison hundreds of miles away in Rome. Is anyone like that here this morning. You've got a quarrel with someone. Well, Paul would say to you: "I plead with you ... to agree [with whoever it is] in the Lord." Now, there are all sorts of suggestions and strategies in the bible for dealing with tension in the church. But here when you probably have low grade quarrelling that has blown up out of all proportion, Paul suggests five things that should help resolve the problem. First, keep things in perspective. Paul is talking about heaven in the last part of chapter 3. He has the final judgment in mind in verse 3 of chapter 4 when he talks of "Clement and the rest of my fellow-workers, whose names are in the book of life". Paul knows that if you are spoiling your witness by a silly quarrel, one day you will have to answer for it at the judgement seat of Christ. So keep things in perspective. Secondly, remember that you and the other person are brothers and sisters in the Lord. In verse 1 Paul uses the words "my brothers" and that includes Euodia and Syntyche; and in verse 2 Euodia and Syntyche are to "agree in the Lord". So in such a quarrel you are not dealing with an alien or an enemy, but a Christian family member. That is what Paul implies to Euodia and Syntyche. Thirdly, others should help sort out such a quarrel or disagreement, verse 3:

Yes, and I ask you, loyal yoke-fellow [whoever he is], help these women.

Paul wasn't waiting for these women to ask for help. So if you see some quarrel or bad feeling among Christians, don't over dramatize what is going on. Don't gossip about it. No! What is needed is genuine help if there is a genuine problem: perhaps sometimes all that's needed is to tell the people concerned not to be so silly. Fourthly, Paul says, "Rejoice!" In Paul's original letter there were no paragraphs. We can take verses 4 and 5 with verses 2 and 3. Verse 4 says:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

This is for everyone but it includes Euodia and Syntyche. And if they rejoiced in the Lord, in, what is to them no doubt a great trauma, will (again) be kept in perspective. It doesn't matter what the circumstances, you can know that God is in control, and long-term all will be well. God is good. He does love you, however foolish you sometimes may be. That is something to rejoice over. Fifthly, verse 5:

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

That word "gentleness" in the original is the word that translates the idea of the "gentleman". Paul is saying that Christians should be known for their decent or gentlemanly behaviour. It is the idea of courtesy and civility that is behind the word. Paul is suggesting that if there is more of that there will be less of these silly quarrels. And what is more, living that sort of life you will ready for the Lord when he returns. How important all this is. So the first battle is to battle against quarrelling Christians. How do you stop quarrelling? First, have a sense of heaven and the reality of God's judgment. Secondly, realise that the person you are quarrelling with in the Church is not an outsider (an enemy), but a brother or sister in the Lord; thirdly, there needs often to be outside intervention; fourthly, rejoice in the Lord; and fifthly, be known for being "gentlemanly" or whatever the female equivalent is. The second battle is OVER ANXIETY Look at verse 6 and 7:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. {7} And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Many of you have been thinking so far, "well, this is all very interesting; but, quite honestly, I'm not the quarrelling type. It is all a bit irrelevant for me personally." I believe you. There were only two people Paul mentions out of the whole church in Philippi. And, praise God, most Christians don't quarrel - they certainly don't at Jesmond Parish Church! But what about anxiety. You may not be a quarrelling Christian, but are you an anxious Christian? Anxiety can stop a lot of people "standing firm" in their faith. Because they are anxious in the wrong way, they make silly decisions; they make wrong choices; and before they know where they are they are no longer in the centre of God's will. They are drifting. But we have got to be careful. As with conflict, Paul isn't saying that all anxiety is wrong. Not all conflict is wrong. When there is rampant evil or total error you have to be in conflict and standing up for the good and the true. What is wrong is conflict over secondary or small matters or over personality differences. Similarly not all anxiety is wrong. In chapter 2 verse 20 Paul was commending Timothy. He said:

I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare.

