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Philippians 4:5-6 by Robert Dean
Series:3rd John (2003)
Duration:55 mins 40 secs

Anxiety vs. Peace: Walking by Faith; Philippians 4:6-7

In the previous verses we have looked at the rationale that undergirded each of those promises was a rationale related to the essence of God. We could almost say that every promise in the Word of God is based on the essence of God but there are other rationales in these verses and in Philippians 4:6, 7 we will see that there is another rationale.

Philippians 4:6 NASB "Be anxious for nothing, 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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

When we look at these two verses we have to realise that grabbing the rationales in them is a little more difficult and a little less obvious than the rationale that supports the other verses we have seen. It is not so obvious, not so clear. The two rationales that are embedded here, first of all, are the essence of God—"the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension," so this relates to the incomprehensibility of God. That is something that undergirds this promise. The second rationale that undergirds this promise is the plan of God, and that is not so easily seen, especially if we are just familiar with the English text.

If we go back to verse five we notice that Paul says, "The Lord is near." The word in the Greek used for "near" is the word engus [e)gguj], a word that is used in reference to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, the immanency of His return. So what is behind this from the context is that Paul is reminding the Philippians that the Lord's coming is near. There is a reason for this, Don't put off living the Christian life, the Lord may come back at any moment.  We need to be trusting in Him and advancing in our spiritual life, not getting caught up in anxiety and worry over the circumstances of life but realising that the Lord is coming back and we need to press on to spiritual maturity and not get distracted by the cares and anxieties and day-to-day details of life.

The problem that Paul is addressing, and the problem that all of these promises address, is fear. Fear is the core emotional sin that goes hand in hand with the mental attitude sin of worry. Fear breeds worry, anxiety and all other types of emotional sins. It is always related to arrogance. When we are afraid we are also operating on arrogance.

The doctrine of arrogance

1.  Arrogance is defined as an orientation of the mind or thought that puts man or self as the ultimate reference point in the universe. In arrogance we are saying that we are what matters, we are the ultimate determiner of truth, of right and wrong; that man determines what he should do and what he can do, and that there is no one that we are answerable to.

2.  Arrogance always replaces the creator with the creature. In arrogance you matter, not God; you are the ultimate determiner of right and wrong, not God.

3.  Arrogance thinks that man has a way that is better than God's way. Proverbs says that there is a way that seems right to a man but the end thereof is death.

4.  Arrogance is the mental attitude that corresponds to the sin nature. Whenever we are in sin nature control we are arrogant. The sin nature is always oriented to independence from God, autonomy with God, and living apart from God.

5.  Arrogance is the orientation of every person from birth—every unbeliever and every believer who is out of fellowship. From birth a person is under sin nature control, there is no other option. Romans 3:23: "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God," therefore from the instant of birth the soul is under the domination of the sin nature. There is no other option but to function in terms of our area of weakness and produce personal sins or area of strength and produce human good.

6.  Arrogance, then, is the orientation of all human viewpoint. All human viewpoint is based on arrogance because it excludes God from the picture. There is no orientation to divine thought. Therefore all human viewpoint, no matter how true it may be, is going to leave something out.

7.  Arrogance was the sin of Lucifer as expressed in the five "I wills" in Isaiah 14:13, 14 where we have a description of his fall. So one of the best expressions of arrogance is "I will" rather than "God will."

8.  Arrogance is the idea that the creature knows more than the creator and can sit in judgment on the creator and His revelation.

Based on Genesis chapter three the basic orientation of the fallen creature is fear because he knows inherently at the core of his soul that he is a dependent creature cast adrift in the creator's domain. He is totally insecure and fear, then, becomes the basic orientation for every human being. In arrogance what we try to do is control our circumstances—the events, the people, the things around us—in order to suppress that fear, and that fear is a recognition of our own finiteness, our own dependency and our own inability to make life work. Fear also is the conversion of the outside pressure of adversity into stress in the soul. So that whenever we are afraid what we are doing is converting outside pressure of adversity, whatever the source may be, into stress in the soul.

