As we delved Sunday into chapter 4 of Paul’s letter to the Philippians — and the theme Pastor Scott will take us through: Anxiety — he pointed out four principles in the first five verses that will prepare us to tackle anxiety in our lives.
Verse 1 reads, “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” You’ll notice right off the bat the word “therefore,” which — as we’ve learned before — references something previously discussed. And what would that be? Well, the Sunday prior Pastor Scott brought us through the end of chapter 3, in which Paul emphasizes our citizenship in heaven, the fact that Jesus will transform us from the inside out to be exactly like him, and Christ’s unmatched power to do such things — and all things.
Makes sense that Paul would follow up such a mind-boggling theological truth with his instructions to open chapter 4. In other words, “Since we have such amazing things to look forward to through Christ’s grace and love when this life is over … let us lean on him and trust in him (stand firm) TODAY for our needs.”
Pastor Scott shared that the balance between standing firm (the Greek translation can be thought of as “planting our feet”) and love that Paul describes in verse 1 is the first principle we need to practice in order to tackle anxiety. We do this through wrestling in our hearts between comfort and standing firm. And that practice likely requires many of us to pull back from our natural search for earthly comforts in the midst of difficulties and focusing harder on disciplining ourselves to look to the Savior who already has registered our citizenship in heaven.
Verses 2 and 3 reveal the second principle: resolving relational conflicts. The verses read, “I entreat Euodia, and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” We all know how unresolved conflict can interfere with our lives. Paul does, too. Here he entreats (or implores, even begs) individuals in conflict to “agree in the Lord.” To literally place their differences below their shared love for Jesus. We must seek to do the same before we tackle anxiety in our lives.
In verse 4 we find the third principle: practice joy. The verse reads, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” So how do we do this if we’re facing problems? Pastor Scott shared that our focus must not be on the problem … it must be on the solution in the Lord. That will help get rid of worry and see the grace that God is already providing us.
The final principle Pastor Scott described is lowering the intensity. The idea is found in verse 4, which reads, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand…” Pastor Scott noted that “reasonableness” can be thought of as “gentleness.” Some of us can get pretty steamed when problems pop up, and no one likes dealing with those who head off the deep end emotionally when things go wrong. But the key here is the end of the verse: “The Lord is at hand.” Who is able to lead us down the path of gentleness in the face of problems when our typical reaction is intense anger or overreaction? Jesus, of course. He is near us when the chips are down. Lean on him … and then we can practice lowering the intensity of our emotions.
To that end, Pastor Scott pointed out one important common feature of these four principles: All of them involve acknowledging and depending on the Lord. This isn’t a do-it-yourself project! Like all things in the Christian life, our first steps always must be toward Jesus. And after that first step, we must continue to keep our eyes on him, walking by faith, trusting in his ability to lead us as we dispense with our earthly, ultimately frail abilities and efforts.
Let us let go of control, because he’s the one in control. He knows our path and our destination, and he will take us there.