The word behind "interest" is the same word as is translated "anxiety" here. So Timothy is being commended for his anxious care. Is Paul inconsistent? Is he contradicting himself? No! Timothy's anxiety was the painstaking thought for others. The anxiety that is forbidden here is anxiety about ourselves and our problems and the result of not handing over our problems to the Lord to deal with. Paul is not suggesting that Christians can just sit back and let the world go by with a smile they call "rejoicing". That is not the sort of thing Paul had in mind at all. No! Timothy's example shows that Christians have to be busy and taking care and double checking and properly concerned and active. But there is a world of difference between that and the sort of anxiety that leads to a person being totally wrapped up in themselves. Often that leads to a paralysis of action. Here is someone who is anxious about one of our missionaries because of their health or their children's education. And they try to take appropriate action - whether it is giving more to support them, or writing more faithfully. That is a right sort of anxiety. But here is someone who is anxious about their own problems - it may be problems of the future, or finance, or health, or the family, or whatever. And they are totally wrapped up in those worries. And it helps no one. That is the wrong sort of anxiety. So how do you deal with that wrong sort of anxiety? And let's face it, from time to time we are all tempted down that road - some more, some less. The answer is through prayer and praise. Verse 6:

In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

When you have a problem, what is the first thing you do? Worry or pray? Paul says you should pray. And prayer here is quite specific. It is asking. The New Testament time after time tells us to bring our requests to God. This verse is about our petitions. People say that praying shouldn't be a shopping list. But I am afraid sometimes it should be. Yes, prayer should end in us being reconciled to the will of God. But we must never assume that the existing state of affairs is necessarily the will of God. It may be the result of the work of sinful men and women or the work of Satan. You should pray to change things. You should petition God. And as you pray about what is worrying you and as you take those worries to the Lord, your anxieties fade. This happens as you trust in God's almighty power. You know that he can change things. He is all powerful. But you must not only pray. There must also be, Paul says, thanksgiving. You see, your anxieties also fade as you thank God in the situation that you are in, difficult though it may be. This happens as you trust in God's sovereign will. You realise that God is in control. At the moment he may not be immediately solving your problems in the way you asked. But you know his will is good and perfect. How important that you do not worry, but "in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." And there is that a wonderful promise, verse 7:

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

So the problem of worrying Christians and the battle over anxiety, is dealt with by prayer and thanksgiving. As you pray and praise, you will experience the supernatural peace of God. That is the promise. The third, battle is FOR THE MIND In verse 7 Paul has been talking about "God guarding your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." In the bible the heart and the mind is the inner life of our personalities. It includes our logical powers; our wills and our emotions. That inner life - that inner complex of the heart and the mind is the source of our outward behaviour. So Jesus says ...

from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery [and so on].

The world gets this so wrong. That was the huge fallacy of Marx - that personal behaviour is conditioned fundamentally by the social environment and not by the individual human heart. The bible is crystal clear. Of course the social environment is important, but the individual human heart is the key. So when a man or woman's heart and mind drift away from God they experience the judgement of God and society becomes decadent - sexually and in other ways. That is the message of Romans 1. 21:

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Conversely spiritual health and social well being comes as the mind is renewed. Romans 12.2:

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

So Paul says here in Philippines 4.8-9:

Finally, brothers, 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. {9} Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Your mind matters. There is a battle for the mind. So don't feed your mind with what is negative. Much in the papers and on the TV is negative and nasty. If you have to see it - and you can't avoid some of it - make sure you have a double dose of what is positive or as Paul puts it what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy. That is why Bible study is so important. So be careful about what you read and see on TV or at the Cinema. Negative images and ideas - what is false, vulgar, wrong, impure, unlovely, despicable, abysmal and blameworthy - will affect you. Sadly, there are those who drift with the world as they soak their minds in what is false, impure, and unlovely. They drift morally and in terms of their fundamental beliefs. They do not stand firm. They become decadent themselves. They do not follow Paul's example (verse 9); and they do not experience the presence of God. That is the second great promise in verse 9:

And the God of peace will be with you.

There is all the difference in the world between having a theoretical knowledge that God is omnipresent, and a living experience of God with you day by day. I wonder if there is anyone here this morning and you know nothing about that - about God being with you. You know that your heart and mind need to be transformed. You know that what comes out of your heart and mind is sinful and against God's will. Well, the first "noble" truth that Paul teaches you must think about is the cross of Christ - the fact that at Calvary Christ died for your sins. And he offers you forgiveness as you trust him. Then his Holy Spirit will renew your heart and mind. That is the way to the God of peace being with you. That is the way to put into practice what Paul teaches. I must conclude. Let me summarise. Stand firm, says Paul; and one, avoid silly quarrels - so keep things in perspective; realise that you are all one in Christ's family; make sure others help solve problems; rejoice in the Lord; and behave like a true gentleman; two, don't be wrongly anxious but pray about your problems and be thankful to God at the same time; and three, don't be decadent - don't steep your mind in what is evil and false but in what is noble and good. "And the God of peace will be with you."

Back to top