Summary: In Phil 4:4-7, Paul gives three ways to take a bite out of worry, anxiety, and stress.
Our scripture focuses on a challenge all of us face from time to time – how to deal with worry, anxiety, and stress. Sometimes we deal with it well and handle it in a mature way. At other times we may let it get out of hand. Watch what happens to Mr. Steinbloom. (He asks question after question as he worries outloud about the stage props).
DVD “A Mighty Wind is Blowing” at 55 minutes
I’m afraid poor Mr. .Steinbloom was overcome with worry.
Research has shown that
• 40% of the people worry about things that never happen.
• 30% worry about things over which they have no control
• 12% worry about things that are totally groundless.
Worry takes a big toll on our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
In Phil 4:4-7, Paul gives three ways to take a bite out of worry, anxiety, and stress.
1. Rejoice. Twice he says to rejoice in v. 4. The fact that he says it this way must mean that he had a good reason to say it. For the church at Philippi things must have been pretty bad.
How bad? To begin with, according to Acts 16, when Paul and Silas began work in Philippi, they had a run-in with a local fortune teller who lost revenue because of their message. He had Paul and Silas arrested, beaten up, and put in jail. Later, they were released miraculously by an earthquake, but when Paul was writing this letter, he was in prison again, in Rome, with a death sentence over his head. And in Rome they didn’t look for the most painless way to execute people like in the U.S.; they tried to find the most painful way possible. What’s more he was physically ill and some of his friends had betrayed him. Yet he exhorts the church to rejoice.
Let’s be clear what this is about. This scripture doesn’t say to rejoice in your difficult situation. It doesn’t mean you are supposed to say, “Oh, goody. Something bad has happened again.” The other day, a neighbor came to our door and said tongue in cheek, “It’s exciting to live where I live. Someone threw pumpkins through three of my windows.” That is not what Paul meant.
What he meant was to rejoice in the Lord, not in the situation. Back in 3:20 Paul reminds us that we are citizens of heaven. That means our lives are motivated by divine principles, not human. Our values are different, our attitude is different, our perspective is different. Our joy doesn’t come from the things of this world, but from eternal realities. Joy is supernatural; it is not a happy-go lucky giddiness. That is why Paul lists it as part of the fruit of the Spirit in Gal. 5:22. Joy does not fade away when the sun goes down.
We see an example of the godly quality of joy in Acts 16, when Paul and Silas were locked up in prison. Verse 25 says that they sang hymns to God while the other prisoners listened. Their temporal imprisonment only served to highlight their freedom in Christ. Their joy came from their heavenly assurance, not from earthly uncertainty. Is joy a quality you experience, even when you worry?
2. Gentleness. The word gentle has the concept of being satisfied with less than you deserve when it comes to justice. If you look at other translations of this verse you will find a variety of expressions. The idea is that there is something that goes beyond justice. Just because the laws and rights and expectations say you deserve a certain outcome, that doesn’t mean you will get it or that you even deserve it. The rights and privileges we think we deserve are not set in stone.
What does gentleness have to do with worry, anxiety, and stress? Think about what happens to us when we experience worry. We begin to feel uptight, irritable, maybe angry, and other people have to take the brunt of our unpleasant feelings.
I’ll confess that worry, anxiety, and stress sometimes trigger un-Christ-like responses in me. As I reflected on this idea, I realized that I failed the test last week. Over a week ago, the gas company placed a steel plate over a hole they dug in on Elm Street. It is close enough to our house that we hear the bang-bang of traffic. They dug it up on a Thursday, let it there over the weekend, and did nothing about taking care of it. Workers came in their trucks and sat on the church parking lot for hours, but they didn’t do a thing. At quitting time they left. Every time I heard a semi rattle over the steel, I felt like yelling, “I demand my silence.” Finally, I sent an e-mail to the company, and I’m ashamed to say it was not very gentle.