Facing the squeeze of anxiety.

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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.

Philippians 4:4-9

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.

Think about thinking.

Walk as children of light 9(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord….

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit…  Ephesians 5:8-10, 15-18

Have you spent some time lately thinking about how you are thinking?

God is interested in your metacognition. The quality of your life with Him and in all your relationships depends on it.

Here’s some questions to help:

Are you living as a child of light? The Gospel brings us into the revelation of the glory of God in Christ and into the reality of God’s comprehension of our whole lives. No need to hide before Him. Bring your life honestly and in its rawness to Him.

Is your thought process informed by an increasing desire to please God? If so you will be seeking to discern what is pleasing to God.

Are you paying attention to your life and relationships in order to live wisely? Are you living in a bubble or are you aware of the interconnectedness of your life to God through Christ, to people, to yourself, and to the stuff of earth?

Are you seeking to make the most of your time in each day? Is there any urgency in how you use your time?

Are you seeking to be full of the Holy Spirit? The mind and life under the influence of the Spirit of God is the grace available to us who are in Christ Jesus. The counter concern is that we not give up the capacities of mental engagement to drunkenness. Such a life leads to the persistent relinquishment of our thinking ability and leads us into habituated patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting that are in opposition to Jesus.

Are you thinking about your thinking yet?

I had a friend who used to say to me when he didn’t like what was coming out of my mouth or anyone else’s, “Now that’s stinking thinking!” When you hear it, repent, and ask the Spirit of God to align your thinking with the truth and grace of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Thinking Grace

Scripture:   1 Peter 1:13-14

13Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

 

Observation:  

Peter recognizes that the Christian life is inclined toward action.  vs 13.

But, we must prepare our minds for action.  And we must be concerned about what kind of action we are giving ourselves to.

Sober-minded:  A kind of clarity and rationality.  NOT — drunk, unclear, foggy, or acting without wisdom.  We know what we are doing and we have considered the implications.

Our preparation consists on a kind of “Gospel-thinking” that considers the grace that is ours by the revealing of Jesus Christ.

Application:

Habits come in all shapes and sizes in our lives:  emotional, physical, mental, and social.  Their impact can be life-giving or deathly.  Habits by definition become “automated.”  In our life before receiving Jesus’ life-giving Spirit we may have lived without thought about the impact of some habits; they were our passions and we just responded without thought.

A new kind of thinking discipline is required.  Gospel-thinking moves us into a contemplation of our relationships informed by God.  We are realistic about the brokenness we experience in this world, but we are also extraordinarily hopeful because of the entrance of Jesus into our relationships–His humble birth, His ministry, His redemptive work on the cross, and His victory over death in the Resurrection.  Now by the power of His Spirit we glorify the Father by living through the perspective of the Cross in all our relationships.

This kind of thinking prepares us for action.  Action with Jesus is a grace-gift we live in now.  The Scripture proclaims “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” (See Romans 12:1-3.

Prayer:   Heavenly Father train me for action by guiding me with your Spirit to meditate on the glory of the Gospel of your Son.  Thank you for loving me.  Now by the grace given me may I act with love for you and for people.  AMEN.