A mash up of Don’t Rock The Boat, Baby by The Hues Corporation and Don’t Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin is what comes to mind when I think of Philippians 4:6-7.
Be anxious for nothing but in everything pray and give thanks…
Officially the scripture states
“6Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.
“7and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”.
Here the Word presents an equation to combating anxiety and worry.
Pray + Earnest Petitioning + Thanksgiving = peace of God
When I think of peace I think of lying on a beach in Antigua marveling the clear blue water and warm, seaweed-free sand.
And my only worry is whether I can be bothered to put on sunscreen.
I could be lying on a beach for one week but when I return back home, the reality is that I have just taken a week off from my problems.
“and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”.
The peace of God transcends the peace that I desire and it’s physical manifestations, Antigua and all. With God it does not matter where I am: my mind in all its restless activity and my heart in all its uncertainty and doubt, are under the covering of His peace.
So Antigua comes to me for free.
To others looking in (even to yourself at times), your situation may still look the same on the outside, in fact it may even get worse, but what has changed is that you are now filled with the peace of God.
This divine peace obviously makes a world of difference because its transcendental capabilities are highlighted in the verse – “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding“.
The perfect pictorial depiction would be Jesus sleeping peacefully in the boat during a violent storm whilst the disciples where screaming, “We are perishing”. The peace of God was upon Jesus and He “rebuked the winds and the sea”. Matthew 8:25
You and I are not Jesus but neither were His disciples, however, they eventually got to a point where they too showed evidence of the peace of God being upon them in dire situations. For example, Paul in prison. Peter in Prison. And many more prison related experiences.
So for me, I want to reach a point where the waves in my life may be choppy but my boat is steady. ⛵
Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything
When I initially read the latter of this verse today, I thought, “really God, You want me to come to You about every single worry?!”
But that is what the verse calls for and speaks to – every single circumstance that causes us to fret or have anxiety whether they are ‘big’ or ‘small’.
For me this is an ongoing process of where I come to God about my struggles especially the ones I have deemed to trivial to present to God.
What is a ‘trivial’ problem to you?
If it causing you to lose sleep, worry, fret or be anxious then it is not a trivial problem to God. Your worry in itself is not trivial even if the issue looks to be.
Looking at it from that point of view, may lead you to ask God to help you conquer the spirit of worry as opposed to the situation in itself.
The devil wants us to think that ’trivial’ issues are outside of the scope of God’s concerns and he also wants us to believe that God is not interested in helping us with the ‘bigger’ issues.
he likes to cover all angles. Big, small, wide or fat whatever the issue if it causing you to lose sleep, have anxiety, to be distracted from God and who He is, a Wonderful Counselor (and more), then of course they matter to God. Isaiah 9:6
Because God’s Word tells us that He disciplines His children out of love so by the same token as a concerned Father, He cares about our cares.
“For the LORD corrects those He loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights”
God even goes as far to instruct us to cast all our cares onto Him
1st Peter 5: 7
“Casting the whole of your care (all your anxieties, all you worries, all your concerns, once and for all) on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully”.
The AMPC version says to give God your cares to God once and for all, suggesting that once you have made your petition to God you should be done with feeding into the worry.
The verse seems to juxtapose Philippians 4:6, which asks us to “continue to make your wants known to God”.
Casting your burdens once for all vs. Continuing to let God know what you want
Well, God already knows your wants before you even frame them in your mind. By praying and petitioning with thanksgiving we are actively working our salvation by getting into the habit of casting our cares to God – of ultimately trusting God and His Sovereign Power.
You are not going to just trust an invisible God by saying the words ‘I trust you’.
No, we almost need to be trained into how to let go of our innate trust in our own understanding, in the world, human abilities, capabilities, which in turn breeds trust into our human limitations.
We need to learn to take our eyes off what we can or cannot see, of what we can or cannot do especially in worrying situations and look to what God can do.
And what can God do?
But Jesus looked at them and said to them,
“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”
Trust in God and depend more in His Spirit that dwells in us.
So Philippians 4:6 trains us to trust God and focus our energies in building that trust not for God’s sake but ours.
Whereas, 1st Peter 5:7 – once and for all – is the position I would like all my Philippians-4-6-ing to get me to.
A confident state where my attitude to a problem is not ‘has God forgotten me or the issue’ but a fixed belief that ‘God is in control’. It does not mean I am going to stop talking to God about the issue but my attitude is different.
The situation may still be unraveling in the worse way but I know that I have given it to God and there is a level of trust to where I can accept His peace.
Going back to the equation…when do you stop praying, petitioning with thanksgiving?
Well there is always going to be a need or want in our lives, so that pretty much speaks for itself.
For specific situations, thanksgiving is what we should focus on once we have overcome a situation.
Remember – Your efforts does not directly nullify the struggle but it grants you the peace of God concerning them.
It is God who has the power to permanently and effectively change the causes of our burdens. It is through prayer, petitioning with thanksgiving that we ask Him to intervene in the matters that concern us.