Philippians 4:5-7 February 11, 2018
Paul is wrapping up his letter to the Philippians, and as he does, he calls them to stand firm. 4v1: “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.”
Stand firm against false teaching. Stand firm against false believers – a false believer is someone who calls themselves a Christians but is not. Stand firm against division. Stand firm in persecution. Don’t budge. I was reminded of this during a basketball game this week.
In basketball, a charging foul is called when a player makes significant contact with a defender that has established position. My boys coach tries to teach our players how to, when on defense, establish position and draw a charging foul. It’s very difficult to do, because you have to get to a spot on the floor, and stand firm, even though another player, often bigger, is running toward you full speed. If you move your feet – no foul. So you have to stand firm and take the hit. That’s a great image of what Paul is talking about here. No matter what, stand firm.
As we are standing firm in the Lord, Paul, in vv4-7, gives us three additional instructions. They are (1) rejoice in the Lord always – here Paul is after joy. (2) let your reasonableness be known to everyone – here Paul is after gentleness. And (3) do not be anxious about anything – and here Paul is after peace.
These are difficult instructions to follow, and so, thankfully, Paul gives us some secrets to obeying them. He gives us help. We read Paul’s first instruction last week – rejoice always – and the secret given was to rejoice in the Lord; meaning that the ground beneath Christian rejoicing is knowing Christ. So when we struggle to rejoice, we need to think about Christ.
This morning, we’re going to consider Paul’s second and third instruction here – let your reasonableness be known to everyone and do not be anxious about anything.
But before I preach this sermon, we should pray together. Please bow your heads with me.
Please open your Bibles to Philippians 4, which, if you’re using one of our church Bibles, you’ll find on page 637. Let me read the text in its entirety one more time before we begin. Philippians 4:5-7. This is the Word of God:
5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone
There is Paul’s next instruction for us in verse 5:
5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;
This word translated reasonableness means gentle spirit. According to Don Carson, it is “a kind of willed, self-effacing kindness.” It is the opposite of contention. It is the opposite of self-seeking. By the way, in Paul’s mind this quality is so important that he lists it among the qualifications for an elder.
Now, when you’re dealing with false teaching, false believers, division, persecution, difficulty, gossip, sickness – the temptation is to not be gentle, but to be harsh. To be contentious. To turn inward.
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Paul is saying “No, don’t respond toward others, toward one another, that way.” Be gentle. Be considerate. Be kind. Be tolerant. Be fair. Be self-effacing. In fact, become known for this – be known for being self-effacing. Let that become the reputation that precedes you.
How do you respond when things are difficult between you and others? What are you known for? Reasonableness? Kindness? Gentleness?
That’s the instruction. What’s the secret? How do we do this Paul?
verse 5: 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;
The Lord is at hand. Is Paul talking time or space? The Lord is hand temporally, or the Lord is at hand spatially? In other words, what’s the motivation here for being known for gentleness with others? Is it the Lord is coming back soon? Or is it the Lord is present with you now? Maybe both?
I think Paul is talking location here. Jesus is here with us, all the time, and knowing that is a secret for treating others well.
But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Have you ever been in the middle of a conflict, maybe with your spouse, or a friend, or a child, and then someone you respect walks into the room unexpectedly? You straighten up, and your countenance changes, and your tone changes.
The Lord is at hand. He is present, in you, by his Holy Spirit. He sees what you’re doing. He hears how you’re talking. So, Let your gentleness be known to everyone.
Do not be anxious about anything
Okay. Next, and this is our last instruction for today, and it’s a doozy.
Verse 6a: “do not be anxious about anything…” Stop, that’s the command – Don’t be anxious about anything. (The word is also translated worry). Don’t worry about anything. Any of you get anxious? Any of you worry?
The vast majority of us are going to deal with worry and anxiety. And that’s understandable in our world. We’re going to get sick, we’re going to lose loved ones, media is going to give us a million things to think about and worry about.
Mark Twain said “I’ve suffered a great number of catastrophes in my life. Most of them never happened.” Steven Lawson defined worry as “…gazing at my problems in self-reliance or self-pity or both, rather than looking to the Lord in dependence.” Another author calls worry “an intense desire for something coupled with a fear that you won’t get it.”
Jesus himself calls us not to be anxious, not to worry. In Matthew 6:25, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life.” And again in Matthew 6:31, “Therefore do not be anxious.” And then again in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow.”
To be anxious is to doubt God’s goodness or his love for you – he won’t do what’s good and right. Or, to be anxious it to doubt God’s power – he can’t do what’s good and right. It’s unbelief.
Anxiety is not practicing Psalm 56:3 – “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Anxiety is the opposite of trusting God, which is why it’s a sin, and which is why it is so offensive to God. Listen to Jesus talk about worry and anxiety in Matthew 6:25-30,
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
And for some of you, this sin of worry and anxiety can even become debilitating. An unknown author recently said: “My growing anxiety over the frequency of my anxiety is causing me to have constant panic attacks.” And Charles Spurgeon said “Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only today of its strengths.”
So we’re going to grow anxious. The question is, how are we going to deal with it? How are we going to fight the anxiety, and trust God? Paul, you are commanding us here not to be anxious.
That’s the instruction. What’s the secret? How do we do this Paul?
Verse 6: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
The secret to not being anxious; Or I should say the secret Paul here mentions (because there are other helps the Bible talks about) but Paul’s secret is to offer an alternative to worry; an alternative to anxiety; an alternative to fretting. And it’s prayer.
Anxiety or worry happens. When it does, it should trigger prayer. Prayer is not something you do so that you never get anxious, but what you do when you get anxious.
Verse 6: “do not be anxious about anything, but [rather, or instead] in everything [whatever it is that is making you anxious] by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
That’s the secret. One commentator says, according to Paul, “the way to be anxious about nothing is to be prayerful about everything.” [i]
We’re to pray. Are you anxious? Do you worry a lot? I hope you pray as much as you worry? I hope praying is how you start your day, and I hope praying is how you end your day. I hope you’re like the Psalmist in Psalm 139:23, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”
Peter says, in 1 Peter 5:7 “[cast] all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” Cast your anxieties on Jesus, Peter says. That word cast is used in Luke 19:35 where it says “And they brought it [a colt] to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.” Same word there – literally, they “cast” their cloaks on the back of the colt. That’s the image of what we’re to do with our worry and anxieties.
Do you believe God cares for you? Do you believe God cares for you now?
Do you believe God is in control? That he orchestrates all circumstances for His glory and the good of his people? Do you believe God is working for your good?
That’s all true, so “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
What? He doesn’t know them already? “Make them known?” This isn’t about getting God information that he doesn’t have. It’s about a son or daughter crying out to his good father for help.
Moms, Dads, let me ask you something – How do you respond if your child comes to you, pours their heart out, and asks you for help?
Now, last verse, verse 7, if you do that, what will happen? If you “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” what will be the result?
Verse 7: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Let me read that again: “And the peace [peace, isn’t that the opposite of anxiety?] of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The word used here for guard means confine, detain, or watch over. Paul uses the same word in Galatians 3:23 where he says “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.”
There it’s used negatively, but you get the idea. There was a time Christian when you were held captive by the law and now your minds and hearts are held captive by the peace of God, which you access by prayer.
Cast your burden on the Lord,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
In conclusion, here are Paul’s two instructions again:
5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Are you gentle?
Are you prayerful?
Are you anxious?
[i] D. A. Carson, Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996), 112.