By Paul Smithson
Trouble and times of crisis can and will come. In such situations we can be concerned and take precautions. However, as disciples of Christ we must trust in God, not being anxious, setting forth the proper example to those around us.
Speaking to the Christians in Philippi the apostle said, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philip. 4:4-7).
First the apostle says, “ Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (v. 4)
Notice where and when we are to rejoice. “In the Lord” and “always.” The Christian can always have joy, in whatever circumstance. Joy, true joy, is not dependent on circumstances. True joy transcends circumstances. Such joy is only found in Christ and having the spiritual blessings He supplies (Eph. 1:3). And this joy we have in Christ will be observed by those around us.
He then urges, “Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near” (v. 5)
This speaks of how we deal with those around us in all circumstances, even those involving trials or crisis. The word translated “forbearing” has to do with ‘considerateness, the attitude of thought and will which in remembrance of others forgets self, and willingly yields up the purely personal claims of self” (Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges). Where the world may be fickle in their attitude and actions, changing with the circumstances, the child of God is to rejoice in the Lord always, and exhibit a gentle, forbearing spirit toward others. This is not to say that they are to make a flamboyant display of it. There is a difference between shining your light and letting your light shine. We are to let our light shine is such a way that men see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven (Mt. 5:16).
The way a Christian can have this joy and set forth such an example is because they are assured that “the Lord is near.” The child of God knows “the Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth” (Ps 145:18). In fact we are told to cast all our anxieties on Him for He cares for us (1Pet. 5:7).
Such promises enable the believer to “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (v. 6)
Anxiety comes from fearing that nothing can be done about things over which we have no control. There is no joy or peace where there is anxiety. Our English word “worry” comes from a word meaning “to choke” (cf. an athlete choking at the foul line because he is worried about making the shot). Anxiety (worry) chokes out our joy and prevents peace. However, the children of God can have joy and peace regardless of present circumstances knowing we can pray to the One who is all powerful and thus able to do something about the things that trouble and concern us over which we have no power. And we pray with thanksgiving, recalling what God had supplied in the past in seeing to our needs. Reflecting on God’s faithfulness in the past goes a long way toward eliminating worrying about the future.
And as we pray in faith with thankfulness, we are promised that the “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (v.7)
It is difficult to comprehend such peace. In fact, it is completely foreign to those outside of Christ, as the peace of God is only found in Christ Jesus. But for those who are in Christ, peace is supplied that goes beyond what we could even expect. God’s peace will “guard” our minds. “Guard” here comes from a military term for a garrison guarding a city (there was a garrison at Philippi). God’s peace will keep a constant watch over our hearts.
But just because there is a guard doesn’t mean the enemy has gone away. Having a guard doesn’t mean the absence of trials on the outside. It does mean, however, because of our trust in God’s ability to help and protect, we have a quiet confidence within regardless of how dire the circumstances are without.
With faith in our Lord, we can always be joyful and be at peace. We don’t have to be anxious or fearful for anything, knowing our Lord is near and desires us to make our request know to Him. As we exhibit such faith with a forbearing spirit, it will be observed by those around us and give glory to God.