When fear takes over

1.  When fear takes over it shuts down thinking. Emotion reigns rather than objective thought.

2.  Stress makes us forgetful and impairs memory. The more intense the stress, the more it can cause a breakdown in our cognition, in our concentration, and we can become forgetful and impair memory.

3.  As stress increases it will impair our ability to learn. When we are operating on fear we are dominated by emotion and it shuts down our thought processes.

4.  Stress will affect our perception of reality. We will begin to interpret the events that are going on around us in terms of insecurity and in terms of inability and fear.

5.  The long term effect of stress is that our cognitive ability may be permanently impaired.

What we have in Philippians 4:6, 7 is a promise that we can have peace instead of worry. The idea of peace here is the idea of tranquillity in the storm. We can be content despite the circumstances. It is not the idea that there are no external circumstances of adversity. It is the idea that even in the midst of crisis and the chaos that may be whirling around us we can be relaxed, have a mental attitude of contentment, knowing that God is in control and relaxing in His control. There is a contrast in this verse, it is either/or. We are either going to have peace or we are going to have anxiety, one or the other.

There is always embedded in these promises the idea that there is a human viewpoint contrast, a human viewpoint solution as opposed to a divine viewpoint solution. The human viewpoint solution is that we can achieve peace through control. We get worried or concerned at some threat out there that is challenging some detail of life. As soon as one of these details is threatened then we begin to be fearful and anxious. That is related to the fact that there are a thousand different things out there that can challenge the security of any detail in our life and we think that somehow if we can just control this or that then we will have security and stability. The human viewpoint contrast is that man, the creature, on his own can achieve some sort of peace and tranquillity and stability apart from absolute and complete dependence upon God.

This human viewpoint contrast is based on several lies. The first lie is that the creature can control the events in life to such a degree that he can find peace and stability. The second human viewpoint lie is that trust in God is defined as an irrational leap of faith. Note the words "irrational" and "leap of faith." Faith is not a leap, neither is biblical faith irrational. First of all, in human viewpoint faith is defined up front as something that is non-rational. There us a juxtaposition of faith and reason—it is either a matter of faith or it is a matter of reason, therefore faith by definition become irrational. But the Bible never views faith in God as irrational; it never juxtaposes faith and reason.

Faith itself is non-meritorious. When we have faith, that faith which is an act of belief has no merit or value in and of itself. It is the object of faith that has the value; it is what you believe that has the value. So faith by definition is a non-meritorious act and the merit is always in the object of faith. We may believe something that is irrational. For example, we can actually believe that we can control our life so that we can have peace and stability without depending upon God. That would be an irrational belief, but the act of faith itself is not in and of itself irrational. Second, we see that the method by which faith operates may be irrational. So we may have a rational method with an irrational object; we may have an irrational method with an irrational object. Only when it is biblical can we have a true rational method with a true rational object.

What makes the difference is the object of faith, not the kind of faith. Faith in rationalism and faith in God are the same thing, but the difference is their object. Under divine viewpoint there is a dependent use of logic and reason. Dependent relates to humility, the creature putting himself under the authority of the creator. Faith under the revelation of God is neither irrational nor a leap. Augustine, in one of his better statements, said: "I believe in order that I may understand." That is the biblical position. When Adam failed to believe God about the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he no longer understood it, he tried to figure it out under his own empiricism, and look at what that did.

When we say that we have a peace that passes all comprehension we are not talking about an irrational peace, it is talking about an irrational comprehensible peace. To some degree we can comprehend the method, what Scripture says about it, but we can't comprehend the totality of it because it comes from an incomprehensible God. This is the divine viewpoint promise of Philippians 4:6, 7, that we can have peace and stability no matter what the consequences. That seems to run counter to what autonomous reason tells us, that when we submit our reason to the authority of Scripture we know that because God is omnipotent and He controls all the details, that God is in control of our life and therefore we can relax in His control. So when we are dependent upon God we can relax and let God handle the situation.

