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I’m not sure about you, but until recently, I always heard Philippians 6 and 8 as separate, largely unrelated commands. But as we see in today’s Scripture reading, they are back to back, separated only by verse 7. Could that be because part of the solution to our anxiety is found in what we’re choosing to think about?
Based on common sense and our collective experience working through the COVID-19 crisis, I believe the answer to that rhetorical question is a resounding “yes.” Paul is commanding us to take control of our thoughts so that the Lord can free us from our anxieties.
Our current moment provides a compelling testimony to this truth.
The news today is not lovely or admirable. Far from it. Today’s headlines are filled with fear and anxiety.
Of course we need to be informed about critical things going on in the communities we live in and the industries we work in. But that does not mean that we need to be reading, watching, or listening to the news for hours on end.
If you listen to my podcast, The Call to Mastery, you’ve likely heard me talk about the fact that I consume virtually zero news: No cnn.com, no Twitter, no newspaper, no MSNBC or Fox News. Nothing.
But for obvious reasons, I recently started checking news websites for information about self-distancing directives, school closures, etc. This information was highly relevant to my life and work.
But in the search for that important information, I stumbled into the quicksand that is most modern news services, scanning headlines from the ridiculous (“Hulk Hogan: ‘Maybe we don’t need a vaccine’”) to the fear-inducing (“U.S. Death Toll Nears 10,000”). Of course, this news (while marginally entertaining and informative) does not impact my life or work one bit.
After a couple of days of my return to regular news consumption, I was experiencing a level of anxiety I have never felt before. After a bit of reflection on the verses above, the culprit became clear to me. Rather than filling my mind with more of God’s Word and reminders of his promises, I was filling my mind with largely irrelevant, anxiety-inducing news.
You and I can be the ones our anxious coworkers and friends look to for hope during these trying times. But not if we ourselves are anxious and forgetful of the hope we have in Christ. May we be the ones filling our minds with things that are “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, [and] praiseworthy” so that the hope of the gospel can shine to those we work and live with.
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Philippians 4:1-23 (ESV) -
1 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
Exhortation, Encouragement, and Prayer
2 I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. 3 Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 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.9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. 18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. 19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.
23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.