Handling Anxiety (Part 3) – Philippians 4:8-9

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In our study Sunday focusing on Philippians 4:8-9, Pastor Scott had us consider the idea of junk food — but not the Doritos, Nilla Wafers, and Breyers ice cream we consume from time to time. (Or maybe more than from time to time!)

Instead he pointed out that in our world today, the potential for “junk food” to enter our minds and invade our thoughts is greater than ever. Pastor Scott added that Christians often aren’t viewed as intelligent people, but the truth is that Christians ought to be the very BEST thinkers on the planet. The Scriptures are full of examples of the mind as the focus. Jesus said we should love God with all of our minds … 1 Peter notes that we must grow in knowledge … Romans 12 emphasizes the renewing of our minds. In short, thinking — the mind — is important in our walk with the Lord.

The question Pastor Scott posed was, “What does God want in our minds and in our thoughts?” Just as we’re to be intentional about what food we eat when we’re trying to get healthy and stay healthy, we also must be intentional about — and even “pre-determine” — what things we allow in our minds … or else we’ll grab the most available option, which isn’t always the best for us.

Verses 8 and 9 read as follows: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me — practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

At the end of verse 8 is a key phrase with respect to our study: “think about these things.” What things? Well, things that are true … honorable … just … pure … lovely … commendable … excellent … and worthy of praise. You know what they are. And in fact they are the “nutrients” — as Pastor Scott put it — for the very best thinking. We’re also promised that if we “practice” these ways of thinking, the “God of peace” will be with us.

The important point to remember is that there’s one person who exists above and over things that are true … honorable … just … pure … lovely … commendable … excellent … and worthy of praise: His name is Jesus. And as we practice thinking about the things Paul instructs, we must fix our eyes and hearts on Christ, who ultimately will provide us with mental, spiritual, and emotional health and cast away our anxiety.

Pastor Scott reminded us that when our anxiety train is on the move, leaving us spiraling downward into more and more negative possibilities that haven’t happened yet, it’s difficult to “argue” ourselves out of such a state. But he added a great suggestion for how to combat this: We can jump our anxiety train to another track! We can intentionally begin thinking about things that are true … honorable … just … pure … lovely … commendable … excellent … and worthy of praise. Is it a magic formula that obliterates our anxiety upon command? Of course not. But again, there’s a reason Paul said we must practice such things. It takes work. It takes effort. It takes trying again, with the Lord’s help, when our good thoughts go off track.

But at the same time let’s also ask God to do spiritual checks on our hearts so he can help us put full stops on things in our lives that are contributing to our anxiety. We can think of them as “strongholds.” Check out the encouragement that 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 is in this respect: “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…”

That’s where God wants us — relying on HIS power to destroy strongholds in our lives that  want to defeat us. But we have to work on changing and improving our way of thinking so that our minds are completely set on Jesus.

And then the God of peace will be with us.

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