The phrase, "the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension," is actually a participial phrase which focuses on the noun nous [nouj] which is the word for thinking or the mind. It is a peace that goes beyond thought, beyond what is natural to human thought. This is based on the character of God as incomprehensible, as per Isaiah 55:8, 9 NASB "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. For {as} the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts." This shows that embedded in the promise we have the essence of God. God is the one who is omnipotent and controls the circumstances, so rather than worrying and trying to figure it all out ourselves and control everything we let God control it.

The second rationale is the plan of God rationale. The term "plan of God" can refer to two distinct plans. The first is the plan of God for human history. God has a plan for history which he is working out. He is going to bring the church age to conclusion with the Rapture. Following the Rapture of the church there is going to be a seven-year period for Israel called the great Tribulation. The Tribulation is going to end with the second coming of Christ. During the Tribulation there will be the judgment seat of Christ in the heavenly for church age believers. That is the plan of God in relationship to human history. The second plan of God that we talk about is the plan of God or the blue print for the spiritual life for every individual believer. When Paul uses the phrase "the Lord is near" he is bringing to mind the plan of God. He is talking about the Lord's coming. Philippians 4:5 NASB "Let your gentle {spirit} be known to all men. The Lord is near." By reminding us that the Lord's coming is near or immanent that is a reminder of two things: a) that God has a plan and a purpose for human history, and therefore we can relax; b) that plan and purpose for human history includes a plan for our life, and there will be accountability. So Paul is reminding believers that the Lord's coming is near, therefore they need to make sure they are advancing in their spiritual life and not falling by the wayside and being defeated by worry, fear and anxiety.

Philippians 4:4 NASB "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!" That is our first mention of joy. We need to look at the surrounding context. As we look at these verses in Philippians chapter four we can't just jerk them out of context. Twice in v. 4 Paul mentions rejoice. Look at verse 10, "But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly…" So in vv. 4-9 Paul is giving the principle of rejoicing—a mental attitude state, and then in v.10ff he gives an illustration from his own personal life. The promise of vv. 6, 7 is embedded within a discussion of mental attitude dynamics for the Christian in vv. 4-18.

Philippians 4:13 NASB "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." The "all things" here doesn't mean anything we can think of. It says he can be anything in every situation and strengthened by Christ, and not cave in to worry and anxiety. Verse 13 is related in Paul's experience to the promise back in vv. 6, 7 of not been anxious, not caving in to worry in different situations because of the use of prayer and gratitude, which is related to grace orientation. This also ties in the idea of humility. This is reinforced in v. 5 where the word for "gentleness," the Greek word epieikes [e)pieikhj] which has to do with a mental attitude of kindness, of humility. Humility is related to gratitude in v. 6. So again we have mental attitude emphasised.

Philippians 4:8 NASB "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." This is focusing on the content of thought as opposed to focusing on the things we can't control, the things that threaten security, the things that cause worry and be anxious. Verse 8 is a focus on doctrine, on objective truth.

So the promises of vv. 6, 7 fit in a context of vv. 4-9 that lays down the objective principles of thought, and then vv. 10-20 give an illustration of Paul's experience. All of this concludes in v. 19 NASB "And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." This means we can never cause God to go bankrupt. He has an infinite supply to provide whatever our need is so that there is nothing that should cause us to cave in to worry, anxiety, fear, and all the other things which plague us in life when things don't go well. We are instead to recognise that worry, fear and anxiety are sins and they always show up when we are arrogant, being self-reliant, and when there is sin nature control. The solution is confession of sin and then focusing on the objective truths of God's Word, going to the Lord in prayer, and gratitude for the situation—we are to be thankful in all things and for all things—and then to claim these promises, thinking through the rationales, both the character of God and the plan of God.