4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8Finally, 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. 9What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Conflict produces anxiety in most of us. Whether we are simply uneasy about a relationship, struggling with having disappointed another person, dealing with feeling out of place in a social setting, unsure of our performance on a test, or facing raw hostility — anxiety alerts us: this is important. So if it is important — talk with God about it.
Paul gives exhortations in verses 4-9 in the context of a larger call for peacemaking between two conflicted leaders, Euodia and Syntyche, who were part of the Philippian church. Even peacemaking makes most of us a bit nervous. So no matter what side of a conflict you are on or if you are entering into conflicted relationships the anxiety there can choke your best intentions.
Each of the exhortations in these verses disrupts a product of anxiety.
Anxiety robs us of joy, so rejoice. However, the Apostle Paul directs us in to the Presence of Jesus to find matters of rejoicing in the Gospel. (vs. 4.)
Anxiety dampens our consideration of others and creates self-centredness, so consider the Lord’s closeness. Notice how Paul reminds us of the closeness of Jesus and calls us into a considerate, reasonable, gentle approach towards others. (vs. 5) Jesus is at hand, close, not far. He is Immanuel, God with us. He is keeping an eye on us and our lives, thoughts, actions, and attitudes are not unobserved by Him.
Anxiety paralyses us by limiting our access to the resources available to us, so Paul directs us to pray. (vs 6-7) When we pray we are accessing the abundant, unlimited, generous God who has shown himself through Christ Jesus. When we are making our requests known to God, we are giving voice to what has stirred up our anxiety and we are simultaneously entering into the peace of God. Even though the circumstances may not yet have changed — we are being changed.
Anxiety clouds our thinking, fixates on the negative, and creates a stingy story line, so think about… I love how Paul directs the believers to regulate their thinking. (vs 8-9) When in conflict, the storylines we create about others and ourselves are most likely to not be characterized by what is true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise. Jesus provides us with much that is true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise in the Gospel and in Creation, so we are exhorted to discipline our thinking into those things and realities. Why? Our thinking will be expanded beyond the shrink wrap effect of anxiety and into the abundance of God.
To anticipate the next time you face the squeeze of anxiety you may find it beneficial to print out this text and keep it around where you may be drawn by the Spirit into these life-giving processes and into life provided by the God of peace.